Use What You Got

My daughter Hartley pushing an ab wheel while wearing a mini band as a belt

My daughter Hartley pushing an ab wheel while wearing a mini band as a belt

 

If you are remotely into fitness, which assuming most of you who read this blog are, then chances are you have some old exercise equipment lying around your house.  It may be buried in the basement, in the back of your closet, somewhere in your garage or perhaps it is used as the world’s most expensive clothes hanger.   Whatever the case may be, take inventory of what you have and what you have available to you and chances are you do not have to go very far to get in a great workout.  Maybe you have an old jump rope somewhere, a pull up bar, a few sets of old dumbbells, a mini trampoline, a pogo stick, an ab cruncher, an old treadmill or Aerodyne bike(like my dad has) or even a thigh master, whatever it is gather it together and see what you can use to get some work done.  Sometimes the biggest limit to our workouts is imagination.  If we could find ways to use what we have then we would all get great workouts in all the time and would not be stressed for time.  My workouts consist of about 20 minutes in my back yard using the limited amount of equipment I have.

Now, I am a trainer and I have collected a few items over the years but mostly the things I believe are extremely valuable, universal and ideal.  My list of equipment consists of:

  • 35lb Kettlebell
  • 53lb Kettlebell
  • 5 lb dumbbells
  • 8lb dumbbells
  • Green, Red and Blue Mini Bands
  • Orange JC Band
  • Yellow JC Band
  • Ab Wheel
  • Ab Wheel for your feet
  • Jump Rope
  • TRX
  • Rings
  • 12lb Body Bar
  • Push Up Bars

Like I said before, we should also use whatever we have in our surrounding areas and environments.  You live close to a park or big hill? Great, think about ways to incorporate those into your workouts.  Parks are great for monkey bars, pull ups, swings and even just a bench or picnic table.  And don’t even get me started on the benefits of hill sprints, yes they are hard and yes they punishing but my God are they good for you and worth it.  Have stairs at home?  What about some step ups or push ups or bear crawls up and down your steps.  I am fortunate enough to live right around the corner from a park and I am always messing around at it when playing with my kids.  I probably bang out at least 30 or so pull ups every time I am there.  Fitness and exercise can be right under your nose if we just open our eyes to see what is available.  Don’t be afraid of looking foolish or silly or what others may think of you.  Just move your body the best you can because our body is by far the best machine ever created.

Here is a list of things around me I use in my workouts as well:

  • 2 foot high log stumps
  • Mini tramp
  • Pogo Stick
  • Golf Club
  • Grass
  • Longboard Skateboard

My workouts currently are in a maintenance phase.  I am trying to maintain what I have and continue being as fit and active as I can.  I do not have access to a gym and I do not like to do heavy lifting in the summer time anyways, so my workouts are mostly body weight, circuit style training.  My circuits consists of:

  • Jumps on the log, step ups on the log, squat rows with the band, push ups off the push up bars and recover with jumps on the mini trampoline for about a minute
  • Kettlebell swings, kettlebell squats, squat push with the band, lunge stance alternating pulls with band, side lunges, band rotations and recover with chipping 10 golf balls
  • 1 leg jumps on the logs, 1 arm band punch, 1 arm band row, alternating hand kettlebell swings, lunge jumps, burpees and finish with mountain climbers

Generally I try to never repeat the same circuit or exercise and always keep my body moving.  If I did push ups last time, I may do push ups with rotation the next time.  If I did double arm row one time, I will do alternating the next, if I did squat push then I will do lunge push.  Variety makes a world of difference on even the simplest exercises.  Finding ways to mix it up and keep it fresh makes the workout go by faster and is more enjoyable because you are not dreading the same circuit again and again.

Take inventory of what you have around and find creative ways to incorporate them into a workout, chances are you have more than you need right at your disposal.

“If you give a half assed effort, half the time, you end with a quarter of the results.”

