Self-Care vs Doing For Self

I’m not going to lie, folks.

It’s been a minute since I’ve written one of these.

So I’m happy to be back giving you all value.

So why now? What’s so special about this topic to bring me to write again?

For those who have worked with me know I do what I do to the fullest. Going above and beyond for my clients is GP (general practice).

The other day I had a video call with a remote client who’s going through it. Understandably, they took time off the training program to handle their situation and did what they needed to do to keep it going.

Some days it meant ordering pizza; yoga, stretching, gaming, binging some movies, etc.

Yet. The anxiety still remained.

Upon our conversation, they understood their actions were self-described as “self-care”. Even though deep down, the lack of satisfaction remained.

Now I’m no therapist (even though going through my own therapy and 14+ years in the biz certainly makes me a mental health advocate), however, it seemed they were “doing what they needed to do”.

NOT what they wanted to do.

This was a breakthrough and a newfound understanding of what needs to happen arrived.

So now that you have a better understanding of where this is coming from. Let’s dive into it.

Instagram: train_with_donovan


As a health and wellness advocate, I hear this term thrown around a lot. It doesn’t matter what it is (as long as it’s not hurting anyone), if you need to do it then you should do it.

All of 2020 has pushed people into therapy, coaching, and lots and lots of YouTubing and reading for self-help/self-improvement.

If you’re reading this and that’s you. I salute you.

However, observable reality has shown me that “self-care” is merely a spark to the flame that allows you to keep doing what you need to do.

In the conversation I mentioned earlier with my client, they took the actions needed to go to work and function.

For them, self-care meant having the ability to go to work.

Going to work allows them to have an income.

The income is used to have a sustainable lifestyle and fund their training and provide security.

Makes sense to me! No doubt, that’s foundational.

But there’s more to it than that: Doing what makes you HAPPY.

This leads me to my next point…


It might sound strange, but self-care isn’t necessarily what will bring you happiness and satisfaction.

It’s important to understand,

Doing what you want for yourself that you look forward to is essential to a fulfilling life.

You’ll notice when you do what you want for yourself on your own time.

With little to no effort.

With excitement.

You just feel different.

You feel fulfilled. It’s no amusement park necessarily, but you almost feel like…you’re having fun.

So when you do for yourself, your whole energy changes.

THAT’s how you know you’re truely doing [what you want] for yourself.

The Take Away

Make no mistake. Self-care is essential. So think of it like this:

INVEST in self-care so you can SPEND time and energy doing what you want.

That being said, to have a fulfilling life you absolutely need both. To have a good balance of these requires work and getting into uncomfortable situations of the unknown.

With so much going on, one of the most important things you can do is simply prioritize.


Credit: Next Level Gents

When you opt to go with what’s comfortable, you lose at the end of the day.

You must be a risk-taker.

You must get out of the house.

You must go and do what you know and feel is necessary to reach a different level in your life.

To do this, you must move with urgency and arm yourself with enough information to make calculated decisions.

This is how the most successful and happiest people move (regardless of what your definition of success is).

Thank you for reading. Share with a friend who might need this read.

Do the work.

Inquire about personal training or remote coaching

Here —->

What Training Businesses Should Have Learned From Shopping Malls

Ah, shopping malls.

They once were the place where you could meet up with your friends.

It was a place where you could get some new swag, get your nails done, have a soft pretzel, Christmas shop, eat lunch; hang out, watch a movie at the attached movie theater, etc.

Shopping malls, in other words, were the shit.

These days they’re looking more and more like a scene for the next season of Stranger Things with portals randomly appearing in front of Orange Julius. Kiiiiiiiinda creepy.

Starcourt Mall (Stranger Things, Season 3)

Sounds a lot like what’s going on right now with gyms and training businesses, eh?

To quote a scene out of the Matrix, ” everything that has a beginning and an end”.

Sounds grim I know. Though from this side of the fence, that simply means you must adapt to survive. The key is to also start sooner than later. Fortunately, the nature of the fitness business pushes you towards finding other ways to acquire clients.

Courtesy of The Matrix Revolutions

Like the many shops in malls everywhere, training business fail. Only catering to walk-in customers places you in a box (not the Crossfit kind).

Much like training centers and coaches, many already rely on person-to-person business interaction. Sometimes on an hourly basis.

This is where providing services online comes in.

Recently, I shopped at a local grocery store and they announced they’re providing curbside service and more recently, online ordering. It sounds like something everyone should be doing, but they’re not.

Understandably, the “old school” business owners looked at online services as a hassle and not as personal. Which in many cases is true. However, what is true is not always correct.

Being different and holding on to what’s old can simply leave you behind. You simply must do what it takes to stay in the game. Even if that means you have to get out of your comfort zone with how you’ve done things in the past.

As they say: “it’s not too late to teach an old dog new tricks”.

]As a trainer and a coach, I am my own business. This gives me a lot of freedom, yet a lot of responsibility. The truth of the matter is, not everyone is ready to take on that kind of heat.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have coached clients online over the last 10 years plus. As you can imagine, it’s serving me and others who do online coaching well. The clients I currently have can easily transition to getting the same quality programming…with a different workout view.

That being said, the most important lesson out of all what is going on right now is simply this:

Dig the well BEFORE you’re thirsty.

I recall the week before everything was about to shut down, I was already being asked: “what are we going to do moving forward”? Of course, I already had this online coaching system setup.

All I had to do was explain how they can pay. How they’re getting their workouts. From that point on, it’s simply business as usual.

