If You Won’t Take the Medicine, Don’t Ask for the Prescription

Imagine, if you can, going to the doctor to get attention for an illness, receiving a drug prescription from the doctor, and tearing it up and throwing it in his face because you don’t take prescription drugs. A pretty unlikely turn of events you’d imagine. While it may be unusual for the medical profession, it can be standard fare within the training industry.


Let me detail for you two events that have occurred in the last week that really got me wondering. I have set myself a goal for this year to, for the first time in my life, get visible abdominal muscles. To this end, I have dedicated myself to a Paleo style eating plan and have modified my exercise program to focus more on weight loss and fitness than adding muscle or improving power lifts. Thus far in my odyssey, I've managed to drop 16 pounds in six weeks, a rate of loss that I'm more than happy with and that has resulted in the top row of my abdominals making a welcome appearance.

Weight Loss

My weight loss has reached the point at which it is noticeable, and I've been flattered by the positive feedback that I've received from clients, gym members, and friends. To this end, I was approached by a work colleague last week who inquired as to how much weight I had lost and how I had managed to do it.

Not being afraid to eulogize about things that work for me (I have been known to talk people into submission when it comes to things that I passionately believe in), I provided this person with basic information on Paleo style eating and some key references in the area. One of the key changes in my diet has been to exclude all grains, dairy, sugar, and processed foods. My colleague took this on board and then asked how much weight he could expect to lose if he followed a Paleo template but continued to eat his chocolate muffin each day. When asked why he would eat the muffin if he was trying to lose weight, I got the simple and obvious response of, “I couldn’t live without my muffin at morning tea.” Being older (and much less tolerant), I mumbled something about "good luck with that" and moved on.

The second event was this morning when I was deadlifting. I had decided to do eight sets of one at approximately 90 percent of my one repetition maximum. I was approached by another member who asked how I managed to deadlift that weight. (Believe me, by elitefts standards, it isn't anything to write home about. At the gym I currently train in, it’s upper level—ah, the ego is a wonderful thing.) At any rate, I talked this person through progressive overload, 5/3/1 concepts, major lifts, supporting exercises, supplementary exercises, and maximal effort and dynamic effort training. I even offered to put together a basis program for him and run him through the paces (you can find new or potential clients anywhere if you look for opportunities). Apparently, this is all too much for most people because the gym member noted that he had a “bad back” and deadlifts would probably aggravate his condition.

Scheuermann's Disease

I couldn’t help myself at this point. I asked him where he’d left his seeing eye dog. Why? I have Scheuermann's disease. Scheuermann's disease is characterized by an abnormal curvature in the thoracic spine as the result of malformed vertebrae. If anyone was going to complain that deadlifts would aggravate his back, I reckon I could make a reasonable case. Guess what? Squats, deadlifts, and heavy rows have strengthened my back to the point where I have very few back problems and only the occasional back spasm. Once I had calmed down, I suggested that exercises such as the deadlift could help strengthen his back muscles and reduce his back pain (after a medical assessment and muscle imbalance check was completed, of course). At the end of the day, he wandered back to doing crunches and I went back to my training. I lost a potential client, but given that he was doing crunches with a bad back, I figure I hadn’t lost much except time.


My conclusion from these events, which has become my new motto for taking on new clients, is if you aren’t prepared to take the medicine, don’t ask for the damn prescription!

Educating clients is important, but sometimes you just need to realize that you're beating your head against a brick wall. As a wise man once told me, “The best part about beating your head against a brick wall is the unbridled pleasure you feel when you stop.”