/ Interviews

Evidence? Alex Viada provides his own.

Alex Viada, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and USA Triathlon Coach, is the founder and co-owner of Complete Human Performance.  He has over ten years of personal training and coaching experience with athletes of all ages and levels, including eight years of working with athletes with a disability.

A graduate of Duke University, currently enrolled in a Masters of Physiology program at NC State University, Alex spends his free time training for and competing in marathons, ultramarathons, triathlons and powerlifting, and aims to achieve both a sub-eleven hour Ironman and an Elite powerlifting total in the 220 pound class…  within several months of each other.  He is also an avid homebrewer, and if you give him much of an opening, he will happily bore you with details on hop schedules and yeast strain flocculation. You’ve been warned.

Matt: I read a little bit about this in your recent AMA, but fitness wasn’t your first career. Can you talk about what your original connection was to fitness and how it eventually grew into a career?

Alex: It was always strictly a hobby for me. I worked in for CRO’s in Pharma for a number of years and this was an important outlet for me. I spent a lot of time online on message boards looking for information and it was the science aspect of it all that appealed to me. Truthfully it didn’t even become a serious career consideration until five years ago when I went from coaching 2-3 people on the side to doing a side job as a personal trainer and taking on several additional clients to train seriously. It really came to fruition two years ago when I finally decided that there was a market for this entire style of training and I just kinda jumped in feet first. I started writing articles to get the concepts out there and worked to start building a resume of success.

Matt: So you’re in this unique position right now where you’re breaking ground with hybrid training and proving that it’s all possible. I have a good friend who did track in high school and college and he was shocked when I sent him some of your articles. He’s been powerlifting with our friend group for the last several years and was very excited to see someone combining the two worlds of endurance and strength. Can you talk about the interest you’re getting and how everything’s going so far?

Alex: I think to me the fact that it has so much appeal is not surprising now, but if you told me five years ago I would have been stunned. I came from much more of a pure lifting background with the typical jokes being about how cardio was when you lifted something for more than five repetitions. Personally it wasn’t until I got my butt kicked by a 110 lb girl running a mile when I finally said I really don’t like being bad at anything, you know? There had to be a way to structure this.

I think what has surprised me the most was that no one had taken this approach before. You have a lot of very good strength trainers and endurance coaches who both do very cool things with block periodization and everything else, but you don’t have anyone who looks at strength and endurance training as all part of the same training, as all part of the same athlete. They take into consideration the unique recovery and everything else between your strength workouts, but not between their strength and endurance workouts. I guess I’m surprised that this approach of looking at everything as a whole hadn’t happened before.

Matt: One of the reasons I believe this is resonating with people is because you make it very simple and easy to understand. You’re doing an excellent job breaking your approach down. Could you talk about why you work so hard to deliver a clear message amidst all the conflicting views in the fitness world?

Alex: I think the one detriment to this industry, especially to people who are just starting, is the massive amount of pretty useless information. You know, coming from a science and clinical background you look at a lot of studies touting the latest and greatest with a great deal of skepticism. It’s one of those things where fundamentally training recovery and everything else is so incredibly complex that trying to break it down and adjust all the variables is kinda silly. We already know the basic fundamentals of how to get stronger, how to get faster, and how to recover. We know all of that. I think that most people are better served simply paying attention to the fundamentals and working a little bit harder. I’d like to avoid getting caught up in the details. Majoring in the minors is the biggest mistake that most people make. Truthfully, at the end of the day none of this is that complicated.

Matt: I’ve started some great relationships with personal trainers since we began working on StrengthPortal and the coaches I trust most all say exactly the same thing. It’s fascinating how this gets glossed over in the fitness world.

Alex: It really is. I think the hardest thing is that you can’t really sell simplicity. If you look at a training program that doesn’t have any secret to it you think, well why can’t anybody do this? Why does anyone need to have a coach? Having a niche, having an angle, having something that no one ever thought of before – whether it’s good or bad – that’s how you make your name. Again, I think that it’s doing everyone a tremendous disservice. To me an effective program is about being able to adapt it to the athlete, to modify it, and to recognize what’s important. Testing to see what’s working and what isn’t. That doesn’t mean it has to be tremendously complicated, it just means that you have to pay attention.

Matt: I want to ask you about you training your clients. What’s been interesting for you to learn since you made the switch to coaching full-time.

Alex: I was hugely surprised that there tend to be two groups of people that typically want coaching. The hardest part for me has been trying to figure out why the latter group exists. The first group legitimately want an expert to help them get better, someone to look at their training objectively. They want to take the guess work out of things and have changes made for them. This is what every coach wants, which is someone who fundamentally knows what they are doing but is willing to put their progress in your hands. The other side is people who simply like the idea of being able to say they are working with someone. I knew they existed, but I didn’t anticipate how many people like this there really were. These individuals just seem so minimally invested in the actual results. In the beginning I thought I would be content with just throwing out template routines to people and as long the checks came in I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but the longer I do this the more personally I take it. When clients don’t get results or don’t follow the programming it’s frustrating. I’d rather spend 10x as long working on someone’s program who’s actually engaged than just make a lot of money doing these cookie-cutter programs for people who couldn’t care less.

Matt: It’s nice to hear someone say that. That’s where I see the fitness industry going in the long-term as well. There will always be a market for in-person training, especially with beginners and those who need to build a solid foundation. Beyond that, online training is a great option that allows fitness consumers to find the best trainers to match their individual goals. They can work with some of the best trainers in the world who will write high-quality personalized programs at a price that usually costs a lot less than working with a trainer in-person everyday.

Alex: To add to that, what I think is so cool about online training is the fact that you can work with anyone. Even with my particular niche, where there might be only a thousand people who are interested in it around the world, I have the ability to work with every single one of them. I think somehow you get less competition amongst the coaches who really seem to know what they are doing. I’ve got great responses from a variety of online coaches who have their own programs and training models who are more than willing to share their ideas and their expertise. These coaches will even forward clients to me because I think everyone realizes at this point  that there is more than enough to go around. It’s positive feedback and, for lack of a better term, good karma back and forth amongst fitness professionals.

To read more from Alex you can check out the following links to his website and social profiles:

Complete Human Performance website

CHP Facebook Page

CHP Twitter Profile

Matt McGunagle

Matt McGunagle

CEO & Founder of StrengthPortal. Working hard to help you in between deadlifts and jiu-jitsu!

Read More