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NBSV 139


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 139

One of the world’s top coaches, Dr. John Rusin, on long-term & pain-free strength training

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullsh!t Vegan Podcast, episode 139. One of the top coaches in the world, Dr. John Rusin, is on the show today to discuss pain-free strength training, long-term habit-building, the state of the fitness industry, and more.

Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go-to no-BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. Two days ago, on January 1st, I celebrated my 20th veganniversary, and that is totally a word, by the way. It was not a New Year's resolution back in the day, just seemed like a pretty decent place to start at the time. I was 16 years old and I'd been vegetarian for five years, and it took me that long to learn that there's no moral distinction between the meat, dairy, and egg industries. They are one and the same.

So going vegan is one of the best decisions I've ever made. And to celebrate, I have a special promotion happening, which was announced on social media. So make sure you follow me on Instagram @karinainkster. And today, January 3rd, 2023 is the last day, so if you happen to be listening to this episode, the day it comes out, you can still get in on the action. It's the biggest promotion I've done in my business's 12-year existence. You can get one whole month of fitness and nutrition coaching for free when you sign up for three months, which is our standard package. So go to to check out our programs, and on that page, you'll see an Apply Now button. As long as your application is submitted before the end of the day on January 3rd, you'll get in on this deal.

Introducing our guest for today, Dr. John Rusin. Dr. Rusin is an internationally-recognized strength coach, speaker, and writer. He's also the founder of the Pain-Free Performance Specialist Certification, which has certified over 12,000 coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, physicians, and other allied healthcare professionals since its inception in 2019. With more than a decade of elite-level training experience and advanced degrees in both exercise science and physical therapy, Dr. Rusin has developed performance, regeneration, and aesthetics programs for some of the world's best strength, power, and endurance athletes.

Dr. Rusin's present- and past-client list includes MLB All-Stars, NFL All-Pros, Olympic gold, silver, and bronze medalists, world record-holding powerlifters, elite bodybuilders and figure competitors, All-World IRONMAN Triathletes, and top professional athletes from eight of the major American professional sports leagues. Dr. Rusin's work has been popularized throughout the sports-performance and fitness industries in some of the most prestigious media outlets in our industry, such as Men's Health, Men's Fitness,, Stack Magazine, and Muscle & Strength to name a few. Here's our discussion.

Hey, John. Thanks for speaking with me today. Thanks for coming on the show.

Dr. John Rusin: Oh, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Karina Inkster: Of course. I've been following you and your content for years and years, and it's freaking amazing. So just a note to our listeners, if they're not yet following @drjohnrusin on Instagram, do that immediately because the content is insanely useful. So thank you for everything you do there. It's fantastic. High-quality shit.

Dr. John Rusin: You're welcome. I like to hear it because Instagram, you hear a lot, good, bad, ugly, you get a little bit of everything, but it's always those that are getting education from there is the reason why we do it.

Karina Inkster: That's awesome. So, your overall approach to strength training is I think why a lot of folks are following you. And would it be accurate to call it pain-free performance training? I mean, I don't really know how to sum it up, but is that kind of one way of describing what it is?

Dr. John Rusin: That would be accurate because that's actually the name of my certification course, as well-

Karina Inkster: Oh, right.

Dr. John Rusin: ... Pain-Free Performance Specialist Certification. But the name Pain-Free Performance, it's a weird one because it's two polar opposite ends of the fitness spectrum. You have Pain-Free, which is like, "Hey, go foam roll, stretch, and maybe breathe and meditate," and then you have Performance, which is like, "Yo, let's throw some heavy weight on your back. Let's get strong and let's get hurt in the process." So we blend both together and we try to create holistic programming that can help performance, it can help the way you feel and function, but also extend health and longevity. That's really the end goal.

Karina Inkster: So, how does that translate into the work that you do? You work with super-high-level athletes, so clearly, they're the performance side of things, but also making sure they're not getting injured. So how does that look in your practice or in the work that you do?

Dr. John Rusin: It's an interesting one because I really take the programming and the client management between high-level performance athlete and general fitness consumer very similarly because we definitely have similar goals, which is to ultimately feel your best so you can function your best and be the best at whatever the goal is at hand. I started off my career working predominantly in high-performance athletics. I did that for almost a decade between professional sport here in America, Olympic sports abroad. And you learn a lot in that process. It's not like you're going to make the best athlete in the world a better athlete as being their strength coach; what you're ultimately going to do is make sure that they are helping to stay healthy, they are happy and they're able to just go be their best selves because their best selves are awesome as is.