 

 

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My Fitness Journey

My fitness journey starts at an early age for me, as early as 5 years old. I started racing big wheels at my local BMX track on Saturday nights. Probably not so much racing as just coasting down the starting hill but needless to say it was fun, active and my first taste of competition. I continued racing BMX on and off for most of my childhood going all the way up to about age 15. I grew up a very active young boy with so much energy and a love for being outside and moving my body. I have a fond memory of always jumping off of everything I could, steps, curbs, chairs, table and couches. As a matter of fact, my dad has a great story of catching me in the act jumping off the bathroom vanity into the bathtub butt naked when I was like 7 or 8. I remember riding my bike a lot around the neighborhood, skateboarding, playing flag football in the street, tee ball in the backyard, jumping on our trampoline and roller-skating. My brothers and I would frequently visit the local park with bike riding trails and jumps and a basketball hoop. Around 4th grade is when I found my first love of sports and that would be basketball. I was very fortunate to have parents who were very supportive of every sport I had an interest in. No matter what I was interested in they helped either build, make or buy something to make us better and be more successful at that sport. Case in point, my parents used their tax return to build a ¾ scale half-basketball court in my backyard complete with a painted key and 3-point line. My dad even installed floodlights on the back of the house so we could play at night. Many, many hours were spent shooting around and many, many 2 on 2 games had been played on that court. It was probably one of the best investments they had ever made.

Growing up in Phoenix, AZ, it goes without saying it was hot in the summer time and with it being so hot that means cooling off in the pool. I was a pool rat every summer, spending lots of my time swimming around, playing and eventually gravitating toward the sport of diving. My grandparents had a pool with a diving board and spending long summer days there it had me hooked at an early age.   It wasn’t until I started going to our local pool that my love for diving skyrocketed. I joined the recreation team and I could not get enough pool time. Often times, diving practice would be from 10-12 and then the pool would open to the public at 12. We would stay there until about 1-130, get our hand stamped on the way out (so we didn’t have to pay to get back in) and then come back from 7-10 at night. We would continue this routine 7 days a week for 3 full summers. One of the great things about the sport of diving for me was the constant progression and everyday trying something new, different and challenging myself. Learning new dives and finding out what I was capable of was my ultimate satisfaction.

Around the time I entered high school is when I really started taking an interest in physical fitness. After mandatory PE my freshman year, I elected to take Systematic Conditioning or Systos as we liked to call it, for the next 3 years. Systos was basically just a weight training class for the full hour taught by our swim coach. It was where I learned the importance of hard work, lifting heavy and getting the most out of your workout. I remember it being quite hard and tough on most days and leaving the class pretty deflated and sore but I knew it was good. I would love to say we took the time to learn all the big lifts properly and we learned correct form and all the different movement patterns but however that was not the case. Yes we squatted and cleaned with weight belts on and yes we did bench press every other day and yes we even did the outlawed leg press. I do remember doing a lot of cleans and not really knowing what they were good for but I knew they were just hard. I remember the great feeling of graduating from 25lbs on each side to the 45 lbs on each side. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, the difference in size between the 25’s and 45’s is probably around 3-4 inches, which means that is 3-4 inches less you have to go down to pick up the bar. It makes a world of difference, just ask any experienced lifter. I remember benching regularly and it was the classic old school workout that if you were to bench press 250 lbs, your sets would be 8, 6, 4, 2, 1 with the 1 rep being around 240-250 and ending with a drop burn out set of 8. We also did some great stuff like box jumps, back squats and heavy jump rope. I remember being captivated by the work you put in and also watching the amount of weight you lifted keep increasing. I am not going to lie, as a high schooler, I was pretty vain and I also loved they way I looked. You had to look good for all the girls, right? I knew weight training was great for me but I never made the connection between weight training and performance back then. Now that I look back on it, it helped me tremendously on the diving board by giving me more strength and power and also keeping me injury free.

