21 Return of the Prodigal Client

InForm Fitness Podcast


After 9 years of slow motion, high intensity, strength training at InForm Fitness in Manhattan, client Hence Orme decided to change up his workout and leave InForm Fitness.  After a year and a half away Hence decided to come back. Why did Hence leave Inform Fitness in the first place, what type of exercise program did he do, and why did he come back.? Join InForm Fitness founder, Adam Zickerman and Hence’s trainer Mike Rogers for their interview with The Prodigal InForm Fitness Client.

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Adam: Well Hence, welcome to our show. I’m very excited to have you here.

Hence: Thank you, it’s great to be here.

Adam: The reason that I’m excited to have Hence here is because he is a client that started here many years ago —

Hence: 2006.

Adam: 2006, was here for many years. He’s experimented his whole life with exercise, and then he took a hiatus and he started experimenting with some more things after here, and now he has come back. Then Mike said to me, guess what Adam, Hence is back and I said oh great, and Mike started to tell me what you’ve been doing Hence, and then what led you to come back. I was like wait, wait, don’t tell me yet, let’s get this fresh on our podcast, because I think a lot of our listeners would appreciate to hear about your journey. How you came full circle so to speak.

Mike: I was enormously excited when Hence came back — I think it was about three months ago. He started in 2006, in September, and ten years, we’re enormously proud to have clients have been here for that long, and I just looked on the system, 351 sessions you’ve done with us over that time.

Hence: Is that right, wow.

Mike: That’s an incredible thing, and once a week, it’s actually — it averages, over the eight and a half years, it’s about forty one sessions per year, which is… that’s pretty good, it takes into account vacations, time away for business trips or something like that, but yeah, it’s been really exciting.

Adam: Let’s start the beginning, like what brought you here in the first place, back in 2006.

Hence: Sure, I think to start off with, Adam is right that I’ve been interested in exercise and fitness and health for a very long time, and have been training since I was a teenager, mostly weight lifting and running, and along the way, have done a fair amount of reading and research, and going back to 2006, at that point in time, I was doing a lot of running. Or at least a lot of running for me, somewhere in the range of 25-35 miles a week, and I had ramped up to that level pretty quickly, and what I was finding was that, at the age of, I guess at that time 42, 41 actually, a lot of little things were starting to break down. Nothing major, but the running was starting to take a toll, and I was starting to notice, for example, that I was having trouble walking the stairs up out of the subway. It was starting to bug me, so my family and I were on vacation in San Diego, so I was out of New York, I was out of the routine, and I could get a little time to think. At the time, I happened to just be leafing through the local San Diego magazine, and they profiled some local trainers. One of whom focused on high intensity training, and I called her up and just said tell me about what you do and can I come train, and she did, but said I’m sorry, I can’t train you while you’re here, where do you live? So I told her that my family and I lived in New York City, and she practically jumped through the phone at me and said oh wow, well Adam

Zickerman is the one that I follow. You should read his book and you should go talk to him.

Adam: I forgot that story.

Mike: I looked it up on the sheet, I was like oh San Diego.

Hence: It was a really random occurrence, so I read the book, it made sense, and at this point I really started to say to myself look, I’ve been pushing running for me, in my context, fairly aggressively, and it’s having some negative results that I didn’t anticipate and I certainly don’t want. At the end of the day, I don’t want to run so much I can’t walk.

Mike: Did you have a goal in mind when you decided to start running aggressively, 35, 40 miles a week? Were you going to do a marathon or something?

Hence: I was never really thinking about doing a marathon, I was thinking about being able to run maybe a fast 10k or maybe a half marathon.

Mike: Did you feel like you had to lose weight at the time, or you wanted to lose weight at the time?

Hence: No, not particularly, that wasn’t really in the parameters at that point, but the negative effects were really starting to pile up and so I said alright, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to go cold turkey, I’m going to stop running. I talked with Adam, we had a great conversation, what he said made a ton of sense and so I made a big leap, a big experimental leap and said alright. I’m done with running for now, and I’m just going to train once a week at

InForm. The results were fantastic.

Adam: I remember you telling me that you just gave up running cold turkey.

Mike: I remember it too.

Hence: I did, and I like running, I’m not somebody for whom running was — or even is a chore, I still like it, but I had to balance that versus the wear and tear that I was accruing. So I stopped, and started training once a week, very high intensity. It required something completely different of me which is to be highly focused for a short period of time, and with really no possibility of oh okay, if I don’t give a hundred percent, I’m going to train in another couple days anyway so it really doesn’t matter. I really had to focus, and over the next several months, all my running aches and pains went away, which is fairy predictable. If I just stopped running, I’m sure a lot of those aches and pains and issues would have resolved themselves, but I did get stronger…

Mike: Did it make sense to you immediately that the idea of a once a week workout was going to be effective, or did you actually have to take a leap of faith into that?

