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Using Negativity to Challenge Yourself - Coaching and Motivation

One of the biggest tricks to getting better at something is to come up with new challenges - new ways of making it interesting, partially so you are motivated to try and achieve that goal during the process.

From a coaching / personal training perspective, knowing how to challenge the athlete / client in front of you means trying to get inside their head and understand what makes that individual person tick - what motivates them to try harder. Is it pride? Anger? Shame? Possibly even greed? Or (egad) narcissism?

A person who doesn't have any of the seven deadly sins is truly content and doesn't really want anything. Such a person must be sublimely happy, so why would they bother to hire a personal trainer? They're already found contentment and happiness. The only reason I can think of such a happy person wanting a coach or personal trainer is because they are amused by the idea of it. They want to do something and they're doing it for fun*. I will come back to that idea later. See the * further below.

It is the person who is yearning for something who really needs help achieving it. They are struggling for whatever reasons to achieve a goal that is beyond their reach. Perhaps it is a very common goal, like losing weight, and they are struggling because of their diet and lack of exercise, but also because they lack willpower - and quite possibly other factors as well. This is a quite common goal. But why do they want to lose weight?

Vanity? Pride? Anger at people who bullied them about their weight? They feel ashamed of their appearance? Or maybe they made a wager with a friend as to which one of them could lose the most weight, and thus they are motivated by greed?

Knowing what motivates yourself, what the primary reason you decide to exercise - especially if it is on the spur of the moment and you get the sudden urge to exercise, think carefully on that experience. What was it precisely that caused you to get the urge to exercise?

And don't be afraid of negative emotions. To paraphrase Darth Vader, let your negative emotions out and let them give you power - the power of your dark side! Mwahahaha!

People rarely get the urge to exercise because they are feeling charitable or humble - although it would be awesome if more people were so easily motivated. "Oh look, a marathon that is raising money for charity. I think I will start jogging regularly so I can help raise money." How is rare is it that people take up marathon running just for charity? Extremely unlikely. More likely they were already into running marathons and they saw one that was raising money for charity and wanted to join.

Back on topic, once you know what things motivate you - truly motivate you - then you can use those negative emotions to focus your mind on the activities you want to do and get better at. Over time those negative emotions will fade and be replaced by feelings that are more positive, and you will eventually be doing the activity hopefully because you just plain enjoy it.

Which brings me full circle back to the Asterisk...

* Recreational activities are awesome in my opinion because most people do them without any goal in their mind beyond having fun. Take recreational archery for example. Recreational archers don't go to competitions, they don't bowhunt or bowfish, they simply do archery for the fun of it. I argue that recreational archery is actually the purest form of archery - because it is archery for archery's sake. Not for ego. Not for food. Not for bragging rights about bagging a "big buck". Purely for the enjoyment of the activity.

For example, I enjoy writing - but sometimes I am suffering a bit from writer's block and I have to find inspiration to write. One way for me to combat that and find inspiration is to find something funny to write about. In this case it was because I was thinking about Star Wars and Darth Vader memes while I was writing. It not only gave me some inspiration, it helped motivate my writing.

So it isn't just for exercising. It could be for doing any number of activities you should probably be doing. It does not have to be yoga while dressed like Darth Vader, but hey, nobody is stopping you from having a little fun.

Essential Fat Vs Non Essential Fat

Lets start with some definitions!

#1. Essential Fat

Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are fatty acids that humans and other animals must ingest because the body requires them for good health but cannot synthesize them. The term "essential fatty acid" refers to fatty acids required for biological processes but does not include the fats that only act as fuel.

So for example, omega-3 fatty acids is a chemical your body actually needs for brain function and other activities.

#2. Non Essential Fat

Non-essential fatty acids are important for the body too. Saturated fats are considered to be non-essential fatty acids because they are not required by the body and instead may cause harm - hence the name. Trans fatty acids, although these are a kind of unsaturated fat, are also non-esential fatty acids and should be avoided in the same manner that we should avoid saturated fats because of findings that increased consumption of trans fats is proportional to an increase in the risk of coronary heart disease. It is also used in supplements when used as development enhancements. Meanwhile, there are non-essential fatty acids which are simply classified as such because the human body can synthesize them from other nutrients like carbohydrates and other unsaturated fatty acids. These are the omega-9 fatty acids, which can lower bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, and control blood sugar. However, since the human body can create its own omega-9 fatty acids, there is no need to include them in one’s diet.

As shown in the above graphic men need dramatically less essential fat than women do, however their composition of non-essential fat is roughly the same.

