What a Personal Trainer CAN’T do for you

In any endeavour there are a few elements that lead to success. Some key ones are:

  • Skill, Ability or Talent
  • Knowledge
  • Opportunity
  • Motivation, Attitude & Beliefs

A PT can’t change your attitude or motivate you long-term. Sure, everyone gets an initial burst of enthusiasm but after the novelty has worn off it’s down to your attitude, goals and beliefs to drive you forward.

What a good PT can do (like any good teacher) is recognise and draw out the skills and talent that are already there, and add to your knowledge, whilst providing the opportunity for you to show what you can do.

Long-term motivation comes from valuing the results, believing you can do it and having faith in the process (Vroom’s VIE model of motivation).

If you really don’t care enough about the outcome then you’ll last 3-6 months, with or without a PT. If you care enough you’ll find a way to achieve it, however long it takes, with or without a PT.

Whenever my clients do well I always tell them it’s down to them, not me…and I’m not just saying it to be nice or with a sense of faux-humility. I genuinely mean it! It’s easy to write a beginner’s training plan. It’s not rocket science and most people could write a fairly decent one for themselves. The hard bit is actually executing the plan long-term.

Health and fitness is about 90% mental and 10% physical. If you want to get fit and need some motivation then a pop-psychology book is probably a better place to start than an exercise book. Just about everyone I know who’s into personal development started with fitness. They set some goals and worked at them for years, not months, years! Then they used the discipline and attitude that fitness taught them to improve other areas of their life. I’ve seen it time and time again.

Seriously – long-term motivation is down to your attitudes, goals, desires, values and beliefs.

A PT can give you a push but you’re the one who needs to keep peddling when they’re not there to hold you steady, and the major factor in whether you do it or not is how much you want it and how often you’re prepared to keep trying, until it becomes second nature – just like riding a bike.

100 healthy lunch options (and how to make a hand-grenade!)

Bored of plain chicken and salad? Here are 100 healthy lunch options. Oh and how to make a hand-grenade too!

• Tuna with avocado, spinach leaves and cherry tomatoes with a small drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.

• Ham off the bone with cottage cheese, rocket leaves, chopped grapes and crushed Brazil nuts.

• Salmon with hard-boiled egg, grated carrot, chopped pickled beetroot, iceberg lettuce and a sprinkling of ground flax seeds.

• Peppered mackerel with iceberg lettuce and pre-prepared “hand-grenades” (see below for instructions).

• Any left over dinner from last night.

You can then mix and match the protein from the above meals, or use chicken, turkey or beef, adding things like olives, strawberries, nuts, cucumber, other veg etc. to give you so many variables to keep you healthy and happy! 🙂

How to make a hand-grenade

1. Hollow out a beef tomato and a large flat mushroom.

2. Add a chopped spring onion and a pinch of pepper to the scooped out flesh from the mushroom and tomato.

3. Cook 1 rasher of bacon and add to the mixture (skip this step if you prefer saving time over taste).

4. Sautee the mixture in a little butter for around 7-8 minutes (skip this step if you prefer saving time over taste).

5. Remove from the heat and add a large dessert spoon of cottage cheese. Stir well.

6. Fill the tomato and mushroom with the mixture.

7. Oven-bake at around 150 degrees for approx. 20 minutes or until cooked to desired level.

Serve either hot or cold.

Crossfit and the worst job I’ve ever had!

I love Crossfit because it helps me to get better at things I’m not good at. Naturally I’m fast and have a lot of determination – that’s it! Nothing more than that.

I’m not that strong, I’m certainly not very skilful at any sports and my mobility is awful! If I wanted to be very good at something I’d probably take up running but, to be honest, the long runs bore the arse of me and the short runs don’t give me enough returns for the effort.

So, why Crossfit?

I get bored very easily. For example, I don’t watch movies (don’t have the attention span). I love party food, starters, canapes and buffets (bit of this, bit of that). I like running my own business as there’s always something new and exciting to deal with. The worst job I’ve ever had was entering direct debit mandates into a computer for the old Abbey National. Eight hours a day. Mandate after mandate. Can you imagine the boredom? Now imagine someone who’s a bit of dreamer, with the attention-span of a goldfish doing it – that’s me! Suffice to say that I didn’t last very long and it was one of the catalysts that made me thing f**k this for a lark. I knew at a very young age that I wasn’t just going to get a job to pay the bills. I’d rather live in a bush…and I almost did at times!

I found Crossfit when 3 sets of 10 bicep curls really didn’t do it for me anymore. The thought of running 50 miles week training for a marathon didn’t exactly thrill me.

To do Crossfit, you need a lot of tools – most of which, can be built with hard work, intelligent programming, quality coaching, good nutrition and advice from the community. You need:

• Strength – to move heavy weights
• Muscular endurance – to move heavy weights multiple times
• Technique & coordination – for things like double-unders, muscle ups and Olympic lifting
• Cardiovascular fitness – for everything but especially WODs (Work Out of the Day)
• Anaerobic fitness – for short, intense WODs, such as “Fran”
• Aerobic fitness – for longer WODs, such as “Murph”
• Strength + technique – for Olympic lifting with heavier weights
• A high lactate threshold – for things like burpees, box jumps and WODs like “Karen” and our old friend “Fran” again.
• To be able to deal with failure – unless you’re a rarity, you’re going to spend a good deal of time being rubbish at things until you’ve learned how to do them through repeated failure.

So, Crossfit is an ideal way for me to enjoy my training without getting bored. Sure, I squat multiple times a week and do repeated drills in Olympic lifting, but there’s enough going on alongside that to keep me motivated and enjoying what I’m doing.

If you want to gain muscle, lose body fat, get fit, have fun and learn new stuff – I can’t think of a better way to do it than Crossfit, and this is one of the key reasons that I include a variety of Crossfit style programming in our Fitness For Business programmes.


If you’re struggling to do your first pull up then a good way to progress is by using negative reps (just the downward part).

To do this you will need to stand on something that allows you to do the negative (downward) part of the pull up, without having to pull yourself up first. Alternatively, you can get someone to give you a “leg up” (as we used to call it back in the day!).

Once you’re in position at the top of the movement, take the strain and slowly lower yourself into a dead hang. Then let go and repeat 5-10 times. Then rest for a couple of minutes and do 2 more sets of 5-10 negative reps.

Team Games at Fox Agency

There were some stellar performances at Headingley-based Fox Agency’s weekly Reach Fitness for Business bootcamp.

A 50 minute team competition was hotly contested, with directors,senior team members and graduates collaborating to try to get their team to the top of the scoreboard.

A variety of fun, but testing workouts were designed to test them as a group and as individuals; these included:

  • Team Sprints
  • Atlas Stones
  • Burpee Challenge
  • Kettlebell Swing Head to Head
  • Farmer’s Walk
  • Tug of War

Fox Agency have been working with Reach for over 12 months – here’s Director, Al Fox…

Fox Agency has been involved in Reach Fitness For Business for around 18 months now. Starting with just two of us, it’s now around ten, and we all push ourselves to our physical limits in the local park each week. It is a great benefit to offer employees as it’s something they wouldn’t normally do themselves in their lunch hour, and from an initial scepticism or uncertainty, all those participating have now grown to really look forward to the workouts.

You can read more about Recommended Agency Register Top 100 member, Fox Agency, and their journey with Reach Fitness for Business here.

Variety is the Spice of your Fitness Life!

These are my rowing times… they’re not bad. They’re not brilliant, but they’re not bad!


The thing is – I don’t really row. I probably row a sprint (250-1000m) every 3 months or so. Same with running – I’m not bad for someone who doesn’t run much (I run maybe 15-20 times a year) – 3.20 1k / 21.40 5k / 44.40 10k, but I’m not in a “runner’s” league.

I’m actually built for rowing and running and could probably be a decent-ish amateur runner if I ran more, but I get bored really easily so I prefer to have a variety of training – a bit of running, a bit of rowing, weight training (strength), Olympic lifting, swimming, cycling, calisthenics (bodyweight), plyometrics (jumping).

Whatever you are doing – you have to find a balance between enjoying your results and enjoying the process. For me, variety really helps me to enjoy what I’m doing.

As a personal trainer, I’ve always been a fitness coach for the average Joe & Jane, rather than a specialist coach. I have some great specialist coaches helping me with things like Olympic lifting, swimming, nutrition and running, but for your average person who wants to get fit, variety is beneficial, both physically and mentally.

We all have our favourites – for me, funnily enough, it’s probably the thing I’m worst at (due to poor mobility), Olympic Lifting but, regardless of what your favourite exercise is, it’s good to integrate these four components into your training: strength training, cardiovascular fitness, mobility and technique.

You can do it as easily as this:

  • Strength: Bodyweight e.g. squats, pull ups, press ups / Weight training
  • Cardio: HIIT / running / metcons / weight training
  • Mobility: Stretching / yoga / Pilates / Olympic lifting
  • Technique: Sport-specific training such as practicing golf swing / free kicks / tennis drills / running drills

If you do the above you should also, as a bi-product, incorporate power, agility and balance into your training.

