Perspectives of a Dancer Turned Strength Coach

Dancing has painted the way I view many things in life. To the way I longingly look at any shiny floor in any part of the world (there were some dope places in London that I wanted to dance at… but security stopped me from doing so), to the way I choose the songs I casually listen to, to the way I even do my job of coaching athletes – my life is a canvas painted by dance.


What is probably the most interesting aspect of how dancing has infiltrated my work is how I coach the athletes and clients I work with on a daily basis.

Perspectives of a Dancer

Now, my unique blend of experiences and the way I view the world will shape how I approach exercise and essentially my job as a coach. Essentially, everyone will bring something unique to the table – this is what I bring.

The Tangibles

  • For the athletes and clients I work with, I want you to move well, before moving with volume or heavy load.
  • If you’re dancing, moving with a slower tempo before speeding up may be beneficial – or vice versa. Knowing when to slow it down and speed it up is crucial for success in both the dancing and strength & conditioning world.
  • I want you to feel certain sensations as you do your exercises.
  • From a coaching perspective, dancing has given me a different set of lenses that I use in order to convey different stories, analogies, and lessons to get across.

Long story short there are many benefits to dancing that I have transferred over at first, subconsciously from my experiences, but after seeing many coaches coach and do their thing, I began to realize this is where I’m different.

It is also an interesting story for others to hear – almost every other coach in the industry has a background that involves their high school and collegiate career in sports.

On the other hand, I openly admit to sucking at every organized sport pretty much my whole life, and knowing full well I wouldn’t be as good as my other friends, I decided to invest my time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears into dancing.

Intangible Skillsets That Transfer from Dancing to Coaching

1. Everything is a sensation

In dancing, the music drives the movement. In exercising, there is no attention to the music (other than just to hype you up).

The takeaways that I’ve always used from dancing that help with coaching involve understanding that certain movements may “feel” a certain way in individuals – whether it is the right feeling or not is up for debate. In power moves in bboying, there is a certain “pulsing” that occurs when you are in the groove or in the correct position.

When exercising, if you aren’t feeling the correct areas being kicked on, my job as a coach is to help you feel those areas by any means necessary – with words, tools, stories, analogies, or by changing the exercise through a regression or other similar exercise.

2. Developing a “coach’s eye” through a different set of lenses.

Many have referenced the use of different ways to learn and coach – some learn by visual cueing, auditory, or even kinesthetic methods. I feel like I have developed my ability to deliver a high level kinesthetic coaching experience for anyone (certain populations aside of course).

See, my goals for getting you to move well involve efficiency and feeling. Being efficient means moving you into certain positions with as little verbiage as possible, without clogging your brain up with a bunch of things to think about.

For example, when teaching the basics to a squat to anyone, I really enjoy using the following strategies:

  • Using a visual cue, using pointing when necessary to identify critical parts of the movement.
  • Using an auditory cue simultaneously, such as “Knees go east and west of each other, as you squat to the box.”
  • And finally, emphasizing a kinesthetic cue for an individual’s feet by pushing on the outside of their feet, and tapping their heels and likewise saying “Feel tension where I’m pushing.”

It’s never a singular sensorimotor experience that allows an individual to learn. If I can make you laugh, learn to breathe, and perform an exciting exercise they never thought possible, I’ve done my job. These are just a few items that emphasize the uniqueness that most dancers can bring to the table when coaching.

Actionable Items

If you’re a coach, what can you do to improve your ability to well… coach?!

1. Learn a new skillset.

For skillsets that involve movement, rhythm, and attention to detail, but still is lots of fun – I highly recommend salsa. Salsa is easy enough to learn from your micro-failures early on, that big takeaways can be learned right away from several YouTube videos, or if you’re daring enough at a salsa club or lessons.

(Word to the wise: Havana Club in Cambridge/Boston area has lessons an hour before they have the full blown salsa night. Check it out if you’re in the area. Oh, and hit me up if you plan on going as well! :) )

Learning a new skill such as this will expose you (the coach) to the feelings of being a novice all over again. It is surprising, but many coaches may stick to their strengths out of fear of being exposed, or even clinging to the thought of looking dumb. Just think of how your athletes feel when you try to have them do anything new.

By walking (dancing) a mile in their shoes, you can re-experience what it means to learn a new skill set all over again, which may give you better perspective and experience to help ease your athletes or clients’ worries.

And, it doesn’t have to be salsa. It can be learning the intricacies of a new sport, learning a new set of recipes to cook, or just simply stepping outside your comfort levels for an hour or so out of the week!

Learning a new skill set also gives you a broader vocabulary with which to convey your intentions as a coach. If I want my athlete’s body to remain as still as possible, and perform a specific exercise that may require movement of only one or two body parts, I’ll ask them to stay still like they are doing the robot, but then move this part (pointing or demonstrating) only. If they have no idea what “the robot” is, then I can show them right then and there – they laugh, I laugh, they do the exercise – gains.