But, I ran into the question of like, "Well, why am I treating or coaching or programming for my general fitness consumers and clients any differently than these high-performance athletes?” because that sounds similar to the goals of many of my moms and my dads and my businessmen and people that travel for a living. So that's where this whole model came from. It's how to blend the best of all in the fitness industry, because there's a lot of different means, modalities, and methods out there, to ultimately just feel and function your best. And I know those are buzzwords, but it truly is the mainstay of how we program.

Karina Inkster: Right. Given your educational background, too, in exercise science and physical therapy, I assume it's kind of a mixture of all those approaches. Is it kind of like conditioning and strength training,

plus a more clinical approach?

Dr. John Rusin: I wouldn't call it clinical approach. All the things that I do today, and really, what I've done for my entire career, it would fall into a subclinical perspective of client management. I don't currently manage patients, I don't work as a traditional physical therapist, nor have I ever, but I've taken the principles of injury prevention and injury-risk mitigation and, of course, blended those into more traditional strength and conditioning approaches. 

And I think that a blend of both things, especially when it comes to helping to feel good, ultimately wins for the clients at the end of the day because really going one thing deep in, dogmatically, is not going to line up well for people, whether it's to get them to their next season healthy or whether it's to get to the next decade of life doing what they want to do. Having a more well-rounded approach, a more holistic approach, that's been one of the keys to success.

Karina Inkster: That makes complete sense. And honestly, I think most folks who strength-train probably could have a more holistic approach. Maybe the education isn't there or they're just not around content or professionals who are in that realm. But I kind of think most strength-trainees could benefit from a more holistic approach than just lift heavy shit and see how hard you can go, because that's not really sustainable.

Dr. John Rusin: It's not sustainable, but we also have to talk about the average person out there. In the United States, less than 20% of our entire population is exercising in any means. That might be 20 minutes a week. And then you take a look at that 20%, only 3.74% of those people are strength-training, or resistance-training, more specifically. So this is a very select portion of the population that is essentially even trying to get stronger, trying to build muscle, going into the gym and maybe doing traditional exercises.

10 years ago, if you were to ask me, like, man, do people need to strength-train smarter? I'm like, "Hell yeah, they do." And that's the whole method in the course that we have going. But today, it's like, "Man, people need to just start strength-training and we need to have an entry point where people can start gaining the benefits that we know that exist. It's one of the best things that we could possibly do for our health and longevity long term."

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Given those stats, which are kind of scary-

Dr. John Rusin: A lot.

Karina Inkster: ... for our listeners who are not yet strength-training because, as you just said, it's a very select, very small percentage of a percentage of the population, why is it important to strength-train in the first place?

Dr. John Rusin: All right. Strength, out of all of the physical characteristics that we have available to us that are trainable, so we're thinking about power, we're thinking about body composition, muscular hypertrophy, endurance and cardiovascular training, out of all of those characteristics, strength has the biggest carryover to all of the others. So it would be the central cog on a bicycle wheel, where we can have advantages built or we can put ourselves in the better position being a stronger individual.

But it's ambiguous to say strong, so I like the term stronger because it's not about benching 500 pounds, it's not about deadlifting, and the world's strongest man, it's about being a stronger version of yourself, stronger than you were yesterday, stronger than you were five years ago or even two decades ago. And that's a process that, from the science, we have more and more science available to us, really shows that it's a highly-protective mechanism for almost every single cause of mortality out there today, and more so than just avoiding dying, because that's pretty low-level stuff. Strength training allows us to hopefully open up the doors to live a more high-quality life so we can extend our quality years and the quantity of years. And that in itself is the definition of longevity.

Karina Inkster: Nailed it. Love that. I always use my grandma as an exemplar on this show. She's 96, strength-trains regularly, has done for years and years, and that's one of the reasons why she's independent. She swims in the summer every day. She spent her 90th birthday on the beach in Mexico. I mean, that's not just living an extended period of time; that is living well and being independent for an extended period of time. And strength training is part of that.

Dr. John Rusin: People hear strength training and they're like, "Oh, man. Karina's grandmother must be like a beast. She must be in the gym crushing it." And the benefits of strength training, it comes at a very, very low frequency per week, time and duration per week, and total volume per week. I'll take my mom as an example. She trains twice per week, an hour, with a personal trainer, of course handpicked by myself.

Karina Inkster: Of course.

Dr. John Rusin: And they do very foundational movements. They blend in bodyweight training, cardiovascular training, of course strength and conditioning. And it's good, it's sustainable and it's a step-by-step process forward, or for her, it's being able to maintain her level of function at 70 the same as she was at 60 or 50, and hopefully onto 80 and beyond.

