personal training Chicago

The Secret to Quitting Smoking

When it comes to changing behavior while meeting with a personal trainer in Chicago, nothing seems to be tougher than quitting smoking.  John, one of my long-time personal training clients in Chicago and greatest friends-loved smoking.  For him, it was relief in an industry of drinking and constant movement.  Welcome to the life of a bartender and bar owner.  

Early in his career, John was surrounded by cigarettes every night.   The smell and sight were a satisfying sensory cloud to cool the angst spirit (sounds like a love story). 

Let’s break down the reality of cigarette smoking though: it yellows your teeth and fingers, makes your hair smell like an ashtray, and annoys non-smokers who hate smoke or who are simply sick of waiting for their friends to finish a cigarette.  You would think that this is enough to deter people from smoking and make them stop.  It doesn’t.

I can see why.  James Dean still looks pretty cool smoking in the 3 movies he starred in.  And we may have a secret affinity towards fire and smoke (I did stare at fire for over three hours while meditating in Guatemala after all).

What’s interesting is that many people in personal training programs are still locked in the habit despite ambitious health goals.  Nearly 20% of my personal training clients in Chicago smoke, many of whom don’t realize I know (I heard that you were smoking in the parking lot before our session…shame on you...I kid...shame on you...I kid…).  Meanwhile many confess like I’m the priest of health. 

Curiously, though, even with the renewed focus on health, they never kick the habit.  They’ll do everything in their power to give up everything else except for the one thing they need to.  I’ve seen one month, six month, and two year attempts and the eventual return to the one thing they want the most.

Ironically, though, cigarettes increase your blood pressure, decrease your lung capacity, and make you feel more stressed (especially as you seek another smoke).  Nothing satisfying there.  It’s a constant unfulfillment and an oxymoron.

John wanted to quit for his health, which is a common reason (not the ridiculously rising costs).  When we began training eight years ago, he tried to quit but to no avail.  Four scores and 700 cigarette packs later, he changed his mind (literally).  This time he believed that change was feasible.

It took confidence and constant reminders (self-talk) to overcome the want (the perceived need).  With medication and a concentration on being mindful, John revealed the key to change: “I wanted to quit.”

And he believed he could do it.  Even though it was tough, he kept telling himself that same message.

Have no doubt: Belief is the seed for change.  What you say to yourself repeatedly will be one of the keys while your personal train in Chicago.

Keys to Getting in Shape Interview

Check out my recent interview with!

What are some of the most common misconceptions about getting in shape?

The most common misconception about getting in shape is the primary importance of fitness.  While fitness plays a pivotal role in your strength, flexibility, muscular endurance, and cardio endurance, it still relies heavily on your nutrition.  Without the proper nutrition for your body type, you will not have the energy or building blocks to sculpt the healthy body you want.  Any nutritional deficit or inflammation will certainly affect your ability to get in shape, live to 100, or reduce injury.

What single piece of personal training advice do you have regarding form and technique?

With the endless circus act of exercises found online and in magazines, it would take years to point out every little piece of form you should keep in mind while exercising.  While you should study your body's response to different positions and movements, there are basic rules you should keep in mind for whatever you approach:

-Keep your feet hip width and straight to maximize stability and glute/abdominal activation.

-Keep your shoulders above your hips to maintain a neutral position and reduce pelvic tilting.

-Maintain a neutral spine by periodically checking your lumber curve (lower back) and cervical spine (neck).

There are certainly exceptions to these rules.  Nevertheless, they will generally guide through a safe workout routine.

What is the best way to get a personal training client motivated when they feel like giving up?

Considering that each person is different, there isn't a single strategy to motivate a personal training client when he or she wants to give up.  While some personal training clients persevere when given a strict structure to follow, other clients are intimidated and will less likely push themselves.  Add in societal pressures, personality traits, family and work demands, and natural limitations, it's surprising that anyone has the strength to sift through these factors and push through.  The best advice is to help your personal training client become a human scientist - to study their physical selves and their habits, decision making process, and problem solving approach.  By utilizing this strategy, you are reducing the ambiguity of the process in the most simple way and identifying the personal training client's strength and weaknesses for the most efficient approach.  The personal training client will feel more control over his or her situation and will be able to target the undermining reasons for giving up with more confidence.

What is the best advice you’ve ever learned about staying in shape?

After nearly 10 years of personal training and research in Chicago, I have learned that your mental approach is the steering factor of staying in shape.  You will most likely reach your goal but whether or not you maintain this success is questionable.  Who can blame you!  There are too many distractions and pulls in life, including holidays, work, and family, that easily pull you from your new healthy routine.  The best advice is to clearly define boundaries based on your needs-not your wants-and use this set of rules as you approach the unknowns of life.  I don't think it's reasonable to assume that you'll make perfect choices each day.  With reasonable boundaries based on your body and habits (not anyone else's), you'll keep yourself in check and stay in shape.