So, whether you’re a Jack of all trades or a sport-specific world beater, a little variety is good for both the mind and body! Try something new today – if you run, then lift weights. If you swim, then row. If you lift, then cycle. Whatever it is will have some positive carry-over to improve your psychology and physiology.

Danny Sroda is the founder and lead trainer at Reach Fitness For Business.
Contact us today to learn more about getting your employees fit, healthy, productive and motivated.

What Are your Pleasure Vs Pain Motivators?

Jeremy Bentham and Tony Robbins both use the Pleasure/Pain principle of motivation.

I’ve had a VERY stressful New Year but my business is better for it – New training plans. New information gathered with which to provide a better service. New recipes on my website. Client training software updated. Building work in the fitness studio. All very stressful!!

Yes stress = pain but the greater pain comes from not being where I want to be. I’ve found through experience that there are two kinds of people in the world – neither one is better than the other but they both want different things out of life.

1, The pleasure of Eastenders and the pain of a bit of stress outweighs the pleasure of progress and the pain of underachievement.

2, The pleasure of achievement and the pain of being busy and juggling many tasks outweighs the pleasure of relaxing and the pain of underachievement.

Jim Rohn puts it wonderfully:

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tonnes”.

I spent the first half of my working life full of regrets and the latter half making sure I left them behind. Let the future pull you and the past push you towards greater things.

The Secret To Training Success

Effective training is made up of lots of elements but these five are critical.

1, Do you know your NUMBER 1 goal? Does aesthetics trump fitness? Does muscular strength come at the expense of cardio fitness? Work out what you’re trying to achieve!

2, Do you know what you need to so to achieve your goal? 8 reps bench press for strength or power is entirely different matter to 8 reps for hypertrophy. Yes there is some crossover in terms but the speed at which you move the bar will determine how much weight you can put on and the time under tension.

3, How often are you prepared to work out. Assuming both are following the same plan with the same application, who will make the most progress towards their goal – the person who trains intelligently once a week or the person who trains intelligently six times a week? Answers on a postcard…

4, Nutrition. Choose your food intelligently. Keep up with the latest research. Be careful who you listen to. There are some fantastic sources of information on the internet (usually professionals who walk the walk) and there are some people who’ll have you believing any old nonsense because that’s what their friend did and made “sik gainz in 2 weeks dude” (usually on the forums of bodybuilding.com).

5, How much do you want it. Are you prepared to go down blind alleys, try weird things that seem like a good idea at the time just to learn something new or that something doesn’t work well for you, overcome setbacks, injuries and plateaus? Are you prepared to train when you don’t want to because the pain of not looking how you want to look or feeling how you want to feel outweighs the pain and inconvenience of training late on a Wednesday night or early on a Saturday morning?

If the answer to this one is yes then you’ll find a way to sort out number 1-4. You’re the one who’ll make it. In whatever you’re trying to achieve – fitness, business, life in general. I spent years studying and teaching motivation and personal development and, I promise, if you want it enough you’ll find a way!

Don’t Make Any New Year’s Resolutions Before Reading This!

As we approach the end of 2015, I’m starting to take stock of the last 6 months. When I was a lecturer in management, I used to quote Peter Drucker’s line, “What gets measured gets done”.

If you’re not measuring your progress then how do you know if you’re making any? Monitoring can be subjective / qualitative (how you feel or how you think you look in the mirror) or it can be objective /quantitative (how much you weigh / dress size / how many reps you can do / how much you can lift) or somewhere in between (e.g. progress pictures). It doesn’t really matter which you use, as long as you can evaluate where you are compared to where you were. Below is my progress in the squat.



Before making any New Year’s resolutions, it’s a good idea to start with the first question in any strategy formulation process, “Where are we now?”

We can apply a corporate strategy process to fitness:

  1. Where are we now? (Measure / Evaluate)
  2. Where do we want to be? (Goal setting)
  3. How are we going to get there? (Training plan)
  4. How will we know when we’ve arrived? (Measure)

So, before you set your New Year’s fitness resolutions for next year, spend the holiday period reflecting on 2015 and evaluating where you are. If for no other reason than it’s a great feeling to look back and see how far you’ve come.

Wishing you health, fitness, happiness and success in 2016.
Danny 🙂

How many books about THINKING have you read?

A couple of shelves on my bookcase.


Cogent reasoning and clear thinking is an innate ability but it’s also a skill that has to be developed.

People spend years training to be a builder, a doctor or a landscape gardener; learning the theory & gaining experience. People spend hours at the gym or out running to improve their body. They spend even more hours choosing their Fantasy Football team. So why don’t most people spend the same amount of time and effort training themselves to THINK?

We take for granted the ability to think clearly, cogently & free from bias but, without the knowledge, understanding and practice that’s required for any skill, most people are way below their potential as thinkers.

If I were to recommend one book to develop your thinking it would be influence by Robert Cialdini. If you think you’re unbiased in your thinking then you need to read this book! http://www.harpercollins.com/9780061241895/influence

Opportunity Cost – Economics & Nutrition

In economics there’s a concept called “Opportunity Cost”. Investopedia defines this as “The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action”. For example, the cost of choosing to go to University instead of starting work doesn’t just include fees and living expenses; it also includes the opportunity cost of what you could have being doing instead. In those three years you could have started a career and perhaps earned a couple of promotions, so the opportunity cost is the value of that alternative course of action.

In business, when a bespoke order is manufactured incorrectly and has to be rectified then the cost is not simply the original cost, plus what is costs to put it right, but there is also the opportunity cost of the money you could have been earning instead of correcting the mistakes.

It takes 10 hours to make order X

Order X Sale Price = £10,000
Minus manufacturing cost = £7500
Profit = £2500
Minus labour & material cost of correcting errors £500
Profit = £2000
Minus time taken that could have been spent on making order Z £500
Profit = £1500

So, it’s actually doubly expensive to correct the order – due to the opportunity cost.

Now, what’s all this got to do with health and fitness? Well, let’s take snacking on a Twix as an example.

In fitness, most people think of snacking on junk in terms of how fat it will make them, but that’s only half the cost. It’s also a missed opportunity to eat some chicken or drink a protein shake. So, not only does it contribute to higher body fat, it’s also a missed opportunity to gain muscle. The missed opportunity cost makes it twice as costly in terms of detracting from your goals.

So, next time you think about snacking choices, remember that it might be twice as detrimental to reaching your goals as you thought it was – due to the opportunity cost!

Kaizen & Press Ups

I’ve been doing press ups for years. I’ve been teaching clients how do them properly for years. But tonight I’ve been reading up on form, flaws, cheats and generally how to improve and perfect the press up.

When I was a lecturer I used to teach a Japanese philosophy called Kaizen – which means “good change”. It’s part of a general approach known as constant and never ending improvement. Failure to change and improve leads to atrophy.

The hardest part is getting the balance between trying to get better and beating yourself up for not being perfect.

Sometimes we tend to make things that don’t matter too important and don’t place enough importance on the things that do matter. As Goethe said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least”.

There are only so many hours in the day, so constantly remind yourself that you WILL NOT get done everything you want to do. This would still be the situation if you had 100 hours a day. So, to quote Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, HABIT 1: Put first things first! Prioritise the things that matter most. Get them done first. And stop stressing over the things you can’t get done.

Walking The Walk

Further to my post on walking the walk, I’ve just finished a PT session with one of my clients. The last part of the session was a series of 250m sprints on the Concept 2 rower. My client was giving it a very good go and I didn’t really see the need to push her any harder than I was doing. I did, however, fancy joining in (as it my wont, occasionally) so I decided to go “back to back” with her. I’m not a bad rower due to my height (6ft 1) and I’m generally pretty good in the anaerobic zone (see my post on anaerobic training) so I managed to get some decent times.

The unexpected benefit of this bit of fun was that my client learned so much more by watching my technique and my intensity level (me rolling about on the floor after each interval) that, on her last  interval, she took 13 seconds off her first interval time. That’s a ridiculous amount of time to take off a 250m row.  Although it could be argued that I should have been trying to elicit that response anyway, on this occasion it was a fortuitous result of a wee bit of frivolous trainer-client bonding.

Anyway, to get to the point of this post; if I hadn’t been able to walk the walk and “throw down” (as my Crossfit friends say) with my client, we wouldn’t have seen such dramatic results. As I’ve said before, you don’t have to be a world-beater, or even really good, you just have to be able to demonstrate a level of competence to which the people you’re training or managing can aspire. Would you like a sales manager who couldn’t sell? Would you like an HR manager with no people skills? (I think, from personal experience and anecdote, there are a few of the latter knocking about, though).

In summary – Walk The Walk!  Actions Sometimes (not always) Speak Louder Than Words!  Be a Role Model! Lead by Example!

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business.

From The Ashes of Disaster Grow The Roses of Success

What a morning of learning!