So just getting started with resistance training, the best benefits that we can see are those that go from nothing to something. And just having that spark is where we can really start building the momentum behind a lifestyle change, a lifestyle change that can incorporate strength conditioning, can incorporate daily movement, and, of course, nutrition. So we start thinking about ways in which we're able to get these opportunities. It's simply starting in a way that is fun to you and also seems like it may be sustainable. And it's something that you're interested in, because I think there's many different avenues and different types of resistance training that you could possibly get into. But my goal for my clients and for our coaches that go through our certification course is for their clients to find something that they're interested in, they're driven towards, and has a fun factor towards it because ultimately, at the end of the day, exercise in itself is the goal. Even if we don't change our bodies, even if we don't bench-press more weight or do any of that sexy stuff, the process of exercise is protective in itself.

Karina Inkster: That's a fantastic point. And as you said, it doesn't have to mean benching your bodyweight for reps or deadlifting three times your bodyweight. I mean, it can if you want, but... not to plug my own stuff here, but two of my books are on resistance-band training that you can do anywhere: your house, the beach. You don't have to be in a gym. And as you mentioned, as well, if you're going from zero to something, that's really going to make the biggest difference.

Dr. John Rusin: A lot of the science on resistance training, it is done on calisthenics, so bodyweight training, and it's also done with different modalities of resistance. So we could have iron dumbbells or a barbell, but we could also have something like band and accommodating resistance and a lot of those forms. Cables, machines, there's endless amounts of opportunity to get into something that feels and functions well for you. It's just a matter of taking those first steps and then gaining consistency with a more well-rounded program, whatever those are.

But, I would be biased in saying that I believe that a little bit of everything is going to be the best. So being able to lift heavy, to be able to go and do your bodyweight training, to incorporate bands, to make sure you're getting your cardio and conditioning, and doing a little bit of everything every single day, I think ultimately that keeps people's minds and bodies fresh enough so they can, again, maintain consistency with the practice, because that is most likely the most important thing, is consistent hard work over time. And in order to consistently work hard, you have to show up and you have to put in the work.

Karina Inkster: Which is the hardest part for folks. And consistency is not going to sell millions of copies of a best-selling book or diet program or whatever, but consistency like John Goodman, who's been on the show, as well, he always says, "Same shit, different shirt," which is basically progressing the same type of strength training over time. But what you're saying, also, including all these different modalities kind of staves off boredom for people who don't want to be doing the same stuff all the time.

Dr. John Rusin: It does. And there's this idea out there, though, it's like, "Hey, its results or nothing." Okay, it's not 1985 anymore. We're in 2022 and we have more barriers to entry and more roadblocks than we've ever had. Our obesity statistics will prove that. Our preventative-disease statistics will prove that. And we need to almost just meet people where we're at a little bit better, have more common sense. I say that common sense is a superpower today because not many fitness and healthcare practitioners have it anymore.

And being able to communicate effectively with somebody, make a human connection with an individual so you can help them guide their own process, that is an art in itself, and I think that's much of what's lagging today. It's not that we don't know the X's and O's of exercise, science, physiology, and human anatomy. We have more information, we have more research than we've ever had before in human history. What we don't necessarily have today is those strong connection points, the strong culture, and also a cultivated reason of why somebody would be changing their lifestyle.

Karina Inkster: Okay, so this actually ties in, possibly, to what I was going to ask you about an article I saw on your site, which is called Full Range of Motion Forever. So, just for folks, I'm going to read a quick paragraph here, and then I think you're touching on some of these points that I was going to ask you about.

In the article, you're saying, "When did strength training get so fucking complicated? Remember the days where you went into the gym, had a plan to learn some big lifts, perfect your form and add a little weight to that great form as you got stronger and needed more stimulus? Those days are gone. But not because they don't work to produce results. This is actually the most effective way to get results, if you want to get technical. It's because people are too physically and mentally lazy to do the work, and too physically and mentally weak to buy into a longer term solution for success across the board."

So, lots of points here, including the effectiveness of these so-called old-school fundamental lifts. But what I'm wondering is, why are people not buying into this longer-term mindset? What is the deal here?

Dr. John Rusin: That's a good caption, and there's so many ways to go off of that. Specifically, I write content for our coaches and not necessarily end users reading that. So you're like, "Man, John's a total asshole for writing that people are weak and frail and mentally fucked." It's not quite that bad. But where we have problems today is multifaceted. We are having challenges around almost every single corner of our lifestyle. Last three years didn't help anything.

Karina Inkster: Good point.

Dr. John Rusin: Let's get past that. Even before that, we were dealing with problems with mainstream media coverage of the benefits of exercise, the benefits of wellness, and whether this is even an effective way to live. Like, why the hell would anyone ever do that? This came full circle for me specifically when Time magazine, a cover article said, "Exercise is good." This was in 2019. I was like, "Oh, shit, okay. What I've been doing my entire career and what people have been doing for decades, yeah, we know it's good. But finally, guys, we have enough research to say that moving your body and not eating pure shit is good for you."

