Why Strength Training 101?

We continue to offer this class and many people often ask us, why? It’s because we’ve had so much success with training people over 50 and many of them were intimidated and unsure what strength and conditioning was. They were nervous about potential injuries and hated going to “gyms.”

Strength training can be scary. It’s often associated with big weights and bulky muscles. That doesn’t have to be the case. At GAIN, we think getting stronger is important for life. It’s important for confidence, independence and resilience.

Why have we had so much success training this population?

There’s no ego here. You don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with or ready for. We meet you where you’re at and guide you along in a noncompetitive environment. Working out isn’t about who is the best, it’s about developing yourself and that’s what we teach. Reasonable, sustainable and individualized fitness.

After seeing the success our clients were having after 2 years, it was a no brainer to create a 4-week introductory course. We go over the basics of warming up, creating tension and stability while moving, teach our fundamental movement patterns, mobility work, interval based conditioning and cool down.

After the 4 weeks you’ll have the confidence to add what you learned into your current training plan or you can progress by starting a customized program at GAIN. We all know that strength training is good for our bones, muscles, brains and our overall well-being. You don’t know stress relief until you’ve slammed a medicine ball into the ground!

Our bodies are complex. Figuring out how to train properly is no easy task. Instead of risking injury by doing it on your own, let us help guide the way in a sustainable way.

You can find out more about Strength Training 101and the GAIN community by emailing or calling Justin at 603-686-6002 or Justin@gainsc.com




Why Strength Training 101?

Fitness as a skill

I have been thinking a lot about the best way to teach people lifelong fitness pursuits. Strength and conditioning is more than just getting someone sweaty, tired and sore. If you’re a member of Gain, you know that we think training is way more than just that.

Should you get sweaty and tired? Of course, that’s mandatory. But, if that’s all you care about, there’s a lot more to it than you think. Do you need goals to hit? Absolutely, but don’t forget about the process to get there and what you learn along the way.

Your focus on fitness should be process oriented, not just results oriented. We need to focus on skills, not only outcomes. What can you do now that you couldn’t do before? What is easy now that was impossible before?

Strength and conditioning practice is just as much about learning new things as it is getting results. This skill-based approach will yield better results. You can focus on how much you have learned, how many new skills you own (movements and exercises)  and how different you feel.

Adding skills and techniques on top of what you’ve learned before makes exercise more rewarding. It’s also a more sustainable approach that can enhance your life in other ways.  Learning how to do new things is just as important for your body (and mind) as getting tired and sweaty. This lifestyle component, the part where what you do in the gym positively effects everything else – is the bread and butter of our program at Gain. Learning new exercises to challenge yourself or learning how to crawl backwards, no matter how awkward it is, helps you learn something new and will lead to more fluid movement in everything else.

Outcomes are important. And there is a time and a place to be focused on them. There is much more to strength and conditioning though, and that is the process. Putting in the time, developing skills and staying focused on your process and progression. This is just as important as the goal. IMG_2952

Fitness as a skill

Defining a Great Workout During the Holiday Season

How do you know when you had a great workout? Most of us associate with heavy breathing sweaty clothes and accomplishing all of the tasks for the day. What I want you to think about though is a great workout that doesn’t end with drops of sweat pouring off your face. That isn’t always necessary for workout success.

Dedicating an hour to moving each and every day is so important to living a fulfilling and healthy lifestyle. Many of you are coming up on a one year anniversary here. Many more are on two years and some even three!

That’s Consistency. You need that to be successful in anything. Long-term Gainers will vouch – not all of your workouts ended in a puddle of sweat. More than a fair share did and it is important to push it at the right time. But out of the 150 some odd training sessions you had this year, there was a fair share of them that we needed to pull it back, and define the workout as successful in other ways than just breathing hard. There’s days that you’re tired, didn’t get enough sleep, you traveled over the weekend, or maybe it’s just an off day and your mind is on other things.

You can still have a great workout by moving well.

Maybe you’re coming off a cold and you have been laying on the couch for a few days. Doing some easy squats to open up your hips and some inverted rows to get your shoulder blades and upper back moving can be just as valuable as heavy breathing.

Sometimes that’s just what your body needs. So how can you define a great workout – how do you feel after. Not just your mood, we all know that’s going to get better. How does your body feel? Did you have some tightness in the hips or around the knees before you started moving? Has your shoulder range of motion improved? Did you feed your body functional full range of motion movement that it craves? Yes or no.

