SS 151 – Assessment with Erwin
Episode 151 Show Notes
In today’s episode, Grant and Heavey are joined today by Coach Erwin. Currently based in Shanghai, Erwin is in town for his OPEX training. The terrific three focus their discussion on the importance of performing assessments – how it’s done, why it’s done, when it’s done, and who would benefit from them.
[01:00] A Little Backstory
Grant and Heavey have nothing but kind and nice words for Erwin both as a friend and coach. He was on the show back in Episode 10. He also provided the engraved bottle of Blue Label when this podcast celebrated their 100th episode. Erwin currently lives in China, working as a full-time trainer.
[03:15] Talk About Tattoos
Erwin actually got a tattoo back in Thailand. It’s a little semicolon on his finger which matched with his then-girlfriend, now wife. Would you believe Grant and Heavey have matching tattoos too? Grant recalls going on a trip with Heavey and to commemorate it, they both got anchor tattoos. Heavey is still working on getting another one, while Grant already got one more.
[05:15] Tattoos Can Make You Sweat Less
Grant mentions this article saying that having a tattoo makes you sweat less, which is actually a bad thing if you’re a big athlete. This only applies to the area that has the tattoo.
For thousands of years, people have been tattooing on their skin without actually realizing that tattooed skin generates only 50% the amount of sweat that a non-tattooed skin does. They also found the composition was different, with the sweat having more sodium content.
Now, if you think about someone who has tattoos all over their body, this can actually become a health issue in the long run.
Heavey is actually wondering whether the same amount of sodium is being excreted, only that the fluid is reduced considering there is more sodium in the amount sweated out. On the other hand, sweat has multiple uses in the body. Primarily, it serves to cool us down; therefore, it’s reasonable that the body is less effectively cooled when there are more tattoos on the body.
Dr. Angela Smith, who was involved in the study, “If you’re a marathon runner in the heat, a firefighter, or a soldier in a very hot climate you may already be sweating at your absolute maximum. So if you’re already at your maximum and now you lose your ability of a certain portion of your skin to sweat, all of a sudden you have a lower maximum than you did before… so now you could be at greater risk than if you didn’t have a tattoo.”
This study is actually the first of its kind documenting sweat changes associated with tattoos.
[09:46] From China to U.S: What’s Erwin Doing Here?
Erwin initially thought of just living in Shanghai for a year or two and coming back to the U.S., but he has been living in Shanghai for the last five years and until 2020 for the foreseeable future..
As a crossfit trainer in Shanghai, he is presently the head coach at two crossfit gyms while working part-time at a smaller cross-fit gym. He also focuses on one-on-one training as well as online remote coaching.
Currently, Erwin is in the U.S. doing onsite courses at OPEX. Heavey found OPEX years ago, but hesitated initially. Soon, he realized OPEX wass one of the best training education certifications out there.
[12:57] Taking Real Assessment
Erwin shares his biggest takeaways his training at OPEX. First is understanding the bigger picture and insight of the individual coming to you who says they want to work out and watching them move and the capabilities they have within fitness.
Heavey adds that a lot of people have this experience of walking into a gym without any real measurement of their capability. This was the case when Grant first went to Heavey’s gym. There are coaches that look at some basic movement issues, but it wasn’t nearly as in-depth as it is now.
Another thing Erwin learned is how people are addicted to brutal workouts and the only assessment before was whether or not they’d be able to do a squat or deadlift and how they looked doing it. Whereas now, they dig deeper into looking what it means if this person, say, moved differently from left to right. What if the person can’t touch a shoulder with his right arm but can do it with his left arm? You then take this into account and use this to decide what the person should or shouldn’t perform a movement.
[17:10] Can You Apply This to Every New Member?
Erwin explains doing this kind of assessment depends on the culture developed at the gym. If they only look at the person as a dollar sign, they can just take the client through their workout program. However, another approach could be looking at the client as a whole in regards to their fitness, occupation, lifestyle, etc.
Heavey stresses how gyms should not see clients as a dollar sign. Clients go through this development where their level of thinking increases bit by bit. First, you’re looking at somebody and your idea of coaching them is helping them break a sweat. That’s their idea of fitness and so you both exist on this basic plane of coaching.
Then from there, you take a step up. You realize movement patterns are important so you assess that. Even if they think they’re just getting a sweat on, you’re making sure they’re moving in a safe way.
Further evolving the thinking on a higher level so you can understand that when you see them doing a walking lunge, you see a difference on their left leg and their right leg. After the training session, you may give them some accessory work to help them work through those imbalances.
With that said, Heavey points out that developing this culture where people want to improve and work through that is a huge piece of culture in the gym as opposed to only having that sweat mentality.
[19:12] The Evolution of the Coach
Some people don’t care about that left-right balance and they’re only concerned with working up a sweat. Helping them understand how left-right imbalances can connect to all of those goals. Imbalances can restrict your ability to move to your maximum potential and increase your squat.
Just a regular everyday person that comes in and wants to get their sweat on after a hard day’s work, having left-right imbalances could end up giving them an injury where they won’t be able to come in anymore. Developing that culture where people are aware of that and accepting of that is higher level thinking that takes time for coaches to develop, Heavey says.
Again, Heavey doesn’t think it’s all about thinking about people as a dollar sign but just that their thinking has not evolved.
[20:38] Examples of the Assessment Piece
As part of Heavey’s homework, Grant became one of his practice clients in terms of assessment. This included checking the imbalance as to how far back you can scratch with your right arm versus your left arm as well as looking at your sprint versus your longer race, for example. Or they look at your strength in your back squat is out of balance with the strength in your front squat relative to the activity you’re performing.