2. Learn the rhythm to every exercise.

Every exercise has a rhythm – yes even stationary exercises such as planks and side planks. (If you remember to breathe during these static drills, you can see what I’m talking about.)

Other than the obvious rhythmic exercises such as kettlebell swings, sprints, or skips, exercises such as squats, deadlifts, hang cleans, and medicine ball drills all have specific rhythms to adhere to achieve success.

  • With KB Swings, there is a portion where your torso is parallel-ish to the floor, and then a moment of weightlessness as the KB accelerates away from your hips (and your lower half shoulder feel like it goes down into the ground).
  • With sprints there is a moment of speed and pulsing that is created when you move past the acceleration phase.
  • With squats, there is a bouncy feeling that you need coming out of the hole while maintaining a tall torso position, at least for the intermediate to advanced lifters. 
  • With push-ups, there should be a feeling of pushing the earth away ala Chuck Norris jokes from 2005.

Push-Ups Earth Downs

See if you can find the rhythms in other exercises, and use whatever verbiage (or kinesthetic cues) you can to describe it to help you coach these exercises better.

I personally use powerful words to help describe the intensity in these movements – with KB Swings there is an early “snap” out of the hips that helps to improve your movement, with medicine ball slams there is a “boom” that also facilitates intensity.

As you can see, there are tons of different perspectives that allow myself, a dancer turned strength coach, to be successful in a room full of otherwise very sports minded individuals.

One thing to keep in mind is that many of the above items refer to biomechanical and neurological sensations as a key towards unlocking movement success. For the athletes and clients I work with, this is not to underestimate their ability to attain certain physiological adaptations as well. They are connected, but not the same. At the same time, please don’t believe that every item I perform involves stretching to the max – I believe in having flexible and pliable muscles, but that is not usually my end goal for you as the client or athlete!

There is a certainly a time and place for everything, this is simply my own take on it!

As always,

Keep it funky.


Awareness & Culture – Two Things That Make Me Different Than Everyone Else

Having the ability to think in different languages is a humongous thing. This is something that I’ve naturally done since I was born. My mom grew up in the Philippines, and worked in Japan. These random facts bring to light the fact that my mom was speaking Japanese, Filipino, English, and Spanish (because it is already relatively close to Filipino due to culture).

My mom was probably yelling at me in all of these languages combined, and it was naturally for me to understand one sentence in different contexts as a baby and kid. Whenever I’m home, my grandma still speaks to me in Tagalog, and I understand what is being said, especially when I’m hungry, when food is on the table, when she needs something, when things matter.

[Side Note: There has been some interesting research talking about how understanding multiple languages as a baby keeps certain windows open during their developmental years.]

I remember in the first grade, I helped my mom during a “Cultures Around the World” program, where we spoke for about 5 to 6 minutes in straight Japanese (keep in mind I’m 100% Filipino). Granted it was relatively conversational in nature, because I was about 6/7 years old, but the story should serve a purpose – having the ability to speak multiple languages is the one skill set that I know I have that makes me different than everyone else.

Now, translating this to my adult and professional life, there is thought process that involves learning how to speak “multiple languages” to different populations of people. I’m not talking about speaking Khmer to my Cambodians, or Spanish to my fellow Spanish-speaking brethren (I can if I need to), but I have the ability to blend in with different friends and populations.

Working as a personal trainer, to youth athletes in multiple populations (hockey, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, dancing, basketball, bboys, etc) all the way to a slightly more older and professional athletic population is merely an extension of my ability to speak multiple languages. It’s a survival mechanism at its least, and my natural intuition at its best.

The way I’m going to communicate a specific drill to someone who plays basketball to make them buy-in is going to be much different than someone who has never played anything other than baseball, for example.

Multiple Skills That Make All The Difference

Another interesting aspect is other people continuously pointing out to me that I am a “certain person” when it comes to a niche, skillset, or any other professionally minded skill.

While I appreciate the notion that I have developed an expertise, it is interesting to hear these observations from my peers:

  • I’ve been clumped together with being a “breathing guy” because I’ve been to multiple continuing education courses.

Read: Posts Tagged “Postural Restoration Institute”

  • I’ve been classified as a “dance movement guy” only because my background is in dancing.

  • I’ve been classified as an “energy systems guy” because I’ve done a few presentations on aerobic energy systems.

Read: 5 Thoughts on Conditioning for Dancers

  • I haven’t been classified as a “powerlifting guy” despite being only 55lbs away from an elite total at the 148lb weight class. Despite having a deadlift over 3.5 times bodyweight.

  • I’ve been classified as a research driven guy (despite me not having a Master’s, or any other graduate level education).
  • I’ve been classified as a stats guys (despite me only collecting basic level information on athletes and questionnaires from online clients).
  • I haven’t been classified as a baseball strength and conditioning guy, despite doing a 4 month internship, and collecting over 1.5 years of capital at Cressey Sports Performance, a sports performance facility in Hudson, MA (and now Jupiter, FL).
  • Among many other things that are probably not as nice.

