Bodyweight Training

February 28th 2013

In my last article, Fitness Activities and Habits, I coveBodyweight Exercises - samplered some of the ways to bring more fitness into your lifestyle.  One of the things I’ve always focused on in any fitness and sport I get involved in, is to study, research, learn and visualize as much as I can with resources from friends, books, online, experts or wherever I can get it.  I enjoy the learning aspects of developing new skills, movements, and abilities for my fitness activities and so this article jumps in on one of the those, fitness training using bodyweight training.  Basically, bodyweight training involves using your own body as weight resistance for developing your strength, balance and flexibility.

No Equipment Necessary

I’ve used training equipment at the gym and had some of my own over the years and I always thought they limited the movements I could train for.  Some machines and equipment certainly have an advantage to isolate muscles and make weight gains very simple to adjust, but they still need adjustments, maintenance and a lot of space or a facility to keep them in.  That was something that I just never liked.  Bodyweight training doesn’t require any equipment to get started and only a few simple things are needed to really expand your workouts.  Your body is the main weight you need and this method uses different leverage angles and resistance with your own body to train.  For example, pushups are a classic bodyweight training exercise and most people know of one or two types of pushups you can use for training.  I know of 36 different pushup styles (no, I can’t do them all yet), that you don’t need any equipment for and they all work slightly different muscles and vary in difficulty from simple (which anyone can do) to extremely difficult (which could take years to get strong enough for).

The little equipment that does help in bodyweight training is quite inexpensive or you can build or use  household items for many of them without spending a dime.  The best equipment I’d consider for bodyweight training is and you certainly don’t need all of these are:

    1. Gymnastic rings
    2. Small barbell set
    3. Medicine ball
    4. Exercise ball
    5. Stretch bands
    6. Parallette bars
    7. Wobble board

Training on Your Terms

Bodyweight Exercises - hand balancing

So, since the majority of the exercises can easily be done with no equipment at all, this method of training makes it possible to do anywhere and anytime.  Your workout program can be easily be done while traveling, it can be done when you only have a short amount of time.  Since you don’t need to drive to a gym or remember to bring your gear bag to change clothes and you don’t need to have a membership or pay any fees, the training becomes completely on your terms.  You can train for 5 minutes or 2 hours, before work or in the middle of the night, with or without a buddy, once a week or every day, whenever and wherever you feel like it.  This such a huge advantage over traditional training methods that most people use at a gym or fitness facility.  As long as you are self motivated enough to actually get started for some training, the accessibility to training however you like, is an immediate advantage for bodyweight training.

Progressions

The next area of bodyweight training that I have found to be a serious advantage is that the various muscle groups and exercises you will work on, start simple and get more complex as you get stronger.  The exercises change and get more interesting as they get more difficult as well, which doesn’t happen as much with programs for pumping iron for example.  You start with bicep curls and even as you get much stronger, you will likely still be doing bicep curls.  I’m not saying that is bad, cause its not, I just find the variety is better with bodyweight training and the exercises are far more interesting to work towards and accomplish.  The pushups for example that I mentioned above, start simple for beginners but to progress through 36 different pushups, you are going to work through many different muscle groups, body positions, balance techniques, postures, speeds and dynamic movements in order to get to the most difficult ones.  This makes progressions interesting and an excellent challenge to help motivate you towards the next type of pushup.

A Balanced Workout

Balanced training is very important in an exercise program so that you don’t focus on one area of the body way more than another.  This can lead to major muscle imbalances, injury and posture problems over a period of time so its important to work on a variety of muscles and not to do too much muscle isolation, which unfortunately is all too common with inexperienced or unknowing trainers.  While bodyweight training has the same risks and concerns, its a lot less likely since bodyweight movements as you progress use more and more muscles of the body together for each movement, instead of isolating muscles as you progress to build strength.  Core muscles and the lower back with hip and pelvic regions become crucial in many of the exercises so it leads to much more balanced workouts with muscle tone in whole areas, not specific muscles.  Another huge advantage is that many bodyweight exercises not only develop more strength, but also bring challenging elements of balance and flexibility into the exercises, which help to balance the muscles used and develop higher levels of mobility and general body movement.Bodyweight Training - rings

It’s Simply More Fun 

Last but not least, I think bodyweight training is a lot more fun because of its simplicity and ease of getting started, and strangely appealing as you seek more complex progressions and master a series of movements.  To me, this has always been more motivating and the fact that I can bring in balance work with a huge number of exercises, keeps me very excited about bodyweight training and I expect to be sticking to this method for many years. I hope its something you are interested in learning more about and will enjoy it as much as I have.  In fact, I’ve built (well still building) a web application for browsers and mobiles to track and train bodyweight exercises, which I’ll share once I’ve got some beta testing completed.

