PTAP: Travis Standiford (BSTS)

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Pokemon Trainers as People is a column in which Chalkey interviews respectable pokemon trainers in the community, but with one rule: they may talk about anything but the Pokemon VGC. Read about your favorite trainers as they talk about other aspects of their lives, and learn something new! 

This week, in light of the Fitocracy trend going around Magma, we sat down with personal trainer Travis Standiford, known as BSTS in the Magma community (and one of the founders thereof!). Travis made his pokemon debut by being in the top 14 out of 36,000 in the Battle in Seattle Nationals in 2005. In more recent years, he got 3rd at the Colorado Springs Regional in 2012, and got 11th at St. Charles Regionals this past winter. Below, he’ll talk about his job as a personal trainer, and even give a few tips on starting your own workout routines! 

Chalkey Horenstein: What made you first want to become a personal trainer?

Travis Standiford: That’s actually a good question to ask, because it really does have an inspirational answer. Surprisingly enough, I was never an extraordinarily active person in high school. Loved sports, but not working out. The big turning point came when someone I was friends with for a little while moved away to Texas. Let’s just say when he left, he was terribly out of shape and was rocking the ol’ “beer gut.” After a little while of him living down there, he showed some pictures of what he had done because he used the move as a way to make a positive change in his life. Getting to the point, he was able to take himself from completely out of shape to what looked like a seasoned athlete. Something hit me when I saw those photos. I thought to myself, “I want to do that to myself.” I went through my own personal transformation, and did things to my body that I could have never thought possible. Throughout this whole span of time, I was making friends at the gym. One of which was the Fitness Manager of the YMCA in Blue Springs, MO. After the “Transformation” was all said and done I showed him what I had accomplished. He then asked if I had ever thought about Personal Training. To him I replied, “Sort of. I just don’t know how to get started.” From there, he pretty much got me on the road to make “helping people” my profession. From that moment, I’ve never really turned back.

CH: What are the steps on this road, exactly?

TS: Well, there are two types of people. People who go to a university for a degree in Exercise Science, Kinesiology, and things like that, and then apply to gyms for a position. Or, alternately, you have to concentrate on packing your background with certifications. There are a lot of accredited organizations that offer certifications: ACE, AFFA, NCSF, NASM, and a bunch more. I received the ACE cert along with a First Aid and CPR/AED cert and was then eligible to actually start training people.

CH: And now that you’ve been doing this a few years, what do you think of it as a career?

TS: Training, just like any other “teaching” type career is one of the most gratifying jobs to have. But just like with any job, it was its pro’s and con’s. And same things are both pro’s and con’s. For instance, schedule flexibility. You technically get to schedule your clients how ever you want, which is great. On the other hand, there isn’t a whole lot of consistency in that schedule. One client may get sick, or suffer an injury. It’s hard to plan, from a financial standpoint, when your not entirely sure what’s coming in that week. But all in all, if you have a true passion for exercise, love talking with people, enjoy the challenge of “selling yourself,” and have a real passion for saving lives, then there really isn’t anything better.

CH: Now, onto the fun stuff: let’s talk workouts. What would you say are the most common mistakes or misconceptions people make when trying to bodybuild?

TS: I’d say the biggest thing is one shoe does not fit all. There IS a such thing as a “beginner” workout, but what a person needs to understand is each exercise is working an intended muscle at an intended angle. That’s what has always made my job difficult. Just because you’ve heard all the ladies love the bench press, doesn’t mean you should go “balls to the wall” with it 4x a week. You have to think of muscles as opposites. If you keep contracting one specific muscle in one specific way, you will create a muscular imbalance. To put it into perspective, have you ever seen those huge guys at the gym that have there back rounded and shoulders rotated in towards their chest when standing straight? Of course you have. Those are people that pound the chest and front deltoids (front head of the shoulders) over and over. In other words, you have to actually do a little research not only with the workouts you do, but with your body as well. You have to point out your own weaknesses and build a plan based on those and your current goals.