I’ve pretty much been out of action for 3 weeks a virus that’s made me everything from sneezy to dopey to sleepy – the only thing I’ve not been is Bashful. I’ve also had a really nasty shoulder injury that meant I couldn’t get up off the sofa at one point. So, today I decided to go to the gym just to try and keep moving and halt the slide.

I started with a good 20 minutes of stretches and mobility work. Then bench press and front squats at about 80% of my normal weight. Then I finished off with snatch. This is where the magic really started. I hit my usual failure weight of 60kg 5 times in a row. Then I hit a new PR of 62.5kg 3 times in a row and finished off with another new PR at 65kg.

Here’s what today was about…

1, Adapt to the situation, do what you can, adjust your intensity accordingly – just to stretching if you have to, but make sure you keep doing something. Every day can’t be a PR day but every day can get you closer to a PR and help you to be a little bit better than yesterday. Take the long view and don’t get disheartened when the injuries, colds and life in general make it hard to be at 100%. Sometimes when it doesn’t go the way you planned you have to approach things in a different way and that leads to unexpected progress. As the song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang goes “From The Ashes of Disaster Grow The Roses of Success”.

2, Some people need to start chasing PRs as they just keep doing the same weight and the same rep-range, or running the same distance at the same pace without any improvement or adaptation. Other people (me being one if them), need to rein-in their training and just get in some steady, consistent miles or reps and the PRs will come. Like a lot of the things, it’s about getting the balance right.

I’ve applied this to my Olympic Lifting. Just moving away from chasing PRs and focusing on consistency has helped me to achieve both consistent improvement and new PRs as well. Still lots of improvements to be made but whole heap of progress from when I first started Olympic Lifting.

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business.

From Failure to Success

What makes the difference between success and failure?

This unnamed model defines two strategies for coping with failure.  I am not particularly keen on the labels for types of coping strategy (emotionally & problem oriented) as emotional and cognitive processes are often intertwined (see the CBT process Model).  But the model itself is one of the best and most important models for anyone involved in personal development.

CBT Process Model






Strategy 1: Emotionally Oriented
People who adopt these strategies usually have an external locus of control.

* The goal of a person who uses an emotionally oriented strategy is to remove the feeling of failure as quickly as possible.  The feeling of being a failure is a bigger cause of concern that the level of performance which defines the failure.  Therefore they try to eradicate the feeling by blaming others and denying the failure.  Rationalisation is also another common way to explain the perceived failure.  The words “yeah but” are a classic sign of rationalisation.  This leaves them stuck in stage 1 of the conscious competence model.

* One way to rationalise is to deny that there has been a failure – thus it is impossible to learn, adapt and improve.  The chance to improve is lost and they continue making the same mistakes continually. Therefore confidence remains low and the cycle of failure continues.  Emotionally oriented people are unable to acknowledge that they are not performing to their maximum potential and are terrified of the word failure.  They adopt the “I am what I am” response and look to other similarly poorly performing role models to reinforce them.  These people under-perform constantly.

Strategy 2: Problem Oriented
Problem oriented strategies involve accepting, evaluating and tacking the problem or failure.  They typically involve metacognition and system 2 thinking.  A person who uses an emotionally oriented strategy usually has a strong internal locus of control and a high level of emotional intelligence.

* The goal is to identify the problem and improve so that failure is only a temporary setback.  In contrast to emotionally oriented people, a problem oriented person is more concerned with the actions which caused the failure than the label of failure itself.  They are aware that actions, not words are the ultimate display of success.  Consequently, instead of rationalising or denying the problem, they address the issue and try to improve.  The world’s top sports stars, scientists, politicians, business people, mothers, teachers etc are usually problem oriented and they have perfected working on their weaknesses.  While others deny their weaknesses and pretend they are perfect, problem oriented people are constantly improving, thinking, learning and becoming the peak performers we hear about.

* Problem oriented people usually address failure directly.  This can draw them in to conflict with emotionally oriented people who don’t want to admit the failure.

* Problem oriented strategies include tactics such as problem solving, planning, seeking information, evaluating, brainstorming.

So, when things go wrong, whether it’s fitness related or in any other area, try looking at factors you can control, instead of deflecting the blame via factors that you can’t. Don’t beat yourself up, just be logical instead of excessively emotional.

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business.

Hierarchy of Characteristics for Promotion

This is a funny story which may or may not be true.

In around 1916, during the First World War, the German Army High Command was short of officers so they issued a statement to their troops.

The statement read:

The German high command has always recognised four characteristics that are inherent in our officers. They are either intelligent or stupid, energetic or idle.

It has been the policy of the high command only to promote those officers who are intelligent and energetic. This is to ensure that the correct plans are put in to effect with the requisite energy and enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, for some time, it has been necessary to promote officers who are intelligent but idle. But at least we can be reasonably confident that sensible plans will be put in to effect…when the officers eventually get round to it.

Regrettably, it is now necessary to promote to promote the third category of officer, those who are stupid and idle. But, we hope, at least, that their indolence will, to some extent, nullify the ill effects of their stupidity.

Under no circumstances that we can envisage, are the forth category of officer to be promoted as there is nothing more dangerous than somebody who is stupid and energetically puts their stupid plans in to effect.

I love this story! It reminds me of a quote by Jim Rohn, which goes something like: “Life change starts with education not motivation. If someone’s an idiot and you motivate them, you’ve got a motivated idiot!”

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business.

The Psychology of Integrity

Consistency is the need to remain true to what we have said, done and thought.  Robert Cialdini defines it as “our obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done.  When we say or do something, it is regarded as a demonstration of what we believe in, that’s why we judge people in this way.  We say someone is good, bad, funny or boring, for example, by what they say or do.  More importantly, we judge ourselves in this same way.  If we say or do something then we feel a need to be consistent with that.  We look for ways of backing up what we’ve done, and remaining true to who we’ve shown we are by our actions.  One of the most common ways in which we can ensure that our actions are consistent with what we think is through selection-bias.  We only select information and examples which back up our own point of view and we discard contrary evidence. Another way of maintaining a mental consistency is through rationalisation – we do something then think of a logical justification for it retrospectively.  This justification is not the real reason we did something, but it is a plausible, logical and defendable excuse for our behaviour (if you have children, you will encounter blatant rationalisation regularly, adults are more subtle but still rationalise all the time).

One good example of the need for consistency is the beach theft experiment by Thomas Moriaty, as described by Robert Cialdini.  Moriaty  or his research assistants would take a towel to the beach and leave their valuables on the towel while they went to swim.  Another research would act as a thief and run by, grab the valuables and run away.  This was all done in a very visible fashion to ensure that people would see what was occurring.  Moriaty found that in the 20 times the experiment was enacted, only four people challenged the thief.  However, when Moriaty or an assistant asked someone “please could you watch my things while I swim”, a staggering 19 out of 20 people tried to stop the thief.  Moriaty concluded that the need for people to be consistent with their agreement to watch the valuables was the main reason for this increase.

So, what does this tell us?  Well, in terms of personal development, it shows how important it is for us to do and say things which will lead our to our true potential.  If you want to be a great student but you are watching TV every night instead of studying, simply because you are lacking in will power; when someone confronts you about it, your need to be consistent with your actions means you are likely to say “I don’t care about studying” or “people who study are nerds”, rather than “I know, I’m just lacking in will power”.  You will look for reasons and ways to back up what you are doing, even when that is not really what you think.  This is why when dealing with kids who are getting in to trouble regularly, the worst thing you can do is challenge them about their behaviour.  They will look for ways to rationalise and be consistent with their actions.  A better strategy would be to get them to take small steps towards good behaviour and then reward them for the new, positive behaviour.  Slowly their self image will change as the need to be consistent with the new behaviour kicks in.  Eventually, they will come to link more pain to bad behaviour because it is inconsistent with their self image.

Start today with your own personal development.  Start now, if you want to be more healthy, eat an apple – now.  If you want to get fit, go run – now.  if you want to be a better student, pick up a book – now.  Don’t forget to let people see what you are doing, when they ask you why you are eating apples, tell them it’s because you are a fit and healthy person and know better than to eat junk food.  Your need for consistency will ensure that this is what you do in the future.

Further Reading: Dr Robert B Cialdini: Influence: The psychology of persuasion

Have you ever been caught in two minds? It’s probably cognitive dissonance!

Cognitive Dissonance (Festinger, 1957) is a theory which explains the feeling which can occur when two opposing opinions or beliefs are held simultaneously.  For example, if you need to work with a computer to make your living, but your PC is running slowly then you may consider doing a scan disc/defrag etc.  But this means that you can’t add any value and will be waiting while the essential maintenance is carried out.  So what do you do?  You have a goal to meet, taking time away from your work task will mean missing short term targets, but if you do the maintenance your productivity will increase.  Productivity or maintenance,  long term or short term?  Your brain starts to fry.  What should you do?  Is the maintenance an excuse to slack off?  Is working through with a slow PC just pig headed?  This is cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance also explains why people fail to change and become stagnated in their thinking.  When a firmly held belief is challenged with new facts or information, the uncomfortable feeling caused by cognitive dissonance is often such that the first instinct is to get rid of the pain by rationalising, or reframing to maintain the old belief.