After accepting a diving scholarship to the University of Toledo, we were required to lift 2 days a week as a part of our training for the week. Practice was every day from 2-5 with weights after practice on Mondays and Wednesdays. The weight training sessions were hard, really hard. The strength coach had this philosophy of doing only one set of a huge circuit until failure. His belief was to get us strong but also keep us injury free. All we used was the Hammer Strength equipment and you went down the line performing a huge circuit, leg press, leg curl, leg extension, high pull, low pull, chest press and shoulder press. All of your weights and reps were recorded and your weights were pre-set. Your goal was to get 12 reps on every lift but a lot of the times you did not succeed. The weight was really heavy and was designed for you to fail. Sometimes you would only get 9 or 10 depending on your energy that day. If you did make your 12 reps you had to keep going until you failed which was usually around 13 or 14 anyway. That first semester I was so spent after our weight sessions I usually had to go lie down in my dorm room for a little bit. Not good. I remember a couple of times doing some really killer workout complexes in which I nearly passed out. One of them was alternating sets of 1-minute pull-ups followed by 1 minute of dips. Brutal. If you could no longer do a pull up or dip, you were required to hop up and slowly lower yourself down concentrating on the eccentric. One workout I remember distinctly was pushing a 2 x 4 down the Astroturf and back for time. I remember thinking this can’t be that hard and I would finish it no problem. Well let me tell you something, a piece of wood + Astroturf + friction = legs smoked. I remember pushing the board for the full 100 yards on the way down no problem and then coming back it got kind of hairy. I did 30 yards, then 20, then 10, 10, 10, 10, 5, 5 and died. I believe this workout was given for their pure enjoyment.

When I graduated from college I moved back home and took my first personal training job at Bally Total Fitness. I would say I was an okay trainer with a good knowledge of the important exercises to do but I was also more so a machine trainer. It wasn’t for long though. One of my fellow co-workers introduced me to a book that changed my whole outlook and philosophy on training. The book was called Core Performance by Mark Verstegan and it was life changing. Never before had I seen or read anything on the different ways to move your body like I did in this book. There was so much great stuff in it like side lunging, one leg reaching, overhead squatting, lunge and twisting, step and stretch, inch worms, chops, lifts, step ups, bridging, marching bridging and making letters with your arms. I loved all of it and kept doing all the movement prep exercises at my home and loved how much better I felt and how much my body felt more alive. I started transitioning my clients from machine-based exercises to more of this new multi-directional, functional style training and they got great results.   They may have not liked it too much because it was hard, but it was good for them and they were feeling a difference.

Shortly afterwards, I moved to California with my girlfriend and now wife and took a job at a local gym in Corona Del Mar called Shape-Up Fitness. It was there at Shape-Up I was introduced to a whole other side of fitness, the functional fitness genre. I never had any experience with any resistant band work and was required to study multiple DVD’s. I was fascinated and hooked with all this influx of new material and ways to move the body. I loved all the combination exercises you could do with the bands like: punches, alternating pulls, squat push, squat pull, skiers and rotations. I was also fortunate enough to be given the opportunity by my work to attend a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) seminar where I learned how to screen my clients for movement pattern deficiencies. The FMS is a very useful screen to see how my clients move and corrective exercises to give them to get them to move better. I finally felt like I was evolving as a trainer and was finding great ways to move my clients and get them great results. I must say I am extremely grateful to have been surrounded by great trainers who made me step up and get on the same level as them and trainers who encouraged learning and staying current in the fitness world. We attended many seminars every year to further enhance our knowledge of training, learn new exercises and get fired up for training again and again.

A little while later, I became certified on a great piece of equipment called the TRX. The TRX is hands down one of the best exercise tools ever created. It is portable, easy to use, multi-directional and all body weight specific. With it being a suspension trainer, it can provide an unbelievable amount of resistance and make classic exercises that much harder. Just going through and completing the certification was a killer. I remember the instructor basically going through the whole manual with us and making us perform every single exercise in it for what seemed like an extensive amount of time. We were all extremely sore and tired after that certification for a couple of days but we knew it was great because we knew how much better our clients and we would get. Around this time is when I became good friends with a fellow trainer named Kyle from Bare5 and we went on another fitness journey together. Kyle introduced me onto another life changing book called The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. It was from The Primal Blueprint that we learned not only about nutrition by more so the importance of getting outside, connecting with the earth, sprinting, walking, lifting heavy and playing. We felt some of these elements were missing from our everyday lives and it was important to incorporate them back into your routine. Often times we would be seen playing Frisbee outside together on a grass field with no shoes on and shirts off or monkeying around on the playground or climbing trees or just shooting basketball. Whatever it may be, we knew it was important to get outside and move our bodies however and whenever we could. I learned that as much as gyms are great, you often times can get an even better workout outside. Some of my greatest and most enjoyable workouts have been outside playing around on monkey bars or just finding a tree to do different exercises on. I love just going with the flow, doing what comes naturally to me and not worrying about numbers, reps or sets and enjoying the movement.