I’ve even begun doing Skype/ZOOM sessions with my clients to add to my services. I can’t believe how fun and easy it is. However, none of that would be so simple if I hadn’t dug that well ahead of time.

The Take-Away

Become more customer-focused.

Do what you can to give your clients the best experience when working with you. Yes, the fitness industry is different from a retail store.

However, when a client wants to continue their progress all the while their situation changes, your value as a coach/trainer is based on your ability to adjust and adapt to the circumstances.

If you’re able to come out of this alive, begin building other ways to provide services to your clients/members all at the same time when things are good.

If you’re interested in getting coaching and getting yourself set up for when you can get back out into the wild, fill out the questionnaire below.

Home Gym Starter Kit: Quarantine Edition

If you’re reading this and you’re stuck indoors and/or your gym is temporarily shut down, you’re left with the “home gym”. You know, the equipment you may or may not have neglected for a year or 10. That treadmill or elliptical that’s currently your glorified coat hanger is your saving grace.


Ah yes. Tough times are upon us.


However, if you’ve been training for a while, you’re probably not going to give up that easily. After all, “training” is far more than getting after it in the gym and working on your physical. The process in itself is also training your mind. The situation has changed. But YOU remain the same.


Now, looking around the house you may not have a lot of equipment. Or more like…no equipment at all. Well, there’s good news and bad news.


The bad news: If you need toilet paper, you’re probably going to run to the store and not find any.


The good news: gym equipment is likely still on the shelves!!!


Health and fitness are key to living a life of abundance and happiness. You’re simply giving yourself the ability to have access to many things life has to offer. Right now, tons of people are working from home. Some are advised to stay in completely given their particular situation.


If you know me, MOVEMENT IS MEDICINE. Because right now, strengthening/maintaining your immune system is far more important than ever. You see, training was never meant to be about looking good in your clothes or boosting self-confidence. It’s a real thing and yes, those things are BYPRODUCTS of living a “healthy” lifestyle. The truth is, training is designed to help you live longer. Along with getting adequate sleep and proper hydration and nutrition.


Let’s get nerdy for a sec.


There’s a thing called Telomeres which is responsible for keeping track of how we age. These bad boys protect our DNA. How can you tell how old someone is by analyzing their DNA? Peep the telomeres, son!

Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces.

Without the coating, shoelaces become frayed until they can no longer do their job, just as without telomeres, DNA strands become damaged and our cells can’t do their job.



So these guys shorten as we age AND can be shortened by things like stress, smoking, obesity, LACK OF EXERCISE, and poor diet.


So while they can’t grow back, we can certainly maintain what we have.


All that being said, some of you are working from home [with your kids around perhaps], dealing with current health issues and keeping yourself from new virus(s).

Stressed? Pfffft. Nahhhhh 😉


Okay, so you’re wanting to workout and want more options than bodyweight. I gotcha covered.


Here are some items I think are the best bang for your buck without breaking the bank. Now, if you have some of these, great! If you have none of these, you can do some serious work with even just 1 of these pieces of equipment.


I’m going to rank the equipment based on affordability, ease of storage and versatility. 


So let’s get to it.


Home Gym Equipment #1: Yoga Mat

One of the easiest, inexpensive and versatile pieces of equipment you can have in your home. Simple and easy to clean, too. From yoga to pilates to strength training and perhaps the “no pants” party. The yoga mat is a foundational piece of equipment every residence should have.


Price: $12 and up.


Home Gym Equipment #2: Stability Ball

It’s inflatable therefore super practical to move around. Also called a Pilates ball, I’m a huge fan of this one. Primarily used for core exercises, this guy can toast your legs as well. Seldomly will I use these for upper body movements for my clients, but that depends on their current fitness level.


Its unstable nature presents limiting exercises. Meaning, if balance is an issue or limited strength you’re forced to work on your balance by doing pregressional. In other words, the stability ball is humbling AF!!


Price: $9 and up


Home Gym Equipment #3: “Super Bands” Resistance Bands

When it comes to improving the immune system, strength is king! You can legit get a full-body workout from head to toe with these. 


In my opinion, they’re an accessible version of dumbbells or a barbell. In other words, the same movements using dumbbells and bars can be done with a band. You may need to hook it around something sturdy or close it in a door. This strength equipment is probably the best bang for your buck equipment on the list solely off of versatility.


Price: $45 (for a pack of 4). Bands these days come in backs and varying strengths. Another reason why this is a great buy for the home gym.


Home Gym Equipment #4: Kettle Grip

Now, I could talk about dumbbells and getting a set of them. Even the adjustable kind. That’s a no brainer. Now if you can get kettlebells, that would be a solid buy. However, kettlebells are NOT cheap. So, I’m going to meet you halfway.


Enter: The Kettle Grip


You can have a small dumbbell set AND with this, turn them into kettlebells. Genius.


Price: $34.99. Will you have to buy dumbbells first? Yes. At the same time, you won’t have to buy kettlebells!! BOOM!


Home Gym Equipment #5: Jungle Gym Suspension Trainer

Wrap it around a tree, a solid pipe in your basement, or even in your door.


But why not the TRX, Coach??!


The goal here is to get the best bang for your buck, right?? Well, the Jungle Gym Suspension Trainer is just as good, if not better. What is it? It’s a piece of equipment that you can have a total body workout with and “make the world your gym” (I think that’s TRX’s slogan, but whatever).