Another thing that definitely needs to be addressed, is the starting point. There’s a reason people give up on fitness when making a New Year’s Resolution. We all tend to start waayy to fast. I’ve heard it all before: “I used to be a runner in high school so I figured I’d just get on the treadmill, crank it up, and pick up where I left off” The next day the guy can’t move he’s burning so much. He starts thinking about how hard this will all be because he thinks this is what it feels like every time and gives up. I completely understand this feeling though. It’s hard to not want to lift heavy when you walk into a gym and see someone put up over 450 lbs. That’s a good thing that it’s affecting you in that way, but you have to realize that he didn’t come out of the womb and start squatting 400+. He started exactly where everyone starts. There is a such thing as a recommended repetition range, at least when starting out. And of course this ties into your goals, but when starting out, it’s best to focus on higher repetitions in a slowed controlled tempo. So, when coming up with a workout for someone new, it’s typically standard to start with a move for 12-15 reps using something like a 4-2-1 tempo. In other words, 4 counts down, 2 count hold, 1 count return. This helps to focus on how the muscle is actually working. And stresses it out without the use of very heavy weights. You should try it sometime. Try slowing down that push-up. Four counts down, hold at the bottom, and drive up for one. Then come back and tell me that the 45 you usually do was cut down to 12 good ones. Like I said, it just helps to put the focus on form, which is something that people don’t give enough credit. I’d say those misconception ideas tie into themselves pretty well.

CH: Could you give an example of a workout routine that would give a well sculpted but still balanced body, assuming proportional weight and reps for the individual?

TS: Wow, where to start. Of course we want to start off with a nice warmup. I usually always got my clients started off on some cardio device for about five minutes to slowly lift the heart rate. Then, on to a basic move like a body weight lunge to dynamically stretch and warm up the lower body. Then, it’s best to start with your compound lifts earlier in the workout. In laymen’s terms, start with the harder exercises. Most of your lower body moves will come first here seeing as how you have the most energy for them. This is of course all dependent on your goals as well. If your goal was to do pull-ups, then you should focus on that earlier in your workout. Either way, moves like squats and deadlifts will typically come first. Then you start to work towards the smaller muscles as you go through the workout, usually finishing with your core, like abs, obliques, and lower back. So it might be that we start with a squat. The type of squat, yet again, will be dependent on your goal but I’m just going to go ahead and start assuming that we know that by now, so I won’t bring it up again.

A good start would be to do a set of Squats in the 12-15 rep range. Ask yourself how many more you could do. If the answer is anything over 2-3, then we need to up the weight or progression, given that we have good form of course. Never sacrifice form for progression. Okay, so then we can either choose to take a rest period and hit the squat again, or limit your rest as much as possible and move onto the next exercise, taking a rest after all exercises have been completed once. It just depends.

From there I typically have someone finish their workout with this type of muscle progression. legs, back, chest, legs, shoulders, tricep, bicep, core. Why do we hit the legs again, you might ask. Well, like I said before, we have to think of the muscles as opposites. Just because we did Squats doesn’t mean the legs are all taken care of. The muscles in are lower body are some of the biggest we have. Plus, we are on them all day. They can use a little extra work. I also like to use that second “Leg” slot as a way to put in a move for the Hamstrings, which although is a “leg” move and should be earlier in the workout, we don’t usually go as heavy as we would like Squats. At the end I just put “core,” but it’s best to have a few exercises that we “Super Set” (or move between without rest) to help target all the different muscles in the Core. I’d say, maybe a “bending” type move like a crunch or reverse crunch. A “rotating” type move like a woodchopper or a russian twist. And some sort of intramuscular stabilization move, which this would typically be a plank or side plank of some sort.

Then, after it’s all said and done, it’s very important to let the body cooldown to it’s normal heart rate. You can use this time to do all your stretching which will help lengthen your muscles, increase blood flow to the muscles, and help you to increase your range of motion when exercising, which will ultimately help to get you even stronger. I know that’s a lot to take in, but like I said, it’s no easy job to put a well-designed workout together. That’s why there is a such thing as Personal Trainers.

CH: Could you talk a little more about warmups and cooldowns? I notice a lot of weight lifters skip those.

