I’m starting something new with the site.
Every few weeks, I’m gonna post an interview with someone who is doing big things in fitness.
These interviews will range from coaches and fitness writers to athletes and recreational lifters.
We’re gonna kick things off with my good friend and fellow coach, Michael Bailey.
Nick – A lot of my readers already know who you are. But for those who don’t, can you give us a little background on yourself? How did you get started in fitness?
Mike – I got my start in fitness when I was fourteen. At the time I was training to get bigger, stronger, and faster for high school baseball. I quickly fell in love with training. Since then, I have done just about every type of training under the sun. I’ve done bodybuilding, powerlifting, CrossFit, sports specific, bodyweight, yoga, was an endurance athlete at the D1 collegiate level, and more.
Along with my love for fitness, I love helping people. So I always knew fitness and coaching was the path I wanted to go down. I got my official start coaching my junior year of college, although I had been coaching people for free long before that. I’ve coached at a commercial gym, a private training studio, and about a year ago I opened a gym in VA.
Nick – Speaking of your gym in VA (Forward Fitness and Performance), what kind of clients do you train?
Mike – FFP specializes in helping individuals, ages 20 plus, lose body fat, build muscle mass, and get stronger. We are here to change people physically, but also mentally. We want every person who walks out our doors after a workout to feel like they accomplished something, feel empowered, and ready to take on any challenge life throws at them.
Our clients are literally the best in the world, and I love every second I get to spend with them. The results each one of them achieve is due to their hard work, discipline, and dedication to the process.
Nick – By this point, you’ve trained over 100 clients. If you could pick one struggle that almost every client seems to face, what would it be? And how do you help them overcome it?
Mike – Staying motivated. Everyone is motivated at the beginning. But what seems to happen is that after the first few weeks, after the initial excitement wears off, most people struggle to stay motivated. The dullness of the mundane sits in. Consistency is the name of the game in fitness, just like anything in life. And consistency is rarely exciting.
The best way to combat this is to continually set goals. Don’t just set goals at the beginning of your journey, but set monthly, weekly and even daily goals. Doing so keeps you excited. When you are able to realize you are making progress on a weekly basis, it inspires you to keep going.
As an example, instead of just setting one six-month goal of losing 20 pounds, set monthly goals of losing four pounds, weekly goals of losing one pound, and daily goals of eating one less cookie or skipping the unnecessary second helping of ice cream.
Nick – You’ve competed quite successfully in both strength sports and endurance sports (often at the same time). How would you structure a program for someone who wanted to increase both strength and endurance?
Mike – Focus on one quality at a time. It is extremely hard to drastically improve two fitness qualities simultaneously – especially qualities at complete ends of the spectrum like strength and endurance.
From a long-term perspective, you want to set aside blocks of training where you focus on improving either strength or endurance while maintaining the other quality.
From a weekly perspective, you always want to place the majority of your time and energy on the one quality you are trying to improve and program your other quality sparingly. For example, if you are in a strength focused training block, you don’t want to program a tempo run before your main squat session for the week. Be smart about it. Make the priority each week and each month, the priority and don’t deviate.
Nick – You’ve packed on about 40lbs of muscle since leaving high school (125lbs to 165lbs). What has your nutrition looked like over the past few years, and what mistakes do you see people make when they start trying to pack on muscle?
Mike – I follow the seafood diet. I see food and I eat it.
Seriously though, a lot of people that struggle to put on weight simply aren’t eating enough food. I thought for a long time that I was a, “hard gainer,” and I simply wasn’t made to weigh over 140. I trained hard, ate well, but still couldn’t put on weight. Only when I deliberately made myself eat more food did I put on the weight I wanted to.
Going along with that, the other mistake I made was trying to eat too “clean” all the time. When I was trying to put on weight, I was filling myself up with chicken, broccoli and sweet potatoes and never hitting my target calories because I was always too full. When I started adding in (while still eating quality foods) higher-calorie, low-satiating foods – like graham crackers, peanut butter, ice cream, etc. – I really made progress.
