Stuff I Learned in 2023

And the Top 12 Movies of the Year.

I heard somewhere that the passage of time appears to “fly by” so much more when you’re getting older compared to when you’re a young child, not because you’re simply a busier person with more responsibilities.

It’s because the amount one day, week, or year amounts for as a percentage of your overall life to date, will continue to get smaller and smaller. If you’re 5 years old, a year feels like an eternity – because it’s 20% of the amount you’ve been alive.  A year at 35, however, is just under 3%. Really puts things into perspective, and I can sing from the front of the choir to say this year feels like it just started yesterday.

But here we are.

I’ve blogged less this year, because I’ve been pulled in a few directions with my work. It can be tough to maintain consistency on this front with other writing deadlines, let alone all my in-person commitments. I always make sure to do this article, however. There were definite takeaways from this year worth sharing. It’s volume 11 of this series, and per norm, let’s start things off with a look at what I got up to this year.

  • It wouldn’t be right to start this off without talking about the adventures of Lee and Mel with the official first year of our book Strength Training for All Body Types: The Science of Lifting and Levers. The word’s been spreading, and the book’s been making rounds. It’s appeared in some trade shows, and has landed in interviews with some serious names in and out of the industry. We’re hoping to keep the ball rolling.
  • Speaking – I did my share. This year I spoke in Dallas, Halifax, Edmonton, 3 times in Toronto, and the lovely Munich, Germany. This, plus online events like Nick Lambe’s Impact Education Week is enough to keep me occupied when balancing clients and teaching. Looking forward to heading back to Europe and hopefully cracking into Asia next year.
  • Lifting and Levers has been making its rounds at the college I work at. It even earned a shout out from our senior dean during a faculty assembly, and students have been getting their copy. Big.
  • I developed a partnership with Goodlife Fitness, enabling me to speak to various training staffs to help them improve their skills by way of themed clinics. It’s still a bit of a work in progress, but not a bad beta test year.
  • Though I was published less than in the past years for obvious reasons, I still saw my work appear online and in print in the likes of Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, Experience Life, TNATION, Breaking Muscle, Onnit, and more.

I’m sure there’s more, but this is about what I learned this year. Let’s talk about that.


We are Officially in the Age of Digital being the New Analog.

After COVID saw its “end”, it was pretty expected that life wouldn’t return to the exact way it was before the pandemic hit. Offices in the financial core (and out of it) learned that work-from-home protocols also meant saving a whole lot of money on space and overheads, and decided to adopt a hybrid system for many of their employees, and that meant an altered landscape for training availability where our jobs are concerned.

I operate out of two gyms. One is right in the heart of the downtown Toronto core, and the other is west, in the suburbs. Since 2021, I’ve gotten much busier at the latter gym than the former, and I suspect the above is one reason. Aside from this, however, AI training methods, home gyms, and online coaching have been methods that have become much more popular, and it’s important we as trainers can make a smooth transition. That doesn’t mean overhauling our business, but it does mean making some form of accommodation for those methods. Whether that equates to opening up online coaching slots, becoming more mobile for in-home visits, or becoming an affiliate with a training app, this can do your career good.


Working Out is a Privilege.

As I write this, I’m getting out of the woods from being violently ill with a stomach virus.

A couple times over this year, there have been some poignant moments that have shown me that we take many things for granted in the fitness world, until we don’t have access to the thing in question. Let me use a simple example.

If you’ve ever had an acute injury to, say, your shoulder or knee, your workouts become compromised as you’re forced to train around the issue. There becomes a short list of movements that won’t work for you, and special care needs to be taken to not exacerbate the problem as you try to address it and stay consistent.

Take that injury example, and change it to a terminal illness. Or a lifelong disability.

See, working out can require much more effort, and even be – in and of itself – a painful endeavor. We often forget that. Among us are people who would do anything to be sidelined for a week by a mere stomach virus compared to what they deal with on a day to day basis, if in the big picture they had access to exercise and feel great for 95% of the calendar year with no hindrances.

And let’s be real. Just because the above doesn’t describe us now, it doesn’t at all mean it can’t describe us in the future. Anything can happen.

It adds a lot more gravity to the idea of what we do with our time.  Treasure your training and respect your body.


Tough Clients are the Best Clients.

These days, I’ve learned to embrace the opportunities I’ve had working with a broad range of clientele. In talks I’ve given and literature I’ve written, I’ve mentioned ad nauseum that being a good communicator is a cornerstone attribute to being successful in your personal training career. And it’s not a quality many people have.

That’s why I don’t shy away from “tough” clients, within reason. And that’s definitely something I used to do.

A tough client may be someone who is not easily impressed by your services. Or it maybe someone who just plain can’t “get” what you’re trying to teach them. Maybe their communication method is drastically different than yours, causing you to have to make major adjustments. Or perhaps you have nearly nothing in common with one another regarding your lifestyles. Maybe they’re severely jaded from bad past experiences in the personal training world. Or perhaps they struggle with consistency and motivation. These are all great opportunities to be the first trainer to get through to them in a way that others haven’t, and finally foster some results.  Even if things don’t go as planned and hiccups happen – like a client raising an acute issue – it’s your chance to practice the skill of conflict resolution. The only thing this can do is make you better at your job.

