Skip to content

Fitness Questions From Instagram (April 2021)

Periodised training within calisthenics? Recommended learning resources for aspiring coaches/personal trainers & ideas for better sleep

Do you periodise your training at all? And do you have short term and long term goals to go within a periodised program?

I actually don’t! As much as I think periodised training is a great approach especially for athletes, for me personally, I don’t use big periodised blocks for calisthenics.

That said, I know some friends of mine who do draft out long term micro and macro-cycle phases to fit inside a big picture aim, and they have done very well from this approach.

As for why I don’t use this approach, it’s simply because at present I’m simply focusing almost day by day and week by week, and I’m just trying to balance years’ worth of injuries and imbalances etc, so while big audacious long term goals are great, at my current stage I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch.

When I was younger and wet behind the ears I was a massive believer in the ultra specific, goal-orientated approach, but as the years have gone by I’ve realised this approach can often lead to you pushing too hard, burning out and getting hurt. And as I’ve said before, you can improve in many areas outside of the ‘uber-goal’ and wrongly tell yourself you’re still a ‘failure’, as you didn’t get the exact honey pot you wanted.

So instead, I focus on progressing where I can and as fast as I can (this always slows with time as you get better at said movement) and then re-asses every so often and implement a small target built off what I’ve just done.

In theory I could see periodisation working under the watchful eye of a coach, where they OBJECTIVELY adjust and map out a sensible roadmap for you. To try and do such a thing alone without lots of experience could be tricky and the margin for error/over-complication is pretty vast.

Note: If anyone reads this and has good experiences with long term periodised training for calisthenics, I’d love to hear from you as the topic is pretty intriguing overall!

What learning resources do you recommend for an aspiring trainer and fitness coach? I’m undecided about getting the official certifications (level 2 & 3) as I already successfully coach online, but I’m looking to target a broader audience so wondered if the level 3 etc might be beneficial? That and anything else you think could help?

Most people who know my beliefs when it comes to the fitness industry know I’m a big proponent of making the industry standards higher! I think it’s woefully too easy to ‘get qualified’ and just go about training people. This leads to a serious devaluation of good trainers and coaches.

Looking back as I do now, I honestly see the level 2 and 3 as glorified toilet paper. They’re essentials for the in-person PT as it’s required for insurance and for landing certain job roles within the industry. But that said, I’ve seen many seriously successful online coaches WITHOUT the level 2 or 3 and they’re making way more money than the ‘fully qualified’, ‘real life’ personal trainer!

This is proof you don’t need the official qualifications to be successful at this, as you know yourself as a successful online coach. BUT, you do have to have very good knowledge, that’s a given……..

I honestly believe my best teachers were real world experience, specific seminars, books and absorbing the WEALTH of online information that exists on the internet, be it on YouTube, with articles, through social media or podcasting.

I’ve always found my own ‘gurus’ if you like and soaked up all their beliefs and philosophies as best possible. I’ll listen to every podcast they’ve been on. I’ll read all their articles and watch all their YouTube content. And where I’m blessed with a very good memory I’m able to store a lot of it deep in my brain and call on it when needed.

If you do this with a solid handful of people and test what you learn with your own clientele, you’ll never go far wrong. A nice line I got from Cal Dietz is: always ask yourself if there’s a better way to get the result you’re seeking. This can be applied to every client and your own training.

For books, there’s almost too many to list but two that come to mind are Overcoming Gravity 2 by Steven Low and Becoming A Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett. Overcoming Gravity is a scientific masterclass that delves super deep on everything related to programming for exercise and the overall physiology of exercise in general………

Overcoming Gravity: A Systematic Approach to Gymnastics and Bodyweight  Strength (Second Edition): Low, Steven: 9780990873853: Books

Becoming A Supple Leopard is an invaluable resource for efficient and time effective mobility ‘hacks’ too. These are super practical and save you spending half an hour or more mobilising before you actually see any results. Having these tricks up your sleeve and to hand make the difference between a reasonable trainer and a great trainer, in my opinion!

Becoming a Supple Leopard 2nd Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving  Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance eBook:  Starrett, Kelly, Cordoza, Glen: Kindle Store

To answer your question though, I don’t think you’ll need the level 2 or 3 unless you’re going for a real world gym job. As for what’s covered in it, from memory it’s basic anatomy and physiology, nutrition is covered at a basic level along with very basic programming principles and exercise technique. There’s a fair bit on health and safety as well but most of which I’ve NEVER used in any real world situation.