Karina Inkster: Wow, genius.

Dr. John Rusin: "Whoa, okay." That's where the average person is. And in our industry today, I think we have a little bit of a silo because we are educated, we do care about this, we practice what we preach, and sometimes we forget that our clients are not us, and especially our potential clients are absolutely not us, but they don't have to be. So being able to kind of cut some of the shit from the mainstream media, it sounds easy for me and you to say that on this podcast right now, but people are inundated on a daily basis.

Like, we just got done with Black Friday, we're about to get into Christmas season. I know on my Facebook and Instagram feed, I am getting hammered by every diet, I'm getting hammered with every supplement and superfood line. Superfoods are the new supplement now. And then I'm getting workouts out the ass. I'm getting every type of workout. I'm getting tonal, I'm getting mirror, I'm getting things that I didn't even know about, and I'm like, "Holy shit." I have enough common sense and knowledge and experience in this field to say, "Hey, this is probably not the best thing." What I'm doing and what I've been doing with my clients is most likely sustainable and smart and seem to work pretty well.

But imagine being a layperson. Imagine having absolutely zero knowledge base and no BS-detector and going into that space, just opening up your phone and seeing what happens, let alone turning on your TV, let alone watching the news. We have a lot of these barriers that tend to confuse people. 

And though we have more information, more information is not helping us, it's actually creating this purgatory base effect where, "If I'm not going to get everything as this diet would have, I'm not going to do anything." And it's this inaction, this cause of inaction that goes for weeks, months, years, even decades at a time. And the culmination and the cumulative effect of all that inaction, it doesn't add up well and it can create holes that we are really having a hard time to climb out of. But the inundation of everything, good, bad, and indifferent, it's not helping people today because the process of simply being healthy seems extraordinarily hard and complicated. It doesn't have to be.

Karina Inkster: Great answers. I feel like there's a whole bunch of different points as to why here. One is the inundation piece, which, of course, is super important to take into consideration. The other piece, I think, if I'm rewording it properly, is kind of this all-or-nothing mindset, where, "Well, if I'm not going to lose 30 pounds in the next three weeks,” - or whatever - "on this crazy-ass diet, then what's the point? I might as well just not do anything." So the all-or-nothing, kind of changing that into always-something, perhaps, or something that's a little more sustainable.

But, what's it going to take? I mean, is this a systemic change that we need? What kind of changes do you want to see happen in the next, let's call it five years, to address some of these problems? I mean, I realize this is a super-loaded question, but you got any things that you are either working on yourself or things that you would just love to see in the industry to address some of these issues?

Dr. John Rusin: The next five years, I don't think we can really move the needle a whole lot, just to be quite honest here. I got asked this question. I was interviewed by a CrossFit HQ at the CrossFit Games this year, and they said, "What's the measure of success for you in your career?" I was like, "Oh, shit." "Well, if at the end of my career, which is most likely going to be the end of my life, if we could just blunt all of the preventable diseases that are currently at epidemic levels in our country, in western society today, I think that would be a victory." So if we didn't get any more fat, if we didn't get any more hurt, if we didn't have any more diabetes as we had today, then 30, 40 years from now, I’d honestly think that was a victory. But you're like, "Whoa, whoa. So we're not going to be reversing these things?"

I honestly don't believe, from a qualitative standpoint and a quantitative standpoint, that that is possible. But I do think that coaches out there, we all have those victories, we all have those people that keep us going as much as we keep them going. And I think that the grassroots approach has the ability to help an immense amount of people. But I don't necessarily think that, from a worldwide perspective, that this is anything that's going to be moving in the opposite direction. And as sobering as that sounds, it doesn't mean that we can't do good out there; it means that we just need to target our approach to try to help as many people as we possibly can and try to get those people that are in between, those people that have to toe on the line, to come over and to try to help themselves.

Because the one thing that I have the most trouble with, as a fitness professional, as a leader, is that I can't help everyone. And I stress about it because I wish I could. I wish I could help everybody. I wish they would do this, and that, and that. And over the years, you become more mature, become a little bit more hardened because of your experiences, and you realize that you have a job and you need to do as best as you possibly can. Your household, or your community, or your town, or your state, you can only have so much reach, but that's good enough because you're helping individuals every single day in that standpoint. So I think that the mass numbers aren't going to necessarily reflect the positive benefits that the fitness industry could possibly have on society as a whole.

Karina Inkster: So, what you said about folks toeing the line, do you think we, as coaches, are going to actually have the largest effect by focusing on the populations that are not yet strength-training, not yet doing intentional movement versus the people who are already athletes?

