In his own words: Dave Schulze on the fitness coaching, finding balance, and asking for help.
I was initially very cynical about the fitness industry. People look at it from the outside and see these gurus doing infomercials, trying to get rich. But I’m not doing it to get rich; I’m doing it to have a better life. I’m doing it because I like it, and also because it’s a very internal thing to me. I enjoy the people part of it, but to me, exercise is a really good way to just check in with yourself – to ask if you have balance in your life. Whatever you’re doing – meditation, yoga, swimming, even going out to eat with friends – is important, because it all needs to fit together. It all creates our well being. We just have to manage it. As with anything, people go too far: you’re isolated in your cube at your desk all day and just crave human interaction. Of course, you can’t wait to go to happy hour. But then you find yourself drinking a lot and eating a lot of crappy food – and that’s OK every now and then, but it can also become escapism.
Working with a coach
I really believe in coaching. One of the things we realize as we age is that we can’t do it all by ourselves. The best coaches have coaches. I think there’s a lot of power in having someone to help you. It gives you accountability and it means there’s someone to guide you. You can get a fitness program out of a magazine, but there’s no one there to tell you if your form is good, or if you’re doing the exercises that are right for you, or to help you figure out how you’re going to stay motivated on your own and when you’re traveling. That’s the biggest part of belonging to a fitness club: life is more and more complicated, and it’s really nice to have a place you can go to that’s easily accessible, and where you know there’s someone there that has your time worked out for you. I’m going to pick the best exercises for you and put them in an order that makes the most sense and that’s proven to help you get the best results.
I’m not the yell-in-your-face trainer at all. I’m going to ask how you’re feeling today. If you need to be pushed, I can push you; if you need not to be pushed then I’m going to hold you back. And maybe sometimes you don’t know which of those you need, so I can help you figure it out. And you get that internal check-in every time we work out together.
Using systems that make sense
I think people don’t succeed in gyms because gyms are traditionally very segmented. They’re good companies, but the trainers all have their own limited niches. If you’re training for a triathlon, you go to this trainer, but if you’re doing corrective work after knee surgery, you go to someone else – and they both have their own systems and they may or may not talk to each other.
With Focus Fitness, I’ve created an environment where everything is integrated: there’s is a methodology, a system, a mindset, a belief, and everybody is on the same page. There’s a reason why we do everything.
From an exercise perspective, I’m trying to create teams and systems because that is efficient. In the athletic world, that’s how it works: there’s a head strength and conditioning coach who designs what you’re going to do, but all the workouts happen with assistant coaches working in a group environment. There are three to four people to a coach and that coach’s job is to work with those people.
Now we’re starting to transfer this to personal fitness because it’s proven to get results.
Building a community
It’s about community. I want everyone there because they all have the same goal. You’re a member of the club and you have a training program, so you don’t have to worry about what to do. You know that everybody there is serious, but you don’t have to be intimidated by anybody because you’re all part of the same team.
I’m trying to create a place where people want to go, because I want to have that social energy there. I want it to have a little bit of a spa feeling it to it and the sense that we’re doing things that are a little untraditional. It doesn’t have to be a social club, but when you walk in and people ask how you’re doing, it’s refreshing.
Getting real results
The motto on our front door is “look better, feel better, move better” – and that’s what happens. You sleep better. You have more energy. And that’s going to improve your life. You’re going to perform better at work. You’re going to be better in relationships. Your stress is going to go down.
If you’re in pain, it’s going to permeate everything you do. I’m not a physical therapist, but I do have a massage background and many of my exercises are corrective. I’ve worked with many therapists and learned from them. Tons of people have low back pain, shoulder pain, lots of hip stuff because people sit a lot more now. Hip and shoulder joints are your most complicated joints. They take a lot of stress. And there are so many muscles and attachments. People just get out of whack. And that’s why I don’t want people just coming in to do bench presses and curls. Guys like to lift heavy stuff because it feels good to lift heavy stuff – and it’s good for you because your bones need it – but I think functional exercises can be just as good because they self-correct. If you help your body move the way it’s intended to move, it will correct itself. I see so many people who sit all day. They’re rounded and they’re hunched. Then they go do bench presses and that just exaggerates it. Then someone tells me his shoulder hurts. I know it’s because that shoulder was already out of alignment because he was sitting all day and he just made it worse. You gotta earn your right to do bench pressing in my place. Show me you can do a solid, clean push-up.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll work with you. If you don’t like plank, I know why I’m giving you plank. It’s not just to check off the “abs” box. There are other exercises that can do the same thing. It’s not about plank – it’s all about intention and having goals. It’s an act of faith. Most people get into a routine and they begin to realize it: that this set of exercises is the right thing for you. That eventually the things you don’t like are going to be the things you like best and the things that end up doing the most for you.
Remembering the big picture
People go to gyms and think “I’m gonna get in shape!” But then something happens and they fall off. Then they have this membership they can’t use. That’s why coaches matter. Statistically, people who engage in classes or use trainers stay members longer. And we know that if people don’t engage in the first 21 days, they aren’t as successful in gyms.
We understand that people’s goals change. But, if you get 90% of the way to your goal and then slack off, we’re going to ask about that. We’re going to have the big picture in mind for you. Life happens. The point is that you keep going and we’re going help you. You can’t be 100% on it all the time. Humans go in spurts, we’re seasonal. At Focus, we keep it real.
So many people skip workouts because they think that’s going to buy them the time to get something done. I’m totally a case in point. But I think that by having the facility, having the program, having the accountability, you’re going just fit it in. Research shows that just three hours per week can do amazing things for people. And that’s not a lot of time, you know?