In the meantime, would love to read your comments or questions and enjoy these couple links to some common bodyweight exercises:

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 3 Comments »

Take Back your Life: Looking for a Career Change

December 17th 2010

I have another great guest post to share this week on the topic of career change. The article is written by Olivia McHenery. I’m happy to see her using a concept from three signs of a miserable job, a fantastic book by Patrick Lencioni, I just recently reviewed.

Have you ever caught yourself saying these things or asking these questions?

  • “I hate my job.”
  • “I never have time to do anything I want because of work.”
  • “I never get to see my family.”
  • “I thought life began after college?”

Do you hate your job? Maybe at scientific animations? Is your career keeping you from living a life as fully as possible? You’re not alone: Recent studies have found that 6 in 10 workers are unhappy in their current job(s). Job security has become increasingly scarce and is more important to many people than actually loving what they do. However, if you are laboring in a career you genuinely don’t enjoy, you may be hurting yourself more than your paycheck is helping. The stress associated with working in a job that is not satisfying and/or stimulating can take years off your lifeline, take a toll on your family and marriage, and cause full blown depression and anxiety attacks.

Nevertheless, before you march into your boss’s office and quit, assess whether or not you are exhibiting the three signs of job misery:

1.) Anonymity – Feeling that management and leadership does not care about or value you as an individual with a unique life, goals, and interests.

2.) Irrelevance – You do not see how your job makes a difference, or impacts anybody’s life in any way. The tasks you do have no meaning or end result that you can tangibly see and/or feel.

3.) Immeasurement – Inability to measure your successes and contributions to your employer.

If you are experiencing all three of these signs, it is time for you to really consider whether or not you want to stick with your current job, or start looking into a career change. Despite any reluctance, you must ask yourself, what is your joy and happiness worth to you? There are several steps you need to go through when planning a career change, and they certainly do not begin with quitting your current job. You can start your career change plan years in advance, putting yourself in a better position when it’s time to take the plunge.

1.) Assess what you like and what you dislike.

Even if your current job is the worst thing you have ever done, there is bound to be at least one thing about it that you enjoy. Can this enjoyable aspect of your job become a new career path for you? And in finding the activities you loathe about your current position, ask yourself what, if anything, would make these activities more enjoyable. From here, make a list of activities you really enjoy outside of the office and add this to your “likes” column. The key point in doing this exercise is rediscovering yourself; your passions, and what motivates you.

2.) Research new and alternative careers, focusing on what you discovered in step 1.

Now that you have rediscovered your passions, spend some time identifying careers that will center on these passions or will be complimented by them. Talk to professionals you respect about your decision to change careers and pick their brain(s) for ideas that will allow you to utilize your passions and form them into a career.

3.) What are your transferable skills?

Don’t underestimate the skills you have acquired in your present occupation. Use your current skills, experiences, and talents that are applicable to your chosen career path and accentuate them. Most likely, you already possess a good pool of skills that will transfer seamlessly into your new career.   It’s also a wise idea to become familiar with at
least one software product that can be used in many office jobs, such as Quickbooks Online for Accountants.

4.) Education, Training, and Schooling

An old adage states, “You never stop learning.” Be that as it may, your learning can become stagnant and your knowledge irrelevant. When plotting out a career change, it may be necessary to enroll in some online courses to supplement your skills with some new knowledge. This will apply regardless of what your new career path is. Want to be a massage therapist? Enroll in an online massage therapy school. Interested in pursuing accounting? You can get your MBA online in as little as two years. With enough planning, forethought, and perseverance, you can have a degree that will be relevant to your chosen career path before you leave your current job.

5.) Networking

Many professionals who are making a career change think they must build a new network from the ground up, neglecting the network they already have in place but are not fully cognizant of: family, friends, and colleagues. Utilize them for job leads and advice, and plug in to social gatherings that will help advance your career. In addition, join a professional organization or guild for the career you are shooting for, and attend their meetings, and be active on their message board(s).

6.) Internship or volunteer position

Remember that you are basically starting your career from scratch again. Taking an internship (paid or unpaid) or a volunteer position within your chosen field is an outstanding way to get valuable experience that will make you far more attractive as a job candidate.