You can even hook it up to something like a sled or a plate and drag it.  I’ve used it for many workouts in the hotel and even at the park. Suuuuuper versatile. Great buy. Good long-lasting materials.

Price: $69.99. Is that inexpensive? Well… a base TRX runs for $150. You be the judge.


Hey D, where can we find these items?!

Let’s be clear here. You can buy just about anything on Amazon. We all know that. BUT. I highly recommend you do your homework and search for local stores and support the small businesses in your area before looking elsewhere. It’s better to get it now, than wait till it comes in the mail for you to get started.


Well, that completes the list, folks. A super simple and inexpensive guide to building you a solid home gym. In case you haven’t noticed, practicality is my M.O. When you’re able to leave the house, you can take these just about anywhere you go.


When you’re ready to level up, hire you a coach or a trainer to build you a solid program for your particular situation. Here’s a link to my questionnaire to get you started.

Keep moving and be safe out there folks!

You’re Not Fat

Right off the bat, this article is inspired by the latest Dave Chappelle standup on Netflix. At the end of his show, he talks about getting advice from his dad. Growing up he didn’t have a lot of money as a child and therefore he didn’t have a lot of things other kids have (things haven’t changed much these days, eh?). 


One day he got frustrated and told his dad, “I hate being poor!” His dad slammed down the newspaper he had and walked over to him with a stern look on his face. He said calmly, “Oh Dave. We’re not poor. 


You see, poor is a state of mind…you, my son…..are broke.”


It was hilarious. You have to see it. Though of course, I see things differently and are always thinking critically. For some reason, this got me thinking about some of what I hear quite a bit from clients and other people when they say:


“I’m Fat.” 


Saying, “I’m” means that you’ve taken ownership of some sort of behavior/personality/identity.


Here’s the deal. You’re not fat. You HAVE fat. There’s a difference.


And if what you HAVE defines who you are, when we’re all in a lot of trouble.


It’s like when people say they’re rich, yet they don’t have a lot of money.                       


Whatever you say you are, you’re correct.” -Henry Ford


Saying “I’m fat” is just as much of a mindset as saying “I’m poor”. It’s not reality. The reality is you can improve your body as much as you can improve what you think and say about yourself. 


To show how powerful a mindset is, there are people who have gone from clinically obese to being physically healthy. 


These individuals still own the idea that they’re “fat.” 


Yes, you may have excess body fat or bodyweight that you want to get rid of and that’s okay. It means you know you can do better. Be better. That’s way healthier than believing you can’t do anything about it and will just accept it. 


Again, what you have is not who you are. It’s simple and easy to say, yet it’s upon you to believe it or not. So, be careful about what you say moving forward. It can have an effect on not just you, but those around you. 


You are not your fucking khakis.” -Tyler Durden

Testimonal No.12- Meet, Kim Beitz

When did you start training with Donovan?
I started training with Donovan about a year ago.
What led you to “Train With Donovan” and why?
I slipped a disc in my back and had a injured shoulder. I wanted to train with someone to help me strengthen my back.
What were some of the things you’ve sacrificed to make your training a priority? Why is your training important to you?
I sacrificed time with my family. Training is important to me because it keeps me healthy in mind and body.
Have you worked with a trainer before? If so, how does your current experience with Donovan differ from past experiences? If not, what are some of the positive experiences you’ve had so far?
 I have not had a trainer before but Donovan has always taken the extra time with me if I ever had any questions like explaining what to eat and when and why it’s important to different stretches and exercises that would best benefit my body.
How do you feel now compared to when you first started training with Donovan?
I feel stronger with my mind, body and soul after training with Donovan.
Would you recommend training with Donovan to others, and why?
I would highly recommend Donovan to others. Donovan helped me regain the strength in my back and my shoulder pain is completely gone. He is a professional that took the time to listen to my needs and knew what to do to help me. He also made working out fun!!
What do you look forward to in the future with your training?
I look forward to continuing to get better with everything from my mindset, form and strength.

Predict The Future With Your Thoughts

Ever notice that when you do something it’s usually preceded by an emotion/thought? I know it’s trivial, but if we sit back and think on this for a second: we can predict the future by recognizing how we feel in the moment.

Ever been really happy about something? I can recall many times when I’ve had peak days, I usually have the best experiences with my clients and they tend to enjoy their workouts more so than usual. Even my own. And you know what? That usually starts before I even get out of bed.


Likewise, when you’re angry or have had a negative reaction to something, we tend to do or say things that reflect that feeling. It could be the tone in our voice that someone might take the wrong way or affect your cognitive ability to deciding to watch The Notebook. Alone. I’m not saying that happened to me. I’m just saying.


The simplest application of this thought process is the direction in which you go to achieve your goals. Remember the first time you came into the gym and talked to your trainer and you two talked about what it is you wanted to work on?

“I want to squat my bodyweight.”
“I want to not be tired walking up the stars.”
“I want to do a chin-up.”

What happens next?

You start squatting.

You start doing more cardio.

You start doing chin-ups/row variations.

All these actions begin from how you feel from one single moment in time. This feeling could set the course for action for months and years to come.

It boils down to this: if you do something BECAUSE you feel good [about yourself], trust that you’ll experience a positive result. If an action is born from a negative thought, understand that no matter the outcome you’ll be filled with dissatisfaction.

Be mindful of your thoughts and emotions. They say the future isn’t written, but if you really think about it you can get an idea of how it will be manifested.