These are interesting things that demonstrate what might holding you back in your training. The assessment is a huge missing piece in the training people get. This is why we see people go into group fitness classes and make really strong improvements for a year or two and then slow down and plateau after that.
As coaches, Erwin and Heavey’s job is to work with clients and apply these principles everyday.
[22:33] Grant’s Takeaway and the Silly Idea of Scaling
As a client, Grant didn’t really care about the left or right imbalance. His takeaway from it is that he never really understood a lot of it. He just had to give a lot of faith to his coach who keeps his best interest in mind and to think about his unique challenges. He has always struggled with his hips and ankles. He can’t just have a cookie cutter program and expect the same results as everybody else.
This is a huge point, which brings Heavey to the idea of scaling which he thinks is silly. If your group workout is Fran for the day and you have a 90-year-old woman coming into your class and she wants to hop in, giving her a PVC pipe and having her do jumping pull-ups is stupid. It doesn’t serve her and her goals at all. So having this assessment piece helps you know how to change that workout so that it can fit, even in a group model.
Since Grant’s hip bothers him and they’re doing power cleans for the day, his scale isn’t to do power cleans with a PVC because that doesn’t bother him. It doesn’t give him what he needs to get out of his training. So if Heavey had to do a strong assessment on Grant, he knows what his hip issue is and he can give him an alternative congruent with his fitness goals.
This was a big part of the assessment piece meant to drive in the group class down the road. There’s no reason everybody in the class should be doing the same thing.
[24:50] Application-Specific Program Design
Erwin explains you can program clients to help the deficiency get better while you can also program it in a way that you can work around your deficiencies. Thus, you can train around injured parts of your body, but you can also work to address other imbalances within the training. So it’s application-specific.
[27:12] Does Your Gym Do Assessments?
Heavey points out that when you achieve a higher level gym experience, what you should be getting is coaching. He recommends that when scouting for gyms, ask the coaches or the owners to what degree they assess their clients before working with them because this should be accounted for.
Grant adds how this is even more critical to newbies than the experienced ones. While Heavey says this may be possible, there are people who have been doing crossfit for years that have never been assessed. Their issues have been compounding. And what is now a nagging knee or shoulder issue could have been worked out still just by a healthy dose of assessment and corrective work.
[29:00] Erwin’s Weak Spot and the Body Fat Obsession
Out of these assessments, Erwin learned what to work on in order to strengthen a position he’s weak in so it doesn’t lead into any type of injury. They assessed his shoulder issue because he couldn’t touch the back of his left shoulder with his right arm but he can with his left arm. .
He also adds how people are obsessed with the idea of fat. They learn to look at fat as a biomarker. You take someone who’s really lean but he may not be as healthy inside. Heavey cites bodybuilders as the perfect example of this. On stage, they are the most unhealthy.
Erwin used to be a bodybuilder before he did crossfit. He initially looked like a fat guy but he felt great. And when he got on stage, he just wanted to die. He couldn’t think. He was thirsty.
So it’s really about understanding that taking those assessments allows you to give better insights into your current situation and what you need to do to improve or simply know where you’re at.
[32:25] To Measure or Not to Measure Your Body Fat
At one time, Grant did strive to hit 9% body fat. He heard somewhere that if you’re under 10% body fat, you’re going to look smokin’ hot. Heavey explains the garbage tied into body fat measurements. It’s an interesting metric because sometimes people would just set these arbitrary goals for themselves. It’s not necessarily related to your goal and you just throw that out of nowhere.
Reason that when Heavey did the OPEX assessment course, a lot of times, they would say not to talk to clients about body fat percentage otherwise it’d get in their heads. So they would do caliper measurements and track those. But they would never roll them into body fat measurement because they’d have all this had trash around what their percentage is.
That said, there are so many methods to measure body fat – calipers, bioelectrical impedance, etc. Some may not be as consistent as others and people can get really worked up just by changing the method for measuring body fat percentage. Even though they look exactly the same, that numbers are going to be different and they might get upset about it.
The same goes with looking at your weight on a bathroom scale every morning, depending on what you ate the night before or what time of day your measured. It could be wildly different and this could freak people out.
[37:03] Data Collection to Track Progress
Erwin also talks about the other assessments they did and what they have to do with the information. At another crossfit seminar in April that he attended, he learned that every gym should have a filing system. It means that whoever intakes of a new client, it allows the coach to share the knowledge with the entire coaching staff.
Heavey adds that being able to track progress is what helps propel people to stay motivated within their training. That said, assessment is powerful on many fronts. People should be more aware of that – collect data about yourself during your training with regard to your movement.
[39:38] Doing a Self-Assessment? Better Call a Pro
Heavey believes this is a tough topic for people to tackle on their own. However, if you want to work out on your own without a coach, it makes sense to contact somebody to do an assessment on you. They can do this via Skype or video and then you can get the data you need. It makes sense to work with a coach for a bit if you care about the outcome.
Using a professional is something you can get a lot of value out of. There are tons of people certified with Functional Movement Screen (FMS). You can go online and find somebody locally to do it or remotely. They can perform a quick screen on you and make you aware of some issues you can start working on. Getting bits of information to address over time would be super helpful.
Erwin is actually FMS-certified. If you’re interested in getting an assessment with him, contact him through email [email protected].
[44:00] Last Question from Grant
Considering China has a lot of pirated movies and such, Grant is curious how Game of Thrones is going to end. Erwin is way behind unfortunately. However, the episodes are all on DVD at their local Big Movie in Shanghai.
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