Two types of thinking

Duel Process Thinking

It has been argued that there are 2 types of thinking

System 1: Automatic, fast, subconscious

System 2: Slow, reasons, contemplative, rational, meta-cognitive

System 1 thinking is what people do most of the time.  People just do, rather than think…then do.  In contrast, system 2 is what most people revert to in the face of difficulty or unfamiliar tasks.  For example, you go to Ikea and buy a flat pack bedside table.  You carry it upstairs and open the box – all using system 1 thinking.  Then you get the instructions, look at them, have a slurp of tea, scratch your head – and the system 2 thinking starts to kick in.  In order to get your head round the unfamiliar task of putting together the table, you need to THINK!!  Of course, your system 1 thinking is still running in the background.  While you study the instructions (system 2), you take a slurp of tea without thinking (system 1) and move around the room (system 1).  This duel system is running parallel all the time, with each system dominating as dictated by the situation.

However, once the brain is familiar with a task the need for system 2 is diminished.  For example, if you had to build 1000 of these tables, by the time you had done 10 you would be doing it slightly more automatically, more so with 100 500 900 etc.  As was noted earlier, system 2 thinking is slower than system 1 so speed of construction should increase as the brain reverts from predominantly system 2 to system 1.  The learning curve evens out and speed of “production” increases.  Another well used example is learning to drive.  When you have your first few lessons, you have to consciously THINK about changing gear, operating the peddles and get the correct speed around corners to avoid coasting (system 2).  Two years later when you have been driving every day, you have reverted to system 1 and you can smoke, talk, listen to the radio, wind the window down and stick your middle finger up while you call the person in front some particularly pleasant name – all without thinking or even knowing that you’ve changed gears / accelerated / braked / indicated several times.

So, how does this relate to personal development?  Well, people use system 2 thinking in all areas of life, such as learning to drive and assembling furniture, but often the neglect the one area where system 2 thinking is needed – their lives.  Why?  The first reason is that using system 2 thinking unusually requires a conscious or subconscious admission to ourselves that we are having difficulty, or are not getting the results we want.  To most people, admitting that things are going the way they want, or that their life is not as they want it to be, is too difficult and causes too much pain – more pain than living with a life that is less than fulfilling.  So they rationalise and pretend everything is ok and look for something else to blame (see: emotionally oriented strategy) and carry on with the system 1 thinking and wondering why they are always stressed, depressed and unhappy.

Another reason is that people often don’t see that they are unhappy with their life.  They see the little things and pick up on those.  The problem is that the little things are the symptoms, not the cause of the problem.  It’s like complaining about all the water and mopping it up all the time, but not fixing the leak.  if everyone else is mopping, then they will mop as well, it’s social proof – the sheep effect.  This said, it should be noted that success does not only come from system 2 thinking.  Some people are highly successful through predominantly use system 1 thinking.  Why?  Simply, because what they are think and how they think works!  So they don’t need to slow down and ponder.  It’s usually only in times of trouble that we really THINK!.  That’s why the saying goes that we learn more from failure than success – because we THINK! more.  But, as I said earlier, most people will rationalise themselves in to a perpetual state of unconscious-incompetence in their lives – simply because they don’t want to admit that their life is not working as they want.  They lower their expectations to match their level of performance, instead of raising their level of performance to meet their expectations.

So, here are three steps to using system 2 thinking to reach your potential and create a better life:

Step 1, Be honest with yourself – Is your life working the way you want it to?  How do you want it to be?  Identify areas you’d like to improve.

Step 2, Identify why those areas are not working they way you want it to.  Focus on you, NOT other people!  Don’t apportion blame, not even to yourself.

Step 3, Create a plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

Further reading
When Not to Trust Your Gut by Max Bazerman

Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The Ten-Day Mental Challenge

The Ten-Day Mental Challenge is a fantastic way to snap out of negative thinking or to take your positive thinking to a new level!

Rule 1. In the next ten consecutive days, refuse to dwell on any unresourceful thoughts or feelings. Refuse to indulge in any disempowering questions or devitalizing vocabulary or metaphors.

Rule 2. When you catch yourself beginning to focus on the negative-and you certainly will-you are to immediately use the techniques you’ve learned to redirect your focus toward a better emotional state. Specifically, use the Problem-Solving Questions as your first line of attack; for example: “What’s great about this? What’s not perfect yet?” Remember, by asking a question like, “What’s not perfect yet?”, you’re presupposing that things will be perfect. This will change your state. It doesn’t ignore the problem, but it keeps you in the right state while you identify what needs to be changed.

In addition, set yourself up for success each morning for the next ten days by asking yourself the Morning Power Questions. You can do them before you get out of bed or while you’re in the shower, but make sure you do them right away. This will focus you in the direction of establishing empowering mental and emotional patterns each day as you awake. In the evening, use the Evening Power Questions, or any questions you believe will put you in a great state before you drop off to sleep.

Rule 3. For the next ten consecutive days, make certain that your whole focus in life is on solutions and not on problems. The minute you see a possible challenge, immediately focus on what the solution could be.

Rule 4. If you backslide-that is, if you catch yourself indulging in or dwelling on an unresourceful thought or feeling-don’t beat yourself up. There’s no problem with this as long as you change immediately. However, if you continue to dwell on unresourceful thoughts or feelings for any measurable length of time, you must wait until the following morning and start the ten days over. The goal of this program is ten consecutive days without holding or dwelling on a negative thought. This starting-over process must happen no matter how many days in a row you’ve already accomplished the task.

I’ve taken this information from page 314. But there’s more information on 315 and 317 that I want to include.

pg. 315-You may ask, “How long can I focus on the negative before it’s considered “dwelling?” To me, one minute of continual focus on, and emotional attachment to, what’s wrong is dwelling. One minute is more than enough time for us to be able to catch ourselves and create a change. Our whole goal is to catch the monster while it’s little. Certainly, within twenty to forty seconds you know if you’re being negative about something.

If I were you, though, I’d give myself up to a maximum of two minutes to notice the challenge and begin to change your state. Two minutes is certainly enough time to identify that you’re in a negative state. Break the pattern. If you allow yourself to go as long as five minutes or more, you’ll find the Mental Challenge won’t accomplish it’s task; instead you’ll just learn to vent your emotions more quickly. The goal is to knock things out before you ever get in a negative emotional state in the first place.

(That’s the author talking not me).

pg. 317-Believe me, the power inherent in this little exercise is amazing. If you stick with it, it will do four things for you. First, it will make you acutely aware of all the habitual patterns that hold you back. Second, it will make your brain search empowering alternatives to them. Third, it will give you an incredible jolt of confidence as you see that you can turn your life around. Fourth, and most importantly, it will create new habits, new standards, and new expectations that will help you expand more than you could ever believe.

Sigh…my fingers and my back are hurting from all this typing but I think I’ll include the power questions in case your interested.

pg. 195. Our life experience is based on what we focus on. The following questions are designed to cause you to experience more happiness, excitement, pride, gratitude, joy, commitment, and love every day of your life. Remember, quality questions create a quality life. Come up with two or three answers to all of these questions and feel fully associated. If you have difficulty discovering an answer simply add the world “could.” Example: “What could I be most happy about in my life now?”

The Morning Power Questions

1. What am I happy about in my life now?
What about that makes me happy? How does that make me feel?

2. What am I excited about in my life now?
What about that makes me excited? How does that make me feel?

3. What am I proud about in my life now?
What about that makes me proud? How does that make me feel?

4. What am I grateful about in my life now?
What about that makes me grateful? How does that make me feel?

5. What am I enjoying most in my life now?
What about that do I enjoy? How does that make me feel?

6. What am I committed to in my life now?
What about that makes me committed? How does that make me feel?

7. Who do I love? Who loves me?
What about that makes me loving? How does that make me feel?

In the evening, sometimes I ask the Morning Questions, and sometimes I ask an additional three questions. Here they are:

The Evening Power Questions

1. What have I given today?
In what ways have I been a giver today?

2. What did I learn today?

3. How has today added to the quality of my life or how can I use today as an investment in my future?
Repeat the Morning Questions (optional).

If you would like more tips, I recommend that you take this book out at your library. It’s over 500 pages long and has easy to implement tips that make your life happier and more effective.

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business.

Conscious Competence

The conscious competence model is a key part of personal development because it shows the stages that are potential traps for us. There are four stages, but it is the first two stages which tend to be banana skins for most people’s personal development.