Dr. John Rusin: We don't have the best opportunity out there. Going back to something that happened a month or two ago, Elon Musk, oh man, he's getting a lot of attention. He's got this Twitter thing going on, he's got hundreds of billions of dollars, which is cool. And he was looking kind of jacked. He was at a press conference and people are like, "Elon's looking okay. He's looking better than he was." And then, "Elon, what are you doing?" He's like, "Nah, I'm just taking this new medication and I'm intermittent fasting." I was like, "Ugh, no, this just set us back 10 years."

Karina Inkster: You're not wrong.

Dr. John Rusin: We've been talking about the benefits of exercise on Time magazine in 2019. Finally, we had it. And then, "No, just take this fat-loss pill and maybe just don't eat for 16 hours.'" So, those are going to be the people with the biggest microphones, mainstream media, and then the extreme celebrity. And those tend to be the people that aren't the experts in the way that their body functions or their health and wellness. They're just normal people, they're laypeople.

But I think that if we can get the mainstream message out there a little bit more, it needs to be more than just coaches with 4,000 followers on Instagram getting their message out to their gym members. I think that we do need to have different entry points of trying to make a difference. We have our grassroots from our coaches, people like you and I, we have the top-down, maybe a governmental control, like food programs, things like that. But then we have the real influencers. We have the people that, when they say something, people go and do it. And I think that a combination of all these things, we need to be able to convince people that there is benefit to living a healthier lifestyle. And I honestly don't think that the average person does necessarily believe that the cost, monetarily, time, energy of exercising regularly, and fueling your body with quality sources is worth it. And I think that in order for us to get past that, we maybe have to take a couple steps backwards before we can take a lot of steps forward.

Karina Inkster: Interesting. Sometimes I feel like, as coaches, we're doing damage control more than systemic changes in the industry.

Dr. John Rusin: Absolutely.

Karina Inkster: We're on a one-on-one level, like you said, working with another human, it's completely different from reading a magazine or following a workout program on YouTube or whatever. Having that human connection, I do feel like a lot of times what we're doing is, of course, educational and we're sharing, we're leading, but a lot of it is also like, "Oh, so I saw this diet program where you eat 500 calories a day for two weeks. I'm thinking of trying it. What do you think?" Right? And then it's knowing how to approach those kind of conversations in a way that still remembers what it's like to be in that position, because, as you said before, we, as fitness professionals, live in a silo, essentially. And I think it's important to remember what it was like back in the day, way before fitness.

Dr. John Rusin: Yeah. I mean, we are essentially surgeons working in the emergency room on the triage section. We're trying to reverse-engineer people's thought processes when they come into us. And I think what you said about human connection is very important here because you see the trend in the industry today is not human connection, it's digital anything, always, all the time. You could say this about fitness, you could say this about any aspect of, really, our economy today and the things that are rising and the things that are successful, is that there's this digital component to it. But, behaviour change is very, very difficult to do in a digital medium. If it worked, it would've worked 40 years ago, when people were doing the DVDs and working out in their living rooms, it would've worked.

Karina Inkster: Good point.

Dr. John Rusin: But we continue to have the same types of bullshit that get repackaged and repurposed and pushed in front of the mainstream. And this is really hard for coaches to come back from.

The one thing I think that COVID did do for us is prove our worth as an industry because a lot of people struggled during COVID. A lot of people that were consistent in the gym or they had some sort of physical practice, that was maybe taken away from them, they realized the benefits from it. So it's like that lover that leaves and you go, "Oh, I love her even more because I miss her." It's that same sort of thing. People miss the gym, they miss their coaches, they miss their classes, they miss doing their norm.

And I think that the re-entry points, especially in America, here in commercial fitness, the numbers speak. You look at some of the biggest big-box gyms in the most exclusive commercial centers in America, they're up anywhere from 14-17% on membership. And you're like, "Oh, shit." That's after COVID, so post-COVID numbers. So more people are coming into the gym. But the thing that people are still kind of toeing the line on are jumping in and hiring a fitness professional to guide their process.

We're down maybe 40% at this point, personal training across the board here in the United States, partially due to "Hey, 50% of our workforce was freaking crushed and they're no longer personal trainers and coaches any longer," and also just with some of the economic stuff that's going on. People investing into themselves right now, especially with 2-3 days a week frequency or 2-3 days per week frequencies of personal training and things along those lines. They're not necessarily ready to quite do that. "I'll get the gym membership, but I'm not quite ready to get results yet." Like, they're almost there, but not quite.

But I think we do have a lot of potential. We have a lot of opportunity. But it will take the next... you mentioned five years before. I think it will take the next five years to normalize our industry and our service base to the point where we're actually working with the amount of people across the board here in America and North America that we were previous to COVID.