My fitness journey spans over a time period of 20 years and I have learned an incredible amount. I am grateful for every book I was introduced to, all the like- minded people I became friends with, all the presenters at the seminars I attend and all of the certifications I acquired. I have definitely learned a lot and look forward continuing to learn and grow as a person and as a trainer.

Throughout my fitness journey the most important things I learned are: strength is important, move often, move well, use your body weight, get outside, go barefoot, play often, forget what others may think, enjoy the process and have fun. Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Have a wonderful day, now get out there and move.

My Favorite Exercises

When it comes to exercise, we all have exercises which we love to do and perform almost every time we hit the gym.  It may be push ups, pull ups, leg press, the weighted ab machine, calf raises or broom twists, whatever it may be, we all perform the exercises we like and enjoy.  One of the harmful aspects of always performing the exercises we love and enjoy is that we are not getting the benefit from all of the exercises we are not doing.  We cannot get any better and get the results we are after if we keep doing the same thing over and over again.  We all know the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” In order to get to the next level, we all must do the exercises we hate, do them often and make our weaknesses our strengths.  There is a reason why we hate these exercises whether it may be they hurt, we are not good at them or they are just not fun.

It is time to change things up a bit and think about starting out your workout sessions with those dreaded exercises in which you loath doing.  Try doing them when you are fresh and full of energy and then you can get to all of those exercises you love to do afterwards.  I am not a big fan of Turkish Get Ups but I usually try to get a set or two in with my warm up.  Why?  Because I know they are good for me, I know they are hard to do and I know they are one heckuva way to warm up the body.  Now for me, there is a difference between exercises in which I like and exercises in which I can not do.  I can not perform certain exercise because they cause me physical harm.  I love barbell bench press, barbell cleans and dips but I have learned to not do them anymore because they hurt my shoulder.  I hate to say this but, as I have gotten older (ahem) I have learned to eliminate these exercises from my training program to continue the longevity of my training career.  If you have exercises such as these, then it might be time to think about retiring them and moving on to something more effective.

I want to share with you a list of all my favorite exercises in which I perform on a regular basis.  A lot of them may be performed only one time for the warm up but every one of these exercises I am going to list I believe are important and valuable to any training program.  To make things easier I am going to break it up into categories.  Look over the lists and see how many exercises match up to yours

Body Weight

  • Bridge
  • Marching Bridge
  • Bird Dog
  • Plank
  • Side Plank
  • Overhead Squat
  • Single Leg Squat
  • Side Lunge
  • Curtsy Lunge
  • Split Squat
  • 1 Leg Reach
  • T’s, Y’s, L’s, W’s
  • Push Up
  • Pull Up
  • Inverted Pull Up
  • Handstand
  • 1 Leg Step Up
  • Jump Rope
  • Skipping
  • Side Shuffle
  • Carioca
  • High Knees
  • Butt Kickers

This is pretty much my warm up.

Medicine Ball

  • Ball Slams
  • Ball Chest Press
  • Side Lateral Toss
  • Front Lateral Toss
  • Overhead Toss
  • Back Lunge and Twist
  • Woodchops

Kettlebell

  • Turkish Get Ups
  • Goblet Squat
  • Swings
  • 1 Arm Swings
  • 1 Arm Snatch
  • Deadlift
  • Farmers Carry
  • Waiters Carry
  • Suitcase Carry
  • Single Arm Split Squat
  • Single Arm Squat
  • Single Arm Shoulder Press
  • Cleans
  • Single Leg Deadlift
  • Sumo Squat
  • 1 Arm Row

Barbell

  • Back Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Shoulder Press
  • Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Dumbbells

  • Chest Press
  • Incline Press
  • Single Arm Chest Press
  • 1 Arm Row
  • 1 Arm Overhead Press
  • Double Arm Squat Curl Press
  • Renegade Row
  • 1 Arm Snatch

Bands

  • Squat Press
  • Squat Row
  • Split Stance Alternating Presses
  • Split Stance Alternating Rows
  • Lunge and Press

Cable Pulley

  • Squat Stance Chops (High to Low)
  • Split Stance Chops
  • Squat Stance Lifts (Low to High)
  • Split Stance Lifts
  • Split Stance 1 Arm Punch
  • Split Stance 1 Arm Row