As long as a client doesn’t approach their arrangement with their trainer as a “you work for me” type of attitude, bring it on. The tough clients are the ones who actually develop and test your true skills in this business.


Interlude: The Top 12 Movies of 2023

Let me get one thing out of the way first: I took a break from superhero films. You’ll find nothing from Marvel or DC on this list, and I went to see zero such films in 2023. It’s become overkill, and I believe they need to take a break themselves too. From what I’m hearing and seeing, they’re on the brink of beating a dead horse.

That aside, I’m very happy to announce that 2023 was a good year for film. This hasn’t been the case since prior to the pandemic (2019 being the last notable year in film in my opinion). Even more interesting is that many of the choices to make my list this year, came from the earlier parts of the year, rather than the classic “Oscar season” which is known to occur after September.  I didn’t go to the Film Festival this year, which was a drag, but the writers’ strike and what came with it, coupled with general busy times on my end made it lower on the list for the year.

Admittedly, there are two main movies I haven’t been able to catch, that may or may not have influenced the final list (or the honorables).


The Color Purple

I’ll have to catch them in January.

Regardless, this may be one of the most interesting lists I’ve compiled in several years doing this. With that said, it’s worth bringing up some films that didn’t quite make the cut, but were strong contenders and are worth checking out for sure.

The Honorable Mentions

Maestro – This had many elements of a great film, and incredible acting, cinematography, costume design and makeup/hairstyling. But a few misses in the story kept this from top honours for me. STILL a good and well made movie.

Leave the World Behind – The only reason this didn’t make it to the top 12 is because of the strong resemblance in tone to another film from earlier this year that did. The director, in my opinion, was very influenced by this filmmaker, and accomplished what he was going for, so I had to pick one. Since this film leaves more questions unanswered, I chose the film with more closure.

To Catch a Killer – An underrated film noir type of movie that showcased Shailene Woodley. This is a tight action/thriller that didn’t get much hype in its marketing or at the box office. I liked it!

Ferrari – Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz really crushed their roles here in an entertaining, though one-dimensional film. If other auto-racing movies from the last 5 years didn’t exist, this would be a clear entry for me, but it’s always a tough genre.

Poor Things – Great acting, great cinematography, great costumes, but a bit lacking in storytelling despite a fantastic premise. I expect this to be an Oscar favourite nearly across the board, but it’s just one notch shy for me.

Creed 3 – This was certainly the hardest film for me not to include on my final list. I thought the story was solid, the performances were noteworthy, and it was a great first attempt at directing for Michael B. Jordan. Looking forward to what’s next, as this franchise is apparently locked in for 2 more instalments.

Killers of the Flower Moon – Listen, this was a good, well acted movie highlighting important subject matter. I even gave it a good score in my initial review.  But in good conscience, I can’t place this as a finalist in my favourites of the year when I believe it should be EIGHTY MINUTES SHORTER and likely won’t watch it again for that lone reason.


And Now, in Order, the final cut. Here are my Top 12 Films for The Year.


  1. Brother – This came out in April, and stuck with me all year. It hardly was heard of or talked about because of its limited release and small marketing. Heavy drama packing a lot into a 2 hour runtime. Each character demonstrated complex emotional hardship through things implied and rarely shown, inside a window into working class minority life. It helped that it was filmed in my city too.
  2. Gran Turismo – This film was just plain crowd-pleasing, detailing the true story of the first gamer-turned- F1 racecar driver. The emotional roller coaster, special effects, and acting all deserved praise, and this film basically nailed it on every front. Fun fact: I was THIS close to training this film’s lead actor when he was in my city for a TV series a while back. Still sad that didn’t work out.
  3. Sound of Freedom – I’ve generally stayed blind to reasons why this film sparked controversy, as I prefer to let the subject matter speak for itself. I can’t find any reason to knock what’s definitely a necessary message against child trafficking, illustrated through a heavy, true story. This is one that won’t be forgotten easily.
  4. Knock at the Cabin – As hit-and-miss M. Night Shyamalan has proven to be, he’s a director who loves to take risks, and this one worked out well. Dave Bautista was a revelation here, and stole the show in a tense, thrilling movie with the perfect blend of horror and thrill to set the tone. Between this and Leave the World Behind, which I found to be very similar, I found this to have the edge.
  5. The Holdovers – Paul Giamatti gives an awards-worthy lead performance in a comedy-drama that basically brings Mr. Scrooge to the real world in the 1970’s. Great ensemble performance and a unique way to make a story idea that’s been told 100 times, still interesting.
  6. Air: Courting a Legend – A story about signing Michael Jordan to Nike, without ever seeing Michael Jordan’s face? You’d think making this idea “good” wasn’t possible, and you’d be wrong. Matt Damon nails his role as a tenacious agent, and this story is gripping from beginning to end.
  7. Blackberry – This film blended comedy and drama beautifully to tell its story of the rise and fall of the once-upon-a-time titan of cell phone manufacturers. Simply put, it’s a great watch.
  8. Oppenheimer – The most literal Christopher Nolan movie he’s made to date, I appreciated the focus on the man, and not the atomic bomb. This film and its acting performances should land a number of Oscar nominations, for good reason. I watched this twice in theatres, and I’m glad I did – despite its nature, there’s a lot to take in.
  9. Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – It’s hard not to put a Tom Cruise film on my list lately, as his last film from 2022 ended up nabbing my top spot of the year! This film was non-stop action and fun, which is exactly why someone pays to see a Mission Impossible film. At 60 years old, the guy hasn’t slowed down by even one step, and that’s commendable. The constant reminder that he’s performing his own stunts is sobering.
  10. Dumb Money – A quietly entertaining film using the commonfolk as a vehicle to highlight the GameStop stock during the pandemic. The more I think about this film’s execution, the more I like it. Paul Dano delivers a great lead performance, but this film isn’t about the acting.
  11. Missing – This was a gripping second instalment to an innovative franchise with effective devices to keep you on your toes. Though I gave its 2018 predecessor a higher ranking on my end-of-year list, it didn’t detract from a good ride. The cinema’s pin drop silence was worth the price of admission alone.
  12. Dream Scenario – I found this to be one of the most interesting, creative ideas of the year, with a lead character written perfectly for Nicolas Cage (who delivers!). The themes are sneakily poignant and definitely open to various interpretations. I wanted to make sure this one snuck into the top 12.