People seeking to lose weight by dieting would be advised to add more eggs and fish to their diet, but cut back on sources of saturated fat. This way they are getting the fat that they need, but they are reducing their consumption of extra fat that their body doesn't actually need.

Understanding your Body's Composition

You have probably heard that the human body is mostly made of water - and this partially correct. But all that water is held together using carbon and other atoms. Some fad diets even try to reduce a person's body weight by reducing their use of water, and thus reducing a person's water weight - which makes a person dehydrated, long term lack of water can cause mental illness and a host of other problems. So those fad diets do work in the sense that person does lose weight, but because it is mostly water they end up regaining the weight as soon as they go back to a normal diet and have normal amounts of water again.

Attacking your body's use of water however is not the solution however. While water is found in both fat cells and muscle, it is not the cause of a person being overweight.

We should note also that fell cells never actually disappear. They just get bigger as they store energy or smaller as they expend energy. Eating healthier foods, getting lots of exercise causes the fat cells to store less energy and to be expending more energy than they are storing.

Your body's composition comes down a number of factors:

Bones and Bone Density

The more you exercise the stronger your bone density becomes. Thus bodybuilders and athletes often have surprisingly strong bone density. Not unbreakable, but still amazingly strong. (Although the film "Unbreakable" starring Bruce Willis suggests that it would be theoretically possible for a person to have unusually strong bones.)

Bone density can fluctuate due to diet, amount of exercise a person is getting, and genetic factors.

Muscle Weight

Muscles weighs more than fat. Try weighing some lean meat sometime and note how much little space 1 lb of lean muscle actually takes up space. Now compare that to 1 lb of fat further below. A person who is very muscular might not look very big, but they might still weight quite a bit. So someone who weighs 250 lbs, but it is all muscle will still look pretty impressive with their shirt off - but might look like a proverbial Bruce Wayne when they are dressed in a suit and tie. For fun see my past article about Christian Bale's muscle gains and losses. When preparing for the role he once weighed 210 lbs, but had to back it down a bit because he ended up looking too beefy.

Muscle weight can also go up or down quite suddenly and rapidly. Being sick for a week, a person could easily lose 10 lbs of muscle. When "Spring Training" athletes can often gain back 20 lbs of muscle in the first 2 to 4 weeks because they have been slacking off during the winter. I myself have a tendency to take it too easy during the winter and often put on 20 lbs of muscle every Spring when I get back into exercising outdoors. This year I am planning to put on extra muscle this upcoming winter.

Body Fat

Fat takes up a lot of space in your body. By volume it actually does not weigh very much, it is light weight - but it is HUGE. A lb of fat is roughly the size of an adult fist. So 5 lbs of fat is about the size of fists. All that space however is basically just for storing energy - energy for exercise, energy for keeping the body warm, and also acting as insulation against the cold.

During the Autumn, as temperatures drop and humans start getting less Vitamin D from the sun we start storing more energy inside our fat cells. Around Christmas time we store lots of food, not just because of traditions, but because our bodies crave more food when we are low on Vitamin D. This storing of energy as fat is hard-wired into our DNA, part of our "caveman genes" and is used as a survival mechanism to keep you alive during the long cold winter. Learn more about Vitamin D by reading "Can Vitamin D help you lose weight?"


Speaking of caveman genes, lets talk about genetics in general. Your body's composition of fat, muscle, bone density, etc is effected by your body's genetics. The same thing that makes your hair black and your eyes green also effects how much fat you store, how easily you build muscle, your bone density, metabolism, etc. However it does not CONTROL it. Just because you might be genetically predisposed to having more muscle, does not mean you will automatically be muscular. It will still take years of exercising, weightlifting, helping friends move into new homes and carrying their furniture, working at the construction site, etc. In other words you still have to work at it. Nothing comes easily in the world of weightlifting.

The same thing goes for the reverse. You might have a genetic disorder that makes it difficult to lose weight. But that does not make it IMPOSSIBLE to do so. It simply means it harder than an average person trying to do the same thing. You might have to get it 150% effort compared to your peers in order to see changes, but you will see changes if you keep making the effort.

Organs and Metabolism

Some of your body's weight is made up of all your organs. Brain, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, digestive system, etc. These things are all necessary for life. Thus you can't really do anything about the weight of such things, and you shouldn't worry about them.

Sometimes people do get "fatty organs", such as a fatty liver which can lead to liver damage, cancer, fatty liver disease, etc. However such things can be prevented by exercising regularly and eating healthy. Your body's organs consume / produce chemicals that are used as building blocks to repair your body, and energy for both repair and for activities - all of which are necessities.

