Evolution: My fitness philosophy

Rick Copley Online fitness coach

Today I am going to get a bit nostalgic. I am going to take trip in the way back machine and share with you my evolving views of fitness. To sum it up I will say this: my philosophy has always and is still evolving. I will also share 7 lessons that I learned along the way.

The way that I approach fitness is different now then it was 2 years ago and it may still be different in two more years. It’s was TOTALLY different 15 years ago and in 15 years….who knows.

One thing for certain is that I have always refused to accept the “norm” and I have always been bold and, in my mind at least, cutting edge and a bit different.

I started out as a wrestler in the mid 1980’s. I did the workouts in class and I added in some runs at night.

LESSON #1: Do extra workouts to get better. It’s a simple concept. If working out makes you better then why not do more? I have always done more then one workout in a day and I still do that. Yesterday I did 3 short workouts.

I also played baseball. I did the regular practices and I threw a ball as much as I could when I wasn’t at practice. If I couldn’t find anyone to throw with I would throw a ball into a sheet hanging from a clothesline or against a wall. I also spend a lot of time in the winter swinging a bat in the basement. (Until the one day my little brother, unbeknownst to me, followed me and I cracked him in the head. Sorry, Craig.)

I started running in 1987 and competed as a runner for my high school and college years.

I also rode my bike a lot. I liked bike riding and, while it was a little bit of workout, I never really thought of it as such in those years.

LESSON #2: Do more then one type of workout. Variety is the best thing when working out. I learned this early. All the bike riding that I did as a kid I believe kept me, for the most part, injury feel as a runner.

I moved from being exclusively a competitive runner to racing bikes then back to runing. I added some swimming along the way and started doing triathlons. Doing extra stuff kept me from getting bored and getting injured.

In the late 1990’s I started working in fitness and it was time for me to get serious about how to help others to have the physical success that I was having.

I started as a traditional personal trainer and I really felt out of place. At the time I really didn’t understand why, but I knew that what I was teaching people wasn’t right. It was way to cookie cutter and I wasn’t a cookie cutter guy. As a new trainer it was hard for me to be non-traditional but I did experimented a little. The more variety of stuff that we did the more people enjoyed it and less bored I got as a trainer.

It took some time but eventually I shifted from training people to be body builders (which is what most people do at the gym) to training people in a more functional way. We started incorporating plyometrics and intervals into peoples workouts. I had clients running and jumping and doing circuit training in addition to the weights.

That was a lot of fun for sure. I created scavenger hunts and challenges and actually made fitness FUN.

LESSON #3: Fitness can be fun. When something is fun then you tend to do more of it!

Around 2002 I went to seminar on “functional training”. At the time (This was well before CrossFit) the functional fitness movement was gaining a little popularity in certain circles and I embraced it 100%. I left the machines behind in favor of mostly body weight training, running, core strength, multi-planer movements and plyometrics.

It was actually a lot of fun and we started doing fitness everywhere. At the time I pretty much stopped doing any heavy weights or any traditional “free weight” type of movements.

It was unique and it was challenging. Most everything then was for a certain time. We would hold a plank then run in place then do push-ups then jumping jacks then crunches then side jumps….

It was random but it was rewarding. We never wrote anything down and we never planned anything. I used to go to people homes with some cones, a BOSU ball and a couple of medicine balls. We would get in a pretty good workout!

LESSON #4: The gym isn’t the only place to workout. With some creativity and ambition you could workout virtually anywhere!

In 2005 I got out of fitness when I moved to Florida. Thinking back now I’m not even 100% sure why I did that. Part of me really wanted to focus on my career as a triathlete. After a failed attempt at turning pro as a triathlete and a failed attempt at a different industry I went back into fitness in 2007.

As an employee of the YMCA I transitioned back into a little more traditional “functional” fitness philosophy. I got away from a lot of the balance and core work and started doing more single plane and metabolic type conditioning. I also added weight training back into the mix.

I enjoyed this hybrid style of training. It’s not that I didn’t like doing the balance work and the multi-planer movements I just felt that doing less movements with a higher heart rate with more weight training was a good way to go.

LESSON #5: I learned through the years that there is more then one way to skin a cat, so to speak. Changing the way that I did things was ok.

I would change even more as the years rolled by.

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Due to politics and other stuff I left the YMCA in late 2009 and started a boot camp class at a local church.

I started as a personal trainer in 2000. I did my first conditioning or “boot camp” style class in 2002 and I really fell in love with that type of training. I really enjoyed the group dynamics and the energy. I also, through years or practice, learned to manage the flow of a class very well. While I still do personal training and I enjoy it training a group is my favorite method of training.

In the late 2000’s I heard about CrossFit and experimented with some of their programming. At the time I was very turned off by the weight training aspect of what they were doing. It seemed like to much weight lifting for my taste. At the time I was still doing triathlons and running competitively so it just didn’t seem like it would be a good method of training for me.

I did pick up something from CrossFit back in the early days.

Up until then I had never written anything down. I had always gone with an “off the cuff” philosophy. There is nothing wrong with that but I discovered that most people enjoyed seeing a plan in writing and accomplishing a goal. I started writing some workouts down and giving people the option to complete the work at their own pace.

What I used to do a lot of was, “Push-ups…go!” then a minute latter, “Sit-ups…go!” and so on. This transitioned into a prescribed workout on the board.

We did this at the church for several years and had some great success.

The challenge for me was that I needed to evolve.

LESSON #6: It’s OK to do things that you didn’t want to do before.

That’s an important point. I needed to evolve. I needed to evolve not just for the sake of evolving. I was always looking to change and be better. I have never, and still don’t, thought that there is an answer to what is the BEST way to train. I believe that everyone is different physically and mentally. We all have different mindsets, thought processes and bodies.

My philosophy had always been NOT to find the best way to train people but to find a BETTER way to train people. 

Four years into the boot camp style classes we were ready for a change. We were ready to do it better.

This is when we molded our program into what it is today. This is when we started combining the CrossFit methodology with the functional fitness / boot camp methodology.

I have looked at CrossFit for years as it has become more mainstream. There are aspects that I like and aspects that I don’t. I could never, with a good conscience, switch to a 100% CrossFit routine for myself and my clients. That being said, I have changed my views on a lot over the years and I really do see the value in a lot of what they do. I also have decided to stop competing as an endurance athlete and start competing in CrossFit. Obviously I was going to need to train a lot more CrossFit to do that.

I don’t, however, think that is appropriate for everybody.

At No Limits Fitness we truly believe that people need to focus on one thing and one thing only: getting more fit.

LESSON #7: The goal isn’t to be better at working out or better at bench press or to be a faster runner. The goal is to be more fit.

This is going to mean different things for different people. Some people, like myself, need a more advanced program structure. Some people just simple need to workout everyday. Our philosophy now is really about choice. We want people to have options.

Today at the gym there are 3 workout choices. There a basic functional workout that mostly body weight with some light weight movements worked in. There is also an advanced workout with an olympic lifting movement that is geared towards people that want to learn skills as they get more fit. The third workout is a challenge. This one is for the competitive people to test their fitness against others that want to do the same.

Different workouts for different people. Is this the best way? I don’t know but its better then only one!

My basic philosophy has always been to make fitness interesting and fun. I love variety and I love intensity. This is how you get results. I can’t say that what we will be doing in 2 years will be different or the same as what we are doing today. I just continue to evolve and I just continue to make our program the best that it can be.


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