Karina Inkster: That's a really good point. We've seen similar trends. We're in Canada and it's basically the same situation: COVID, and the economy, and there's a lot of parallels. I think a lot of people also have come specifically to seek out online training versus in-person because of the pandemic. We've been online since 2017, luckily, so we had everything set up, ready to go. I mean, that's what we've been doing for years now. But a lot of folks in the fitness industry in March of 2020 were like, "Oh shit, I got to get online," which was... it makes sense. But now from the client side, I think there's more folks specifically looking for online coaching. You still get the human connection. You don't have to actually see a human in person to have a human connection. There's a lot of different ways of how coaches are working their businesses these days.

Dr. John Rusin: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I've been online coaching for four years now, so pre-pandemic. And I am fortunate that I had that business running properly, and well, at a high level before COVID ever hit, because we had the systems built, we had the results, we had the experience, and then continuing to move into that was pretty interesting. But this thought that like, "Hey, COVID hit, I can't go to the gym. I'm going to hire an online trainer." I don't know the numbers on this, but I can just speak from my own experience, I lost 60% of my clients March 2020.

Karina Inkster: Oh, wow.

Dr. John Rusin: "Whoa. Okay. The world's fucking ending." Like, It doesn't matter if you're going to the gym or you have an online trainer. I'm less worried about my pooch and I'm more worried about like, "Hey, can I leave my house because I'm about to kill my family?" So there was a lot of different struggles there. But I do think that we learned a lot. It's like, the high-level online trainers, which are just good coaches anyways, if you want to classify them as that, they continued to have success. We rebuilt my client list, we have the best clients in the world, we're all happy and we're here today doing it.

But how many people didn't have the experience, didn't have the knowledge, and were reactionary in their business practices? A lot of people jumped in for the first time out of pure reaction. And those tend to be the people, again, anecdotally speaking here, that I see that are no longer in the fitness industry in any capacity today. They thought that because they rushed into online training, they failed with online training during a world pandemic, that they were somehow a piece of shit and no longer should be coaching people. That's the reality of things.

But losses are hard, man. Losses and struggles and putting up those L's on the scoreboard, especially when the pressure's on, that's a hard thing to deal with and people move away from something that is truly not a passion for them very quickly. But looking at the online-training space, yeah, for the right client and the right coach and the right combination of those two things, it can be very dynamic. I've had clients upwards of five years, at this point, that absolutely kill it. They love it. I have new clients, a couple trickle in every single month, and they experience what we do, and it's awesome.

But I also have people that apply... I would say, I have 30 or 40 applications that come into work with me every month. I'm like, "No, no, no. This is not an appropriate way to do online training. It's not going to get you a great result. It's going to be extraordinarily arduous for me. You are best served to go in and I will find you a coach locally. I will spend my own time and I'll find you a coach and hopefully you follow up with it," because there are certain times and places that in-person human connection is huge, especially face-to-face, like where you can spit on each other's faces, that's a really, really tight connection there.

But there's other people that do really, really well based on their schedule, based on their needs, based on their experience and your specific skill set as a coach with a remote medium work. So I think that there's many different options for people out there. I think the one bad option is, again, inactivity, doing nothing, especially when there's so much out there. You can go in, you can do something for free. I don't recommend it because you have no buy-in for it.

You can do something like a group-training program. We run a big team, hundreds, if not thousands, of members at a time, and they all run training and it's very cheap. And then you can go in if you really need things and work with an individual that understands you, that communicates regularly with you, can problem-solve, because that's what you're paying for, and hopefully gets you the result that you're after. I think that just doing nothing ultimately is going to be the loss.

Karina Inkster: That's a great point. In the first couple months of the pandemic, so I would say March to June of 2020... maybe it's because we're a super specific niche and people work with us because we're plant-based and they don't want to be yelled at about their whey-protein shakes or whatever. Anyways, in those couple months, our client base grew so quickly, I had to hire my first assistant coach at that time, and now we have two. So very small scale, obviously, compared to what you're doing, but still, it was just this mass influx. And I think the human-connection piece but online was still part of it, but I think it looks different in different niches.

Dr. John Rusin: Yeah. I mean, you're speaking about tribe-building, there's no easier tribe to build... I shouldn't say easier, but people getting people into that tribe, it's very cut and dry. It's like, "Hey, you're of one of us." Like, there's no question about that. When it comes to training, it's like, "Hey, do I like powerlifting or powerbuilding? I don't know the difference between it. Which one am I?" But when you can find your niche, when you can find that hey, you have this avatar client out there and you can target towards this person because you do the best with that type of person as a coach and they get the best amount of benefit from you as clients, that's winning. That's awesome. We all high-five at the end of every session and we're like, "Yeah, this is great." Like, "I'm so glad you're my client." You're so glad that you're your coach. That is a victory online.

