Thoughts After MFF’s Motivation and Movement LAB

Humbled. Honored.  Those two feelings are a good place to start.

Last weekend 70+ fitness professionals came from across the US and Canada to join us at MFF’s second Motivation and Movement LAB in NYC.  I was blown away with the curiosity, care, humility and humanity of every single person in the world.

Please note what I’m not saying: I wasn’t at the M/M LAB to learn the latest and greatest in exercise physiology, nutritional strategies, or corrective exercise.  There are education events where that is the goal, but it’s not M/M LAB.  From the beginning, the M/M LAB concept has had a simple outcome in mind:

Become A Better Coach

At MFF we’re really in to our continuing education, and I started to notice something.  At conferences, I would notice that for each coach who was intently listening and taking notes, 5 more were staring at the wall waiting for the big “Take Home” tips.  After thinking, I imagine there are ten more coaches at home who don’t even bother with the boredom!

When I first observed that, I thought to myself: “Ugh, they’re the problem.  Going to a seminar and then complaining about the format? Just shut up and learn.”  I’ve learned a lot since then, and one of the big ideas has been to change the event format.  Not a fan of the long lecture? No big deal; at M/M LAB we use a condensed 25 minute lecture to introduce ideas, then we workshop those ideas in 45 minute sessions during which attendees can apply the concept to their own practice.  The time to figure it out is while you’re with the presenters, so we can apply as much as possible.

MFF’s Michael Littig leading a discussion of The Hero’s Journey

That’s the crux of being a better coach: Applying as much as possible.  A week after our event, it seems that our LAB’ers are already doing just that.  Interestingly, we didn’t talk very much about actual exercise.  Artemis Scantalides chatted about the psychology of starting new clients, then demonstrated her starting moves.  Tony Gentilcore explained how we can make our assessments more meaningful, then demonstrated a few of his favorites. I chatted about how we program for classes and semi-private training at MFF, then we practiced writing a movement-based program.

None of these talks were for the sake of introducing new ideas, but rather for simplifying old ones.  Clarity was the key.  For example, I think Tony’s reminder to speak “client” not “trainer” was a great reminder.


Often as trainers, we’re so excited to share our solutions or prove our passions that we steamroll our clients in the process.  Coach Stevo did an impeccable job explaining this when he said:

When there’s a Point A and a Point B, we just play the role of Google Maps.  Our clients can get themselves there, we just check for traffic and find the shortest route possible.  However, when they’re moving towards an unnamed place, we’ve gotta sit back and play the role of navigator.  Riding shotgun is tough for a lot of us, but with good coaching skills you can fast track it:

For example, our closer for the weekend was MFF trainer and Fulbright Scholar Michael Littig.  He presented what may be one of the most existential talks at a fitness event, ever.  Jesus of Unicorpia, as we call Michael at MFF, outlined Joseph Campbell’s monomyth as a way to frame what our clients are doing.  The Hero’s Journey is a linguistic device that helps us identify parts of our own story, so we can better share them with others. As are all the things we do, it’s a tool to communicate and have more fun.  Sounds deep?  Think about it this way:

That’s deep, right? Perhaps ironically, I think that’s the big, 40,000 foot view that is going to move the fitness industry forward.  Sure, we work in fitness, but this is way more than fitness.  I think that LAB attendee Alyssa Gagarin put it perfectly:

“This was about WAY more than fitness. This was about tools we can use to become fully present and available to serve and support our clients in living their best lives. We worked on listening, validating others, sharing our stories, developing habits and important skills that apply to all aspects of life. After all, we are all humans with a desire to be our best selves. It is so essential as coaches, trainers, friends, and HUMANS to be present and available for yourself and for others. What a unique and rewarding learning experience. I admire this extraordinary group of people I had the pleasure of sharing this weekend with. Thank you Mark Fisher Fitness. ‪#‎MMLab‬ ‪#‎markfisherfitness‬

THAT is what we’re looking for.  Sure, we want to open up the left posterior mediastinum with our breathing reset, and we want to sleep for 7-9 hours per night, and we want to eat so much Kale that our ears turn green, but the REAL take away is to be better humans.  My friend Jennifer Parker nailed it here:

This weekend epitomized practical examples and application of the importance of getting to “why” not just with your clients, but your personal mission and business vision. The environment was safe but challenged you to get uncomfortable and do WORK – not just listen, nod your head and think “hell yeah.” It was a group of like-minded people that all got better, together.


This is the real deal – if you want to affect more people, make more money and live a more fulfilled life, then forcing yourself to get a little uncomfortable (you know, like we ask our clients to do every day) and start peeling back the layers. What does this accomplish you ask? Clarity.

I’ve heard time and time again coaches commiserating about needing/wanting a conference or workshop for “experienced coaches” who want “more.” In my opinion, the bar is being set by MFF as a team of amazingly educated (in the context of fitness/science application) coaches, a multi-million dollar business and individuals who aren’t afraid to be authentic and do work on themselves in order provide “more” to everyone they come across. So if you want “more” come and get it…it’s available.

Jen didn’t use this .gif, but she’s a badass so I’m using this .gif.

It feels like an appropriate time to remind you of how humbled and honored this past weekend has made me feel.  It’s also an appropriate time to remind the world that none of this would be possible without the passionate people in attendance all weekend.  Our visitors were from across North America, and they leaned into discomfort throughout the weekend to become better humans and better coaches.

One of the important things we had the gift of sharing was perhaps the most modest faculty I’ve yet to see at a fitness event.  Tony Gentilcore, Pete Dupuis, Artemis Scantalides, and Coach Stevo presented as what I like to call our “adjunct faculty,” while Mark Fisher, Michael Keeler, Michael Littig and myself presented on behalf of the MFF Team.  I think they all set the bar for responding “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know” before sharing the answer they felt most appropriate.  It was a lesson in humility I think every coach can learn from.

And here’s one more kiss to send us off.  This is a picture of my opening slide from my M/M LAB talk about program design:

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 11.25.43 AM

I presented on Saturday, and in my excitement, completely forgot to tell one of my favorite jokes.  On Sunday afternoon, right before leaving, Pete Dupuis found me and with a wry smile said, “Hey, I have to ask, what where those made-up credentials you used?”

My grin matched Pete’s and I said, “Who gives a fuck, that’s not the point.”  This is one of my all-time favorite fitness industry jokes, and I was so glad he asked.

Fitness professionals can get so excited about collecting certifications that we forget about the goal.  We’re here to help as many people as possible.  Our clients don’t necessarily care about our certifications, about the latest event that we’ve gone, how to blow up a balloon, or how Pavel holds a kettlebell.  Sharing that information can be an important tool in the process of helping people, but often it’s like using a chainsaw to hang a picture frame.  We’re missing the point.

When we take a step back and consider how well we help people, I believe we balance out serious fitness with compassionate communication skills and a habit-based approach that begets success.  Our goals with the M/M LAB is that we share this understanding in a way that empowers our colleagues to share themselves with their colleagues and clients more fully.

Thank you presenters, attendees, and MFF Team for making the second ‪#‎MMLAB‬ a rousing success.

Here’s to many more.

One Reply to “Thoughts After MFF’s Motivation and Movement LAB”

  1. Hey Harold, thanks so much for sharing these insights from the M/M Lab. Wish I could’ve been there 🙂 but connecting to those ideas and energies, just through what you’ve shared here, is valuable, too. Big hugs from far away.

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