I Train. You Train. We Train.

You and I train because we love it. We don’t question it, we just do it. We find pleasure in the pain, time under tension, and the added resistance weighing us down. We anticipate, look forward to, and fantasize about growth, strength, hitting PRs, perfecting technique, overcoming plateaus, experiencing the pump, and supporting protein synthesis.

Then there comes a time when it’s not so much about you or I but more so about he or she. This he or she may be your son or daughter, a friend, a spouse, a mother or father, perhaps a neighbor. We want them to experience this same thrill in some manner as we do. Maybe not so much in its full capacity, entirety or complexity, but to enjoy the benefits of the gym and improve in some fashion.

As I have had experiences training and creating programming for a variety of populations, I’ve learned invaluable and impressionable lessons by working with children and adults, their families, touched by autism.

This series is intended to provide simple and often overlooked reminders and considerations for you, the parent, teacher, or trainer to gain applicable ways to incorporate physical activity in your child's, student's, or client's day. Clearly not every suggestion will work for all, but instead will provide approaches that you may find effective.


As you may know, for the past four weeks, Blaine (Dave Tate's son) and I have been training together every Tuesday here at the compound. As this is an extension of Dave's series, They Are Not Angry Birds, I'll be sharing my approach to programming and training for a child with Autism.

Today is Blaine’s Tate’s birthday, making him eleven years old. His main highlight of the day was pranking everyone in the office for roughly eight hours. Like the sound of popcorn kernels popping in the microwave, one would hear him snicker, run through the office building, secretly planning and executing his next plan of attack. What was his choice of weapon? A whoopee cushion! Seconds after hearing his prankee express sudden shock as they sat down, fueled his strategy for the next victim.  All fell victim to this except for Matt Goodwin, who has become so accustomed to such wet bugle blasts as to not notice.

Aside from his full-time job of pranking, he found time throughout his day to rest and munch on the treats contained within his birthday package—a bowl full of Sprite, a mega Hershey bar, Gummy Worms, Sour Patch Kids, and Pringles. I accompanied his bowl with a card and inside his card, wrote that he had the privilege of creating a special birthday obstacle course EXTRAvaganza due to all the EXTRA treats he’d be eating.

Minutes after he read the note within the card he ran into my office. He first thanked me for the goodies, and then excitedly told me about his master plan for the obstacle EXTRAvaganza!

Blaine decided that as part of his obstacle EXTRAvaganza we’d perform 50 sets of table crawls. This idea then led to my plea for skin protection that accompanied a full discussion about kneepads, wrist guards, and elbow sleeves. We agreed that the time had come to incorporate these supports into our training.

Stalling his Whoopee Cushion invasion, our conversation completely changed course as we spent the next few minutes talking about his birthday party he had on Sunday. Amongst all the goodies he received, he was thrilled about the Calvin and Hobb’s book that he discovered while unwrapping his presents.  Before I could complete my next sentence, “I’m not all too familiar with Calvin and Hobb’s works,” he ran to the other room to retrieve the book.  He introduced to me the main characters and then showed me how this book was a collection of Calvin and Hobb’s classics. For the next hour he sat on the floor next to my desk as I worked, reading aloud his favorite stories. As the clicks of my keyboard and mouse remained uniform and steady, his voice, in contrast, changed in pitch, speed, volume, and language at least twenty times. As he read he’d laugh at the storyline and then quickly regain where he left off. I smiled for the straight hour.


Once 7:00 PM rolled around, Blaine walked into the gym door. Dave followed his lead, wearing the same grin as usual. In minute’s time, after Blaine skimmed the schedule, we got right to work.

You know that moment in time where everything in peripheral vision becomes blurry? That same moment where nothing else in life exists or matters? There are no deadlines, no missed meals, no tiredness, no drama, nor expectations. It’s the same moment where time makes a sudden halt, and in this halt you willingly dig deeper, grip tighter, and squeeze longer. It’s the same moment you anticipate and acknowledge the sweat on your forehead distinctly glide down your cheek, you hear the sound of your heart beat, and see only the task-at-hand.

For me, these moments have always taken place while training. This is how I fell in love with training and why I will always train, regardless if I have a competition scheduled. I love it for the sake of loving it, being present, and having the ability to be in tune with myself, my being, me.

In a similar fashion, this same presence blossoms when teaching.  All that matters is the teacher, the student, and the lesson in hand. Tonight, once it was finally Blaine’s choice to play tag, the only thing that occupied our minds was how we were, with strategy, going to run around the car fast enough, dodging the large mud hole in order to not be IT. All I could see, as I made a habit of looking behind me as I ran (probably not the best strategy) was Blaine laughing as he ran as fast as he could, both knees blackened from when he decided to take the elbow wraps off his knees while we previously crawled on the dusty pavement. This strategy of looking behind me probably was another reason why I was not so agile in dodging the large mud pits.

Despite our muddy and wet shoes, despite our soiled clothing, and despite the summer heat, we were moving, in focus, in celebration, all while present.


Blaine disliked the box squats.  Before doing them, he already perceived them to be hard. Although I saw his frustration level slightly increase as I began to prep for this movement, I searched for ways to make this exercise be more comfortable. For example, my initial intentions were for him to sit down on the box squat box, but then switched to a stacked plyobox. The plyobox height would set him above parallel. I modeled how I’d like for him to sit down and stand up and used the following cues: stand tall, chest out, sit back, knees out, sit down, explode up. It was then his turn to squat and despite the modifications he still was in no mood to perform them. Dave overheard Blaine’s annoyance and also tried to lessen his frustration by suggesting, “Blaine, act as though you are sitting down on the toilet!” This made Blaine and I laugh, and supplied him with enough effort to complete the eight reps. I praised his efforts in completing the set. Overall he wanted nothing to do with squats and completed the eight reps bent over, slightly looking and sounding like a zombie.

In hindsight:

The Whoopee Cushion would have probably been a beneficial addition to tonight’s training in allowing squats to be productive, less-invasive, and enjoyable.

Moving Forward:

After a mini discussion with Dave, he feels that Blaine has grown up around lifters perform squats his whole life. In every instance he has witnessed them having to grind and appearing to be in pain or discomfort. Therefore, before even doing them himself, he already perceives them to be something grueling and cruel.

My approach for next week will be to incorporate squat-like movements without labeling them as squats.