How To Make $10 Gyms Work

Yep. If you’re already a member of a $10 gym you’ve probably noticed the rapid influx of people who want to get “results”. You’ve probably also noticed already that the gym attendance is slowly slowing down.

Nah. Not yet. Wait about a month or so. Give or take.

If you’re wondering what a $10 gym is, it’s not really pertaining to one gym, but rather a kind of gym. As mentioned in this article about how gyms set you up for failure, these gyms typically have massive amounts of cardio machines at the forefront, with the weights section behind it. Nowadays some gyms will even have a pullup rig, sleds, kettlebells and other pieces of equipment way in the back of the building. This is to discourage you from doing the very things (like weight training) that get you sustainable results. Truth be told, some cardio is good, yet cardio with weight training has proven to be even better.

You may find a trainer good enough to hire, but those are one in a million in places like these. With how little they pay trainers, it’s no wonder why the quality of personal training is typically low. These places are also revolving doors for trainers. Usually good for getting started in their careers, getting some experience training real people. However, that also attracts a certain crowd of people.

Ever seen “Gym Fail” videos?? Most likely you’d see some of these moves at your local $10 gym. While they may seen entertaining watching them online, they’re pretty uncomfortable to witness in person. It’s almost like you seem to develop an actual concern for their safety. It’s like watching a scary movie knowing that the killer is in the other room, but the character doesn’t know the killer is in there. You’re left going “NO!!! NO DON’T DO IT!!!!”

Speaking of movies, some of these places have mini movie theaters for you to watch while you’re on your bike. Honestly though, if they play ROGUE ONE in there or Dark Knight Rises…I might be in there before the credits even start just to get the right spot (middle-back of the room is the best).

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Now that you know how I REALLY feel about these gyms, I’m one to recognize that it does have a place in this world. I know I know. Hear me out.

If you think about it- 10 bucks is a stupid ridiculously low price for a gym that most likely has some of the latest equipment and some of the top brands. For 10. Fucking. Dollars a month.

To me, that’s an insane opportunity to take advantage of the what you have: top of the line equipment, a fucking cardio theater, sleds, free wifi (it’s the little things), tanning booths, shakes, etc. Yet, for a lot of people, it’s a struggle to go there let alone be in there long enough before you want to take your eyes out with a rusty rake and pour molten lava all over your face.

Though. There is hope.

I’ve been a member at a local $10 gym for several months now. Mostly because the insurance we have has a wellness program that pays for it. Also, they just have stuff my gym doesn’t have and it’s nice to mix it up. When you’ve been coaching as long as I have, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. Of gainz.

“But D, how can you stand going there!? And isn’t that betraying your own gym!?”

I get it, but no. Not even the slightest. If anything, it helps promote my gym to have a 500+ squatter, 330+ bencher and 600+ deadlifter to workout in a place where form turning into baby shit when they pick up the bar is a regular occurrence.

So, I’m going to give you guys some tips on how to survive $10 gyms in your neighborhood. 


Tip 1: Hire you a damn good trainer (Somewhere else)

As I’ve mentioned before- trainers who don’t get paid very well, don’t tend to be all that great. Especially when you pay to go to a gym that costs about the same as the manager special at the Asian Market at HYVEE for 2 entrees-2 appetizers-1 side. You’re likely to get better results from that meal after doing a Les Mills class for 15 hours.

The average trainer costs $1/minute. Emphasis on the “average” part. I believe you get what you pay for. I’m by no means the most expensive trainer, but you definitely want one that has the utmost confidence in their ability to help you. Some trainers don’t charge as much as they should and it’s a shame. I don’t particularly enjoy asking folks to hand over hundreds of dollars a month. So you better be damn sure I’m going to give them the most bang for their buck.

Hiring a good trainer to teach you the basics is invaluable. In a place like my gym, you don’t have as many “toys” much as a commercial gym. Which is perfect because you’re getting results with using less. After several months or years of training under your belt from a master pro, like meself ;),  you’ll be able to walk into any gym and would train better than everyone in the building.

As a bonus- you can actually begin to see what others are doing and feel what we feel as coaches. Like I said before it can be tough to watch, but it gives you a sense of pride and confidence knowing the difference between right and wrong. Hiring a trainer my seem expensive at first, but when you put it in this context, your dollar will go a long long ways for years to come.


Tip 2: Go in with a plan

You’ve most likely hit this part with your coach you’ve hired already. Going into a gym that gives you anxiety not from just the people, but the amount of equipment they have can overload the senses. If you have a well thought out plan, you can avoid some obstacles. Get your workout in and get out.

For instance, don’t plan on doing bench on Mondays. Why? Because Monday is “National Bench Day”. I wish I was joking. For the most part, gym members and meatheads everywhere have adopted this idea. This means that there will likely not be a bench available in sight. So, that’s why you’re going to squat on Monday. Boom. Problem solved.

And if you find a bro in the squat rack doing bicep curls with your squat bar. You call the police.

As the years go by, slowly people are getting off the cardio machines and getting more into the weight room. So it’s a plus, I’ll admit that. However, we’re still in the early stages of this evolution and the fuckery that I see people using free weights is downright inhumane. Most people won’t be doing the basics: pull-ups/chin-ups, pushups, row variations; corrective movements like pallof presses and breathing exercises. The space and equipment needed for those are likely going to be open for you at just about anytime. Take advantage. Make it simple. Keep it simple.