You see, if you did this, if you took the time to move and to do it efficiently and correctly, you had a great workout. To have a full, all encompassing strength and conditioning program, you need to sweat a lot, breathe heavy and move some weight around. Moving properly though, is part of the package and taking the time to practice that means you had a great workout.

When your slammed for time this holiday season, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can’t get great training sessions. Maybe you were out late last night at a party and those heavy deadlifts are definitely out of the questions today – but coming in to take the time to feed your body movement will help you so much in the long run. It doesn’t always have to be heavy and hard, just consistent.

Defining a Great Workout During the Holiday Season

Single Leg Training – Why it’s important

We try to get at least one single leg exercise into everyone’s program each day. This is an important part of our program – something that builds strength, improves mobility, reinforces good movement and carries over to everyday life.  In sports and in life, a lot of moving (producing and applying force) occurs with predominantly with one side being loaded more than the other. That’s why it is a staple in our strength and conditioning programs.

Just like we view the squat as an essential movement pattern that everyone should strive for, the ability to make this shape on one leg is equally important. These shapes are movements like step ups, lunge variations, split squat and single leg squat variations as well. The same logic applies to the hip hinge, the deadlift shape.


 The benefits of single leg training:

More stability. Standing on one leg requires you to create more stability in the body, to resist rotation caused losing a point of contact with the ground. Stabilizing and not allowing your knee to cave in or your foot to turn is the same skill as screwing your feet into the ground when squatting. Without this, you won’t be able to do the exercise effectively.


Progressions. There are hundreds of different ways to make a single leg exercise more difficult, allowing for endless refinement of the skill. We can start out with a shortened range of motion, like a low box step up, then progress to a higher box, then add external load, from there you can off-set the load, increase the range of motion even more and so on. With so many different variations, there is always an appropriate exercise to find.


Easy to learn. For some people, especially those with back issues, single leg loading can be a more approachable movement. It can allow those with restrictions to get into some deeper ranges of motion early on in training too.


Hips! Since one hip is going into flexion while the other one is in extension, you’re getting a unique effect on your body that you don’t get when squatting or deadlifting, when those actions happen at the same time. You can imagine walking – one leg steps in front while the other pulls back.


Transfer. It has to transfer, or what’s the point? Single leg exercises are great to build strength, improve mobility and work on balance and stability. All of these things makes for a great exercise that can transfer to other movements in the gym.

We see these shapes outside the gym, so why not practice them? It will make you move and perform better.



Single Leg Training – Why it’s important

Whole 30 – Day 10 – Habit Analysis

Here we are, 10 days into the Whole 30. At this point, the newness of it is wearing down. We’re all starting to get into a routine, cooking more, eating more veggies – it all feels normal now. Hopefully you’re passed the Kill All the Things and headache/hangover phase, too. Now, that we freed up some space in our brain, it’s important to analyze our cravings, habits and routines we have around food.

What makes you want to cheat? What places/habits/routines get you into trouble? Here are a couple examples I’ve noticed in myself.


  1. Afternoon boredom

On some days I end up with this awkward time gap between coaching and I’ve got 45 minutes to kill before the evening crowd starts funneling in. When this happens, I convince myself that I need a snack. Without the break, I wouldn’t think about food at all. But that gap makes me want to shoot over to Cumberland Farms for some candy or trail mix (which, let’s be honest, is just candy).

Instead of just trying to fight off my craving, because, it’s not a craving, it’s a habit – I’ve trained myself that I need some food or a break or something to fill that void. I’ve been making sure to take Clem for a walk during this time or work on some mobility or make some phone calls. You can’t out will your habits, you need to replace them with better habits. (I highly recommend The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg if this sounds interesting.)


  1. Certain places trigger you

I’ve told some of you about my Diet Coke habit. I don’t drink it often, but I almost always drink it at my parent’s house. Why? Because I always have! It started out as a treat, “Yes! Diet Coke sounds great, I never have it!” Fast forward a few years later and I was having one every time I visited. This lead to eating pretzels while I’m there, because guess what, pretzels and Diet Coke pair together like a rib eye and a Malbec.