But I think a lot of people struggle with that, and I think clients struggle with that. I can't tell you the amount of clients that I have that apply to work with me and I see on their application, it's like, "worked with this coach and this coach and this coach," and it's all bad experiences. And they go, "Ah, I just need to get back into in-person training" because they just had a shit experience online, and it could be said for anything. Once you have a shit experience with one medium, it's like, "Oh, I went to the doctor. He was terrible. All doctors are bad now."

Karina Inkster: Exactly.

Dr. John Rusin: It's like, "No, not necessarily." But your biased opinion, based on your experiences as a human, is going to sway you one way or another. But again, going in and doing the triage work, trying to say that "Hey, there is a better way," but ultimately, it matters what other human you're working with as a coach. Because it's not about the programming style, it's really not even about the way in which you work with your clients, it's about how you interact, how you communicate, how you problem-solve.

When we go out and do our certification course, I'm not talking about "Hey, Equinox trainers. Hey, Equinox, Life Time’s the enemy because they're going to take your clients." No, no, no. Who's going to take your clients is the cell phone. Who's going to take your clients is the free bullshit on the App Store that is going to get somebody hurt, is going to burn somebody out, and leave them back on the couch watching Netflix and eating chips instead of doing something physically active with their life.

So, we need to really call it what it is, is we need to all band together, whether you're a remote coach, whether you're an in-person coach, a combination of both - that's become very popular - and be able to say, "Hey, I am a coach and I am a problem solver and I am a human connector, and we are battling against the phone," because that's essentially what our future will be.

Karina Inkster: That's a great point. "battling against the phone," I never really thought about it that way, but it kind of sums it up with social media and bullshit programs that are pushed on us on a daily basis. It makes sense.

Dr. John Rusin: It's hard to say, though, because it's like, everyone wants to have an enemy, everyone wants to have that evil person that they're going pitted against. But when it's the metaverse, it's a little bit different.

Karina Inkster: Fair point.

Dr. John Rusin: Yeah, it's a little bit different.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Well, what's the certification program that you're leading right now? So Pain-Free Training, Pain-Free Performance?

Dr. John Rusin: The Pain-Free Performance Specialist Certification, the PPSC, we've been running courses worldwide since 2019. We've certified over 12,500 coaches in that time, and we've done all of that live, in person. People are like, "Whoa. 2019, but world ended in 2020. How did you do all that?" We took about a five-month hiatus, we improved our systems, then we went right back into the world and we started delivering courses. But yeah, I've been doing this for a while now, and it's a passion project. We have a staff of 20 instructors that tour the world and two-day certification courses for all types of fitness and health practitioners.

Karina Inkster: That's impressive. So, not just strength coaches, personal trainers, basically anyone who's in that field. Is that right?

Dr. John Rusin: Yeah. One of the coolest things about Pain-Free Performance, kind of like the name, is that we don't bias and we don't have dogma based on an approach. We teach a systems base on a holistic programming and training. So we have yoga instructors, Pilates instructors. We have physicians in every course, chiropractors, physical therapists. It's pretty impressive. And of course, we have those people that just really love to learn and be fit and use their body as their tool, and they come in and have a great time, as well. But yeah, diversity is pretty awesome.

Karina Inkster: That is great. So, from a non-professional perspective, so folks who just want to do this as continued education for themselves, what are they getting out of it?

Dr. John Rusin: They're going to learn how to put together a program that doesn't break them down but builds them up.

Karina Inkster: Ooh, I love that.

Dr. John Rusin: Be able to look at foundational movement patterns. What is the proper way to move as a human being? Not as an athlete, not as a desk jockey, but as somebody as a human. And then also learning a blueprint-based approach to set up things like warm-ups, prehabilitation work, recovery, and of course, training. And I think that going back to "Hey, we don't have to make things so complicated," yes, we need to have complex come down into simple, but we make the simple actionable for people so they can actually go out and do it, because many times when people come to courses, they go, "Oh, that was super interesting to learn, but how am I going to use this?" We pride ourselves in actionability of the systems and the content that we give.

Karina Inkster: Brilliant. We are going to have show notes, by the way, so we will link our listeners to the website so they can get more info. You're selling me on it, maybe I should check it out.

Dr. John Rusin: Love to have you.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, it would be amazing. So, random questions about strength training. Let's get into a little more detail for a sec, just for folks who either want to get into it and don't really know where to start, or folks who are already strength-training and want to make sure that they're doing this long term, not going to injure themselves, they're going to be kicking ass when they're 96. What do you think, in general, people should do more of within their strength training? Let's assume they're already strength-training.