Definition of Metabolism: The chemical processes by which cells produce the substances and energy needed to sustain life.


There isn't much to worry about regarding your bones, organs and genetics. Those things will continue to do what they are meant to do. However the balance between muscle weight and body fat can be altered by the individual. How you choose to do so is up to you. You might choose to focus more on diet over exercise, or more exercise over diet, or some balance of the two - but in reality it is always a balancing act, because you have to eat and you have to move. How you choose to achieve your ideal balance might depend on whether your goals are to lose weight, build muscle or combinations of the two.

If you live in the Leaside area of Toronto and are looking for a personal trainer, you know who to call.

New Winter Archery Lessons Logo

In order to promote my new service of "Winter Archery Lessons" I have added a new logo for promoting Winter Archery in Toronto. It is basically identical to the normal archery logo, with the added bonus of a stylized snowflake in the background.

I also have retroactively gone back to older posts and added the new logo.

This is not the first post regarding logos on my website. In September 2012 I announced the Cardio Trek Logos that have long since become the standard for how Cardio Trek has chosen to direct itself with respect to logos.

The other new logo below is for Archery Biathlon Training - a new service I first offered last year, geared towards those rare few individuals who wanted an unique challenge. For obvious reasons not everyone in Toronto is into archery biathlon, but for those who are it provides a great cardiovascular challenge while simultaneously challenging your endurance and accuracy.

For those curious about whether it has to be cross country skiing. No, it does not. Snowshoeing also works quite well in my opinion. For more information on either Winter Archery Lessons in Toronto or Archery Biathlon Training please email

Winter is Coming! - Winter Archery Lessons in Toronto

Okay, okay, settle down. It is only September 15th, 2015. It is not Winter yet.

But I am already looking forward to teaching archery lessons during the 2015/2016 winter season. Maybe too much sun has fried my brain and I am now yearning for the cold?

Normally I only teach archery lessons from March to October, but last year and the year before I also taught a few - literally just a few - Winter Archery Lessons to those few Torontonians who were that crazy that they wanted winter lessons.

The start of the 2014/2015 Winter was quite mild last year, but then we got record breaking cold temperatures in late January and early February - so most of my winter lessons last year were done during December / early January or late February. The coldest part of the winter was just so ridiculously cold and snowy and there was no point being out there.

So I do have some rules regarding Winter Archery Lessons:

#1. Must be 16 years old or older.

#2. You must dress warmly - multiple tight fitting layers are best, including long johns, ski pants, hoodie, tight fitting winter coat, nice warm hat, etc. [Myself I am going to be purchasing a new pair of ski pants and a "heated hoodie" for this upcoming season.]

#3. You must bring a thermos full of a hot drink with you. Trust me, you will want it. [I recommend the "24 Hour Thermos" made by Thermos Ltd.]

Winter Archery Gloves will be provided. They work well and are surprisingly warm.

All other archery equipment is provided. If you wish to bring your own equipment please send a description of your equipment when you contact me via email.

2015/2016 Winter Archery Lessons Rates

1 Student
$90 for 90 minutes; 3 Lessons - $255; 5 Lessons - $405; 10 Lessons - $780.

2 Students
$120 for 90 minutes; 3 Lessons - $337.50; 5 Lessons - $540; 10 Lessons - $1050.

3 Students
$150 for 90 minutes; 3 Lessons - $427.50; 5 Lessons - $675; 10 Lessons - $1320.

To sign up for Winter Archery Lessons send an email to

New Winter Archery Logo


For my purposes "Winter" officially starts when there is either snow on the ground or the temperature dips around 0 degrees Celsius or lower. That means I may start charging the Winter rate in November if the temperatures are that low.

The upcoming Winter will also give me more time off to work on my upcoming archery book, the 2nd archery book I have written (the first is "Dreaming of Zen Archery"). The upcoming book will be a how to guide to recreational archery, as I have determined there are many books on the topic of competitive archery, and quite a few books on bowhunting, and even a bunch on the history of archery - but I have found zero books on the topic of recreational archery, or as I like to call it "archery for archery's sake". Recreational archery is not meant for competitions, not meant for hunting, it is purely for those people who do archery for the sheer enjoyment of the sport.

Oddly enough over 90% of archers are recreational. Less than 9% of archers are bowhunters. Less than 1% of archers actually compete. The vast majority of archers are those who do it purely as a recreational hobby, so I find it strange that nobody has written a book on this topic.
Looking to sign up for archery lessons, boxing lessons, swimming lessons, ice skating lessons or personal training sessions? Start by emailing and lets talk fitness!


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