Well that pretty much raps it up for me and most of the exercises I try to perform regularly.  I know it may seem like a long and detailed list, which it is, but I would say I perform almost all of these exercises within the week and not all in one day.  For me, it all depends on my mood, my energy and what I am feeling for the day.  If I feel great, full of energy and fired up, I generally warm up  and get after it with a lot of body weight high explosive type exercises.  Lots of high heart rate stuff, medicine ball training and sprints.  Other days I may feel like toning it down a bit and working on some core essential moves like the body weight stuff, some band exercises and my chops and lifts with the cable stations.  Then sometimes I feel like just loading the body and getting my lift on with some barbell work, dumbbells and kettlebells.  I keep it short, sweet and heavy mainly sticking with either a 3 x 5 or 5 x 5 reps and set range.  Think about your program and what you can do to improve it, make it more effective and reach the results you are after.

Remember the warm up is important and your warm up should be your workout and your workout should be the warm up.

 

Workout Montage

A short video of things I have been working on, new toys I have been playing with and different fun ways to move my body.  I am shifting my concentration from heavy lifting to more body weight, gymnastic and kettlebell training.  Enjoy

Build Your Foundation

When building a house, one of the first and most important steps is building a strong and almost indestructible base.  The foundation of the house needs to be strong, reliable and handle the load and structure of the rest of the house.  Without a strong foundation the house would be sagging in some areas, breaking off in other areas or possibly crumpling under the heavy load of the house.  Your body is your house and your legs are your foundation.  Your legs are probably the most important and under-worked body part of your body which is unfortunate because the legs set up the rest of the body for a wonderfully powerful and strong foundation.  I understand, nobody really likes to work legs.  It is hard, very tiring, pretty exhausting and leads to people walking funny down stairs and getting in and out of chairs.  Our legs need to be our foundation for our bodies and I would suggest starting with them first every time you train.  I have been in this industry long enough to know how some of the workout schedules go, especially more so since moving out here to South Carolina.  Let me break it down for you and see if you fall into this kind of split: Monday- Chest and triceps, Tuesday- Back and biceps, Wednesday- shoulders and abs, Thursday- legs? No I think going out sounds better, so Friday- legs?  No, still hurting from going out on Thursday, I will get it next.  The next week comes and they fall into the same rotation.  The reasons why I don’t like this kind of program is because for any of you who know me, know I love full body workouts.  You should workout your whole body every time and then take a day off to rest.  We are not body builders so we do not need to isolate body parts on specific days.  If you do full body workout then you will burn more calories, lower your body fat percentage, increase your metabolic rate and hopefully shred some fat and get stronger and leaner in the process.  Maybe your workout routine is a little different and maybe some of you like to do a upper body lower body split which is fine.  Just make sure when you lift your legs, you to start with a big compound lift like a squat or a deadlift.

How we start our fitness programs dictate how successful we are and what we want to get out of it.  Start with your legs every time you workout.  I always attack my legs on the days I work out.  I go after them and make them pay the price because I know that it is good for me and know it will translate over to everything else I want to do.  Our legs are our powerhouse and we need to work them as best as we can.  Not only do I want strong legs for activities of daily life, like hiking, playing with my kids, carrying groceries, flying up the stairs and jumping around but I also want strong powerful legs because I know it is great for my golf game.  I want to hit the ball longer and farther and one of the best ways to do that is to have strong powerful hips.  After your warm up, pick a compound movement like front squat, deadlift, kettlebell swings or back squat and perform anywhere between 3 – 5 sets.  Some of the rep ranges I have been playing around with lately is 5 sets of 5 reps.  5 x 5 is great for gaining pure strength which each set going a little bit heavier and I also like to do 3 sets of 8.  Generally, I start with my main lift and perform just that until it is done and then I move on to some mini circuits where I incorporate an upper body lift and a lower body lift.  It is also good to start with your legs because you are fresh and full of energy because we all know how hard it is to squat or deadlift well when you are tired or are running run low on energy.