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence
This is the first of the stumbling blocks. A lot of people never even realise which areas they are weak in. They never sit down and actually think about how they can improve. These are the areas which fit in to Johari Window 2 – “Weaknesses which others can see, but to which I am blind” – and Johari window 4 – “Weaknesses which are unknown to others and to me”. One way to get from stage 1 (unconscious Incompetence) to stage 2 (conscious incompetence) is to employ some serious system 2 thinking and metacognition. A personal development plan or personal SWOT analysis can help to identify areas of weakness.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence
If it is forgivable to be stuck in stage 1, simply because we often don’t realise that we are incompetent, then stage 2 is where we have to make a choice. Do I want to be the person I am capable of becoming, or not? Conscious incompetence is such a dangerous stage because it’s your choice whether your not to move from conscious incompetence to stage 3 – conscious competence. The big problem is that many people don’t like to admit that they have a weakness, they see it as a failure. Therefore, they adopt an emotionally oriented strategy of coping with failure and therefore rationalise in order to avoid admitting that there is an area in which they need improve. The tragedy is that this fear of looking like a failure means that they don’t deal with the weaknesses that EVERYBODY has. Consequently, these weaknesses never improve, so failure and fear of appearing to be a failure becomes a vicious circle. Fear of looking like a failure means they look like a failure! The only way to beat this need to rationalise is to be honest with ourselves. There is no shame in having a weakness, EVERYONE has some weaknesses. The difference between peak performers and underperformers is that they are honest about their shortcomings and work to improve them  – they constantly identify and work on these areas and  move from stage 2, to stage 3 – conscious competence.

Stage 3: Conscious Competence
One you have identified your weakness and have worked to improve it, you will move into stage 3 – conscious competence. You can do something and you know you can do it. At first, it will be a conscious process, like when you first learn to drive and you have to think about changing gear etc. (this is system 2 thinking). Eventually, as you become more competent, you will start to do things automatically and it will become part of who you are so you won’t actually think about the fact that you can do something – you just do it naturally, without really giving it a second thought. You have moved to stage 4 – unconscious competence.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence
This is the stage of true skill. You are now working on system 1 thinking – instinctive and often indescribable (see also tacit knowledge). You don’t think about how you do something, you just do it. You are in a particular state and it just flows naturally. This is how the best sportsmen operate when they play their best – they are “In the Zone”. They don’t think about what they are doing, thinking too much can actually decrease performance. However, if they go through a period of bad form, they move back to system 2 thinking and conscious incompetence and work on their game until they improve. This is similar to the Lewin’s unfreeze-change-refreeze model of change. The fact that top performers in sport and business can move back and forth through the stages of competence is a contributing factor in their success. They do what unsuccessful people rarely do – face the problem head on; candidly, logically and strategically. Their goal is to feel better by improvement, rather than to feel better by denial.

So, if you want to get to the top of your game, whether that’s being a great mother, father, friend, businessmen, employee, sportsmen or whatever. Look for areas in which you need to improve, but don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t deny them either. Be honest, find ways to improve and apply what you learn – you’ll be amazed how quickly you move through stages 1 to 4 and your life will become more fulfilling as you become happier and reach your potential.

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business.

Improving Emotional Intelligence

Peter Salovey and John Mayer defined emotional intelligence as a form of social intelligence that “involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions’. Daniel Goleman echoes this, observing that emotional intelligence is the “ability to manage our own emotions”.

Mayer and Salovey noted that emotional intelligence is “the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth” – this implies that emotions can be managed and developed. Daniel Goleman cites Mayer as concluding that “Emotional Intelligence develops with age and experience”. Goleman also proposes that, all other factors being equal, emotional intelligence can have a dramatic effect on how successful someone is, especially in the workplace, and that employees with extremely high levels of emotional intelligence can be twice as productive as someone with average emotional intelligence. So it would seem that if emotional intelligence is indeed responsible for success or achievement and we can actually improve and develop our emotional intelligence, then it should be a key part of our personal development.

The problem is then emotional intelligence is not just a cognitive phenomenon but it is also determined by biological factors. The amygdala is a small almond shape gland which is rooted at the base of the brain. The amygdala generates a ‘rough guess’ response to stimuli and it bypasses the more logical, rational parts of the brain. It is what is responsible for the fight-or-flight response to danger. The amygdala plays a major part in emotional intelligence and it can have a greater effect on the emotions of some people than in others – that is one reason why some people fly off the handle more than others. The famous marshmallow test conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford University is a great example of this. In his experiments, Mischel gave a child one marshmallow. He told the child that if they could wait five minutes without eating the treat, they could have two marshmallows. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mischel found that some children could control their urges and others couldn’t. Amazingly, when these children were tracked down as adolescents, the ones who had resisted the urge to eat the one marshmallow were more socially competent, self-assertive and better able to cope with life. They were less aggressive, less prone to stress or anger and more trustworthy and dependable. Also, the children who had eaten the marshmallow did less well academically, they were less able to verbalise their thoughts, less able to concentrate and less able to focus.

However, extreme levels of IQ are linked to lower levels of emotional intelligence. Have you ever known anyone who was really clever but flew off the handle all the time? Is that you? This is quite a common combination, in fact, the research on emotional intelligence shows that once IQ goes over a certain level (approx 150) then levels of emotional intelligence tend to fall. This does not mean that people with low IQ are high in emotional intelligence, it’s just a common finding which it worth noting.

Cognitive processes also play a big part in our emotional responses to the environment. Have you noticed that some days you are more prone to stress than others. If you’ve had a stressful day at work, are you more likely to snap at your partner when you get home? For most people, the answer is yes. Same brain, but different reactions on different days, depending on your thinking. You have some negative thoughts and the good old amygdala kicks in and before you know it, you are screaming at someone. So it’s a dangerous partnership, negative thinking and an eager-beaver amygdala.

How can I improve my emotional intelligence?

1. The Cognitive Behavioural Therapy framework can help to regulate the thoughts which work with the amygdala to generate emotions. The framework recognises the interrelationship between the cognitive domain (thought) and the affective domain (emotion). Think about how you are thinking (metacognition) and examine your rules, values and beliefs to see if you are making any false or negative associations.

2. Plan ahead. Research has found that the inability to control impulse is related to low emotional intelligence. Therefore, a pre-determined strategy to delay negative impulses can help to negate the effects of our good friend the amygdala. The old advice of ‘count to ten’ is somewhat trite, but it does suggest a good tactic for dealing with the heat of the moment. With major emotional inflation, ten is nowhere near enough, you might need anything from an hour to a day. So, make an agreement with yourself and your family and friends that every time you feel angry or upset, you will give yourself some time and space to calm down before you think logically and rationally about the situation.

3. Tony Robbins’ 6 step change model can help to identify unhelpful negative emotions and replace them with positive emotions.
Further reading:
Daniel Goleman: Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ
Daniel Goleman: Working with Emotional Intelligence
Christine Wilding & Aileen Milne: Teach yourself cognitive behavioural therapy

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business.

In defence of running. An argument for a focus on performance as a means of weight loss.

As a follow up to my post “In defence of cardio“, this post makes the argument for focusing on improved performance as a means to lose weight. What I’m suggesting is that weight loss should be the outcome, not the purpose, of running.

Parallels can be drawn with what Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, describes as the difference between Japanese and Western business philosophy. In Japanese business thinking, profit is the outcome, not the purpose of business. Profit is a measure of success on the balanced scorecard, as opposed to the objective itself. Similarly, weight loss is just one of a series of by-products that are the result of improved performance.

To illustrate this point, take a look at a finish line at Durham parkrun. You’ll notice that the body size changes as the field crosses the line. If you’re 5 stones overweight then you’re going to struggle to achieve a sub 23 (men) or sub 26 (women) 5k. If you want to get in the top ten and run around 18 minutes (men) or 20 minutes (women) then you’re not going to do that carrying what’s effectively a 70lb weighted vest.

And this is the essence of what I’m getting at. Instead of mindless pavement pounding and fretting over the next weigh-in, a much more motivating, fun and healthy way to lose weight is to make improved performance the goal. As I discuss in my post on enjoying the process, take the long-term view that you’re going to be doing what you’re doing for the next few years, so you might as well enjoy it, achieve lots of milestones and get fit and lose weight in the process. Moreover, it could be argued that improved performance is the only way to make real long-term progress. The body adapts pretty quickly so after the excitement of the “newbie gains” or, in terms of weight loss, “newbie losses” wears off and The Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in, if you’re not constantly getting faster, increasing the mileage (sensibly!) and generally getting better, the body has no need to adapt and shed the weight. It doesn’t need to increase the mitochondria, there’s no incentive to increase the lactate threshold, it’s not required to build muscle or to increase Vo2 max. So, even if it’s just with a focus on weight loss, you’re going to need to improve your performance constantly – think Kaizen, think TQM, think continuous improvement.

Of course, these adaptations are not going to happen overnight and, depending on your starting point, it might take 4-5 years of dedicated training to get anywhere near a sub 19 minute 5k, a sub 38 minute 10k or a sub 1.30 half marathon. But, as Brian Tracy says, the time is going to pass anyway! Where do you want to be in five years time? Still pounding the pavements and watching the scales? Still waiting for New Year to get started? Or the person who people use as an example of what can be achieved with a long-term, goal focused commitment to improved performance. In addition, when combined with a regular resistance training programme and diet based around “real foods” (meat, fish, fruit, veg, whole grains, nuts, seeds) this period of time will see you become stronger, leaner, more “toned” and achieve whatever weight loss and body aesthetics goals you decide are right for you.