I’ve only visited once since starting the Whole 30, but the plan is stick to water, (thanks for stocking my favorite seltzer, mom), and to not raid the pantry like I normally do. I think that means I’m growing up.


  1. Friday/Saturday Night Planning

We always grocery shop on Sunday. That means, on Friday or Saturday night, dinner options are typically sparse. We’re good about eating leftovers and using what’s in the fridge, but that can get boring, especially when you’ve been eating the same thing all week. This means a spontaneous trip to the store to get something for dinner or instead, buying some chips and salsa to inhale or ready to eat BBQ wings from Market Basket.

During the week, we stick to a menu. I create the menu on Sunday and stay rigid to it all week. I never planned Friday night or Saturday night. The lack of a plan, however, always leads to eating something undesirable, or less than optimal for me.


Now, I’m planning out the Friday night meal ahead of time. Sure, that still means another trip to the store, but I go in with a plan or recipe instead of grabbing what I desire.


Those are the big things that I have taken away from these first 10 days. I knew about them of course, but until dialing everything in for the Whole 30, I didn’t pay enough attention to how these small habits and routines effect my day.


What sort of habits are you noticing for yourself? Are there any routines you have that trigger certain cravings? What are you going to do to keep yourself successful post Whole 30? I know 20 days seems like it’s so far off, but it’s going to be here before we know it!


Whole 30 – Day 10 – Habit Analysis

Do Your Goals Suck?

Maybe that’s why you never stick to them. Change them. Come up with excuses for them. It’s not your fault, but poor goal choice, and focus on the outcome, not the process, is a bad road to go down.

I usually save my goals rant for January, when everyone is making half assed goals they half care about. Recent conversations with a friends made me realize that many people don’t know where to begin the goal process, or even what a proper goal looks like.

After our conversation about lifting, running, eating and life, I left him with, “Send me some goals later, and don’t just come up with numbers you want to hit.”

An hour later, I receive a text with a grid of numbers on certain lifts to hit within 1 month and 3 months… Not exactly what I wanted him to come up with. He then told me, no one ever showed him how to make real goals.

Great to have clear goals, but focused on numbers only can set you up for disappointment. 

Focusing on numbers only, doesn’t take into account the process, at all. It just highlights the end game. What you “want.”

What’s your day to day look like to get there? How much should you do? When should you ease up on yourself? What if you don’t feel good? Focus on the end game, or the outcome, sets you up for disappointment.

Even if you have it mapped out. I’m going to squat this much this week and that much the next week and 10 pounds more on week 3 – you’re setting up for failure. Too many different factors can influence your outcome goal. It’s not your fault either, many things that will influence it are totally out of your control.

Process focused goals, let you determine what you can control and forget about the rest of it.


So what does a process goal look like?

If I want to squat 300 pounds within the next couple months, here is an example goal:

  • Outcome: squat 300 pounds
  • Bad, lazy process goal: squat heavy and increase weight once a week for 8 weeks.


Better process goal(s):

  • Improve my squat technique by doing some empty barbell squats to start each training session, whether it’s squat day or not.
  • Improve my quality of sleep by turning off all screens 1 hour before bed. When heavy squat day comes, I’ve done my best to be well rested and ready.
  • Add 10 minutes of hip opening mobility a few mornings per week.
  • Put my phone in airplane mode while training so I can focus better on the task at hand.

That’s several process goals to help accomplish the one outcome goal, squat more weight. By having a process of working on technique, making sure I’m well rested and focused is going to be much more impactful than just hoping my outcome happens at the end of eight weeks. In other words, I’m focusing on what I can control.

These process goals all focus on improving quality of something. Hitting numbers, focuses on quantity only. Emphasis of quality allows us to enjoy the process, get better and not worry so much about the actual outcome number.

Let’s say it’s 8 weeks later. I only hit 275 on my squat.


Bummer, didn’t make the goal.


However, I did get better sleep over the past two months than I have in the past two years. My mobility worked payed off big time. That combined with the technique work in my warm ups really improved how comfortable I feel in the bottom of the squat.

Now, I can look back and say, “Hey, even though I didn’t get my number, I really improved quite a bit through this process.”


So what do you really want? Do you really want to lose 15 pounds? Or do you want to feel more comfortable in your body and have more freedom? Zoom out and figure out what you really want. How can you get there? What’s the day in and day out look like? Maybe it starts with changing your morning routine or improving sleep – even though those things may not seem to have anything to do with the outcome. They do.