Hence: There was definitely a leap of faith. I had done enough reading, not just Adam’s book, but some other authors, to have the seed planted that maybe we all have been taught about high

frequency exercise is really not the whole story. There’s a lot of damage that can be built up over time that is understated from higher frequency methods of exercise, but I still had to make that leap, and again, I came to InForm as an experiment.

Adam: How long did that experiment last?

Hence: The initial phase of the experiment really started in September of ’06, ran for about nine months where I really did nothing other then train once a week at InForm. I did no running, I did no weight lifting.

Adam: What was your conclusion after the nine months?

Hence: My conclusion was that it was just shockingly effective. The aches and pains from running went away, my ability to climb stairs came right back, I got a spring in my step again. Certainly got stronger, and sort of the most counterintuitive finding for me was that I lost weight. Now when I was running, I wasn’t thinking about my weight, I hadn’t weighted myself in a long time, but I did what I think happens to many other runners which is because I was running, call it 30 miles a week, I thought I could eat everything. When I finally stepped on the scales, I was pretty shocked at how heavy I had gotten. What happened over the next nine months is because I was only training once a week, I couldn’t deceive myself that oh you’re going to click off six miles tomorrow so you can go ahead and eat that extra piece of pizza or cake. I couldn’t fool myself that way, so my diet improved and I don’t remember the numbers right off the hand, but I did start to steadily lose weight. Which was an unanticipated benefit, and clearly just all around felt better.

Mike: I was looking at his consult form, and what he put down for his regular dinner was PB&J sandwich and ice cream.

Adam: Did that change too, did you change your eating when you started working out?

Mike: Well first of all, this is New York so it’s a very glamorous life style, so this is dinner in New York.

Mike: Hence is a portfolio manager, pretty busy, schedule.

Hence: Pretty busy, not unlike most people, but pretty exotic and elaborate meals. Certainly my diet changed, and I attribute it to finally, in my early 40’s, coming to understand that you cannot out train a bad diet, and by decreasing the frequency of training, I couldn’t deceive myself that I could just eat all I wanted. So that was an unanticipated benefit of moving to a high frequency, or high intensity, lower frequency form of training.

Adam: Okay, so you had the nine month experiment and then you were here for many years after that, so the experiment was over. You were kind of convinced and you stuck this out, you did it for once or twice a week, so I’m dying to know. When you left, what did you do?

Hence: I didn’t just say I’m out. I continued to do a fair amount of reading and research. What I was really doing was experimenting with something else, so reading McGuff, very helpful, learned a lot. I also learned to start to read some of what people had been writing about regular, old school weight lifting. The power lifts, dead lift, back squat, bench press. I though their claims were interesting —

Adam: You’re talking all free weights?

Hence: Exactly, so Olympic bars, and I thought the claims of the school of thought were interesting. That these exercises are very functional, and if you think about it, there really isn’t very little that doesn’t revolve around a squat or a deadlift, or an overhead press or a bench press in one way or another. So I thought well this is interesting, and it seems to make some sense.

Going in, I thought there were some issues that I would have difficulty with, such as barbell on your back, or lifting a barbell off the ground, and there’s also just the time involved, because this method of exercise, the free weight training method of exercise does demand several days a week. So these were issues that I knew going in, but I was interested in the so called functional benefits of this form of exercise. For some period of time, period of weeks I believe, I did some weight training away from InForm. Then I’d come to InForm and do my normal workout.

Mike: I remember, you were splitting it up a little bit.

Hence: I was splitting it up, and I was not going to learn what I wanted to learn by doing that, so I said alright. Let me take a break from InForm, let me see what I can learn in the free weight world and so I did. I was cognizant of the risks, so I made sure to learn how to do the more dangerous exercises the right way, really did invest quite a bit of time.

Mike: I remember that I didn’t even discourage Hence. I loved our conversations, I loved the exploration. It really forced me to even evaluate and think about all the other ways of doing things, and I remember just encouraging you to just be very mindful to what you were doing in regards to range of motion… I remember when we were working together and you were doing your workouts independently and coming into InForm, and you were showing me how you were doing some squats with weights, and you were going really deep into it. I said I’d be very careful about going that far down, almost where his butt was below the level of his knees.

Hence: Like sumo wrestler low.

Mike: Exactly, and I was like I need you to be very mindful about doing that because it could be — you’re going to an extreme range of motion with a lot of resistance and those are usually what causes those breaking points.