In conclusion, make weight loss the outcome, not the objective, of your running programme and you’ll see better results, have more fun and achieve more glory than you will fretting over the scales.

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business.

In Defence of “Cardio”

The title of this article is somewhat misleading but, as I will attempt to illustrate, the word cardio has been bastardised to such an extent that people all over the world are being deterred from losing body fat and getting healthier using activities that are traditionally classed as “cardio”.

First things first, though – I need to make it crystal clear. I love HIIT! I love sprints and I love Tabata. All of these are a staple of my own training and my clients’ programmes. This post is not an attack on interval training, it’s a clarification of a few things that I think have become blurred.

As I sit here, some 50 minutes after I finished my 5k run, and 30 minutes since I slumped on the sofa to watch Dragon’s Den and now (as I write) Full Circle with Michael Palin, my heart rate remains elevated at 84 BPM. The reason I am monitoring my heart rate is to test a theory that is related to something that has been troubling me for a few months now – is “cardio” really counter-productive to fat burning?

For years, fat burning was thought to be most active whilst training in the “Fat Burning Zone” (60-70% max heart rate (MHR) ). More recently, however, “cardio”, as a means of body fat reduction, has become almost a swearword in the fitness world. Two of the main arguments against using cardio as a fat reduction method go something like this:

  • The body sees prolonged periods of cardio as a threat and therefore holds on to fat reserves.
  • Although, compared to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), a greater number of calories are burned during exercise, the EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) effect generated by higher intensity exercise, and which can continue to burn calories for 12-48 hours after the cessation of exercise, leads to a greater total energy expenditure.

At this point it is, perhaps, useful to define exactly what “cardio” is.

Cardio is short for “cardio vascular exercise” which is synonymous with aerobic exercise. Aerobic means “with oxygen”, which means that the body primarily uses oxygen as an energy source. According to the Haskell and Fox formula, aerobic exercise takes place at 70-80% MHR. Note that this is higher than the Fat Burning Zone, which points to the first discrepancy in the argument against cardio as a method of fat reduction.

POINT 1: The fat burning zone is 60-70% MHR. The cardio zone is 70-80% MHR. They are different levels of intensity. If you’re going to attack anything, at least attack the right thing.


So, let’s come back to my run. I ran 5k in 22 minutes (15 seconds outside my personal best). My average heart rate for the run was 165 BPM, with a MHR of 186 BPM. Using the formula 220 – age (37) = MHR, my MHR is 183. This represents 90% of my MHR. From experience, however I’d say my true MHR is about 190 BPM, which means that 165 is 86% of my MHR. Therefore, by either calculation, my 22 minute run was done at 85-90% MHR (the anaerobic zone). So, let’s now look at the anaerobic zone.


Anaerobic means “without oxygen”, which means that glycogen stored in the muscle is the main source of fuel (as opposed to fat, which is used in the fat burning zone, and oxygen, which is used in the aerobic zone). According to the much lauded Poliquin Group, who are renowned experts on body composition and fat loss, anaerobic exercise is by far better for fat loss. And herein lies the problem, according to the Poliquin Group and a huge proportion of trainers and experts, anaerobic exercise means sprints, exclusively, and not any other kind running. So how come I’ve just spent the majority of 22 minutes in the anaerobic zone? Simple, as I eluded to in the opening sentence of this article, people have a tendency to take an extreme and often incorrect view of what something means.

POINT 2: Anaerobic doesn’t just mean sprints; it is any exercise that falls within the 80-90% MHR zone.

The question then arises: Why has the incorrectly termed “cardio” exercise and longer activity that doesn’t fall into the sprints or HIIT category become so maligned? I think the answer lies in the number of people who tread the pavement at a pedestrian pace or spend 60 minutes on the cross trainer, in the hope of getting a six pack or a body like a cover model without approaching anything like the anaerobic zone. The fact that they are doing what most people think of as “cardio” has led to a blanket view that any form of running, swimming, biking, or whatever, that lasts for longer than 45 seconds is ineffective at burning fat or generating the EPOC effect. The fact that my heart rate monitor says 73 BPM when I am lying on my sofa chilling and writing this, even though it’s 2 hours after I finished my (highly intense) run and my resting heart rate is about 48 means one of three things – either:

A, I have a heart problem (of which I show no symptoms).

B. I’m classed as unfit because my heart rate still hasn’t returned to normal (I’m actually in pretty decent shape – my resting heart rate is around 48 BPM and I’m fit enough to run a 22 minute 5k and 44 minute 10k without really running very much at all as I’m not a “runner”).

C, My 22 minute run was at sufficient intensity that it went into the anaerobic zone for long enough to generate a decent EPOC effect, of which my elevated heart rate is a sign.

POINT 3: It’s not the activity (such as running) or the duration (such as 10-30 seconds) that classifies an exercise as anaerobic, it’s the intensity at which the exercise is performed.

The point above raises a further question: Is it better to do 10 x 10 second sprints at 100% MHR than it is to do 22 minutes running at 85% MHR? In answering this it is, perhaps, useful to look towards the doyen of interval training – Professor Izumi Tabata.

The Tabata Protocol is a form of HIIT that was devised by the eponymous Professor Izumi Tabata. It involves working at maximum intensity for 20 seconds, with a 10 second rest period – repeated 8 times to give a total of four minutes. Professor Tabata’s study compared two sets of athletes – one group training at 170% VO2max and another group training at 70% VO2max. According to Professor Tabata “Tabata not only burns the same calories in four minutes as an hour of steady-state exercise (biking or jogging), but there’s also a significant “after burn” effect, where an additional 150 calories are being burned up to 12 hours after you leave the gym”. But here’s the rub, 70% VO2max for me would be around 145-155 BPM (the aerobic zone). Moreover, Tabata’s research compared “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max“, so not only was the study not primarily concerned with body fat reduction (the main argument for using Tabata as a training method put forward by personal trainers), the study didn’t actually compare the exercise intensity level that is the most efficient at burning fat – exercise undertaken in the Fat Burning Zone.

So, the answer to the question: Is it better to do 10 x 10 second sprints at 100% MHR than it is to do 22 minutes running at 85% MHR? is probably no. I emphasise probably, but using Tabata’s research to justify a “yes”, doesn’t really hold water. It might, however, be better for fat loss and increasing VO2max to do 10 x 10 second sprints at 100% MHR than it is to do 60 minutes of running at 60-70% MHR. Having said that, longer runs can be beneficial for increasing fitness sub-maximally as it can be hard, especially for unconditioned exercisers, to push themselves sufficiently to get their heart rate up high enough due to lack of strength, as opposed to heart rate, becoming the trigger for failure.

Does this mean that I’m anti-sprints and pro-long distance running? Not at all! I agree that mindless pavement pounding and jogging for the sake of weight loss is probably counter-productive after the first 6-12 weeks or so. I also agree that high intensity training is key to both fitness and fat loss (the vast majority of my training with clients would fall into the high intensity category). In conclusion, what I’m arguing is that, as a profession, we need to clarify what we mean by “cardio”. 25 minutes of all out running at 85% MHR is a totally different proposition to 60 minutes of jogging / cross trainer at 60% MHR. With blanket statements such as “cardio is bad” (notwithstanding the fact that “cardio” is a level of intensity NOT AN EXERCISE) we are sending clients and the public down the wrong path. I have seen countless overweight people who think they can do 8 hill sprints three times a week and get a cover model body when they would make more progress with three 15-20 minute threshold runs. But this is not a “this vs that” article, it’s an article about balance and about defining what we mean so that we can be clear in both our own thinking and in what we espouse to our clients and the public.

It’s not steady state that’s the issue, it’s steady state at low intensity that’s the issue. So, let’s champion anaerobic exercise, not sprints. Let’s champion intensity, not duration. If we must bash something, let’s bash “The Fat Burning Zone”, not running. Let’s be clear, it’s not activities that are in question, it is the intensity of those activities!

N.B. My heart rate is now 65 BPM, 3 hours after my run (my resting heart rate is about 48 and my sitting and relaxing heart rate is 52ish)

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business.

Enjoy the Process for Better Results

The happiest clients are always those who find a sport or activity to help them enjoy the process of achieving their fitness or aesthetics goals.

However, it’s important to try and find a match between the two (training for fun and training for an aesthetic goal) as there are loads of “fit” people who are still not happy with how they look. This is usually due to poor diet and a lack of strength training.

An effective fitness and aesthetics programme should have a combination of resistance training and “cardio”. If you want to enjoy the process then find something you like doing.

Weight training & running
Callisthenics & spinning
Callisthenics & golf
Weight training & cycling
Callisthenics & triathlon
Gymnastics & HIIT
Weight training & golf
Weight training & badminton

Whatever you choose you need to see the process as more than just a means to an end because there’s only so long that you can go to the gym or hit the road without enjoying the process. Once the buzz of the “newbie gains” has worn off you need a more potent force to pull you through.