Tip 3: Go at the least busiest times

I know scheduling can be tough. Several years ago, I said I wouldn’t get up before 6am. Now I’m getting up before 4 some days because we don’t have a doggy door or a fenced in yard. We have wooden floors and their nails make for an interesting alarm clock. Some days, they don’t wanna get up either.



For me, I have the flexibility to go late morning/early afternoon as most people are at work. That is probably the most peaceful time. And honestly, people get after it. It’s going to take some trial and error, but once you find that time make sure you stick with it.


Tip 4: Bring your headphones I hate people watching. It’s weird for me. Yet some people like it. Though what are you gonna do when they make eye contact with you. See you. Walk over and try to talk to you. And you don’t have your headphones in. Now you’re going to have to not only focus on your workout, but figure out a way to get out of this situation. For me, music works like a pre-workout.

One day I was done lifting and turned off the music and some slow jams was playing. Followed by “I’m A Barbie Girl”. Great song. For getting ready to go out Friday night. You find that one track or playlist and you’re off. This past week, I’ve been listening to Daft Punk Live Tour “Alive 2007” album. For some reason, it went from my warm-up playlist to getting me through all the way to my cardio workout.

Also, switching to wireless headphones makes a huge difference. I love wireless headphones during training. It makes life a little easier and you don’t feel as restricted.   That being said the headphones provides protection against conversation vultures in the middle of your set and the music gives you a boost.

  Other than that, having a gym bag so you’re not holding everything in your hands and carrying it around the gym with you is a must. You can put your towel in there (in case they don’t have a towel service), your headphone case, keys, pre/post workout shaker, excess layers of clothing, etc.   You don’t have to go to a wickedly awesome-bad ass of a gym like The Bloomington Normal Athlete Factory to get the best workout of your life….

Baahahahahaha of course you do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In all seriousness, the world can be your gym. You just need to have a plan and the right equipment to execute that plan. Keep your focus. Enjoy your training and the life around you! Let’s get after it!!  

5 Things I’ve Learned This Month: November

100% Guaranteed Results Is Done By Doing The Work

This is true in every aspect of life. The things you want may not happen right then and there. There’s another saying. “good things come to those who wait”. These two phrases really go hand in hand. Though, the real magic is in the hard work. I realized this when many aspects of my life that I put in work has really come to the fruition of my own happiness and success.

In particular with my clients results from their training. They’re all doing so well and what’s more is they’ve all learned a little thing called patience in the process. When you have patience, you really do let go a lot of the stress and focus more on the work you put in. I’ve gotten clients that have worked hard for 6 weeks and gain nearly a pound of muscle and lose nearly 3lbs of fat. Another has clothes that used to fit are now literally falling off of them for the first time after training and eating better over the last 2 years. Some are simply finding consistency and enjoying working out again. Absolutely none of this would happen if they didn’t put in 2-4 hours of work each week.

Nothing gets done in your life when you do nothing about it. Put in the work. MAKE shit happen!

Skill set Pretty Much Supersedes Passion

We’ve all heard the phrase “stick to what you’re good at” and it definitely rings some truth. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t/shouldn’t learn a new skill. The only way to get better at it is to continue to practice. Even if you have an unbelievable talent, you can still lose focus. MJ didn’t shoot free throws with his eyes closed from birth. That took millions of free throws throughout his basketball career. The whole planet knows how much that man loves basketball, but he could have the same passion for the sport as much as the most nonathletic fan in the world. Passion is great and all, but skill set is huge.

After finishing the book “The Sports Gene:Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance” by David Epstein, whether you have a natural talent or not, practice is arguably the most important thing with regards to how good you are. Genes are always going to be the “X” factor, but working on your skill will only reveal the true potential of your genetics. The book talked about Donald Thomas, a high jumper who jumped 6’6” on a dare.

In basketball shoes and shorts.

On his first try with no training and horrible form.

With a little bit of practice he was better than most in the world…but he wasn’t the absolute best. Who knows what he can REALLY do. Much like a client who might be chasing a small (read: hyooge) 5lb deadlift PR who has been working at it for 6-12 months. It seems if passion was a vehicle in a race to success, the driver is the skill set. The better the driver, the better the outcome.

Sometimes, people don’t deserve the goals they set for themselves

I’m sure that line got your attention. We all know someone or have heard about people wanting to have a nice car, big house, get toned/swole, get a full-ride to a D1 school. Everyone is deserving of happiness in whatever capacity…but what people miss the boat on is what they have to go and DESERVE those things.

It’s like buying something that has “cable capabilities”, but upset that it doesn’t actually HAVE cable. People misunderstand the difference.

We get what comes our way from the things we do in life. It’s going to take time and deliberate practice to get the things we want.

People who lift heavy ass shit, 9 times out of 10 will put their own stuff away

Remember back in the day you wanted to use the hack squat, and the person before you had a ton of weight on there asked you to help take the weight off?? Member how much weight that was and how strong you thought they were? Then you struck up a conversation about how to get jacked and instantly became friends through your muscles??

Member that time some asshat left a pair of 20’s on the ground?? And you thought to yourself “20’s…seriously!?

People who lift heavy stuff work hard to get there. From the empty bar they use all the way to putting the last 2.5 pounder on the bar to get that nice even number. As boss it would be to put up 4 wheels on any lift, you definitely don’t want to have the rep of being the douchebag at the gym that thinks they’re hot shit. Truth of the matter is, there is always someone out there stronger than you.

That’s one thing I can’t stand about gyms is this power struggle for who is the baddest mofo on the planet. I highly recommend walking into the gym with that attitude, but you don’t have to be rude about it.