Adam: It’s hard to bite your tongue, because when you hear somebody say that they’re going to do a dangerous exercise safely, that’s like — you know what I hear when I hear that? When someone says that, to me, it’s like saying I’m going to play Russian Roulette safely. There is no safe way to play Russian Roulette, you are eventually, or could eventually, get hurt and regardless of how careful you are — only because, the nature of let’s say a barbell squat is you have this long lever with weights at the end of it, being supported by a structure, a skeletal structure, a spine in particular. If you go to the left or right a little bit too much, it’s all over and it’s just hard to defend against that longterm that you can get away with that. There’s no reason to do it if you can get the same effect of an exercise like that from a leg press or something where you don’t take those kind of spinal risks, but I’m digressing.

Hence: Right, well what I found from switching over to free weights is that the exercises are very effective. I felt like I definitely got stronger in some really basic movements, I learned how to squat, I think about as safely as one can, and I learned how to deadlift actually quite safely, and I enjoyed the movement of those exercises. They were pleasant to do, but — and I was able to progress and move the weight up and all that, but over a period of — I guess it was a total of about eighteen months, I got to the point where I had gotten more capable of lifting heavier weight, but to the point where I really believed that I was starting to get to a tipping point. Where yeah, I had gotten stronger and yes my technique was pretty good, but if I were going to get stronger from there, I was going to be taking some risks. It really took me that long also to really understand that even as the weight got heavier and even as my technique stayed pretty solid, that I could not generate the intensity safely that I wanted to achieve. I would feel like maybe I have another —

Adam: What happens when you have a barbell on your shoulders and you’re reaching muscle failure?

Mike: Or after you’ve failed on let’s say, doing dumbbell flys, how do you safely put those weight down? There’s a lot of different scenarios.

Adam: So you didn’t have a trainer Hence?

Hence: Well I did early on just to get the technique right, but then I was really training myself. It became really clear that there were times when I might have, let’s say, half a rep left in me but I had to rack the weight, just for safety’s sake. After getting — I never really got injured, I got a little tweaked once in a while, but I never got truly injured. Certainly witnessed a couple things in the gym that were a little disconcerting, but never myself got hurt, but after I got to a certain level at the major exercises, it was just really clear that I just couldn’t safely progress.

Mike: Like an intense stimulus, to go forward with it.

Hence: Right, just could not generate the intensity with the safety that I wanted.

Adam: It makes total sense. So I guess that’s when you started thinking about InForm again.

Hence: Right, so I went back, I reread the Power of Ten, I reread McGuff, and I think as with any discipline, it’s one thing to read the book once or twice. It’s another thing to read the book and then go experiment, try something, live it, and then go back and reread it and say oh, that’s what McGuff meant. Now I understand what he’s talking about, or that’s what Adam meant.

Mike: Real understandings, I think is a process like that often times. To read it you get the information, but as you said, to live it and then to go back and look at the text and what it’s all about, that’s when it really seeps in when you’ve done that a little bit.

Hence: The time I spent training with free weights is absolutely not wasted at all, I learned a lot from doing it, I’m glad I did it. I saw some tremendous athletes workout, and I got a sense of what that world was all about but there’s a difference between training for a particular sport, whether it’s Olympic weight lifting, whether it’s power lifting, versus training for health and strength and general well being. I think one of the things that comes through in McGuff and that Adam tried to tell me ten years ago and I wasn’t really ready to understand it, is the difference between fitness for a particular activity — whether that’s a big bench press or whether that’s a fast 10K, and health. The two really are quite different, and I certainly have known people who are tremendously fit at a given activity, marathon running be a prime example.

Mike: Or football players, they are extremely fit and being able to run and jump and sprint and tackle, but they’re dealing with a tremendous amount of pain.

Hence: Health issues —

Adam: Well that’s the thing, fitness is not — being really fit does not guarantee being very healthy. You can become fit and not undermine your health, or based on how you determine the choice of how you get fit, the whole reason I chose to practice a form of safe, high intensity training is because why in the name of fitness, or really why in the name of health should your — I mean it’s ironic that a fitness program would undermine your health in the long run. Sports are one thing, if you want to play a sport and excel at a certain skill and activity, recreational pursuit, and it happens to make you strong and fit, so be it, but do it because you love the sport. Not because you think it’s going to make you fit. The idea of choosing a sport to get fit is a little bit backwards. You should choose a sport because you love that sport and some sports, depending upon the sport of course, and the intensity of that sport, can get you very fit, can get you strong. But if your idea is just to get strong to live a healthy, long, strong life, choosing a sport for that purpose is probably not the best idea. Choosing an exercise program that is going to make you strong and is going to delay that aging process, truly delay that aging process, and not at the same time undermine your health in the process and the things that I’m talking about is that you were talking about before. The arthritis, the pain in the joints, all those kinds of overtraining injuries that can occur. It’s not worth it. Sports are worth it if you love sports, but if you just want to get fit, again, sports are not necessarily the best choice.