If you enjoy weights and treadmill that’s great but if you’re getting bored then it might be time to find a way to turn training into a game. Squash is HIIT training, so is indoor football. If you’re running to lose weight then sign up for some challenges, such as a weekly parkrun, 10k runs, Tough Mudder type courses.

If you want long term success then you have to enjoy the process as well as the results.

Master The Basics

I get lots of questions from new clients and teenagers about supplements and they are usually approaching things back to front. Get the basics (calories, macros, timing) right first, then worry about the last 5-10% improvements that come via supplements.


1, Get your calorie intake sorted
– Work out how many you need to maintain your weight
– Reduce calories to lose weight
– Don’t worry about bulking unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder or strength/power athlete

2, Get your macros sorted
– How much carb, protein and fat to eat

3, Get your meal timing right
– Carbs to fuel training (pre and post)
– Start the day with fats and protein
– Constant supply of quality protein

4, Get your micronutrients and fluid intake right
– 2 litres of water a day
– Lots of brightly coloured fruit and veg
– Protein from meat, dairy and fish
– Carbs from wholegrain and fibrous sources

5, Get your supplementation right
– Whey protein shake for after training
– Electrolytes for during / after training
– BCAA if you’re doing lots of intense weight training
– Magnesium for lots of anaerobic training
– Quality fish oil supplement
– Creatine
– Caffeine before training
– Beta-alanine for more advanced athletes

It might take some tinkering but if it’s a priority for you, you’ll keep on tinkering until you find a happy place.

Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business www.reachfitnessuk.co.uk

#nutrition #fitfam #fitness #diet #personaldevelopment #motivation

More time for you, your business and your family!

If you’re a busy professional then time is precious, time is money, time is best spent on high value tasks such as playing with the kids. We all have 24 hours a day – how we use it and how we prioritise its expenditure can be a key differentiator between success and mediocrity; between stress and contentment.

I don’t want to spend my time cooking as it’s not a passion of mine, so I’ve just made a couple of days’ worth of food. This will free up valuable time to spend on business, fitness and family. Frozen basics, such as chopped onion, garlic and veg, make life so much easier! I’d estimate that it will also save around 2-3 hours in preparation, cooking and cleaning over the next couple of days.

This delicious low fat mince dish is so versatile. Serve with sweet potato (shepherd’s pie). Serve with whole-wheat pasta (spaghetti bolognese). Add chilli powder and serve with rice (chilli). Be creative!


Danny Sroda is owner and Lead Trainer at Reach Corporate Fitness for Business www.reachfitnessuk.co.uk

#nutrition #crossfit #fitfam #fitness #diet #time #personaldevelopment #motivation

Get out of your comfort zone

A couple of clients really surprised me today.

Client 1 who has been training for around 5 months –  strength gone through the roof because he’s been doing loads of extra chest work.


Client 2 who has been training for a couple of weeks – general fitness making massive leaps because he’s done just a few workouts that he wouldn’t have done two months ago.

Take home point…

The body responds to stimulus. The stimulus needed on week 1 is less than what’s needed on week 12, week 52 or week 520. If you’re still lifting the same amount of weight, running the same distance, in the same time, doing the same exercises, then you probably need to get out of your comfort zone. Even if it’s just an extra rep, an extra km, an extra kg, a few seconds less rest, a different exercise order or a different exercise altogether. Once your body adapts, if you get comfy where you’re at – that’s where you’ll stay.

Just remember this cycle and you won’t go far wrong…

Stimulus – Adaptation – Progression

Success Starts with Sunday

What goes into your head has a massive effect on what you do. I used to get a Pizza Hut offers email every Tuesday. I never ordered, but I realised that the marketing did have a huge effect on my focus in terms of nutrition. I could spend all day thinking about chicken, rice and veg and then I’d get the email and all of a sudden PIZZA PIZZA PIZZA – sometimes in the back of my mind, sometimes my main train of thought.

Same with my Facebook timeline. When I see it filled with Crossfit and running it makes me want to train. When it has burgers and desserts it makes me think about that.

So, my Sunday evening is usually spent getting myself focused on the things I want to focus on. It sets me up for the week ahead. Batch cooking veg, chicken and sweet potato. Watching fitness and nutrition videos on YouTube. Planning my metcons for the week ahead.

Before I even got into fitness in a huge way, when I was just a regular gym-goer trying to lose weight, I realised that Sunday was where the week really started. The old “fail to plan…” cliché has plenty of truth in it. Sunday evening is where it starts – both from a psychological and planning point of view. If you want great things to happen this week – Sunday evening is where you create the plan to MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Do you know some who makes excuses like this?

It could be argued that rationalisation is the psychological process most damaging to personal development. It acts as a severe restraint to growth, learning, improvement, success and ultimately happiness.  Unfortunately, it is also one of the most common – thus a recipe for underachievement en-masse!

Rationalisation occurs when a person (possibly due to a need for consistency) uses a logical and sometimes unrelated argument to justify their irrational feelings, actions, thoughts or point of view.  They do or say something and then find a rational, logical argument to back up what they’ve done.  This argument is formulated retrospectively and is not the real reason for their actions.

Children rationalise all the time.  Your child hits their sibling out of sheer anger and then frantically searches for a logical explanation or justification. Hence an elaborate explanation to justify it (“he said this”, “she stole my car”, “he hit me” – each of which are totally untrue)
As well as children, adults too rationalise all the time.  Have you ever been in an argument where the other person goes from reason to reason to justify what they did and eventually they are so far from the real reason that you have both forgotten what you are arguing about?  They are simply trying to prove they are right and will use any amount of logical (or illogical) argument to do so.

It is a particular problem in social mobility as people from lower socio-economic groups often ascribe their harmful, illogical actions to logical ideas or motivation.  This is dangerous as it can make people accept a life they are not happy with.  For example, people (all all socio-economic groups) have a tendency to use the argument “I like being this shape” or “thin people are all vein” as a way to rationalise their poor diet or attitude to health.  Rather than attempt to change their circumstances, they try to improve their mental view of their lives by lowering their perception of other people (see contrast principle), or reframing arguments to suit their behaviour.  This constant need to improve their self-image by rationalising can result in low personal effectiveness leading to bitterness, polarisation of social groups and entrenchment in a situation in which they are fundamentally unhappy.

Be very wary of rationalising!  The first and most important step in personal development is honesty with yourself – rationalisation is a severe fetter to this personal honesty.  Don’t look for excuses, look for ways to get better!

Want to get toned?

The first question I always ask when someone tells me they want to get toned is – “What do you mean by toned?” Most people know what they want to look like but can’t but it into anatomical terms, or they are a little bit out on what it involves. So, here’s a basic guide.

Muscles can get bigger or smaller. The amount of fat covering them can get more or less. So, if you want to get “toned” you need to either:

A, Reduce the amount of fat covering your existing physique and musculature.

B, Increase the size of your muscles.

C, Reduce the amount of fat covering your existing physique and musculature AND increase the size of your muscles.

Most people tend to want to do C, but not to extremes. In fact a common worry is “I don’t want to get too big”. However, unless you’ve set it as a goal and are eating like a horse (which will be counterproductive to your body fat reduction goal) and are lifting heavy weights at least 4-6 times a week, most people will struggle to get this big.

So, to reduce your body fat and increase your muscle size.

1, Lift heavy weights 3-4 times a week minimum.

2, Eat a diet that’s rich in protein and healthy fats, low in sugar with a good serving of complex carbs after training. Try to stay within 300-500 calories of your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure).

3, Do plenty of “cardio”. This does not mean run yourself into the ground with ever increasing mileage! This means a variety of moderate to very intense exercise that gets you out of breath. Such as running, biking, circuits, metcons, Crossfit, sprints, HIIT, rowing, spinning, skipping, kettlebells and bodyweight exercises.

4, Make exercise a part of your life. Treat it as a long-term lifestyle choice, not a 12 week sprint to get a six pack. Get your hour of power every day.

That’s pretty much it. How fast you get “toned” will depend on factors such as:

– Your somatotype (someone who was a skinny kid but has put on weight through lifestyle will find it easier than someone who was an overweight child and has always struggled with their weight – the body will always try to revert to type…hence some people have to try harder than others, remember Oprah’s struggles?)

– Your lifestyle. What you do outside of training will have a huge effect on your body. Someone who stands up for a job (not that says stands up, not walks or digs a hole in the ground – simply stands up!) will burn around 300 extra calories a day. That’s 6000 calories per month. It takes an expenditure of 3000 calories to lose 1lb of fat. So the difference could be 12lb a year between someone who stands vs someone who sits for a living.

– Your training frequency. How often you train.

– Your training intensity. How hard you train.

– Your level of discipline. How often you skip training or have a cheat meal / drink alcohol.
So, what are you waiting for…go get toned!

Lose weight without counting calories

I’ve trained and spoken to lots and lots of people who have lost large amounts of weight without counting calories. Some of them started exercising as well. Some just did it with diet. But, depending on how much weight you have to lose, it is not unreasonable to expect to lose 2-3 stones over a 3-6 month periods, just by consistently eating as described below.