7.) Search out an adviser

Preferably someone who has had success in your chosen field, but is also familiar with the potential pitfalls and traps that lie ahead. You can also plug into your adviser’s network and find your future job this way. If you don’t feel comfortable asking somebody to be your adviser, man up and drop your pride off at the door; most professionals will be honored that you are asking them to advise you and will be glad to take you under their wing.

8.) Consider changing careers, but not employers

Since you already have your foot firmly in the door at your current employer, inquire as to whether they have any positions there that will line up with your new career. It may be as simple as transferring departments, saving you months of time and hassle in the job search.

9.) Brush up on your job-hunting skills

Things have changed significantly in the job-search world in the past 10 years. There are numerous free tutorials online that will prepare you for what’s out there in the job hunting wilderness, and will equip you with the weapons you will need to survive and thrive.

10.) Be open-minded

Things are most likely going to change for you dramatically now that you’re changing careers. You need to keep an open mind and be flexible regarding your status, pay, benefits, and relocation. Expect some bumps in the road and maintain a positive attitude that while change is hard, change is also good. Set progressive goals for yourself with reasonable time tables and feasible outcomes. Ironically, quitting your current, misery inducing job may be a very hard decision for you to make. There is going to be a certain level of fear and trepidation that will nag at you while you are running through the ten steps, and you may want to throw in the towel and play it safe because of this. Just remember WHY you are pursuing a new career path and play your life’s tape forward: How satisfied with life do you want to be in 20 years?

Bio: Olivia is married and the mother of 3 daughters. She studied Communications and Business in college. She works in maintenance for an online schools website. In her spare time she likes to create bouquets and various flower arrangements for miscellaneous events.

Posted by Mike King under Business | 6 Comments »

A Guide Specifically on How to Provide Training

September 12th 2008

In my last article I explored the five Ws about training someone.  This article expands on that by closely exploring the HOW to train someone.

Start with the Right Mindset

If you offer to train someone, don’t pretend or imply that you know everything about that subject.  Even if you know a lot, there is always more to learn and you should offer to help in a way that you are suggesting ideas and wanting to help them learn instead of telling them what to do.  Being humble with training is important to avoid you coming across as a “know it all”.  This can be especially true if you are teaching someone older than you or with more experience.

The attitude and mindset of wanting to help and teach someone else is what you want to portray, not the fact that you are smarter than them or know more than them.  That only leads to disrespect and makes the learning for less likely.

Prepare An Outline

To train someone something an outline can be a life saver for stepping them through a process and to guide you to stay on track.  You should create this BEFORE the training starts if you can and have it ready once you proceed.  Its helpful especially if you are not a natural learner since you may find it hard to stay on track or approach things in the right order.  Here are some things you might need to include in a typical training outline:

  • Answer the question of what is the area you are training and why?
  • Put some steps to learn this new thing onto paper (somewhere from 3-8 steps works best)
  • Ask yourself what questions might someone have and prepare answers ahead of time to present them.
  • If there is expected doubt or resistance to new training, explore ways to overcome that.
  • List sections or titles for each stage in your training to help guide you and categorize your sessions.

Consider What Your Audience Wants to Learn

Don’t assume that what you plan to train will be everything that your audience wants.  You don’t need to change your topics or main areas, but sometimes looking to tailor your training just a little bit to cover the important areas for your audience will make a HUGE difference.  This doesn’t matter whether you are providing one on one training or a huge seminar.  Ask people what they want to get out of it and look to cover some of those areas specifically.  If you consider the audience, they will be far more receptive and attentive since they will actually be looking for the area that they a re most interested in.

Involve Your Audience

It helps to keep your audience alert and involved with the training as much as possible.  This ensures that they are more attentive and keeps their mind active in the learning process.  Have them answer questions, repeat things aloud, do short tasks on paper, work in groups, answer simple quizzes or anything else that has them directly involved with the new material.  Involving them directly and making things more hands-on is far more effective since so many people learn best that way.

Follow Up and Reinforce the Learning

Once you finish with your training, make sure to follow up on it.  This doesn’t matter if you had providing a one time session or continual training, following up on the areas you covered from previous training is important to refresh it for yourself and your audience, and it allows you to see how much has actually been learned.  The point of training is not that you taught it, the point is that who you taught it to has actually learned it.

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 4 Comments »

Using the 5 W Questions to Improve Your Training

September 8th 2008

Training is an important part of learning to master any type of skill or information.  You don’t need to be a teacher however, to train someone.  And actually, you don’t even need to know much about the content you want to teach.  This seems contradictory to many people and is a reason the most common reason why people don’t train others as often as they should.  Let’s explore some of the reasoning behind this and in my next article, I’ll outline how to approach training in an area, even if you are not an expert at it.