Mike: It’s tough because often times those things are insidious. They don’t happen on day one, they happen on day 400, and you’re like oh wow. That little tweak which you can tolerate on the 20th day of doing something, and even on the 80th day, all of a sudden comes something that’s like wow, now my shoulder is really bothering me. Those are the type of things that kind of sneak up on you. One of the things that I really admire and I try to continue to apply to my life as a trainer and everything is the idea to explore and to try things out. I feel like that’s how everything, even the power of ten evolved, is seeing what else out there. Obviously you want to have a good head on your shoulders and make sure you’re trying to take relative precautions and just reasonable sense over whatever you’re trying to do. Going back to power of ten, you can achieve the intensity, we know that the intense stimulus on the muscles is really what makes the adaptation a meaningful adaptation, and if you can do that in a safe way, then why wouldn’t you try.

Adam: Consistently.

Hence: I mean I think the — whether it’s running, the weight lifting, both of which I’ve experimented with to quite an extent, they don’t generate the intensity that we get through this form of exercise, and if you read through McGuff, there are tremendous metabolic benefits that come from achieving that level of intensity.

Adam: McGuff is talking about a lot of research that has been going on out there about how intensity is what is driving these health benefits, these physiological adaptations. It’s the

intensity, it’s not the duration of the exercise. You can eventually get these adaptations with slow, steady state activities,  but the risks to do so add up. For the same adaptations, you don’t need to take those risks by just increasing the intensity and shortening the time of the workout, and doing it in a safe manner.

Mike: And also the time in-between workouts. It seems like it is still very contrary to what people think about exercise. Like more is better, but if you do things intensely, whatever the activity is, whether it’s boxing or running, weight training, yoga. The more intense the stimulus, the more time your body needs to recover in order for it to actually adapt and change.

Hence: I thought the number that you mentioned earlier was interesting. So you said that I’ve logged, what 341?

Mike: 351, yeah.

Hence: So 351 — over eight and a half total years. So 351 sounds like a large number, and I think it should be actually to be considered a large number but if you’re doing a conventional type of workout, you would triple that workout.

Mike: Well you think about if it’s —

Adam: Well how many workouts a year does that turn out to be?

Mike: It was 41 a year on the average.

Adam: There are people that think you should do that in two months.

Mike: Well the prescription and like the American Heart Association says three moderate or two high intensity a week, or actually, some people prescribe even more than that. They say four or five days a week, but let’s say three days a week, over three years, you do 350.

Hence: I think also there is a psychology there too that I’ve found, that I have trouble with. If you believe that you have to run four or five days a week, at first it’s kind of a cool challenge. It’s like oh I’m going to go do this, it’s going to be awesome, but then you start to realize okay, what am I having to not do. I’m having to — I’m not able to help my family the way I should, I’m not able to — it really takes a lot of time.

Adam: We’ve got lives to live.

Hence: And then that understanding of effectively the opportunity cost of what I am not able to do because I’m doing this, it starts to erode at least my willingness to do that exercise, whereas here, look, training once a week is great. Going back to when I first started training with Adam ten years ago, I asked the question a lot of clients ask which is well what should I do on vacation, and Adam said nothing. I’m as Type A as anyone and I was like, what do you mean nothing? I took him at his word and I actually did go away for a week and did nothing, and was shocked to then come back and find that that extra rest resulted in my strength that following workout being quite a bit better.

Mike: It’s consistent almost in every case when people take — when people come back from their vacation. They make their personal best or they make a jump, just by having that extra rest, it’s amazing how counterintuitive that is.

Adam: That’s why I always like to tell people to not do anything on vacation, just enjoy your

vacation. Don’t stress out about where you’re going to exercise. Besides usually the gyms at the hotel suck anyway. So that was great, Hence, you know, I learned a lot, it was great to hear that story. I’m glad you’re back, and I hope — and Mike you did a great job, you two as a team did a great job over the years, and I love the communication. So kudos to you Mike, and to you guys, and how you work through that. There’s no defensiveness, it was truly an attempt to discover what was best and it’s a great story. I hope for those listening out there, whether you exercise all the time and used to do what Hence does, or want to experiment with free weights or realize that maybe less is more, there’s something for everybody in this I think. So thank you very much Hence for joining us. It’s been a great help.

Mike: It’s great Hence that you were on the podcast. Thank you very much for being here.