Here’s how they did it.

1, They changed their mind-set towards food. They didn’t see what they were doing as a deprivation, just so they could drink/eat junk at the weekend. They decided to eat better all the time, with the occasional (once a month, if that) nice meal out.

2, They cut out virtually all refined carbs and sugar. This includes, but is not limited to, soft drinks, lager, cider, wine (in any quantity), breakfast cereals and white bread.

3, They increased protein intake (could be from meat, fish, dairy, shakes).

4,They ate carbs around training. About 45-90 minutes after a HARD workout, you should feel starving! This the time to get some good complex carbs in your body. Rice, oats and sweet potato are my go-to sources of healthy carbs. If you’re not training then you should get all the carbs you need from a couple of snacks of yoghurt and fruit, the odd bowl of oats, milk and complex carbs in your evening meal.

You can use the NHS height/weight chart below to set a healthy goal weight that you can work towards over an extended period (6-12 months).


What? Why? How? Achieve Your Fitness Goals Faster.

Why are you doing that?

Every time you put your training kit on you should know why you’re doing the workout that you’re about to do. What’s your goal? If you’re just about do an hour on the cross trainer then why are you doing it? If your answer is “To get fit” then which component of fitness are you working on?

  • Speed
  • Power
  • Agility
  • Strength
  • Muscular endurance
  • Anaerobic fitness
  • Aerobic fitness
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Stability
  • Mobility
  • Co-ordination
  • Reaction time
  • Mental fitness
  • Body composition / weight management

If, like many people, it’s body composition / weight management then why have you chosen to do an hour? Why the cross trainer? Why that intensity level? Why that frequency?

You need to know two things?
1, What’s my goal?
2, Why have I selected this workout (type of exercise, intensity level, duration)?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions then how do you know that what you’re doing is effective?  If you were driving southbound on a London motorway trying to get to Aberdeen, you’d be wasting your time. Equally, if you’re a 13 stone woman doing 3o minutes steady cardio on the exercise bike every day and expecting to get “toned” then you’ll be waiting a while! Let’s take an extreme example. You only want to use the exercise bike – no weights, circuits or anything else. Your goal is to get “toned” and your diet is in check. Instead of spending 30 minutes 3 times a week doing steady state cardio, why not look at the fitness components that you could develop using only an exercise bike.

A: 1km sprint as fast as possible
B: Using 80% of your 1km speed, keep that intensity up for as long as possible. Repeat 3 times with a 3 minute break between each set
C: Tabata at level 6 (20 seconds all out / 10 seconds rest. Repeat 8 times)

A: 5 second intervals at max effort on level 15 with 25 seconds rest between each interval. Repeat 6 times. Rest 5 minutes. Repeat 3 times

A: 10 second intervals at max effort on level 15 with 25 seconds rest between each interval. Repeat 3 times. Rest 5 minutes. Repeat 3 times
B: 1km sprint as fast as possible on level 15
C: 6 reps at level 20. Repeat 10 times with a 60 second rest between each set

Muscular endurance
A: Cycle 15km
B: Cycle 15km at level 7

Anaerobic fitness
A: Tabata at level 6 (20 seconds all out / 10 seconds rest. Repeat 8 times). This also works speed!)
B: Intervals at 80-90% of your Max Heart Rate
C: Cycle for as long as possible at 80-90% of your Max Heart Rate

Aerobic fitness
A, Steady cycle for 30-60 minutes at 70-80% of your Max Heart Rate

Mental fitness
A: Determination – Pick a workout that will test/improve this area
B: Well Being – Pick a workout that will test/improve this area
C: Positivity – Pick a workout that will test/improve this area

Body composition
Variety is the key here. A good combination of the above, working at 60-100% of your Max Heart Rate will help you to achieve this faster.

So, you can see that with a specific goal and a plan you can achieve your outcomes a lot faster. If you just “push hard” all the time you might build muscle endurance or anaerobic capacity and end up lacking in aerobic fitness and strength. If you take it easy then your body will adapt very quickly.  In we use the bench press as another example and your goal is to look good but you’re going heavy and locking out on a bench press then you might miss out on potential faster hypertrophy gains.

Here are a few more examples to help you think more critically about what you’re trying to achieve when you plan a session.

100 squats @ 40kg – Leg endurance / increase blood lactate threshold / aerobic capacity
5 squats @ 120kg – Leg strength with crossover into hypertrophy
20 squats @ 70kg – Leg endurance with crossover into strength and hypertrophy / anaerobic capacity / increase blood lactate threshold

1km run @ 5 min km pace – Aerobic capacity / muscle memory / technique
1km run @ 4 min km pace – Aerobic capacity into anaerobic / mental strength / speed over 1km distance / increase blood lactate threshold / muscle memory / mental strength
1km run @ 3.30 min km pace – Anaerobic capacity / mental strength / speed over 1km distance /  increase blood lactate threshold / muscle memory

So, there you have it. In a nutshell, ask yourself these questions:

1, What’s your goal?
2, Why have you chosen this workout (type of exercise, intensity level, duration) to meet your goal?

The Strangest Secret

Just mulling over a few key points on the latest upload on our sister YouTube channel The Happiness Network.

The personal development classic, The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale has some brilliant points. Here are some of my favourites.

“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice. It is conformity”. I’ve never been a sheep and it took me a while to work out where I wanted to go. All I knew was that I didn’t want to do the same as everyone else.

“A success is the school teacher who is teaching school because that’s what he or she wants to do. A success is the woman who is a wife and mother because she wanted to become a wife and mother and is doing a good job of it. A success is the man who runs the corner gas station because that was his dream. That’s what he wanted to do. A success is the successful salesman who wants to become a top-notch salesman and grow and build with in his organization. A success is anyone who is doing deliberately a pre-determined job because that’s what they decided to do! But only 1 out of 20 does that”.

“We become what we think about. You are guided by your mind” This is so true. Surround yourself with positive influences. A post on your Facebook feed can determine your success for today. A used to get a Pizza Hut offer in my email inbox every Tuesday. Until that email came through I hadn’t thought about pizza ail week, but that little prod from the marketers had me thinking about pizza all day. Of course, I unsubscribed. Conversely, yesterday I had The Crossfit Games on TV all day. All I could think about was working out. And this is the point, surround yourself and fill your mind with things that are a positive influence and help you to grow and ghet closer to where you want to be.

London Olympics 2012 – Lighting the torch

Just watching the passing of the torch and lighting of the flame from the London 2012 Olympics. Make me realise what I already know – I love my job so much!! I’m never going to the Olympics but just getting people moving, running, getting stronger, more motivated, more confident – lighting the torch and getting people going – that’s my Olympics, every day.

This was so brilliantly conceived and put together. The kids. The champions. The music. The whole thing. The passing of the torch from Steve Redgrave to the young athletes. Probably my favourite TV and sporting memory ever. Magical!

How contrast can skew our perception

The contrast principle affects the way we see judge or evaluate things when they are compared with another.  If we compare a beach ball and a tennis ball, we will perceive the beach ball to be big and the tennis ball small.  But when we compare the beach ball with the moon, we think of the beach ball as small.  In other words, our judgement and perception is relative, not absolute.

The contrast principle is used extensively in sales. For example, I worked for a company which sold stationary to schools.  To increase the order size, we used the contrast principle by saying that other schools (social proof) were buying 20 or thirty of a certain product.  We then asked, would you like to take the same or would 5 or 10 be better for you?  Usually they would choose 5 or 10 (if you were lucky then you may get an order for 30).  However, if the contrast principle was not used and the salesperson asked “how many do you want?”, the customer would usually buy 1 or 2.  The contrast between the suggested 30 and the possible 5 was so great that it made the 5 seems small.  But if the salesperson suggested 5 without the higher contrast then 5 would seem too many.

Robert Cialdini also gives the popular example of the hot/cold contrast.  A person sits with one hand in a bucket of hot water and the other in a bucket of ice cold water.  They then place both hands in to a single bucket of luke-warm water.  The result is that the person whose hand has been in the cold water perceives the new bucket to contain hot water, whereas the person whose hand has been in the hot water feels the water to be cold.  Have you ever had a very warm shower before jumping in to a public swimming pool?  Usually, this makes the pool feel colder then if you had just jumped straight in.

So, how does the contrast principle relate to personal development?  Well, one great way to make yourself value you what you have is to watch the news.  Now, I don’t like to watch the news without a conscious, system 2 thinking process to ensure that I am watching it with the contrast principle firmly in my mind.  There is so much bad news out there that without a positive reason for watching, it is very easy to get depressed and upset at the things which are happening in the world.  The contrast principle can help you to realise that the things which make you angry, stressed and frustrated are really just a drop in the ocean.  Also, by thinking proactively and using your internal locus of control, you can think of ways to improve the things you don’t like about the world.  That’s the difference between world leaders and the rest of the population, some people despair, some people deny, others don’t care, leaders decide and do.  Remember as Ghandi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world”.

Further Reading: Dr Robert B Cialdini: Influence: The psychology of persuasion