I told you this list would be different.

I guess buying DVD’s are no longer a thing, so get to streamin’.

Back to our regular scheduled program.


It’s time to Stop Painting Trainers as “Perfect”.

This goes for more than just how we train ourselves or eat. Because what’s normal and human is to have lapses, eat some garbage, take a few days or even weeks off training, lose motivation, and not have the mojo.  What makes the difference between a fitness professional and an average Joe, in my personal opinion, is the existence of things trending one way when looking at things from a bigger picture. We do our best to lead by example by training consistently and well, and eating good food most of the time.

Let’s take this concept to trainers on the job.

Many people think it’s a massive blemish on your career to have a client get a tweak or strain, to show up late or oversleep a session, or to have a client leave you due to “fit”. All three of these scenarios have happened to me this year. It’s more prevalent than we think, and we should not beat ourselves up about this if we work as trainers.

In both cases detailed above, what matters more is whether or not we become known for these things. If such patterns follow you around as a personal trainer, that will spell trouble for the longevity of your career and the credit you earn.

We don’t have to “graduate” from Training Clients in person.

Especially in this day and age, many trainers are being sold the idea that being a full time coach isn’t “enough”. That developing a brand that turns you into some kind of guru in the business development space is a necessary evolution.

Sure, it’s possible you can earn more money doing that. You’re scaling your business, compared to only being able to coach a certain number of clients or hours per day.

But if you can make a great living personal training (and you can), and money isn’t the main player in your decision making process, then is this more of a peer pressure issue than it is a business or financial one?  It’s a serious question.  A greater and greater number of personal trainers decide to give up coaching clients after year 5 or 7 in order to pursue these ventures, leaving a dwindling number of 20 year vets who are still doing their thing with actual clients on the gym floor. To me, that’s a bit of an issue. The amount of clients in need of very experienced trainers for their complex issues, who are being left hanging out to dry grows by the year. We’re in one of those unique industries where actually spending years doing the work itself, proves to be our best form of education.  You can see where this becomes an issue.

All that said, it’s strengthened my resolve to always keep a roster of in person clients as my primary work, regardless of whatever I have on the go.


Social Media Motivation should come with a fistful of salt.

Get up at 4AM and grind before the rest of the world is even awake.

But take care of your body and sleep 8-9 hours per night.

But be sure to walk in nature daily, and disconnect from electronics 1 hour before bedtime.

Mental health is king, so remember to schedule 30 minutes for meditation and breath work.

But be available for all possible business opportunities.

Build meaningful relationships in real life. But set boundaries to limit face to face encounters to focus on your dream.

See how ridiculous all of that sounds when put together? This is just a sample of what you’ll probably see in the same week in various fragments across social media, possibly even in the same week. What matters most is realizing that doing ALL of the above is impossible. Experts may have good intentions, but in many ways, quality of life can come from NOT overstressing about quality of life.

Do what you gotta do, and do your best.



Lots in store for ’24.  Keep your eyes peeled as I’m finally starting up a real mailing list, pandering to the tall lifter. Also looking forward to some travel for personal projects this year, possibly a bit fewer speaking engagements, and keeping busy with more personal training and film!  And if you’ve been making plans to get back into shape starting January 1st , here’s a challenge:

Today’s the 30th.  Start a couple days early.












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