To look at this closer and understand an approach that works for training I’ll explore the classic five ‘W’ questions to consider the various angles about providing some kind of training.

Who Can You Train?

This is a great question to ask and without looking closely at it, people often feel that they don’t have anyone to train.  This just isn’t true!  There are many people in everyone’s lives and there are opportunities to train pretty much anyone you know.  You could train your children, your friends, your spouse, your family, your colleagues, strangers, and clients.  What is useful is to pay attention to all these questions when identifying who you can train.  Remember that you don’t need to have any authority or power over a person to train them. Train anyone!

What Can You Train?

Next is to consider what you can train.  I find the best way to identify this is not to look at what you DO know, but to look at what the person you can train wants to know!  This is critical to gaining their interest and desire to be trained and helps to eliminate the common misconception that you need to be an expert with something to train them.  Look at what they want or need to learn and then get into the training process (which I will cover in my How to Train Someone article next).

If you train an area of interest to someone else, they will welcome it, and enjoy it far more than if you try to teach an area you may know more about yourself, but they have no interest in.  Dale Carnegie’s classic advise to talk about the things that interest the other person apply wonderfully with training as well if you want to have success at it.

When is it a Good Time to Train?

Finding a good time to train is perhaps, the most difficult part of training.  You need to have a chance to prepare your training material and thoughts, as well to spend some time with the person you are training.  Getting a commitment for this is definitely preferred but not always practical.  If you can, schedule some specific time together to focus on the training.  When you do this will depend on some of the other questions like the who and what you are training.

I’d suggest to do training at a time of day that anyone involved is alert and attentive, so not late at night or early in the morning unless that is a good time for everyone.  Find a time that people are happy and willing to commit to so you are not planning the training to have inherent stumbling blocks before it even starts.

As I mentioned above, it’s not always practical to plan the training and if that’s not working, do not prevent you from training still.  Plan things more spontaneously and train on the spot whenever you can make it work.  Even segmented training at random times is far better than not doing it at all.  As for when to start or begin training? Don’t delay, begin the training NOW!

Where Should I Train?

Obviously, not everyone has a school classroom or facility to train from.  Nor would you want to use that for every kind of training and with all people.  Again, it is far more important to make the training comfortable and easy to do than to worry about the ideal place to train from.  Where you train can vary greatly and it can easily happen from your home or home of another person, at work in public or private sessions, or perhaps even over lunch or informal get together.  You can train over the phone, on the internet, by book or written content or even in a group in a public location.  Again, remember that it’s not that important where you train, its just important that you DO.

Why Should I Train?

This is my favorite question and often it’s the one with the most concerns.  Especially from people in the workplace and many people feel that knowledge is power and so to hoard that knowledge they are getting ahead.  Let me assure you, this is completely wrong.  As a manager, I know that the riskiest individuals in an organization are the ones that are sole experts and they are always on my mind to eliminate that trait from.  An organization wants to have multiple people available for any job so that loosing someone is no impact.  Let me assure you, if you can use training to make yourself redundant and provide help to your organization to balance out the risky ‘experts’, that is far more valuable than being an expert yourself.

Another important reason that is often overlooked is for learning yourself.  Teaching and training is the best way to both prove your understanding of a subject that you already know and also to learn more about it yourself.  As you discuss the topic, plan for it and research, you expand your own understanding in that area and so you are not only helping someone else learn, but you are definitely learning yourself.  The more time you spend training, the more you see where people have struggles, questions and concerns with the topic and it helps you to focus on addressing those areas in similar or related training for next time.  This helps you get more prepared and become more and more effective at your training.

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 3 Comments »

Promoting Employee Engagement in the Workplace

June 14th 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot more about the topic of employee engagement. David Zinger sparked the label in my mind some time ago when he started up the employee engagement network along with his active discussions and wise words on the subject. There is a huge level of job dissatisfaction in today’s workplace and there is an equal level of disengagement from workers. Perhaps they go hand and hand? I think so.

There are a number of things that can help to get people more engaged with others and I wanted to outline some of the ones I’ve learned from my experience and what I’ve encountered reading and discussing the topic with others.