Dr. John Rusin: Prioritizing the backside of the body. We call it the posterior chain. It's a very underserved area, today specifically, because we live a vast majority of our life in forward-based position. So I'm sitting here right now, I'm forward-flexed, my spine's flexed forward, my neck's forward, my shoulders are internally rotated, I'm dumped over at the pelvis. It's all well and good. We have to do these things, like we want to do this podcast right now, but we also need to use training or exercise as a way to reverse chronic sedentary positions that we're in during the day. A crazy statistic that came out two months ago was 13 hours and 4 minutes is how much time the average American is spending in front of a screen per day in 2022. Holy shit.

Karina Inkster: Oh, wow. Yeah.

Dr. John Rusin: That means that maybe that hour in the gym, we should prioritize the things that are going to support that posture. So being able to do things like rows, like pull-downs, like train the back, train your ass, train your hamstrings, be able to do the hip-hinge pattern or deadlifting, and being able to have a pull-centric approach. I think that not training just the mirror muscles or the things that you can see in the front side of your body is important because people gravitate towards what they see. You see your chest, you see your biceps and your shoulders and your abs every single morning, but there's more to the body than just the mirror. And I think just being able to train those things a little bit more, it not only will make you function better but it'll make you feel better, especially when you're doing those long bouts of sitting and being sedentary.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Great points. A lot of your content centres around shoulder health. Is that just generally because of what most of us as sedentary individuals are doing in a day, or is it because of the population that you work with as a coach?

Dr. John Rusin: I was a Division I Baseball player in a different life, and baseball, overhead-throwing sports was my life for a long, long time. And then transitioning into my first professional opportunities, I worked predominantly with overhead-throwing athletes, mostly baseball pitchers. And I did that for close to a decade. I also worked in tennis, swimming, a lot of things that had this motion happen. So you tend to learn a lot.

But I think the impetus to that was, I had some really bad elbow injuries and shoulder injuries in my own career and things that really plagued me to the point where it ended my personal career. And being able to learn as your own body, and then take that experience and push it into education, and then education into professionalism, I think that's something that still stands true today. And a lot of the things that we do, especially around injury prevention, it is centred on the shoulder because, interesting fact here, the lower back amongst active population is no longer the number-one common pain point. A chronic front-sided shoulder pain has superseded lower-back pain.

Karina Inkster: No way. Didn't know that.

Dr. John Rusin: And it has done it very, very quietly. Like, the numbers are close, but this is a quiet killer of people being able to consistently work hard in the gym. And it's something that we like to have people avoid because it's a lot easier to avoid chronic shoulder pain than it is chronic lower back pain.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Well, you're talking to someone who has biceps tendonitis right now from swimming and accordion-playing, unfortunately.

Dr. John Rusin: Oh, whoa.

Karina Inkster: I know, kind of random, but both of them load the shoulder in different ways and it fucking sucks, man. Like, I can't swim properly. I'm in physio and all sorts of different treatments and doing my exercises and doing my homework, but it's tough.

Dr. John Rusin: What did your physical therapist say when you were like, "Hey, it's from accordion"?

Karina Inkster: He was like, "Dude, you're bringing in the accordion and you are sitting there and playing some shit and I'm looking at your form," which is exactly what we did. So, all the weight of it, it's about 25 pounds, is on one side. A lot of people, when they mimic accordion-playing, they move both their hands in and out, but it's actually only one of them that moves. And so that's the shoulder that's currently screwed. Anyways, a little self-interest in the shoulder health/injury prevention.

Dr. John Rusin: Yeah.

Karina Inkster: Cool. So, where can people connect with you best? Should they go through Instagram, website? What's the best route of connecting with John?

Dr. John Rusin: is going to be the hub for everything. D-R-J-O-H-N-R-U-S-I-N, .com. You can check out programs, coaching, the certification, content. Got about a thousand free articles over there, so if you ever want to deep dive in on something, use the search bar. It's pretty awesome.

Karina Inkster: It's a John Rusin content rabbit hole. You could be there for hours.

Dr. John Rusin: Yeah, yeah.

Karina Inkster: That's brilliant. Well, John, thank you so much for speaking with me, coming on the show, sharing with our listeners all your amazing wisdom. Much appreciated.

Dr. John Rusin: Oh, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Karina Inkster: Thanks, again, John, for joining me on the show. If you're listening to this episode and you're not yet following @drjohnrusin on Instagram, go follow him immediately. He's got some of the best strength-training content on the entire interwebs.

And if you're listening to this episode the day it comes out, January 3rd, 2023, you can get in on my four-months-of-coaching-for-the-price-of-three deal. Just head to, check out our programs and hit the Apply Now button. Thanks so much for tuning in.

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