New Year, New Health Goals

I Started Using a Personal Trainer—Now I’ll Never Train on my Own Again


Hiring a fitness coach is no longer just a luxury item for elite athletes or well-off corporate CEOs—it’s a necessity every man or woman committed to improving their health should invest in.

Still, despite the personal training profession booming into a $12 billion industry (thanks, COVID), it carries the stigma of being “too expensive” for the average joe to purchase on a continuous basis. In reality, however, online coaching has blown up and become a quality, budget-friendly option for the rest of us—if you do research. For the price of one or two nights on the town, you can land a personal trainer who’ll provide up to a 365 days worth of training and wellness programs that can help you achieve any any type of fitness goal—from getting stronger, leaner, better conditioned and physically healthier.

For me, I needed all of the above as I was recently preparing for a jiujitsu tournament. Unfortunately, being in the fit biz for as long as I have, I held on to stubborn mindset that I could still do this on my own—even with two decades worth of uncompleted training templates proving just the opposite.

So this time—as I needed to strengthen a messed-up shoulder, drop 12 pounds, and survive as many adrenaline-draining rounds as necessary, I enlisted the help of Sal Alosi, a former NFL and Pac-12 strength and conditioning coach whose specialty was getting players NFL ready and game ready.

Alosi’s six-day routine was templated around the basics—squats, presses, and deadlifts—with different variations and rep schemes—even some “unconventional conditioning” thrown in every three weeks. Despite his football-intense training background—which I initially feared would comprise of tons of heavy power cleans and other require big lifts—his online program was a system that was not only easy to follow and perform, it turned out to be pretty effective.

Broken down into four 12-week programs each year, Alosi’s programs—starting with a winter program that begins Jan. 2— are built for any type of gymgoer of any level—men, women, elite athletes, weekend warriors, corporate executives, even old fitness writers—sort of the same diverse community that made up the members only Fortitude Training social media training community.

And it worked. Three months later, I was stronger, leaner, and in the best condition than I had felt in decades. Hell, I even looked good in a gi (at least pre-competition).

When the 12-week program I participated in ended, I discovered weeks later, that physically peaking at middle age became perhaps the second most important result having a reliable coach such as Alosi in your corner can offer.

It turned out I didn’t need someone counting reps for me—I needed someone to hold me accountable for the entire 12 weeks. And accountability meant having someone there to save me from my worst enemy: me.

Alosi, as well as the entire community served as that bonus support system you didn’t realize you needed when you first plunked down your deposit, but relied on for accolades and encouragement when things didn’t go quite so smoothly.

And then I stopped.

And as 2023 approaches and every “new year new you” program is being offered—including Alosi’s Program on the Train Heroic app, which begins Jan. 2—here’s how I’ve learned never to make the mistake of doing it alone again.


The Program

If you try The Program’s seven-day free trial, you’ll notice an easy-to-follow training template created for the purpose of gaining muscle and strength as well as increasing mobility. And if done without interruptions, each session should have you out of the gym in less than an hour, a huge benefit for anyone who’s always on the go.

The program I followed was formulated seasonally into four 12-week macrocycles (with usually a week off in between each for members to regroup and reload for the next program). Each of these are broken down into four three-week macrocycles, each one focusing on a different training tenet: hypertrophy, absolute strength, relative strength, then finally power.

The schedule never changed—Days 1 and 4 were always upper-body work, while Days 2 and 5 were committed to lower-body and core work.

One of the first things I noticed was that there weren’t any off-the-wall moves that will generate a million Instagram likes—or land me in the ER. Everything within Alosi’s programs is based on the fundamentals, which means you’ll be performing plenty of standard presses, deadlifts, and squats (even some biceps curls thrown in as well). At the same time, you will be introduced to a multitude of safe and effective variations to these lifts as well—say hello to Poliquin stepups and Z presses. Alosi also mixes up the tempo schemes throughout the program (you’ll grow a love-hate relationship with six-second eccentrics).

That leaves Days 3 and 6, which Alosi refers to as “unconventional conditioning” days, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Each block which usually consists of rotational work (i.e., med ball circles), hinges (kettlebell swings), a carry (kettlebell carries), and concluding with a rapid-fire Assault Bike Tabata (or something similar).

And If you ever do run into the problem of keeping up with an exercise, Alosi created more than 500 easy-to follow instructions that you’ll have access to on the Train Heroic app). Or, if necessary, the program offers you the option of swapping out an exercise for a more suitable exercise.

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The Team Spirit

Alosi credits weight-training icons Charles Poliquin and Westside Barbell’s Louie Simmons for his fitness philosophy, which led to stints in the NFL as strength and conditioning coach with both the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons. From there, Alosi went on to UCLA in the early 2000s, where his training programs helped develop 31 NFL draft picks—including six first-round selections.

Although that résumé created visions of walking through a gauntlet of loud, back-slapping teammates toward a power rack containing a bar loaded with 45s, the training community was anything but intimidating. Instead logging on to the group page, Alosi and his wife Michele, who both participated in the prescribed workouts, would send out the daily workout tips—focus on tempo and depth being a recurring theme throughout the program— was a welcome addition to my morning routine.

From there we were encouraged (but never required) to upload our daily workouts videos to the page, where Alosi would lend his expertise—either applaud (or give solid advice) to our moves. Training wise, not many things equal having a pro coach complimenting your squat for—before telling you to slow the tempo.

The camaraderie was a welcome bonus to my training, however, I wont lie, setting up the tripod each day at the gym and filming each session had a narcissistic feel at times. But when explaining that I was doing it for my coach to see, well, it still felt narcissistic but with a cool vibe to it as well.

So sharing my progress in the group’s room (not included with the 2023 Program) while applauding the rest of the team’s gains (via hitting the “like” button and commenting) were a big part of keeping up with the program. Progress feeds commitment, and this sort of virtual teamwork went a long way to keep moving forward. It also helped you to continue pushing on those days you felt like “recovering.”


Training and Trust

Using a trainer for the first time, another advantage I wasn’t used to was having each workout rolled out for me each morning on the Trainheroic app as well as the group page—that meant less time spent working on useless templates I would never finish. Alosi laid out everything in simple detail—from the 5-minute warmup to the workout, which was broken down from primary moves (squats, presses) to accessory moves, concluding with a five-minute cooldown (full disclosure, I oftentimes skipped out on this part, probably to my detriment).

While the push and pull elements  were like many other workouts, the program utilized some tools I knew of, but normally left out of my routine—the slantboard being one of those. This, along with Poliquin stepups, have continued playing a key role in helping increase my ankle and knee mobility (I believe it’s even helped improve my squat technique). So I’ve now continued incorporating the slantboard into as many parts of my training as possible.

What I failed at incorporating—until now—was adding the advice of experts into my decision making. Since I always chose to go it alone, that oftentimes meant pushing through pain of fatigue when I should back off or shut it down too soon on days I could’ve worked through or scaled back.

The best example of this was toward the end of the program, when the Fortitude training combined with BJJ was wrecking me physically. Although I was becoming more and more drained, I still wanted my training requirements, and like that famous phrase, there were no days off.

This is the point of the program in which having an experienced professional coach who has your best interest is worth every dollar of investment—something I would’ve been better off spending on instead of countless happy hours. Without ever having met me, Alosi knew instantly when and how to shut me down—to an extent. As I was hitting the mats several times a week, Alosi told me to eliminate any further conditioning. He also said scale back on the weights, but focusing on your primary work as you continue your on-mat training.

In a matter of a few days, all was well again. Training was back at 100 percent. Without having someone in your corner looking out for you, this could’ve turned ugly. It sounds like common sense—if you’re tired you rest—but having a coach watch over you is another example of an expert’s role beyond sets and reps.


New Year New Me

I saved the most game-changing advantage of having a trainer till last: accountability.

During the 12-week program, other than the previously mentioned scaling back, there were no missed workouts. Every day, I checked in—the difference here was that with the community setting and well structured workouts, it wasn’t a requirement, but again, I felt an obligation to train and share my progress with the group.

After Week 12, I went into my tournament the lightest I’ve been since high school—a lightweight, to be exact. In just three months I felt, stronger, healthier, more conditioned and athletic since maybe 12 grade (and I wasn’t in great shape even then). Still it didn’t help the final results, as an injury during my tournament kinda ruined 12 weeks of gains.

Not completely letting go of template building, I kept a log of the Program, and used it again while rehabbing. However, what Alosi preached early on proved true. There’s a difference between working out and training. I was back to working out, mixing in some strong days with an equal amount of mailing it in at the gym.

Now comes 2023 comes with a new committed push for being bigger, stronger and faster. I’m hoping I’ve become not only stronger, but finally a bit smarter this year as well. Finally I have physical evidence of doing it on your own as opposed to getting help from a pro—and at the same cost as you’ll spend on New Year’s Eve.

You owe it to yourself to invest in yourself. Hopefully, I’ll be seeing my coach again very soon.

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