Human Diversity

There needs to be some diversity to bring about a healthy level of differences. These are everything from cultural and societal to personality and motivation. Having diversity with people will bring out questions, differing opinions, curiosity, conflict, and perhaps even personality clashes. All of these are useful at a reasonable level to promote engagement. If everyone was the same, there would be little reason to even discuss anything and so communication wouldn’t be all that important and that can’t be true since its my next item on my list.

Open Communication

Communication that is open is really about an environment or attitude about the communication that is comfortable in an organization. It should be welcoming to new ideas, disagreements and opinions while being presented with sincerity, respect and an intent of trust. If these things are not there with communication, then the employee engagement suffers as that is when communication will begin to break things down. An appropriate style and expectation for communication needs to be presented and more importantly, demonstrated by the leaders in an organization.

There are many ways to bring about more communication and they all work in different situations and with different people.  They might include any forms such as common chit-chat, sharing of stories and experiences, discussing lessons learned, collaborative tools to allow individual content, a feedback system with regular reviews, suggestion boxes (NOT anonymous), and a willingness of any leader to accept feedback from others including their directs without judging it or holding it against that person.  There is much in the topic of communication that they deserve several other articles just on there own, so I’ll leave it at this for now, but I think that open communication really has the largest impact on employee engagement and they really go hand in hand in a lot of ways.

Common Goals / Visions

When people have a common goal or vision to work together on, its easier to dismiss personal differences and specific likes and dislikes between individuals. A common goal is the easiest way to have an immediate purpose together, even with someone you don’t know and it leads to a working relationship that opens new lines for building deeper relationships. The extreme of this is when enemies can even unite to work to one goal. Enemies will quickly realize that if they are after the same thing, its more effective to work together and set aside their differences to reach the common goal.

In order to make progress towards a common goal, those involved have expectations of each other and will begin to communicate these things, whether it is encouraged or not. Getting a group of people to a common goal or vision is a whole other article (or ten perhaps) but once its truly in place, people will help each other and engage with one another to meet that goal at a higher level than if there was no common goal. Individuals will begin to look from themselves and from others the next level of engagement.

Commitment

That next level where there is an engagement between people is that of commitments.  Commitments are a way to ensure that there is discussion between each other and that true engagement is when people hold each other accountable to any commitments made.  Encourage this heavily, be true to your commitments yourself and work hard to ensure that trust is not broken where commitments may not be met.  You can salvage that trust even when commitments are not met by bringing it up early (before a deadline is past), accepting the consequences of it and by apologizing to those you made the commitment to.  All these reinforce the trust and ensure that you can stay engaged with those individuals.  Ask for help when its needed  and continue to talk about the commitments of others instead of simply ignoring them or letting them get by without a commitment. Doing this at an individual level or as a leader to set an example is a powerful way to get more engaged and engage others in your work.

Training

I’m a huge advocate for internal training in the workplace and I’ve seen how this has a huge impact on employee engagement. Internal training programs should be made as visible and public as possible with ideally, a sizable group of people.  Generally having more people discuss, learn and share ideas on a given topic will generate more discussion and engagement among that group and training is a great avenue to bring this into the workplace.  I’ve found that the best courses and training for engagement ensures that every single person in attendance has to participate and that this is done out loud and with some kind of opinion, answer or comment.  I love content that has self-reflection or questions about oneself that you share in a group.  This helps everyone learn more about each other as well as have discussion on one’s own perspective and opinion on things.

Make it Part of The System

None of these methods work entirely on their own and they are all interdependent at some level. In order to ensure that employee engagement is something that gets attention, is measured and has various methods contributing to it, its important that it is part of a system.  Not many things work on their own in business and its important to look at ways to embed it into the business practices.  I regularly read Mission Minded Management where I love I’m OK.  You’re OK.  Let’s fix the system. “  This is true with employee engagement as well as there are always examples where individuals do things right, but unless its fixed at a larger scale, it doesn’t become cultural or lasting, which I think is crucial for engagement.

Employee engagement takes a lot of effort to build and as outlined here, has a number of methods.  To make them stick, they need to be driven on a continual basis, they should have regular discussion with various groups, they should be presented and taught to new employees, measured and used as an evaluation basis for employees, put into procedures and any relevant policies, shared with investors, clients and other business partners and in general, made to be part of the company’s business system in as many ways as possible.  The more ingrained it is into the system, the more likely employee engagement will expand and retain itself as part of the culture in the workplace.

I’d love to hear your ideas on promoting employee engagement and I hope this gives you some ideas on how to become more engaged yourself as it certainly starts with each individual.

Posted by Mike King under Business | 5 Comments »

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