My advice to you; want better, not more, not less.

Live in the process, soak it up and enjoy the hell out of it. Don’t day dream about the outcome.




Do Your Goals Suck?

Why Try Trail Running

The last few years I have been slowly turning into a runner. It wasn’t until I found trail running though, that I was full on hooked. Below are some reasons you should consider lacing up your shoes a little tighter and hitting the trail.

After a steep climb up, a short flat run, the downhill is coming up. You’re huffing and puffing and your legs are burning. There is no thinking about a to-do list, no work stress, no thinking about the beer you’re going to have later. You need pure focus. You start picking up speed on the downhill, step on the big rock, dodge the roots, hop over the stream, pick your feet up and step carefully over the slippery technical section, cut to miss the mud pit and continue cruising along, staying focused.

The technical aspect of trail running puts you in an instant flow state. Flow is defined as the mental state of operation in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

I was first introduced to the flow state while trying to improve my own mental game while playing hockey. It was like trying to figure out a magic formula of proper sleep, superstitious food selection and always making sure that I put my left skate on first.

Since then, I have been a flow junkie, reading books on how to achieve it, how to focus more and be more mindful of what I’m doing. Flow isn’t just about sports, it can be about productivity and feeling accomplished too.

I was instantly dropped into a flow state the first time I ran on some muddy, technical trails. Many runners talk of the runner’s high, that is the flow state. Running on the road, I could get there, but it would take longer. The chaos of road running –  cars, other runners, intersections and being in a familiar place – all make it more difficult to reach this delicate state.

On the trail, you must always be mindful of your footing. Hopping from rock to rock, careful not to slip, how many steps should I take between here and there? You’re always computing the next move, losing focus isn’t an option unless you want to fall.

In his book, Go Wild, Dr. John Ratey goes into detail as to why trail running is important to us as humans. Running on trails makes our brain compute while we are moving (which, Ratey argues that movement is the reason we have a brain in the first place). It isn’t monotonous, repetitive motion over and over again – it is constantly varied, each turn being different from the next with new obstacles to overcome.

The technical trail surface forces us to shorten our stride, land more on the mid foot and gives us better cushion than hard pavement. These trails can also slow us down, which I think is a good thing. Runners can become obsessed with pacing and distance, sometimes to their detriment. You can’t compare trail times to road times. This shifts the focus from the distance ran, to the quality of your run. How did you feel? Were you floating over rocks and tip-toeing through roots. Or did your feet feel heavy with a lack of agility?

The most profound benefit of running on the trail, the trail itself. Getting out into nature and immersing yourself in the quite of the woods. A goal of mine over the past couple years has been to get outside more. Trail running has allowed me to check two things of my list at once. I can train/exercise and also spend time outside, instead of being in a gym. The nature aspect of trail running is another reason why I find the flow state much easier to find than on the road.


If I’ve convinced you to give it a shot, here are a few tips for you:

Start by setting a time-based goal. Measure your results not by how far you when over the duration, but how did your running technique feel? On a good day, I feel like I’m on a roller coaster, easily floating down the trail.

Keep your headphones at home. How can you expect to focus while you’re concerned about Spotify’s song shuffling? Seriously, ditch the headphones and watch your performance skyrocket. This goes for road runners, too. Before everyone asks, “what are you supposed to think about with no music, it’s so boring,” exactly. It’s boring because you have never been able to focus on what you’re doing – running! Think about your stride, your breathing, what muscles are burning. That’s how you become better, deliberate practice.

Don’t just look at your feet! Keep an eye out in front of you so you know what coming next. Don’t let anything sneak up on you.

I recently re-read (listened) to Christopher McDougall’s amazing book, Born to Run. In it, ultramarathon runner and friend of the Tarahumara people, Caballo Blanco, tells Chris, when choosing to take 1 or 2 steps between an object, take 3.

If you’re interested in learning how to take your running to the next level, GAIN endurance, a weekly, drop-in style class kicks off in August. GAIN endurance is a strength and conditioning program to be used as an addition to your current training plan. Learn how to feel better, move better, go further and faster.

GAIN endurance kicks off on Tuesday August 8th. You can find out more information or book your first workout here: gainsc.com/gainendurance




Why Try Trail Running