Most people who lift heavy stuff have had to work hard to earn it. They too were humbled by the weight they lifted and most likely learned from a professional. Most likely, that professional taught them to respect the gym and the weight they used for it can make or break them. For those of us who lift heavy ass shit, you know what I’m talking about. For those that don’t, if you see the strongest person in the gym and you want to use the bar they’ve got done using, don’t worry. They’ll likely put their weight back.


It seems people who are new to lifting don’t need a detailed nutrition plan at the start

The likelihood of people who have never really worked out (hard) most likely don’t have good eating habits. It’s more common to find this in the reverse since exercise is much simpler than nutrition. In my experience, the majority of people either eat too much, eat too little, eat a lot of “convenient” processed foods or some combination of all of the above.

The photo below is a body scan of my client who 8 months ago was new to lifting weights.

Eating well under 1000 cals a day they weren’t eating enough yet wanted to gain muscle and get strong.


I started by letting them know that calories was going to be huge and to eat more than their basal metabolic rate (BMR) says in conjunction with weight lifting will help reach their goals. Well, the calorie things didn’t work out. Instead of doing something more invasive I knew that nutrition is best done simple. So focusing on eating certain foods more often that are more calorie dense would be a better route. That and keeping them accountable to be aware of how they feel when they work out after eating these foods. Sure enough it did the trick and they started putting on more muscle, losing body fat and managing body weight since that has been a concern of theirs.

The idea is to implement principles before the plan. The plan won’t stick if they don’t have good habits in place.

So if you’re new to lifting and struggling with your nutrition take these points to heart:

1) Eat more carbs around your workouts. If you lifting in the AM, eat your carbs at night. If you lift in the afternoon, eat your carbs during the day. Carbs are the #1 fuel source for your muscles when lifting. The more fuel you have the harder you can go. The harder you work, the better the results.

2) Every Time you eat, make sure there is protein with it. I don’t care where it comes from. Get it into your head that you absolutely have to have a protein source. It’ll help keep the muscle you already have and are trying to put on. When you have more muscle, you get lean(er), strong(er), and more energy.

3) Think of food not as a way to change your body composition, but as a way to give you energy to do the things you need to do to do so. Way too many people worry about what they did over the holidays and go into overdrive and over think their food intake. Change the way you view food and you’ll approach it differently. It’ll make a world of a difference.

5 Things I’ve Learned This Month: October

This month has been an a roller coaster. But who doesn’t enjoy a roller coaster?? I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t, but I do. I’ve got a lot on my mind. Here’s what I’ve learned….

Discipline Provides Freedom

It took 8 years being in the profession for me to realize that waking up at 4am would be the best option for me to maximize my time training and to get things done. I’ve read plenty of literature that says the top 1%-ers “start the day at 4am”. As a result I’ve been able to open up my schedule to training clients earlier (5am) which allowed for more growth in income. With growth in income comes more freedom to do more things that I want to do. I’ve known this for quite sometime, but it didn’t really sink in until recently and I’ve been really grateful for this growth in efficiency. That and my dogs are getting good at using the bathroom outside of the house instead of on the floor/carpet. #Winning

Reading books along the way like Essentialism: The art of doing less, by Greg Mckeown and the all-time great- They Call Me Coach, by John Wooden, really propelled me to create my own S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) for my life.





I have to say it’s paying off when I feel stressed for time. I can always rely on my routine to get me out of it.

“ We don’t rise to the occasion. We fall to the level of our training. “

This is probably one of my favorite quotes recently. I believe this to be true in every aspect in life (I would even consider life experiences as training. That is if you learn from them).  I’m not one to believe in “luck”, though I get the sentiment behind wishing someone well. Rising to the occasion however has the same tone; that somehow your success is part preparation and part magic fairy dust. It really comes down to mindset/mental preparation.

This is probably the longest I’ve gone without entering a competition in Powerlifting. I’ve focused much of my work on understanding different programs and tools I can use to keep myself healthy for much of the year (that and working on mobility so I don’t have the mobility of the tin-man). As a result, I’ve developed a desire to compete again with a healthier mind and body.

The understanding that how hard you work and apply your training will most likely dictate the outcome. Thus focusing on the process and doing your best in training will boost confidence. Sure there are mitigating circumstances that can prevent certain success, yet those are the things that we can’t control. Focusing on what we can’t control disturbs our flow. So, play your game. No one else’s. If your game plan doesn’t workout- you’ll have an opportunity to learn from that situation and adjust. However, always follow through and never give up.

Giving clients autonomy is the best thing you can do for them

The majority of my clients have worked with me for over a year. My professional goal for them is to be able to have the knowledge to take care of themselves in and out of the gym. Many of them have begun training themselves and each other doing extra workouts on the side which is fantastic. I feel this should be the goal of every trainer out there.

Clients who have the freedom to do work they enjoy and believe in will yield better results every time. I’ve learned that the next level of being a personal trainer is that of a coach/mentor. The key is to always be a student in whatever you’re doing. I learn from other great coaches and my clients learn from me and so on. I can remember back in college I took classes that were very open to letting the students do their work anywhere they chose that wasn’t in the classroom. It was very trusting of the professor to let us do that, but I could remember really enjoying those classes and doing really great work. It was the autonomy that I had that made me own the work I was doing.

This was an important lesson given that I work with mainly women. I know and understand that having autonomy in an environment where there is nothing but iron, steel, rubber, turf, loud music and slamming of weights with a small (but increasing) female presence changes the perception of gym culture.