One thing not covered at all is what to do when someone can’t do a move due to pain or their own personal limitations, or what to do when the conventional approach doesn’t work – and as you know, there are many people who respond rather differently to things than the textbook says they will.

My sleep has sucked for years but I’ve seen you’ve recently been trying different sleep supplements for your own sleep. How have you found them and what’s your take on sleep improvement in general?

I feel your pain, brother! I remember being between the ages of 8 and 16 and going on family holidays and not being able to sleep for even a single hour! I was just super wired and active and needed to do things. I couldn’t wait for the night to be over as it just seemed to be a massive waste of time!

Thankfully I’m not like that now and do sleep better or age caught up with me and I’m no longer the spritely teenager anymore. Although my sleep is still well sub-optimal for my activity level. I struggle to get a solid 6 hours straight every night and often have to get it through accumulation of what I call ‘bitty sleep’.

Because of the growing research on sleep and its impact on recovery, health, neurology and just about everything, I have been trying to give it the attention and respect it duly deserves lately. Training wise my results in 2020 were poor and I really think, with the beauty of hindsight on my shoulder, this was down to over-training.

And as they say, there’s no such thing as over-training, there’s only under-recovering.

There’s no such thing as overtraining, only under-recovering.

So as of this year I’ve began calling in the big boys when it comes to sleep enhancement. Some of the things I’ve began doing/using daily are:

  • Controlled nasal breathing method for relaxation
  • ‘Man Sleep’ – a supplement from Chad Howse aimed at optimising sleep and hormones for men (although there’s no reason women couldn’t use it)
  • Blue light filter glasses
  • Not drinking fluids too close to bed (and if I do, I make sure it’s not a lot)
  • Mobilising my shoulders & spine every night (this is tied into my recent posts on shoulder mobility)

This may sound pretty intensive but keep in mind all these extra habits have been added in piece by piece. This is the neat thing with habit stacking, once you do one or two, more become easier and they tend to fall in place.

In terms of supplementation I always find I sleep and feel better when I’m taking magnesium. Always go for a blend ending in ‘A-T-E’ and not oxide. Magnesium Oxide is poorly absorbed by the body and is in most generic ‘magnesium supplements’. Vitamin C can help too as it’s strongly related with lowering cortisol and you don’t want elevated cortisol when you’re trying to sleep.

Breathing is free and easy and something I always sucked at. For the first 25 years + of my life I only knew you could breath into your chest and not the belly. I also didn’t realise nose breathing was worth anything! I’m ‘woke’ now though and realise the importance of nose breathing as this oxygenates the body better and is conducive to a parasympathetic state – the relaxation side of your nervous system.

Like most things in life, this is a practice game. Go for walks and challenge yourself to only breath through your nose. Then do it before bed for 5-10 minutes. Follow a guided breathing routine? It builds from there. Also, if you’re very locked up in the pecs, shoulders and have poor thoracic mobility, breathing properly aka DIAPHRAGMATIC-ALLY will be very tough to do.

Other things that can help are reducing screen time from everything: phone, TV, laptop, artificial lights and anything else. Reading a light hearted book with the lights very low is great too. Don’t go for anything too heavy as you’ll just stimulate your brain rather than sedate it.

If I could add one last thing, I’d encourage you to try to go to sleep when you’re tired instead of laying around on the sofa or wherever and not going to bed when you’re actually tired! How many times have you tried to force yourself awake only to stay semi-tired, to then finally go to bed and not be able to sleep?! It’s because you’ve missed the boat!

This is a complex topic that I’ve already gone in on so I’ll leave it there for now. Here’s a link to an old article I wrote when I first started researching this subject: (5 Natural and supplement free ways to enhance sleep! – Straight Talking Fitness)

Maybe I should rewrite an updated version on this subject in light of all my recent experiments?

Thanks as always to everyone who took the time to ask me this month’s questions. If you want your question answered feel free to shoot me a DM on Instagram (@straight_talking_fitness) or alternatively drop me an email:

Stay tuned for next month’s edition!

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: