The Art of Coaching with James Fitzgerald

James Fitzgerald, founder/director of OPEX Fitness, has over 20+ years of experience when it comes to coaching. This episode is special to me because we talk about the craft itself with a lens that really illuminates what it means to be a coach. I wanted to understand how he organizes his thoughts, views the integration of systems, and structures high-level thinking. If you’re a coach, you do not want to miss this episode. If you’re an athlete, you’ll walk away with a whole new appreciation for the level of depth that goes into coaching.

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Show Notes:

  • (6:00) – Before Opex was founded in 1999
  • (9:12) – Making an impact on fitness
  • (10:31) – Becoming an original artist
  • (13:45) – Drive, patience, introversion, execution at the right time
  • (15:06) – Technician to Craftsman to Master
  • (18:02) – Becoming knowledgeable about the integration of everything
  • (21:08) – True depth & influence of coaches
  • (24:09) – Why do individuals need fitness coaching
  • (33:07) – How James organizes his mind and views systems
  • (36:30) – Using writing to organize your thoughts
  • (37:15) – Thoughts
  • (42:06) – Note-taking on your phone
  • (46:35) – Awareness
  • (48:33) – Relationship between a coach and client
  • (53:50) – Fitness delivery vs science education
  • (56:03) – Plus, minus, equal learning theory
  • (1:00:08) – How does the OPEX model work
  • (1:02:16) – Business systems
  • (1:07:26) – Start with why
  • (1:15:30) – Providing value — what does it mean?
  • (1:17:20) – Defining your priorities
  • (1:21:18)  – Inner narrator
  • (1:23:18) – Intuition
  • (1:24:18) – Functional bodybuilding

Podcast Transcript:

James  00:00

Hey everyone, this is James Fistral you’re listening to the Airborne Mind Show

Misbah Haque  00:35

Hey guys, Misbah Haque here. Thank you so much for joining me today. And welcome back to another episode of The airborne mind Show. Before we get started, there are two places that I would love to point you to. 

Number one is the home base, the check out some of the free tools and free sample programs, training videos, and things like that. If you’re somebody who is struggling with strict pull-ups, strict handstand push-ups, pistol squats, and things of that nature, check out some of the free resources. And if it’s relevant to you, give it a shot, and let me know what you think I would love to hear from you. 


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Now, today’s podcast episode is brought to you by I’m a huge fan of audiobooks because just like podcast episodes, you can listen to them while you are doing something else, cooking, driving, working out whatever it might be, even when you think that you’re zoned out, and it’s not working. It actually is because the second that you hear something that triggers a problem that is relevant to you and what you’re trying to solve right now, man, it just provokes thought it can provoke action, you never know what will come of that. And so audiobooks are huge. For me, a trick that I recommend, if you’re considering any book at all, is to look in the podcast app for the author’s name or the title of the book. 

And this is not going to be applicable to every book out there. But if you find interviews, especially specifically relevant to that book that you’re looking into, listen to the interviews and just keep an eye out for the thought process, the psychological framework, and the insights that the author has on what they’ve gotten out of the book. Because it’s so much more laid back. It’s a conversational style. And you take that and if you end up deciding to listen to the actual audiobook, in combination with your insights is just a recipe for the good stuff. So if you want a free audiobook and a 30-day free trial, you can head over to the list. And you can get that there along with a list of all the previous books that guests have recommended on the show. So once again, that is an list. 

So today, my guest is James Fitzgerald, who is the founder of OpEx. And James, I don’t even know where to begin with this conversation because I was so ecstatic about it. Because when you look back at the top coaches that you admire, like people who have been on the show like CJ Martin, Marcus Filly, Jared moon, a lot of who they point to, and who their influences were linked back to James or an OPEX in some way. So when I’m choosing who to learn from next, I’m somebody who likes to follow the links. And that led me to discover the OPEC CCP level one, which I’m currently a part of and having a great time with. I really resonate with the training philosophy of OPEX and the education that they’re putting out, it’s phenomenal. And so, in this episode, we talk about mastery and the art and the craft of coaching. We talk about providing value, what that means and how to communicate your message. And something interesting to note is that James gets into how he organizes his thoughts and processes information. 

We talk about providing value, we talk about setting your priorities and touch on such a variety of subjects. I think that if you are a coach, you are absolutely in for a treat. And if you are an athlete, I believe that you’re going to walk away with a new level of appreciation for your coach and the level of depth that goes into the craft of coaching. I mean, so I want to read his bio Austudy OPEX site because I think it sums it up really well but again to the guy that paints the picture, James is the founder of OPEX, formerly opT and the International Center for fitness When not coaching, he’s a full-time husband, father, and fitness athlete. His 20 plus years of experience and service as a strength coach and technician, tireless practice on refining energy system work, nutritional and lifestyle balancing techniques, and training of other coaches has made OPEX a sought-after method of bringing fitness to a higher order. James has found a desire and passion to understand fitness through assessment, testing, research, programming, and more. 

He has had many years of experience as an athlete from early childhood into adulthood from playing top-level soccer, short and long-distance running to CrossFit where he was crowned the fittest on Earth winner of the 2007 CrossFit Games. This episode and this conversation were such an honor and such a pleasure, I had so much fun with it. And so I hope you enjoy this episode. And more importantly, I hope you take something away from it.

James, welcome to the show.

James  05:55

 Hey, it’s good to be here.

Misbah Haque  05:57

I want to start by kind of rewinding a little bit, OPEX formerly known as op te was founded in 1999. Could you tell me what you are up to before then? And what kind of led you up to starting OpEx?

James  06:11

I was a young kid, who was an athlete who would look out the window every day. The teacher was talking about some crap on Canadian geography or social studies, and just flying by my head and not catching any fit. And just thinking about playing street hockey, or  can’t wait till badminton practice, or to go for a run in cross country. So my mind was deeply steeped in athleticism and just physical literacy really, for my whole life. And then as a young adult, I had to figure out what I really wanted to specialize in that area. So I got deeply into soccer and hockey on a deeper level. 

And I had an injury from soccer, which led me into saying, what am I going to do with my life? And how am I going to really figure out what I just fell in love with, which was training and conditioning? And so then I just got into university education to study physical literacy and the science behind it, and everything about physical education. And right after that, it led me to the 1999 date, as a business we started, which was just me. Before that period of time, just before it, I was still coaching, and at the university level.

Misbah Haque  07:38

So back then, did you have a vision that what you have accomplished today would kind of come about? Or were you just kind of operating at the level of we’re a gym, we’re just doing our thing? And then over time, this all kind of came about?

James  07:54

At the time, I had started my journey on fitness, or in the education of that, which was in 92, in late 92,  when I started doing some resistance, and like really figuring out what the heck is going on here? I was just completely unconscious. It was like I just knew right now, at this period of time, I loved fitness, I loved exercising, I loved something about the sporting involvement and the connection of those things. And I didn’t see, just based upon biology, and where someone is, at that point in their life, I think to look too far ahead, we really just don’t have all the capabilities to look that far ahead at that time. 

So you really are just trying to refine what you’re currently doing at the time which is a pecking order, like, how, what, what are what am I doing this entire thing? And what are the filters around me that are dictating what I think I’m supposed to do? I’m surrounded by people that are like you got to finish school, you got to go on to higher education, you got to make something of yourself,  you’re gonna develop a family, are you gonna have a future? So that’s the only thing that I really had in the back of my head at that time.

Misbah Haque  09:12

Now fast-forwarding to today, when we take a look at everything you guys are up to now and what you’ve built, what would you say is kind of the mission right now for OpEx?

James  09:23

To make an impact on fitness to really be because of the sign of the times, I guess you could say if this was 1985, we probably have a different mission but because of 2017, the advent of technology, the investigation into stress response for humans, the massive shift in political, social, situations, the overpopulation, the decreased soils, yadda…We really want to make a massive impact. on fitness. And my mission is to leave that legacy. So that people recognize a shift in the pendulum of what fitness really means. And the true definition of it, whether sporting or whatever your perspective is on that. And the way that I plan to do it is to educate consumers through education, but through coaches, so that I can spread the news around that idea from coaches into people. So that’s our, that’s our big-ticket.

Misbah Haque  10:31

So I came across you from simply kind of following the links. And I mentioned this before we started, CJ Martin was on the show. And I had heard that he spent $30,000 on coaching education when he was transitioning from being a lawyer to a coach or gym owner. And so part of that I was like, how did you spend that? He definitely mentioned that you were a mentor, he went through the OPEX coaching education. Then Marcus came on the show, and I really resonated with a lot of what Marcus had to talk about. And so I was like who did Marcus kind of learn from and he pointed to you as well, he pointed to Mike Lee, then it’s like who is Mike Lee learning from? And then it points back to you. So I’m curious, did you have certain influences and people that you learn from? Or from day one? Do you consider yourself kind of like an original artist that was shaped through purely experiences?

James  11:25

I think probably the latter, that as I experienced things in my own world, with regards to my own physical performance, as to what I wanted to do as an athlete, or as a human, and just as a human in general. But also, as a coach, I think just over time, it was just a natural evolution that I wanted to be really good at my trade. And so the competitive aspect of that was a carryover to fitness. So I’ll go back, but it’ll kind of make sense as an athlete and everyone’s different as to why they do that. But as an athlete, I hated losing, I was the worst loser. I had the worst attitude around that even as a young kid, and I have no regrets about that. And I have no judgment on it. That’s just what that’s just in my bones. I love being right. I love being ahead of things. And I love winning. And so that just transitioned into my job. So in my trade-in fitness as a coach, I wanted to know all the answers. 

I wanted to know before other people knew the answers, I wanted to do the research and do the time and spend the money to be ahead of everyone who was in my trade. And so that’s just my own thing. It wasn’t a narcissistic, or self, indulging prophecy that I had in my head, it was just like, that’s a competitive instinct for me, that I just get really fired upon. And so it led into, I think, back to your question. Over time, people started asking questions like, Well, how did you do that? And I was like let me tell you about that. So CCP and educating other coaches and having great people, like the three you had mentioned, and CJ, Mike and, and Marcus around me. We were just all attracted because we all wanted that same thing, which was gaining knowledge, our own, up-leveling in education. And just then, at that point in time, I was an early adopter to the method of intense fitness. When I look at it, I think deeply that a lot more than a lot of other people may have. And so I asked some really uncomfortable but powerful questions that attracted these great people to me. So I think it was the latter in your question that it was just an evolutionary aspect of me just filling the gaps in the continuum for everyone. Because I had just wanted to be competitive.  

Misbah Haque  13:54

That’s really funny that you say that because Steve Martin has mentioned something before where he’s talking about following a certain blueprint. Everybody thinks that they’re following a blueprint, but along the way, you’re going to have little strays here and there. And over time, those little strays are what kind of adds up and makes you that unique, original, or makes you appear unique and original when in reality, it was just your kind of questioning things along the way, like how can I do this better, for example?

James  14:27

That’s a whole other show, really on the philosophical aspect of how all those things fall into place, but my personal essence, which sits well with me is his words like Dr. And words like patient introversion, execution at the right time. Those things really are words that sit powerfully with me, and everyone has, like you just said, their own unique way. going about doing stuff.  I think what you just said kind of sits well with me.

Misbah Haque  15:07

And usually I ask this in the later part of the show, but I mean, you have a big bookshelf sitting behind you and a bunch of books, you must be a voracious reader. I’m curious, has that been kind of the method of learning that’s resonated with you the most? Or have there been seminars? Having conversations with people? What seems to be the way that you learn?

James  15:29

You only have time to read when you have time. So based upon points in my career, that was always a staple. So this is just a collection for a long period of time that some of my mentors, both in fitness and life, in general, were well studied. And it was just a way for me to unload my brain to relax, but also to take in some information to see systems, how all things work together. And so that was I wouldn’t say voracious, kind of like a three a month, three books a month kind of person. And that could change based on intensity. But I’ll be honest with you, there are times in my career where,  I remember training on 70 80 hour, personal training bookings, and schedules for years, where I only picked up a couple of books, but I, at the same time, would leave on a Saturday night and fly somewhere to listen to this genius on a Sunday to come back Sunday night to start again at 5 am. Monday morning. So I think it was a combination really, of just seeing what was out there at the time. 

Because of the mastery of coaching really, you move from this level of a technician, into a craftsman into a master. And people have a connotation that master means expert, and it’s the complete opposite of an expert. So the master still knows, they don’t know a whole lot of things, but they really have created this idea on how all those systems work together. So they’re an integrated individual, right, and as a coach, but at the time, back in the day, I was truly a technician, I was just taking things in and practicing with these new tools, right? But then as I became a craftsman, I did less actual reading and courses, because I was working,  I was in the trenches, trying to figure out how all this shit works together? Like, why did that work for them and not for them? And why is this system effective for these people? And what? And so and then you come spitting out that end? And it’s like I have some time now to do some more reading, some more research, and stay on top, but the long answer is I think it was an ebb and flow based upon my journey as a coach. 

Misbah Haque  17:50

So there’s like periods of thinking and being and there are periods of you like, just doing? Something that I feel like mastery to a lot of people the way that we view it is like, it’s an end goal, right? It’s like something when you reach its result. And in reality, mastery is almost a bit of a mindset, because if it wasn’t a goal, then the curiosity aspect wouldn’t be there. You’d be at this level where you’re like, I’ve mastered this. And I feel like as soon as curiosity dies, there’s no room for growth at that point. So it’s more of a mindset, could you dig a little bit more into what mastery means to you?

James  18:39

For me, I’ll say it eloquently, maybe in a different way. But you really start becoming knowledgeable of the integration of everything. So when you get to that level of mastery in whichever you wish to do a master of the Rings, a master of vaulting, a master of weightlifting, a master of personality, disorder research, a Master of Science, like you’ve at either those people through what I consider to be mastery in all those areas. There’s a similarity and a parallel amongst all those individuals, for seeing how all things are integrated to that one area that they’re a master of. So that really, that really just then allows you to see that they may not be a master as being a father or they may not be a master, they have mastery of like human experience, but within that area of mastery. That’s what to me is the definition of that and I find it very threatening, actually to try to become a master coach, because there’s but it’s a great challenge. As you said, you’re only going to grow on the balance of support and challenge. 

There’s a massive challenge to be a master coach because people don’t If people really until you get in the trenches for a long period of time, you understand just how much we need to have in our toolbox for human behavior for a prescription for, for connecting all things together for long term planning for seeing a decade away for day to day implementation, how to commute, it’s in-depth. Sort of taking you down a road on the coach’s perspective, but mastery and coaching unbiased to it. But I think it’s one of the most admirable things that a human could do and I really do believe that I’m biased in it. But coaching mastery is a very admirable, highly challenging thing for people to do. So for me, it’s a challenge, I don’t even think I can possibly capture it in time in my life. That’s where I believe coaching mastery sits. So that will give you some kind of ideas for what I’m doing for the next 40 years or 30 or whatever.

Misbah Haque  21:06

And let’s peel back the layers on that a little bit. Because it’s true, you are around, like, if you’re an athlete, you’re around your coach more than you are your doctor may be certain practitioners and other people. So coaches have a huge influence on your life in a variety of ways. And we’ve seen many times, especially if you’re maybe CrossFit coach, you have people who come in, who are maybe couch potatoes, and because they’ve started implementing some of your programming some of your coaching some of your classes, it leads them down other rabbit holes, like all of a sudden, now they start to care about their nutrition, all of a sudden, they start to care about getting to sleep on time. And this puts you in maybe a happier mood, and it trickles outwards into all other aspects of life. So you’re right, it is very powerful.

James  21:56

A simple example that you just touched on that can give people insight into the case there, I just feel like I need to explain it some more. So people can see the depth of it. But someone comes in and says they just want to be more fit. And you have to have the tools in place to ask the right kind of questions. So you don’t take nine months to peel the onion layers away, to make them recognize that they actually don’t want to be fit, that they want to be loved and accepted, or they want to have some kind of experience in life that they haven’t had, or they want to truly have some mentorship and guidance, or maybe they’ve never been accepted within a tribe, like these kinds of things, a coach needs to have the smell of the ability to smell that out. 

And now you need to be able to communicate in a language that allows that person to recognize an open space. So it’s no judgment, a possibility for a nudge, a possibility for this opening an aha moment. And that’s just, that’s just in behavior. There are 25 other things. So being a coach is just a wonderful job. That’s very admirable in fitness coaching for all the things that we want to help people with.

Misbah Haque  23:15

I think the way to look at it is when you’re thinking about nutrition, the right nutrition is, I feel like a beast of a topic. And anybody can give out a macro prescription or certain numbers to follow just like a coach could write up a program and give it to you. But there are so many other layers that are involved. Like you said, the behavior aspect, like okay, if you have your meal plans, and you have your numbers, why aren’t you executing on it? Why aren’t you doing it? How do you stick with it? What is it that you really want? Is it the 10 pounds that you want to shave off? Or is it the love of the process and the feeling that you’re actually doing something to get to a goal? And I feel like you got to be kind of artful with the way that you’re able to get people to realize that.

James  24:00

The prescription is science, but the way you communicate and do it is art for sure. 

Misbah Haque  24:08

My first experience. Being truly coached, I think I’d wrestled for quite a few years when I was younger, but I wasn’t very good. Didn’t really have any awareness of my body. No mental toughness,  I wasn’t really developed as an athlete when I was wrestling, but my first experience being truly coached was probably when I was like 16 or 17. I started working with a trainer who wasn’t an amateur boxer, he had gone like 49 An hour or something like that. And I was just fascinated by the way that he moved. And so he kind of took me under his wing. And for six months, I kind of immersed myself into the process of just showing up, doing the shadow boxing, doing the jump roping, and just hitting the bag hitting the mitts. And that was the first moment where I saw the adaptation and the athletic development kind of unraveled…

One, I was awkward, I couldn’t get all the combos, right? I thought I was hitting hard, but it really wasn’t hitting hard. But then six to seven weeks later, all of a sudden, I’m making noise every time I’m hitting the Met. And there’s just this flow state that’s there, like, my whole body is kind of working as one. So this was the first time I saw how things kind of really pieced together. And I definitely absorbed some of that, as I went on to become a personal trainer and tried to take some of those concepts, and eventually got started into group fitness classes. So I was teaching spinning, I was teaching boot camps and you name it. And this is me, reflecting back, I had no idea probably about the difference between being a fitness instructor versus being a coach until I had stepped into the CrossFit gym that I’m at right now for the first time. 

And I went through that experience. And day one, as soon as I went through that experience of, like, a coach walking around, and not just being like your workout buddy, and essentially screaming at you, which is kind of like what I was doing. I was working out with these people, not necessarily going around and coaching them. I knew from day one, that that’s kind of what I wanted to do. And then over time, then you realize,  there’s a difference between being a fitness instructor and being a coach. And I know, that’s something that you have a pretty strong stance on as well. Could you dig into that a little bit?

James  26:22

On a quick aspect of it, I think that we got to go back to the history of fitness coaching, and then it lays the groundwork for an understanding of it. So because if people it’s complicated, but you want to say you really want to ask the question, Why the hell do individuals need guidance on fitness so if you sit with that, if you sit with that for a couple of seconds, you could really see that fitness coaching is actually a reactive mechanism to human fault. So think about that for a second. Why do we need to have people prescribing how to reproduce and survive and live long and prosper? What are we, why are we doing that? So if you really sit with it, you can see that it’s largely manufacturing of the fitness movement, as a reactive situation, to a stressed situation of humans So in a large perspective, it came about because people saw especially within the 60s and 70s, the advent of the body beautiful fitness before that period of time was like, are you going to war? You’re probably gonna have to do these physical pieces in order to fight, you’re a boxer? 

You may have to like jump rope and run around and actually practice getting in shape. Are you a sporting athlete? Well, after your smoke and, and Coke, you may need to do some bench press or something. And so that was the aspect of fitness is to, and I don’t mean to like, layer it low. But that’s the complete honesty in terms of what fitness is, and then the body beautiful comes out. And then people start recognizing this idea around the body, beautiful. Gyms start being promoted to where you go to make your body beautiful. And at the same time, of course, there’s this interesting intersection of the computer, and fast track,  things in technology, humans are doing less work, yadda…So you can see how this all gets to this point in time, where people are now in droves, going up escalators and going into a fitness facility to be more fit, but it actually is to prevent all the shit they’re doing to themselves on a day to day basis, which is yada yada, yada poor foods, the and I don’t mean to paint a shitty picture. But let’s be honest as to how we get to this point of fitness instruction.

So along that period of time people are well, we should probably investigate this shit, like what happens when you do a bicep curl or you get tired on a treadmill or you’re doing all this fitness. So science is back to all of it. There’s lots of information, certainly to share on resistance and aerobic work. We’ve connected all of it to medicine, really, because that’s the only way information like that’s going to make money in the fitness world. And we really don’t have any idea outside of that what the heck is going on. When people do 10 minutes of kettlebell swings, rowing and burpee, we’re just frickin guessing on it. So that this idea came to be that okay, if this is going to be popular, and people are going to do it, let’s get a whole situation behind it. 

Let’s create a system where people can pay to like, quote, unquote, do fitness. And then, of course, you can see then it’s like there should be experts in this. And if the experts in this, who are we going to choose from? Well, the initial experts came from people who just look good naked. Those were personal trainers. Those were people that would give fitness advice. Why? Because that’s what I was doing. Overtime. The pendulum has swung towards an educational aspect, that education though the education based upon it, to be honest, is about 50 years old relative to what it needs to be to give people adequate fitness, quote, unquote, fitness for today, because it’s still based upon the scientific method of resistance and aerobic training, which is to promote benefits within the medical system, not for fitness and longevity.

So anyone that gets spit out on the back end, in May, most times today in most schools is going to have an adequate scientific background as the investigation of those things. But they’re gonna fall flat on their face, in most cases when they get in front of you and me, and we want them to be our coach, right? Because as I told you about what coaching is, relative to what fitness is, we have to know that story. So you understand my biases as to where it sits. And understanding those stories, you can see how it all propagated today. In the early 2000s, this massive movement started to happen, people like that’s not fitness, this is what fitness is, which was a great revolution in terms of what fitness is right? And me specifically, and maybe we all benefit from that, let’s just call it a movement, because it was a deeper investigation. The problem with it is that at the current time today, anyone is allowed to prescribe it, and anyone is allowed to do it. 

So it’s not right or wrong, but there’s no governance on what fitness is the definition, the true definition, how it applies to people day to day, how to instruct it, for long term progression for individuals, how to provide professional instruction as to where it fits in everyone’s lifestyle. It’s well researched as to how it applies to sport, because sporting involvement is a very deep process that people have captured and been experts in a period of time, and it’s a specialty. But when it comes to overall fitness, that’s why I’m so adamant on pushing towards the governance of knowing why you’re prescribing what you are prescribing, because honestly, it’s just rape and pillage. 

We’re currently within the fitness coaching market. So I make statements like that, which is what is a coach versus what a fitness instructor is simply because of what you just mentioned, a fitness coach has massive depth and breadth, and care and competency and consistency inside of them. And a fitness instructor is someone who’s just instructing fitness. And you have to understand the massive differences between the two and why I clearly delineate them.

Misbah Haque  32:35

Were you ever a fitness instructor? Or would you consider yourself to have been a coach the entire time,

James  32:41

A fitness instructor at an unconscious level just learning as a technician, because I have no concept or ideas to how it’s going to apply to the fitness market for the people that were in front of me with said knowledge and education and pieces that were that I would be participating in at the time, which is the early 20s, or late teens.

Misbah Haque  33:06

When I logged in to the OPEC, CCP level one system, or I was getting my walkthrough for the whole curriculum. I was blown away because I’m looking at this and I’m like, How in the world? Does James like to organize this information? How did all of this kind of come about, I imagine you getting out of bed in the morning, putting on a robe sitting in front of a big whiteboard that is the size of a wall, and just writing with a marker until the ink dries? But clearly, there’s something behind that. It’s probably not exactly what I just said, but how do you look at all of these systems and view this information and then give it in a very, or deliver it in a very digestible way?

James  33:55

You’re correct. All the story is correct, except the robe. I have a cab I had a cabin, I still have a cabin in northern Alberta, that I went to and for a week, I basically just laid my heart out on paper to I just remember back to those times I kind of just get taken back by remembering how in-depth it was, it was kind of a John Nash moment of just putting shit together of all my teachings and alignment of it. But as far as systems, I have to really thank Bernie Nova Koski. He was a mentor of mine, he passed away years ago, but he had a Ph.D. in organizational strategies. And he was a master of teaching others about fundamental systematics and he taught me from 2001 to 2011 after his passing about systems so and that’s just that’ll just give you like base support as to like why I think about the things I do or how I organize my thoughts and how I orchestrate it and order things is because of understanding. If you don’t understand what systems are, you can’t create systems. 

So if you don’t understand how pieces in systems work together in a universal concept, you will never be able to piece things together. So the biggest challenge that he worked with me on was the organization of my thoughts because it took me years to even practice what he called higher-order thinking. But the whole time, while I was learning that, I could pick up a book on frickin plumbing and see mastery as to how that applies to specific principles of what I was giving in fitness. So you can imagine then, everywhere, all things just start to come together, when you understand those systems. So back to the point of coaching and laying on a whiteboard. Yeah, it was just a reflection of all I had done in coaching, when I decided to put together the education program of saying what was successful, truly, in my own biases. Was life coaching great nutritional prescriptions, assessing someone giving a great design, and having a business to wrap around it? 

That’s what I saw as being like, the most important things that I saw were successful. How do I create a system that was just based upon all my experiences, and saying, like, this is what I believe to be the best way to organize and orchestrate that in a manner so that you can see it, digest it, and be inspired and upgrade your knowledge as a coach.

Misbah Haque  36:30

So I want to go down this rabbit hole for a bit, and then we’ll climb back out. But how would you say? Do you still use writing to organize your thoughts?

James  36:40

It’s everywhere, all the time. It’s a nonstop aspect of just getting stuff off my brain. I have a whiteboard that I consistently put stuff up on and wipe off. We had a meeting the other day on the future of fitness like in 2029, what his fitness and fitness prescription is going to look like. And it was a mash of information. We still put program designs up there. So I do a lot of writing. I keep Evernote files from my own training and my own perspectives on stuff. Yeah, and then that’s how I organize some of those things.

Misbah Haque  37:15

So you have a way of kind of taking a look at certain thoughts, and then releasing them by putting them down on paper. And not everybody has that skill. In the very beginning. Some people view thoughts as defining them. Right thoughts, are you right? If you were to describe to me, and we’ll keep this super open-ended, whatever comes up for you if I said, Could you go off on the word thoughts? What does that mean to you? Could you dig into that?

James  37:43

I think just because you had talked about having it on paper, I think that my thoughts do go on paper. And I think my thoughts being on paper are sometimes stuff like your group may not even see it. But there are some things that you just want to understand, and I don’t even understand, but by me actually going pen to paper, it’s a release of some things that are clouding my movie reel. That is not important to the overall picture. But you can imagine if I had done this for 20, something years, you’re gonna obviously see systems of how my thought process works. Because of some of it, I’ll take this piece of paper in this booklet, and in a couple of months, I’ll be like that’s gone and throw it away. There’s nothing on it that’s groundbreaking, that I don’t already know. But what it does is it validates consistency in those principles that I’ve always seen. 

So my thoughts go to paper. And then I think about things, whenever I think about things that are really deep, I have my phone nearby me all the time, because I have a spot on my phone to keep, like really heavy ideas, ideas that are inspirational and provoking and like challenging, I’ll be biking up my Hill on the way home and have to stop and be like,  mixed modal pieces. If the muscle endurance contraction is gonna be this fast, you have to be thinking, like, it’ll just like those ideas are coming up. And I’m taking those thoughts and ideas, I guess, and they’re becoming one. So that’s where I go when you say thoughts like putting it on paper, crud, trying to collect it and create things like, What the hell is, Where’s that coming from? And why is that the case?

Misbah Haque  39:31

I feel like writing is so underrated especially as technology has become more and more advanced. Have you ever heard of something called Morning pages? No, sir. So this is something I’ve been doing probably for maybe nine months now. And pretty much every day, if I’ve missed a day, it probably hasn’t been missed a day. Like I’ll do it later on in the day. But the idea is that you start your day with this, and it’s three pages of longhand, writing that uninterrupted and how it has to be longhand you can’t write it on your phone or anything. But what it does is it writes and slowing down doing it longhand forces you to think, right. And it has to be uninterrupted. So once you start going, you typically aren’t allowed to lift your pen back up, you just want to let everything out that is kind of on your mind. 

So in the very beginning, probably the first month, two months, like you’ll write about the weirdest stuff, right? Like, you’re going to be talking about the coffee that you’re drinking, like just anything to get it down on paper. But over time, that gets kind of old, and then you start to address maybe the bigger problems that are more relevant to you right now, whether that comes down to your training, whether that comes down to coaching, or systems like you mentioned. And that is truly I think, where I’ve realized the value of getting stuff down on paper, because sometimes if there are flaws in the way that you’re thinking, I mean, when you look at it on paper, essentially or you say it out loud, you’re like, well, that doesn’t make sense. And that just forces you to go into a kind of questioning yourself a little bit deeper.

James  41:00

I love that idea. And that process, I don’t think I’d initially have the patience, but it’d be a good thing over time to really like slow people down, I love the idea that for a prescription, I’m going to, I’m going to take that one and use it for some folks who, who really do appreciate just trying to create thoughts and put it together in a fashion, I could see it also being super threatening to some people just to get them to slow down, whether that’s a good or bad thing. I mean, it’s, it’s a really good point. Because I do know especially a lot of coaches that I work with, they just type their shit so fast, and they’re creating thoughts in an Evernote or in a specific way to keep information. But they may not be retaining it in a certain way, simply because they’re just taking everything they just learned and repeating it in words on an electronic platform. Whereas you slow down and you write it down, you’re really putting in some slow, let’s call it a deep practice which may lead to having those thoughts contained at a deeper level.

Misbah Haque  42:05

So would you say that you have a place on your phone? You said you go there to put down heavy ideas? But are they certain problems that you’re trying to solve?

James  42:15

Those are actually like a list of actionable things that I need to, I need to get out like I need to speak about, I need to teach, I need to invest the gate. Those are very actionable, like, you better get this shit checked off over the next couple of days, or you’re going to go crazy, that kind of thing. 

So those are the ones where I know, I can’t allow them to come through my movie reel and let them pass. I have to stop everything. Because just based upon experience, I know that those are ones that are that really mean something to me, for educating other people or also really just learning on a deeper level about some things or like I had this insight the other day in terms of but I mean, this will show you the like the depth of it, like you talked about it in longhand is that weird shit that comes up in your head, like you’re looking at your coffee, and it’s like snakes like really healthy from but like I was by cross country biking. And I stopped to take an Instagram shot of like, where I was biking and, and the photo of a cactus and, and then I looked at the cactus, and just went off for a couple of minutes on this idea around long term athlete development in terms of the slow approach for the cactus. 

So if you understand cacti, you can get ideas in terms of their age based upon their arms. So I looked around and saw the position of the cactus and how long they were able to be sustainable. And you see where your brain goes is like, all these systems make sense in terms of sustainability of any organism based upon their environment, how they adapt to stress, what’s inside of them, what are supporting birds that are on top of them, so you just given you a weird insight into like, where that goes when you truly want to capture those aha moments or ideas in your head. And the fact that I explained that, but I’m just being honest. That’s where my head was going.

Misbah Haque  44:17

I think that. So I used to do something called Brain dumping, which is kind of what you’re talking about. You just release, not just on paper, but have an area on my phone where anything I’m thinking about that. I don’t want to cloud judgment or anything like that, you put it down. And the idea is you come back and you deal with it later. But I didn’t do that. I just would keep repeating the same things as every 10 days. I would start a new brain dump because it was so long to scroll down to the bottom, it got annoying, and I’m like, let’s start over. 

But now what I started doing is something called a problem list. And what you do is you categorize it into, let’s say, even when you’re trying to help certain people, maybe it’s a client, maybe it’s a business partner, whatever it might be. You put it down there And you revisit the same problem list over and over. So what happens is anytime you have a thought you might kind of build on top of it and over time without you actually sitting down and making a whole formal process like I’m gonna think about this, and I’m gonna deal with it. It’s kind of evolving. And just you’re gonna go on about your day and slowly add little pieces to the puzzle.

James  45:21

I think what I was doing was the same thing because they were a checklist of problems that I was like, I had to have to solve these now. There’s something that comes up for different reasons than they’ve been picked a bigger picture, which we’re not we didn’t propose to get into, but you gotta, you gotta think about things of what, what do individuals do that allows these opportunities to happen so that’s a deeper level of understanding because you and I can talk about the practice of thought, organization, and structure, but maybe some individuals can’t have the consciousness or awareness, or the time or the self-introspection to actually think about their thoughts. 

Because all that’s going on in the thoughts is just a fast movie reel of doing. And so that’s a secondary conversation or something to think about. I think we just walk over that and say,  it’s very easy to organize your thoughts and just put them down. And then you can solve problems like, Well, what happens if you’re not conscious enough to even think about your thoughts? And so that’s what we teach in life coaching, is actually that first is that the coach has to really organize their thoughts by being superior to people who notice a lot of things. 

Misbah Haque  46:38

That is a huge part of it. And I mean, that’s totally relevant to what we’re talking about. How did you kind of get to that point? Were you always a very aware person? Or was that developed and honed over time?

James  46:51

I think it was a couple of things. Definitely, from an environment, I was around some people that certainly taught it in terms of, I remember my mentors in different languages saying, it’s really helpful to be curious and that’s a powerful liberating statement. Because curiosity can sometimes as you said earlier, lead to nothing. But it’s so effective to play right, to play with an idea and thoughts, and to pull something out and be able to do that. But in essence that injury I talked about when I was a young soccer player, and I got injured, up to that point in time, I was an athlete. And so when I got hurt, I was like, I’m just a fucking number. I’m not I’m nothing I had an identity crisis. At that age, I was very depressed for a couple of years. And it just wore on me that I had this like I had nothing. That’s basically what was going on in my head. 

Obviously, it’s different now. But it was a really tough time. But I think, because of that switch, I started to recognize, let’s just call it something a little bit bigger than what I was, whatever that is, everyone has a different version as to what that is, but something bigger than me. And I think it’s at that point in time, that I became super curious about what is bigger than me. And that curiosity led to asking 1000s and 1000s of clients, about their life and what they’re doing and how they’re going to get better and prescribing 1000s of prescriptions based upon that.

Obviously, it’s different now. But it was a really tough time. But I think, because of that switch, I started to recognize, let’s just call it something a little bit bigger than what I was, whatever that is, everyone has a different version as to what that is, but something bigger than me. And I think it’s at that point in time, that I became super curious about what is bigger than me. And that curiosity led to asking 1000s and 1000s of clients, about their life and what they’re doing and how they’re going to get better and prescribing 1000s of prescriptions based upon that.

Misbah Haque  48:28

And that’s something that I admire about the CCP level one and why I was drawn to it was because you do take a wholesome approach to it. It’s not just a deep dive into program design. It’s not just a deep dive into nutrition or lifestyle coaching over a year,  a year-long period, you dig into each one of these aspects. How for you at least how do you view the connection between Lifestyle coaching, nutrition, program design, and all that kind of coming together?

James  48:59

It’s about your context of a relationship between one coach and one client. And within that relationship, all the things you had mentioned happen, the relationship itself is actually a business practice. So how is a business involved? We could ask interesting questions on what are you going to do you just gonna talk to people and share information. How do you put food on your table? How do you pay for shelter? 

How do you get from point A to point B? So you can see that the relationship in fitness coaching, really is the business practice. What happens between those two individuals is really an alliance where the coach gets to share and educate and that’s their highest value is to educate and direct and lead and be someone who’s there for them in multiple different ways. And the value that the client gets is the sharing of that information and direction for their prescription. So there’s a fair trade value. What’s in between is an assessment. Its program design, and its nutrition. And it’s consulting. So the relationship itself contains all those things we call program design and nutrition, the tools, and we call consulting the lead into an assessment. So where do life coaching and all those things sit together? Well, in a relationship with someone, as a fitness coach and a client, you’re going to be developing a relationship over all periods of time, and just using those tools inside of that relationship for that entire period. So that’s how I see them all working together, it’s a nonstop consulting process of building a deeper, more in-depth relationship with someone.

Misbah Haque  50:44

Most people that come to you and embark on this journey and join the CCP level one, what is their background? Like, did they go through the education system and study Kinesiology? Did they come from a completely different field? And now they want to become a coach? What if you were to kind of summarize and make a sweeping generalization? Who is that person that’s coming to you?

James  51:11

There is a mixed bag of people based upon what our program entails because our program doesn’t entail the specifics of the Krebs cycle and mitochondrial dysfunction with the lowest co2 levels, right. So we have very clear guidelines and principles, right? So we say things like, Well, if you want to train aerobically, there are some simple things, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. This is a progression of slow to fast, these are the kind of things you need to do when I’m out. So as a human, you could have an engineering background, you could be like CJ Martin, and have a law background and have some perspective of fitness. Get inside that and go, yeah, that shit just makes sense. Because I know fitness on a scientific level or let’s call it at the lab level. But I also note in a real-world level, that what a CCP is, is fitness for a real-world level, and to give coaches enough consciousness of fitness, to move them into feeling confident about their prescriptions. 

So who do we get that goes into it? I’m telling you, it’s a mixed bag of folks. I just had one gentleman finish up. He’s, where’s he living now? Let’s besides that he moved away from Arizona. He’s now in Florida. He’s finishing his master’s in exercise science. And he just finished the CCP. And now he wants to come back and work here at OPEX HQ, or do some research teamed up with me meaning that I’m not going to do the research, but he wants to do his Ph.D. in a certain area. And whenever I know that I love being around those people, because I got a lot of things that I’d like people to like to dig into for a couple of years, that I’m very passionate about, that they could possibly do and be inspired by. So that’s one example of a person. And then there’s a number of other people who just went to CrossFit for a couple of years. Did level one get into fitness, I just want to see something different.

I want to basically figure out Fitness on a deeper level. And then we just kind of, we just show up on Facebook or through word of mouth or something. And then people get a hold of us. So I hope that gives you a generalized statement as to who’s inside it’s a broad array of individuals. And my job is to bring it all together collectively, to get 50 Those people in front of me in a room, either online or in person, and be like, let’s all just make sense of this. So when you leave here, when you see any program, when you write any program, you should know why you’re doing what you’re doing. And that’s it. And if I sleep well at night, based upon that, if a coach leaves and has that idea, then I feel good.

Misbah Haque  53:51

If he had the opportunity to do so, would you take a lot of these concepts from the CCP level one and build them into maybe like what is called an exercise science specialist degree. So something that you’re going to do a lot of people are coming out of colleges with that type of degree, feeling that clients are going to flock to the right or they have the knowledge and the capability to be able to write prescriptions and things like that. But you soon realize, there’s so much more to this. And I need to kind of find my own way. I need to either learn from the OPEC, CCP level one, or go and learn from other people that I resonate with. If you were to kind of toy around with that. Is that something? Consider?

James  54:34

Because I’ve been through it. And also remember where our concept is fitness delivery. So fitness delivery in my mind, we just remember back to the whole concept of why people are doing anything that’s hard work. You gotta you just got to really ask that question. And then you have to say, well, who’s going to guide those people to hard work, then there’s going to be some principles involved that are not that complex in science that people need to understand. I think where if you do come out with that, if I was to organize that, which I would not have the depth or ability to be able to do it because I was inside of it, and I have coaches around me who were inside of it, who are very great at those specific areas, but you would need to, I would think, get into a very special, special area in terms of the understanding of that, that could be in a diseased state, a rehabilitative piece, I’ll use the right word, but it’s a reactive model to like how things have gone awry. 

But my vision of what a fitness coach needs to have for a fitness prescription is actually not that complex, because it’s based upon biology and natural medicine really, which is like, food is powerful movement is great don’t negate the basics of the sun and the moon, work rest ratios, yada, yada, yada. It should just, it should just make sense. So I wouldn’t go that route if I was to toy.

Misbah Haque  56:02

And I’m curious, I heard this theory of learning that I found really interesting. It’s called the plus-minus equal. And I want to get your thoughts on this. So apparently I think Frank Shamrock, the mixed martial artist. And I think now the coach is the guy who talked about this, but I heard James all the teachers talking about on his show. So he said to learn something, you need a plus you need a mentor, or you need somebody to teach you, then you need someone who is going to challenge you. So your peers who might you might run ideas by, and you might test them on and so forth. And then you need a minus you need somebody to teach, because not only are you paying it forward, but it forces you to systemize, it forces you to ask the questions that are important right now. So then it solidifies the learning that you’ve been doing? So I’m curious to hear. I mean, it sounds like a lot of what you’re saying fits into that model a little bit. But how do you feel about that?

James  56:54

I’ve always been, without knowing I was doing it, in my journey, as a coach, I’ve always had mentors. And I’ve always had people that I taught, so I can even remember and I’ll give you a simple example, as a young kid. So I can remember being playing street hockey at 1112 years of age. And recognizing this new guy on the block named Wayne Gretzky, coming up in the NHL ranks, and for those who are hockey fans, you’ll know that for a young hockey boy in Canada, he was pretty close to Jesus Christ. So for me, he was he didn’t even know me. But he was a mentor. So mentored in terms of physical performance and how he was to play hockey and whatnot. But,  I also remembered those nights on the street, also taking a younger kid underneath my shoulder, who was 10 years of age and not a believer in street hockey and teaching them some things. 

So I always had this mentor-mentee piece inside of me, based upon as long as I can remember, and I was I didn’t recognize it until I got into coaching and recognized,  do have these mentors that I look up to and learn from, but I’m also teaching my clients and teaching some coaches about it at the same time. And I was trying to learn from a whole ton of people and sharing my ideas, and they were like, No shit, that’s not going to work. You got to try it. So I’m being challenged to. And then of course from Bernie, and fundamental systematics, that just completely makes sense. You have to have a mentor-mentee relationship in that area for growth consistently. And over the past number of years, it’s been interesting, you’re not asking this question. But it’s been an interesting time for me that I’ve lost some of my actual physical mentors. 

And they passed away, unfortunately, and, and so I’ve recognized that sometimes for whatever the reason may be, this is just a signal at this point in time for me that I have to have to be my own mentor. So I have to rely on myself right now. And I also have to have to, like not judge the mentor-mentee relationship. But I have a lot of people around me who are coaches and staff and people around me that actually I see as mentors, because their ability, they’re there, they’re offering me an ability to see how well I educate how well I communicate, and really reflect on so they don’t even know that they’re being a mentor to me, but that’s a mentorship role as a collective that I see as being mentors. 

And of course, all my coaches and CCP and my clients and, and whatnot are still my mentees. But I just saw that happen over the past little while because I was asked the question, who are your mentors right now, and I had a hard time kind of answering that as to what it looked like, but just collectively there’s so much information out there, as well as my teaching that my actual students are my mentors right now. because they’re allowing me at this point in time of my life to kind of reflect upon how good I am at what I’m doing and if it’s effective or not.

Misbah Haque  1:00:10

Can we dig into a little bit about how the OPEX model works? So let’s say you go through your CCP, and you’ve opened up, you’ve opened up like an OpEx. Affiliate?

James  1:00:20

What sounds like a license? It’s an affiliation. It’s a licensed model.

Misbah Haque  1:00:25

Could you touch on that a little bit? 

James  1:00:32

We got to back up and say based upon the CCP, how did it come to be? And why are we deciding to do it, the CCP was an opportunity for me to just collectively put all my ideas on paper because I was getting asked questions a lot, what is it that you’re doing, and how is that effective as what you’re doing for coaching and the principles around that, so I put it together. And it was just vomiting of information, that, that I just basically had to get out as columns, like that phone, notes that I was taking, I basically just said to the world, like, here are the courses, this is my thoughts on fitness, education, and blah, and I just did it for years and years. And then we saw just with the evolution of that, that a lot of people would leave and finish the education program, and feel handcuffed in not being able to apply what they had learned in the current fitness market. 

And so it just had to happen, where we had to develop a top-down strategy of an end game for these coaches over time. So I could truly feel like they were fulfilled, I felt that they were going to be fulfilled when I first started CCP because I was going to educate them. But if you, I’ve learned that over time, if you only educate without the direction of how to use that education, it may fall to the side over time. So we’re starting the process of building what’s called an OPEX gym model, which means that it’s an individual design concept, brick and mortar, micro gym program, in which people apply all the learnings of OPEX, and the education within that business system.

Misbah Haque  1:02:17

We do have gym owners, coaches, trainers listening, and I think that that part of the audience is definitely growing more and more. And I feel like, what would you say to the person who’s thinking, Okay, this is great, this is awesome. The connection between nutrition Lifestyle coaching program design, it all makes sense. But now, the magic question, how do I get people in my door? How do I get more clients? How do I have people to deliver this value to because you also touch on some of the business practices throughout the CCP as well and give some direction with that? What would you say to that person who’s listening and asking that question?

James  1:02:56

I don’t propose to be an expert on marketing, but you actually have to market. And I’ll just make a point that if you don’t have to market and you have a lot of clients surrounding you, you really want to think hard about that, as to how you’re being surrounded by them, it’s not right or wrong. But if you’re not actively creating a message and telling everyone what you do, and then directly orienting them into your seat, so you can tell them what your processes are, then you may have some problems on the back end, or you may not necessarily having people come in knowing what your offerings are. So we teach individuals, right from advertising marketing, into sales, into the console, into the new client situation, into assessment, program, design, delivery, and fulfillment of that through our entire gyms. But it all starts with if we’re using one individual, which is why what I want to talk about is not a business setup, our gyms are set up so that the owner, the coach, and the client win. And that’s just our mission-based upon what my goal is to create fulfilled coaches. 

So as a coach, you need to have an idea and a vision as to what you want to do. Even if it’s short-term or loose from what your filters are, and what’s around you. There have been multiple systems put in place for fitness delivery now, where we can see the pluses and the minuses of all of them. So the coach has to have a vision as to what they want to do. So they want to coach group fitness, then there’s a model and a system and a way of going about doing that. If you want to coach boot camp, in the park on the weekends, there’s a system and a method and a process and what not to do that. If you want to do individual design in brick and mortar micro gyms then OPEX does have a system set up to get people into place on that. So that mission helps you dictate what is the message that I have to throw out to the market to get people at the top of the funnel down. 

The marketing funnel that gets closer to you, so that they’re as best aligned with your process as possible. But the way that you have to figure out what that marketing aspect is, you have to be authentic around what your story is, and what you really want to do. As opposed to just going, we just need clients. Well, you could buy a $1,000 A month Infusionsoft white-label system that could get your clients. But what happens if, after a year and a half, they’re unfulfilled, and you can’t keep them. So now you’re just pumping people into your system, they have no idea why you’re doing what you’re doing. She never told the story. You have clients, you have clients, and they’re still coming, right. But after a year, they’re out why? Because you didn’t clearly align them with what your true message is. So that’s the power of systems, right? The negative side of systems is that the fishing blanket is not broad. You don’t put a marketing campaign out that says, I’m just a coach, and I do fitness. 

What do you think that’s like, I’m not sure. Are you giving me blogs? Are you giving me a kettlebell workout in the park, and online, you’re coaching me like, it’s very unknown. So that’s we teach people specifically for the system that we believe in, which is brick and mortar micro gyms with OPEX, education inside of it. And then, of course, you can understand the marketing leads people into recognizing, like, holy shit, that’s what I’m actually going to be doing. And this is the service I’m going to get that totally makes sense. Where do I sign up, and then it just comes down to a sales console to determine if they believe that’s a good fair trade value.

Misbah Haque  1:06:38

So a lot of it when you think about it distills down to authentic and clear communication, in a sense.

James  1:06:46

You’re just saying, this is what I love doing. This is what I’m best at. I want to teach you about it. This is what it’s going to look like in our gym. What do you think, right now? So they know the product, they know, the expectations? They know the long-term, short-term consequences of it, they know what the relationship kind of looks like. It’s pretty clear. And should they choose to do it, they choose to do it. If they don’t,  that’s okay. But at least you’ve kind of connected to like what we do over here, and how I’m going to help you as opposed to making it lose, and then just trying to fit them into a round hole? 

Misbah Haque  1:07:25

This is something I feel like  I definitely struggled with for years when I first started personal training, and figuring out how I was going to kind of formulate this message. And it really was that there was a disconnect in the way that the narrative was being told, right? There’s something that you have in your head, and what you want to do, what you want to give to people. But when it comes to the rhythm of words, the language that you’re using, and how you’re showing up, it’s just not coming out effectively.

James  1:07:57

Most people are taught sort of catch up most times for younger people because I fell prey to it. But I quickly started to realize that after I started to see shitty retention and poor practices, most times at a younger state of being, let’s say, and even that a developmental state of being, which is kind of deeper, but you can think about, you have to really take time, this is where patience, you can’t fast-tracked, you can’t fast track decisions on business and economics. And you have to first recognize that the profession is a business. So when you recognize that it’s even by saying that and slapping the word on it as a younger person, how I’ve helped people and rehab them out of that idea that you’re just talking about because you started saying I was like, Listen, I’ve helped 1000 people on this, let me tell you what you need to do, you need to be super clear with what truly inspires you of the fitness profession, and the delivery of it. 

What truly inspires you at this point in time. So I don’t care if you’re 2128 3455. At this point in time, you need to say what truly gets me out of bed and inspires me about that process, and then have an unyielding directive towards doing that as fitness delivery. Because a lot of younger people get lost in the madness of the chaos and the shit that’s around them as to how to do it. And they’re just not focusing on what they want to do. Right, what they believe is effective and what they and like you said earlier, you can then be quote-unquote, unique. You can offer something that you can shout at the mountaintops to so many Sony folks who are blanketing you. They’re saying no, you got to be broad and I’m saying no, stand up and say I love helping young female volleyball players like I crush that market, right? 

And it’s because you had an experience or because I’m saying, I’m saying and you got to triple down, you’ll Gary Vee that shit, you got to triple down on those people and crush it. Right. And if you’re feeling that you’re not going to get this expansive knowledge of working with individuals, actually, you will be a master of working with 1000s of different people. Why? Because you actually get into the trenches and own something and do it really effectively. So I’d like to make that point that you got to be super clear on what fires you up and you can see trainers in the gym right there working with this disabled toxic fat female, postmenopausal in the corner, and they’re just fucking crushing it, the relationship is at such a great level. 

And then you go speak to them at the coffee shop, say, Hey, who are you? What you do is a personal trainer, and all they want to talk about authentically is like, rehab and FMS, and frickin new diaphragmatic training like, that’s such an unauthentic message to who you can really make a massive impact on and effect. And I’ll just give you a little example. But I mean, just crush it with those folks. It’s very admirable. So I see that for a young person as being one of the challenges, there are so many options that they feel they’re gonna be left out if they don’t capitalize on the broad thing of knowing everything and touching all sorry to go off on that. 

Misbah Haque  1:11:25

So there is a lot to do. And there’s a lot of how to do it. But nobody can tell you the why, you have to actually really figure out why. And this is why I read this book, starting with why by Simon Sinek. And I must have read this like four times so far, like Audible. And every time I listen to it, there’s something new that sparks for me. And it makes sense. Do you think about what differentiates each trainer, each coach when there are so many people that are doing it? And it comes back to the why like everybody who you admire, it starts with that why aspect? Like why is it important to them? And that is unique if you can get deeper because everybody wants to say, I want to help people. And that’s like a very blanket type of answer. Like you gotta keep peeling the layers until you hit something a little bit concrete. And then now all of a sudden, you are somewhat unique, even though your what and you’re how might be similar to what other people are doing.

James  1:12:24

That’s the word like you got to own yourself. And that’s why we teach NCCP on the first day, really of live courses for life coaching. Most coaches like what the hell, it’s all about them figuring out who they are, and what they want to do. And what are their biases, what filters do they come into it with? Right, because you have to be able to sniff and smell and like to feel things out in order for you to actually get into a relationship. So it’s the same thing that I would just reiterate, you got to own who you are, what your story is, and feel really good about that. And I own that story. That’s for me like as a young athlete, I got hurt, I realized fitness potential. I participated in CrossFit, I learned so much about suffering. I’m a scientist, in general, I wanted to know the reason behind things. I’m curious. It kind of makes sense. 

So I really get I didn’t surround myself with people who know that about me, therefore I feel really good that we’re all in a tribe talking the same language, but there’s 65 other parallel systems of people with different stories than me that are quote, unquote, having success in teaching other people about fitness. And why because they’re unique in their own story of what they owned and what they said they were going to be good at. So it’s, it’s a, it’s a, an example, again, of what that younger coach can do. To really feel okay, and I’ll throw out here, I’ll throw holy water on you and say,  yes, go for it. I, I commend you, go and do that and crush what you’re really good with, and be inspired by, and then you’ll see some evolution in it over time. That was for everyone who’s in that position.

Misbah Haque  1:14:02

So if you were to turn that into an action item, you’re saying, essentially, start with why and I want to go about that. Write it down. 

James  1:14:10

Sit back, get an open space, and really start asking and I just do you can if you’re if you’d like the humor behind it, watch Louis C. K’s YouTube video on why I think it was on Conan. And he goes through this kid’s scenario where the kids like, Dad, why is the sky blue? Why? And so it’s like, you get to do the why scenario where it’s like so why are you a trainer? Like you said, I want to help people improve their health fitness. But what is it well,  I had this one thing happen when I hurt my leg, why? So you have to really go back, back, back, back back back just to start to recognize that whether it’s right or wrong or without judgment, how did this all come to be?  

How did this all come to be? And then when you figure that out, which has to happen firstly, set with an open space where it’s not just let’s just take two minutes and jam the shit out. No, you get to like, sit back and relax and think about that. And if you need other people, you can talk to them about it too. If you can’t get outside of your own way, you can just say, Well, how do you think my story came about? Do you want me to reflect together with you on that? If it’s not, if they’re not going to be judgmental about it, and just notice things. So that’s what I’d asked you to do. And the more you keep asking that and refining the message, you’ll figure out why over time, it’ll take time, but you’ll keep doing it every three months. And that’s what we ask coaches to do anyways, is to look at their overall values and priorities every three months.

Misbah Haque  1:15:31

How would you define value? We hear a lot, give people value, provide value. But what is there’s so many definitions, definitions out there, but when you think of the word value, what comes to mind?

James  1:15:43

You used it in a different context, they’re providing value, to me it speaks of a fair trade alliance of the coach giving information and sharing and giving direction, which is what fulfills them to the client, obtaining, learning and getting directed. And that process is a value that has high value or low value, based upon the relationship, no one can judge the depth of the value or the expense of the value. That just becomes economics really, as to what’s being offered willingness to pay and yada, yada, yada, but that’s how I view value? Now, values are different from value and the use of the word provides a value, and that’s where my brain goes on that.

Misbah Haque  1:16:42

So essentially, it’s almost, because when we think of providing value, it’s not just monetary, it’s not just about money, it’s more of maybe a feeling, or a perception, right, that’s kind of happening.

James  1:16:57

Money is just the money that passes in between that fair trade.

Misbah Haque  1:17:03

So this could be, let’s take it out of just coach-athlete relationship, this could be in daily life like you’re providing value to your kids, you’re providing value to your partner, if we take that approach, that it’s a feeling or perception, let’s shift gears and talk about the other value, they’ll use comes to mind for you. Now, when you think about that.

James  1:17:27

We had to because if you want to read up on it, one person that’s really brought the word to light is John Demartini. It’s called the value factor. In his book, he wrote that you can go down a deep rabbit hole based upon the definition of the word values because social idealisms have too many connections to morals, we use the word priorities. So we interchange values with priority. So I’m going to answer the question on values meaning with actual priorities. So priorities, what you value, and priorities are generally the things that dictate all the stuff that is, what your behaviors, your behaviors, and your actions largely dictate what those values and priorities are. 

So if I was to watch you for three days, very clearly, with your behaviors and actions, I’d be able to get a pretty darn good indication of best spending 24/7 with you on what your values are. So that’s what we consider the highest things that people go towards, they may have voids in their life, they’re trying to fill up with these highest priorities, which wherever they sit on their development or biological process.

Misbah Haque  1:18:46

So if we were to turn this one, because it certainly maybe should be an action item, where you should kind of define what your values are. How do you get to the bottom of that?

James  1:18:56

We teach people how to ask open-ended questions, we teach coaches that ask that we actually have a list of seven questions that really just allow us to get really great insight. And so those are open-ended. And it leaves the coach at the current point in time having the relationship with the priorities that are highest at this point in time, at this point in time. And that’s a key point. It also allows us to align what their priorities are with what fitness means to those priorities. Because in most cases, clients are coming in front of us not to sell bananas, we’re going to give away well, we kind of indirectly sell bananas, but we’re, they’re coming away with a fitness prescription right and a lifestyle behavior change and some kind of nutritional pieces. 

So we try to look at those overall questions and answers to those questions. What lights you up, what inspires you What do you talk about? What’s your personal space and what’s inside that personal space? How do you spend your day, you can just imagine, they’re kind of just like, get a full picture. Like I said, watch you for three days, basically, then we can get kind of ideas on your actions. And then from those questions, we’re like, well, here’s your actions. And these are the things that you are indicating our priorities for you. Is this correct? And then the clients like to know what you know as to how it goes. So it’s a review of that. And now we then say, Okay, now well, why are we here? And how does fitness align with those priorities? Because fitness has to have an alignment with it. So that’s how we get to that, like what you said, the bottom of that, is, we just ask those questions to get an alignment of why you’re here. And why are you doing what you’re doing?

Misbah Haque  1:20:43

It’s kind of like that, it takes time.

James  1:20:46

That’s not like an initial consultation, let’s just rip all the onion layers away. That takes time because, in our scope of practice, we’re fitness coaches, and we just want to develop a relationship because our prescription that we’re going to give is fitness. And behavioral changes and good lifestyle stuff. We’re not trying to fix them, fix the six-year-old damage that happened. Emotionally, that’s not our job. But our job is to say, let’s be honest, why are you here? Why are we doing this? And now let’s align things so we can move forward.

Misbah Haque  1:21:18

When we look back, and if you’re reflecting right now, looking back at 1999, all the way to now, right? And you think about it, because I’m sure being athletic, all your life and achieving athletic success, shape your mindset in a certain way, right, you learn bigger picture values. And I think the same thing with coaching is the same thing with business. If you go down, your business kind of goes down, right, you have to make sure that you’re showing up in the best way possible. So I’m curious, when you reflect from 1999, to now, when we think about the inner narrator, right, the voice between your ears, what it was like back in 1999, and what it’s like now, you say, what kind of comes up for you there?

James  1:22:03

Just a deeper level of consciousness. That’s the first thing that would say, I’m just thinking like at that point in time, I was 25 years of age. I just started, I was just starting to get into my long-term relationship. And so I just had this idea of trying to figure out as an inner narrator, what was going on in my head at the time? Why am I here? Why am I doing this? How do I play a part in this whole thing, at a really smaller level, up to this point in time, being a lot more at peace with why I’m doing what I’m doing? Why I’m a part of the big picture, fewer questions on the purpose and the direction and the focus and the alignment. So, yeah, those would be two, to use your word sweeping generalizations of the differences in my narrator in my head 25 years ago, relative to today, just a massive, heightened consciousness.

Misbah Haque  1:23:14

 And how when we look at maybe your intuition, right, how heavily do you rely on your intuition like that gut feeling that something is right, whether that’s in business, life training, whatever that might be? How important is that intuition to you?

James  1:23:30

That is very, very important. It’s my essence, as I mentioned earlier, it’s just something that I was. I hated losing, I hated being wrong. And a lot of times, I would be stubborn and stick to what I believed was right, even without consciously being aware that it could be wrong. So I really trust and it’s always like litmus for me. Where if I do not believe in my gut instinct, and like, faking it till I make it. That’s a signal for me that something is off and the overall equilibrium and the balance, so I really can’t explain how, how important that is.

Misbah Haque  1:24:11

How are we doing on time so far? We’re good. I wanted to touch a little bit on functional bodybuilding. Right. So we had Marcus on the show, we’ve talked about it over two episodes, and tried to get into a little bit of detail, but he’s mentioned that you could go on for ages on any one of the things that we’ve kind of talked about. I’m going through his awake training series program right now, learning a lot as a coach and learning a lot as an athlete. And I feel like when you hear the term functional bodybuilding, you mentioned in that webinar that you did that. 

Sometimes it’s good to have a name that resonates right there. That kind of gets people’s attention because we’re humans, we have cognitive biases, and I think there are two things that happen when you listen to when you hear the word functional bodybuilding, you’re either like, alike, What the fuck is this? This is a gimmick, it’s a buzzword, or you’re like, what is this? I want to learn more about it. So tell us a little bit about your thoughts. And I know you went for over an hour in that webinar discussing it, but kind of where you stand and how you see functional bodybuilding?

James  1:25:22

I’m just gonna relay what I think you just said and to be brief on it, it’s, it’s a word. So being that it’s a word, and it’s something different. That in of itself makes it something. And then combining the two words of traditional methods and ideas around bodybuilding, and then breaking those words up building the body, then you can make sense that if you’re going to apply what’s called functional work to building the body, then you’re probably trying to build the body, through methods that are not just for building the body, you’re trying to get more from it than just building the body, you’re trying to get some function from it. 

So the main difference that is applied is actually just looking at the exercises chosen, and saying instead of doing lateral raises that last 60 seconds in front of a mirror, why don’t you just carry a med ball in front of your face and walk across a room for 60 seconds, with your arm at the same 90-degree angle as maximal tension at the top of a dumbbell raise. So what’s the difference between the two? Well, physiologically, not a lot, the characteristics of the kinds of contractions and what goes on, there are some differences to it. But you have to think about contractions at a much deeper scientific level of isometric versus concentric versus eccentric contractions, and know the dose-response and the difference between all those. But to truly understand that you just have to say, functional bodybuilding looks good naked but have some opportunity to use those things in a real-life environment relative to what your function is. 

And so it’s just, it’s just adding, adding something to the aspect of the old school. I mean, this was like a 1998 argument that went on for like five years between machines and free weights. And we’re right back to it again. So I know how to speak to it quite eloquently, that basically, we’re talking about free weight usage, right, that’s, that’s what we’re arguing here is like, get off the leg press and leg extension, and maybe do some shit for your lower body that could carry over to you like lifting some shit up some stairs. So that’s the and then the bodybuilding aspect of it. There are lots of benefits,  people say that the reason why it’s really good, the reason why I like it, is because it’s making people focus on strict absolute strength training. And what we’ve seen, so many people want to do strength, speed and speed, strength and absolute speed activities, or fast dynamic contractions, without the base support of doing it. 

So they especially want to train it, they’re like I want to do this, or touch and go barbell this, or I want to sprint and do this shit real fast. Well, that’s good. I mean, if it’s a sport if you need to do but if you want to train for it, you actually need to have a massive base of support to supply the right amount of contraction power such that you can recover from that work. So that’s the reason why I like it because it puts people into this strict absolute strength, good time under tension functional positions, that’s going to build a great base of support for muscle endurance.

Misbah Haque  1:28:47

I’m looking at the gym that I coach, and I’m looking thinking about all the athletes and I’m thinking about how you can go at this rate for a couple of years, where you’re focusing on what you just mentioned, just moving super fast under time, pressure and things of that nature, without ever really taking a step back and slowing it down and building your bodybuilding that base of support. So how do you take some of these concepts? Do you think it’s beneficial to take some of these concepts and kind of take a step back and start focusing on motor control, focus on time under tension, focus on what it’s like to hold your chin over the bar instead of just thinking about, okay, how can I improve my Kipps so that I can get my chin over the bar? Like Bill, absolute strength.

James  1:29:34

I think I’m not sure what your question was, or do I believe in it like, that’s all I teach. But it has to come back to what the goal is, so if the person’s goal is like, well, I just want to be healthier. Let’s just let it sit for 10 seconds comfortably. I want to be healthier. What does health mean? I want to be able to play with my kids, how about after 10 years? I want to see them go off to university. What do you wanna do after that? I probably want to be so if you start laying that out if that’s their goal, what the hell? Are they ever doing dynamic contractions? Think about that? How does that carry over to a functional environment? So don’t and you’re not going to give it to me, but don’t allow the market to say, I see people doing it. So I deserve to do it. It’s I’m the fitness educator, I’ll tell you how, what fitness is gonna look like to align that with individuals. 

So I do see it play a big part in a lot of people’s fitness and believe in the concept of it. Because it’s really slowing people down, and making them get control and motor control, such that if they do have that as a goal, it’s base support, to allow them to do it effectively. Back to your point of just seeing people want to do those contractions, it’s a very easily measurable concept is just make people do dynamic contractions or mixed work for 12 minutes. And then just watch them scientifically, as every other sport has done for anything that’s less than 12 minutes. And what are you going to start to see after the first two minutes, you’re going to start to see a decrease in power for the entire next 12 minutes. So what are you actually training by doing that? 

You’re not training dynamic contractions under the sustainable mode, you are teaching the body how to create compensatory patterns to make you think you’re doing dynamic contractions because you’re struggling in a fatigued state. So we’ve taken this concept of like, well, you got to get into fatigue, to know fatigue to push past these areas of threshold, when actually no on biological systems. If you don’t have the base support to keep that stuff at least somewhat sustainable, somewhat sustainable for the work period in time, then you’re going to create a full compensatory effort on that. And so people do dynamic contractions for years. Why? Because we can scale it or make it look like they are doing them. And then, in the end, they just get flatline or a decrease in performance for years after why? Because they didn’t spend the time on developing the base to simply make that 12-minute workout a little bit more sustainable in power output.

Misbah Haque  1:32:24

That’s a lot. I feel like we could go into a whole nother conversation just solely on that topic.

James  1:32:31

Maybe another time? 

Misbah Haque  1:32:33

Let’s dig into a couple of rapid fires, and then I’ll let you go. So let’s say that you had a couple of billion dollars. And you had a staff of 40 people, and you wanted to use that to make some type of change some type of an impact, what would you do with it,

James  1:32:48

I would develop my own fitness competition. And create all the infrastructure and dynamics and stuff around it to make fitness as a sport the way that I would like to see it. And then create processes based upon that, to truly define what fitness is versus what sport is. So that it becomes a club level, a high school level, an NCAA level, a social level of sport participation of fitness, because I think it possibly could have parts to play together. If people saw how it was delivered, and if the tests were appropriate, then people would have to train a certain way to get prepared for said fitness tests. So I think with just cash, I’d put all my money or lots of it towards building a system at the top of it so that it filters fitness education for everyone to be a part of it over a period of time.

Misbah Haque  1:33:55

You’re still a billionaire. And you can give two to three books to every person in the country this year. What would they be?

James  1:34:02

I guess if they’re adults, I would know why zebras don’t get ulcers. I would hand out why zebras don’t get ulcers. The Way of the Superior Man, that may just be for a masculine entity, but others could have some fun with it too. And then probably the Demartini values factor.

Misbah Haque  1:34:41

Is there something you feel like you don’t get asked enough about something you wish people would ask you more? What should a coach-athlete take away from this podcast? How can they make themselves better? Today by listening to this. 

James  1:35:01

Just wake up and just become more conscious, sit back and take some time and really think about why you’re doing what you’re doing or what you’re why you’re prescribing what you’re prescribing.

Misbah Haque  1:35:13

Awesome. And how can we support your journey? Where can we point people to how can people learn more about you?

James  1:35:20

You can support us by doing what I just said, you don’t have to ever touch me or feel me or pay me or be a part of our system. It’s collectively going to help me if everyone just raises their consciousness of fitness in general, and how it should turn into breakfast over time for people and the importance of it. And if you are interested in what we do, and our story, we have a website, it’s And you can follow me on Instagram, Jay fits OPEX and I’m on Facebook as well now to believe it or not

Misbah Haque  1:35:59

James, thank you so much for coming on the show and covering so many different topics with us today. And hopefully, we can have you back on at some point to dig a little bit deeper into functional bodybuilding.

James  1:36:11

I’d love to do that. I look forward to it. 

Misbah Haque  1:36:13

Anything else that you’d love to do? You’d like to leave people with?

James  1:36:18

No, that’s it, man. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Misbah Haque  1:36:20

Absolutely. Thank you so much for listening, guys. I know you’re probably driving right now, you’re probably eating, cooking, working out, you’re doing something else. But make sure you head over to the check out some of the free coaching videos, warmups guides, checklists, all the things that you can use to make the best use out of your training time. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review on iTunes and let me know we think I love hearing from you guys. And it would really help me out so I can continue creating awesome stuff for you. And remember, the greatest compliment you can give is by sharing it with somebody else who might enjoy it or somewhere on the web. So once again, thank you so much for being a listener and supporting the show. Until next time

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