Finding something to commit to when things are bad is extremely powerful

In a world of shit and chaos, what does one do? Sit back and watch it burn? Walk with your head down and “just deal with it?” I’ve learned this the hard way.

Which honestly is the best way. For me anyhow.

After talking with Professor Kate Browne of Illinois Wesleyan University about her situation after surgery, she wasn’t able to temporarily lift heavy things like she once did. Naturally, this is hard to take in especially when training has such a huge benefit that goes beyond physiological benefits. For her- focusing on what she CAN do that was fun and exciting and new really shined a light on a seemingly dim situation. Success leaves patterns. So does happiness.

Kate Browne, Courtsey of “Ramp and Stair Exercise Club” Facebook group


Surrounding yourself with those that genuinely lift you up (and I don’t mean “kiss your ass”) by bring their positive energy into your world and wanting to find something good to focus on can really bring you out of a hole. Studies illustrated in this HuffPost article shows that “positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life.”

Not sure how to go about creating a focal point? I do a few things:

1) Writing- I write in a journal 6-7 days a week about all the things I am/want to be, how I’m going to do it, and what I’m grateful for. It’s easy to dwell on all the shit going on in your life, but when you realize how awesome your life really is you’ll be able to recover a lot better.

2) Weight training- it’s not only been scientifically linked to have physiological benefits, but psychological as well. According to a study done by University of New Mexico– weight training is a “meaningful intervention for people suffering from anxiety” as well as “four studies have investigated the effect of resistance training with clinically diagnosed depressed adults. The results are unanimous; large reductions in depression from resistance training participation.”

3) Listen to Podcasts- We all know we spend most of the time in our cars. While we could listen to music or whatever talk radio, I find my time is most efficiently used when I’m learning. It took me several years to compile a list of podcasts that I enjoy for professional and personal development; often times I’m able to find good topics to blog about, ideas for training, answers to help with life situations and so on. Like music, you can find an episode and play it based on how you feel for that day or continue on the one you’re currently listening to if it appeals to you. Having this focus on always moving forward and improving in some aspect of your life will really take the edge off of experiencing the hard times. Plus, if you think about it you’re associating learning good-positive information with tough situations. You’re teaching your subconscious mind that “hey, when times are hard, I’m going to learn something to make my life better.”

Chicago professional sports are pretty damn good

As of this month, since I’ve been alive I have now seen 6 out of the 7 professional sports teams (excluding the Chicago Sky-WNBA team) win or go to their respective championship games.

And I might see another one win a championship 😉



5 Things I’ve Learned This Month: September

Adding more content to my website, I’m looking to make these posts monthly as I find reflecting to be very important in personal growth. So, without further ado here are 5 things I’ve taken away from this month from personal, professional, social, and all things random. Let’s have fun with this.

Whatever you feed will grow

When you feed certain things –your time, energy and focus– understand those things are going to be the priority in your life even if you didn’t intend it to be. Whether it be in conversations, training, at work or personal time, you will find yourself not as present in the moment. That or someone will call you out on it. It’s not a bad thing, but it is important to be aware of that. When you intend to get a lift in that day but your mind wanders to what you have to do afterwards or thinking about what transpired before, it’s hard to get shit done. My work schedule has taken a nose dive over the past couple weeks and I can honestly say I haven’t really been giving it my all when I’m there. As a result, clients have been cancelling or rescheduling sessions. Some are taking a “break”. For me this was a big wake-up call for me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture in my life and see what areas are getting too much attention and areas that aren’t getting enough. Once I’ve been able to recognize the issue, I create an action plan to fix it. Balance is key, whatever that looks like for you it’s important to work on that. Now, I’ve gotten some clients back that haven’t been around for various reasons. I’m reaching out to those I haven’t heard from in a while and doing more reading and writing with the extra free time that I have. And working on communicating more/better with those that are important pieces in my life in making it work functioning better.

Recognize the different components in your life and make sure they’re all fed “property” to make your life better. I promise, you’ll have better relationships with others (and yourself), better training sessions, more productive at work (and enjoying it), and a happier life(style).

Sushi is LOADED with sodium

I’ve only been eating sushi for a few years and I’m glad I took the leap (the thought of raw fish for years wasn’t appealing. I decided to become an adult and try it. Even drink coffee!). However, it became apparent that sushi was high in sodium when I went to get a massage last week. I had sushi with the wife for lunch and went right to get a massage afterwards. Once I was done, Erica goes “did you have sushi earlier?? Your skin soaked up 2x more lotion than it normally does!” My jaw dropped. I had no idea it would make that big of a difference that fast. After looking it up, the sushi (rice) alone is 500mg of sodium…in a half cup which is the normal amount used in making 1 roll.

I had to have probably about 1 1/2 rolls =). Muahahahaha!!!!!

Why am I talking about this? Well for one I knew NFL Combine athletes would eat a ton of sushi before the combine so they could drink enough water and soak it into their muscles to keep them hydrated and therefore increase their work capacity. The opposite can be done when you don’t drink enough and can cramp up. In my profession, this was an important finding because I work with people that want to lose weight and look better naked. Well, they all know how important hydration is for not only athletic performance, but in how your body looks and how much water you’re going to hold when you consume a lot of it. Now I don’t know how many of you eat sushi that much on a regular basis, but the point is when it comes to body weight, sodium is a huge contributing factor in weight retention. HOWEVER…do not mistake sodium as a bad thing. Remember what I said earlier about how sodium helps keeps and draw in water into the muscle? Well, if you’re wanting to improve body composition, have better athletic performance/training sessions, you have to train harder and sometimes for longer periods of time to elicit muscle mass and strength gains. How much is too much? Well that’s different for everyone. What’s a lot for you might not be enough for me, etc.