Build your foundation and make it strong, tough and powerful.  Start with your legs and and you will see great gains in your strength, your physique and your performance.  Have a wonderful foundation building day.sq

Hump Day Workout

Today’s workout was a typical lifting workout but with a different spin on it.  I performed 3 sets of 8 reps but I timed my rest period to only 1 minute and it worked me pretty good.  I was surprised how much work I got down in so little time.  After performing 5-6 big lifts with this rep range and timed rest, I look up at the clock and only 25 minutes had passed.  Which got me thinking about how much more effective our workouts can be if we control one of the variables like your rest break.  Think about how long you really actually rest in between sets, your rest might be getting a drink a water, talking to the cute girl on the outer thigh machine or watching a Sportscenter highlight, but I guarantee it is longer than 1 minute.  Get on the clock right after you finish your first set and give yourself 1 minute before you do the next one, bang out the next set, wait another minute and do set 3 and you are done with that exercise.  Time to move on to the next exercise.  Realistically speaking each exercise should take no more than 4 minutes max.  My goal in the gym is to get in, get after it and get out.  Make your workouts more efficient and effective and you will see some great results.

My workout looked like this:

Warm Up

Performed as a 3 exercise circuit

3 rounds of

8 Overhead Squats, 8 Push Ups, 8 Pull Ups

Workout

Front Squat 3 x 8 (95lbs)

Bent Over Row 3 x 8 (135,155, 165)

Romanian Deadlift 3 x 8 (165, 175, 185)

Kettlebell Swings 3 x 20 (28 kg ~ 61 lbs)

Dumbbell Chest Press 3 x 8 (70, 75, 75)

Hammer Strength High Pull 3 x 8 (90, 100, 100)

Dumbbell Squat Curl Press 3 x 8 (25,35,45)

Ab Wheel Roll Outs 3 x 20

Done in 45 minutes and feeling it.  Time to tackle the day.

Which One Are You?

Today’s post comes from a great mentor of mine, a man who is always inspiring, always motivating, always making you want to become even better than you are, to be more successful, to try a little harder and be the best you can be each and every day, Mr. Martin Rooney.  I receive email blasts from Mr. Rooney who operates Training for Warriors and I always take the time to read the powerful words Mr. Rooney has for us that day.  This particular posts asks which one are you, a trainer or a coach?  I think being a trainer and/or coach are two of the best professions in the world but there are definitely some differences between the two.  Both are life transformers, yes, but being a coach means going beyond that one hour a day you spend with your clients or athletes and instilling values in them to carry over for life.  Hands down my second favorite word to be called is coach (my first will always be daddy).  Being a coach has a more distinct honor and holds more value than just being a trainer.  With coaching you are helping people not only with their sport or fitness but you are helping them with core values that they can carry over for life like, honesty, integrity, decency, good sportsmanship, hard work, preparation and discipline.  I like to think of the people I coach as my own personal set of clay and I can mold them into fine, amazing, successful individuals.  One of my favorite things is to see my former divers continue on to great success whether it be diving at another school, getting their doctorates or just getting married and having successful careers.  I love knowing that I made an impact on their lives and helped shape them in some way, shape or form because when it all comes down to it, we are here to help others and we receive the most reward when helping others and not ever wanting anything in return.  For that I will always strive to be great in everything I do but also be the best coach in everything I do.  Have a fantastic day everyone.

 

Which One Are You?

A Trainer Lights a fire under someone.
A Coach Lights A Fire Inside Of Someone.

A Trainer affects the hour they are with someone.
A Coach affects the hours they are not with someone.

A Trainer Hopes To Get Through The Session.
The Coach Hopes To Get Through To Someone.

A Trainer Forgets The Job Is Not To Remind People About Problems.
A Coach Remembers The Job Is To Solve Them.

A Trainer Stretches your legs.
A Coach Stretches Your Limits.

A Trainer Counts Your Reps.
A Coach Discounts Your excuses.

A Trainer Is concerned with How Much time you put in.
A Coach is concerned with How Much You put into the time.

A Trainer wants you to do your best.
A Coach wants you to do better than your best.

A Trainer is concerned More With How, Where and When.
A Coach is Concerned More With Who, What and Why.

A Trainer Works For A Paycheck.
A Coach Works For A Passion.

A Trainer Develops and Delivers Your Workout.
A Coach Creates and Cultivates Your Purpose.

Training is Something You Do To Someone.
Coaching Is Something You Do With Someone.