TS: Yes, they do. The best way I can visually describe the warmup is like this. Think of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments as a dry rubber band. What happens when we just start yanking on that rubber band? It breaks. But if we can take that rubber band and do some small pulls here and there, eventually we can make those same big pulls without it breaking. The muscles are very similar. We have a higher chance of hurting ourselves when we don’t warmup. The cooldown, on the other hand, is equally important. Like I said earlier, we have to get the body back to its normal heart rate. The reason it is beating so hard after a workout, is because it’s trying to get all this blood in your body to travel throughout the whole body feeding the tissue. Let’s say we do a heavy workout, then just jump in the car and drive home. All that blood that’s trying to pump throughout your body is having an even more difficult time making it’s journey. This is where you hear the term “blood pooling” and this can really damage the muscles and their ability to recover. So that’s why we want to finish our workout with a few minutes of very light cardio activity, or like I said earlier, with stretching.

CH: Suppose someone found this article too late, and either didn’t stretch properly or pushed too hard, and now they’re sore or strained. What do you recommend?

TS: First of all, there is a difference between sore and strained. Sore is just going to be that usual burn we feel the next day after a workout. A strain is something we’ll usually experience during the workout. Both instances have the same answer. Rest and recovery. With sore muscles, this is a normal feeling. And actually, a little light activity with those muscles will help get some blood flowing back into them and may expedite the recovery process. With a strain, you just want to make sure it’s 100% before putting it back under stress. Use this time to think about what hurt it, and what you can do differently next time to prevent it. Nothing is worse then continuously re injuring a muscle.

CH: How will a novice know whether a pain is just soreness or a strain?

TS: The soreness is usually accompanied with a burning sensation. And like I said, it’s usually the day after that you’ll feel this. If there’s a pain your feeling during your workout, usually in the middle of a repetition, than that’s most likely a strain.

CH: Let’s talk nutrition. What kinds of foods will facilitate a workout, and which will be counterproductive?

TS: As a Personal Trainer, we have to be very careful with what we recommend nutritionally speaking. This is better answered by a Dietitian or Nutritionist. Let’s just say, it’s all about calories. If you want to lose weight, you need your calorie outtake to be higher than your calorie intake. And vice versa when wanting to add weight. At this point, you just have to really keep track of your calories as best you can. There are alot of really good apps out there that help with this though. As far as helping a workout goes, making sure you get a good carb like a fruit before a workout can help give a little energy boost during the workout. Afterwards, you have a 30-45 minute window where you body is really craving for nutrients and amino acids to help rebuild the damage done to the muscle. It’s good to get a 2:1 carb to protein ratio after a workout. Honestly, a little chocolate milk has been shown to work perfectly for this. It’s called the “poor man’s protein shake”, and gives just what you would need to help replenish the muscles.

I don’t think I need to discuss the things that are counterproductive. I know people are waiting to hear that the 12 pops they have in a day isn’t that bad, but it’s really quite obvious when it comes to what isn’t going to help with your fitness goals. Moderation is the key there. What I can say though, is make a transition to whole wheat foods. Also, get very friendly with all those veggies you use to hate as a child. They help keep calories low, give you very important vitamins for basic body function and recovery, and keep you more satiated than the “Big Texas” Cinnamon Roll you saw at the store.

CH: For best effect, how much time should we give between a meal and the relevant workout?

muscles 2

TS: A very small meal, usually consisting of a carb and protein, should be consumed about an hour before exercise. The amount of time is kind of dependent on the size of the meal. We just want to make sure there has been enough time for it to digest. An upset stomach at the gym is not fun.

CH: We’re almost out of time. Are there any final tips you have for the people just starting their fitness routines?

TS: Yeah, I do. Fitness is not a 100 meter sprint but a long-distance race. This is a lifestyle you are trying to change to. It’s not a fad with an expiration date.You have to realize that you’re going to hit a lot of speed bumps along the way. There will be times where you just don’t see the progress, but this is the test that is living fit. You have to see the goal that you set forth and keep pushing towards it. If it was easy, everyone would be healthy and fit. Know that what you are doing is going to be a benefit from the moment you start, to the day you die. But most importantly, have fun with it. It shouldn’t be something you dread to do. Find a friend to exercise with. Start slow and figure out what it is that you enjoy doing. If anyone has any questions, I’m only a facebook message away. Don’t hesitate.

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About Author

Chalkey Horenstein is the Editor of Team Magma. In his spare time, he also writes for Retroware TV. When not playing pokemon, he works for a homeless shelter in Boston, and enjoys traveling, running, and eating as much food as possible.