Nick – You herniated two discs in your back recently, and you’ve managed to rehab back to the point where you can train at a high level. What changes have you made to your training to work around this injury? And what should people watch out for if they’re also dealing with a lower back injury?
Mike – I become dear friends with just about every single-leg exercise is the book. Variations of lunges, step-ups, and Bulgarian split squats have allowed me to still train my legs hard while not being able to squat or deadlift. While I still despise doing single-leg exercises (because they are extremely hard and make me ), I have been able to come to the conclusion that these exercises do a fantastic job at not only giving you a ridiculous pump, but also do an amazing job at preserving strength.
I have just recently started adding some barbell squatting back in, and after about a year of basically zero squats above the weight of 135, I am already at 90-95% of where I was pre-injury! I didn’t gain any strength over the past year, but I didn’t really lose any either. Which is huge if you know how devastating a back injury is.
Along with single-leg exercises, here are some other things I have done over the past year:
- Avoided anything that really aggravated my back – in my training and in day-to-day life.
- Always paid attention to my posture – I still am very cognizant of it.
- Stood up or laid down as much as possible – when I was at work, I stood as much as possible. When I was at home, I laid down as much as possible.
- Lots of core stability and glute strengthening – deadbugs, hollow body, planks, bird dogs, and glute bridge variations became my friend. Once the pain was at a point where I could actually do these, they were probably the biggest thing that helped my recovery.
- I worked very hard on breathing and bracing during squats – this plays a huge role in keeping my back pain free during squats.
- When I started feeling pain, I backed down – if it hurts, it’s not worth it.
Nick – A lot of people look down on young coaches because they automatically assume if they’re young, they don’t have a lot of experience. Have you ever had to deal with that? And if so, how have you overcome it?
Mike – Definitely. It’s a sad thing, but it’s one of the challenges of being young. There are a few things that I have done to demonstrate my experience. First and foremost, I have helped a lot of people achieve their fitness goals. If you are able to help others succeed at a high rate, that speaks volumes. The other two things that have played a role in demonstrating my expertise is putting out free, quality content, and having success in my own fitness journey.
Nick – If you could choose three attributes that every successful fitness coach must have, what would they be?
- The ability to connect and build a relationship with someone
In that order.
Nick – Do you have any advice for young coaches out there who want to open up their own gyms?
Mike – If you really love coaching and coaching is all you want to do, then don’t open a gym. Owning a gym comes with so many other things that it can take time away from coaching others and investing the proper time needed to become a better coach. Coach if you want to coach. Open a gym if you want to split time between coaching and running a business.
Nick – What’s the most rewarding part of being a coach? What’s the most demanding?
Mike – The most rewarding is definitely seeing people accomplish things they never thought possible. The most demanding would be the hours – we have to work when other people aren’t working. That means early mornings and late nights, which sometimes make it hard to go to family functions and events.
Nick – What are your goals for the future?
Mike – To help as many people as possible realize their potential, set goals, and then crush those goals!
Nick – Where can people follow you if they’d like to get in touch?
Facebook: Michael A Bailey, Forward Fitness & Performance, Way to CRUSH It
Current Training Plan: Full Body DUP (Daily Undulating Periodization) 4 x per week
Current Nutrition Plan: Eat three to five times per day, control my portion sizes, eat protein at every meal, eat until I’m satisfied (not overly full), eat nutrient dense food about eighty percent of the time, and enjoy my favorite foods about twenty percent of the time. Those are the rules that I live by.
Favorite Lift: Squat or Deadlift – I just love the feeling of a heavy barbell
Favorite Workout Song: “I Believe” by KB or ‘Till I Collapse” by Eminem
Favorite Football Team: Dallas Cowboys
Favorite Movie: Anything that makes me laugh
Favorite Super Hero: Batman
Favorite Quote: I have a ton, but here is one: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
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