Fat loss is about persistence and consistency

Since I’ve been training all summer to get my competition strength back I’ve changed my focus to gaining more muscle AND reducing body fat. You see, gaining muscle and losing fat aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. With that being said putting on muscle is not easy and neither is fat loss (espeically when with the more experience you have) which means both are going to take some time and and consistency to achieve this goal. Because there are so many factors in achieving fat loss (nutrition, exercise, sleeping habits, water intake, and stress management to name a few) the persistence of achieving lower body fat levels is the utmost important element.


Today at the end of a relatively light #okaybenchday sessh at the hub. After flirting with 300 on the bar last week, the body wanted a break. Went the bodybuilding route for the workout routine and felt really good. No more than 5 movements and a minimum of 6 reps for each set. #### Not going off of a strict program has really allowed me to feel my best and ultimately look my best. At 213 now (up 5 from the previous weeks) it’s been at least 3 years since I’ve been this shredded. No strict crazy diet. In fact, I was up north visiting my buddy Cabbage Patch Kevin in Naperthrill enjoying some drinks til 1:30 in the am after a hefty Italian dinner I enjoyed with his family. Part of getting great results is simply enjoying life and having some fun once in a while. I’m bout ready to get back on the platform though…in due time. #shredded #success #fitspo #consistency #livelife #havingfun #trainhard #trainsmart #eatwellmostofthetime #powerlifting #power #powerbuilding #bodybuilding #powerlifter #thick #gym #afathlete #selfconfidence #appreciatethejourney #dowork #hylete #hyletenation #trainhylete

A photo posted by Donovan’s Personal Training (@train_with_donovan) on



Conversely, it takes no time to increase your body fat levels when you neglect just about any of the previously mentioned factors OR if the method you chose is contraindicated or not helpful. Take running for instance. I love running for what it does for people: Improved athletic performance, general performance enhancement and heart health benefits, stress relief (endorphins/”runner’s high”), and a genuine love of running and competing. However, long-duration cardio such as running doesn’t build muscle. Building muscle is what raises your resting metabolism (how much energy you burn at rest) which is key for fat loss. So, while cardio isn’t a bad thing in general, it isn’t ideal for fat loss goals. It goes to show there IS a specific approach to fat loss and while you may need little tweaks here and there to individualize that approach, it’s paramount to be persistent in training to get stronger and building muscle. To make the best of your training, get outside and enjoy life Earlier this month I visited the St. Louis Children’s (City) Museum with my family. It’s always a great time there because it really makes me feel like a little kid crawling and climbing around that place. I also have a profound respect for the creativity and architecture. Check it in out this video!


It was pretty empty when we got there since they opened up an hour early and we were probably one of 5 cars in the lot. Once I got there and did some crawling around and running up and down the stairs, I had to pause for a moment and appreciate all the things I can do because of my persistence and consistency (there are those words again) to my training and mobility work. Some of the places at the museum are clearly made for kids. Not going to lie there are some situations where I thought I wasn’t going to make it.

I am not claustrophobic I am not claustrophobic I am not claustrophobic….#someonepleasecall911 secall911

A photo posted by Donovan’s Personal Training (@train_with_donovan) on



At times like this it helps me to understand what all my hard work and focus in the gym can do besides help me make cool videos to put on instagram. For the past several years I’ve had clients tell me stories about all the times they’ve done something in the real world that can attribute their success to their training. Take my client Adriane for example. For years, she couldn’t ride her road bike without serious back pain. Goal number 1 was to get her able and functioning. This is an important step because when you have more function, you can do more things. Case in point, any fat loss or weight loss goals you have to be able to perform physically to achieve those goals. Bike riding is great for weight loss and since she enjoys it- it makes sense to get her healthy enough to make that happen and accomplish both getting back on the bike and improve body composition.





“Kim Kardashian doesn’t provide much value and asks for a lot of money, why can’t I when I provide more value to people?”

I heard this knowledge bomb on the “Barbell Business” podcast this week and it totally caught my attention. It’s not easy asking folks for money knowing how hard times are for most people. Early in my career it was painful asking people to pay me for the service I provide. It still is at times. But then your bills don’t get paid and when you do charge people it ends up being overdue and therefore pressuring people in a way you didn’t want them to be in the first place. Reading that out loud it doesn’t make sense, right? I’m sure some of you out there feel the same way. It’s an honest and genuine feeling. I know if I won the lottery, I’d still use my skill and talents to help people become a better version of themselves. Perhaps it’s natural to think this way when you truly love what you do.

Though this quote really woke my ass up. I mean really…why should I feel guilty for placing a monetary value on a service I provide that could help thousands (maybe millions one day) of people in my lifetime when there are folks asking to be paid for being themselves on television? It’s crazy.

For me, the takeaway is this: get really fucking good at what you do and provide a service people will want. If they’re not interested in paying then perhaps they’re not ready and that’s okay. Problem is I want to help as many people as I can. But this year, my most successful year ever, those that are willing to invest in themselves are the best clients and get the best results and stick around the longest. Especially because they pay a premium price for training. Keeping that in mind forces me to continue to elevate my game for these people.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Look for next month’s edition!