The truth of the matter is that I enjoy diving deep into many different social circles, groups, and creating multiple friends in many different ways.

My purpose is to not “show off” what people have said about me. Rather, I grew up in a world where the word “labels” had a negative connotation, so I chose to diversify my energy into not having any one label!

This is to display that people’s observations of what people think of who you are, and where they fit you in their head should not deter you from what your goals are and what they should be.

Navigating multiple social circles, sub-cultures (I’ve danced, talked about basketball, talked anime, and then talked about getting strong on the front side with athletes in less than about 10 minutes – it happens pretty regularly), along with learning to speak to multiple people and how they view things from their world is a skill set that is difficult to convey in a succinct message.

What Can You Take From This?

One thing that I try to encourage co-workers, friends, and interns to do is to get out of their comfort zone. With that said, if you’re reading this, I highly recommend challenging yourself in this way:

I challenge you, the reader, the thinker, the coach, the trainer, to envelope yourself in another culture, or to discover something about another culture that you would not have known about.

This doesn’t take 20 years to do, but rather small pieces of conversation that truly allow you to become immersed in another person’s life.

You don’t need to, and you can always do whatever the f*ck you want to do, but when you begin to expose yourself to multiple multiple cultures, whether it is hanging out with acquaintances, or members of a rival team, or someone you initially don’t get along with, you’ll find out more about yourself and how you process information, and how your emotions are regulated.

Now, if this doesn’t speak to you, that’s cool. I’m always attempting to push my comfort levels, whether it is in the context of continuing education, powerlifting, or learning what makes a youth athlete tick (it is Snapchat and Instagram at the moment). I challenge you to do the same thing.

As always,

Keep it funky.


Falling in Love…

Falling in Love with the Process: The Non-Tangibles

Within the fitness and perhaps even the strength and conditioning industry, many individuals are caught up with measuring and tracking information. From an objective point of view, this provides several benefits; what gets measured gets managed. However, one large part of measuring everything may be overlooked, and that is falling in love with the process towards your goal.

I am of the opinion that I will achieve my goals by any means necessary. Many methods are simply a means towards an end. This I fully accept, and understand.

However, many can’t get out of their own way, and I believe that there are a few steps that many need to undergo prior to achieving their goals. Firstly, being self-aware will allow you to accept where you are now. Secondly, falling in love with the process is necessary if you have a big enough of a goal, and can’t realize it in less than 2 days. And finally, what will occur if you have fallen out of love with your goal? Managing expectations is a large part of the process, and being pragmatic with your approach is necessary towards achieving an often idealistic goal!


I was of the opinion in the past that people will need a specific exercise in order to achieve a specific goal. Sometimes this is true, sometimes this is not true. Exercise is often a method utilized to seek out an end goal of improved fitness quality of some sort.

I was aware, but didn’t understand that people don’t fall in love with an exercise. In reality, for those who want to achieve a goal, the most successful ones fall in love with the process.

When you are attempting to improve yourself in any capacity, there are several things that must be brought to the surface:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where do you want to go?
  3. What are the methods that you will utilize in order to get to that goal?

In my world, there are several items that must be accounted for with respect to fitness:

  1. Do you have the ability to perform several different variations of movements?
  2. Do you have the physiological strength needed in order to improve?
  3. Do you have the cardiovascular foundation necessary to improve from workout to workout?
  4. Are you supporting your body with the nutrition that is needed in order to go from workout to workout?

You can measure tons of things, down to the velocity of the barbell that you are moving in order to improve a specific fitness quality. However, what does any of that mean in the grand scheme of things if you are inconsistent with the process? Not many fall in love with the technology, they fall in love with the belief that measuring whatever it is you’re measuring will help them get to their goal faster, and more efficiently.

This is like tracking your steps for the day with one of those fancy apps, or wearing a heart rate monitor for your daily walks. You don’t need an app to tell you how far you walked, because you probably missed the whole point of that walk if you’re tracking it. You probably did that walk by yourself also, instead of inviting a friend and enjoying an experience together.

Falling in Love

In some relationships, you can love the little things that a person can do, and appreciate the nuances of how they laugh, smile, cry, or get upset, but those things, while individual to that person, are small things that make up an individual’s whole personality and being.


The tangibles in a relationship involve what you did, in what quantity, and at what times you did those things.

The non-tangibles in a relationship that cannot be replaced involve your feelings for one another, your memories that you cannot replace, or your experiences spent together.

The Process

I used the above analogy in order to make a point – it isn’t the facts that make a relationship great. Instead, it is the experiences and time spent together that make the relationship worth it.

This section will make sense to those who are by and large, fairly normal people. This may be enlightening to those who are literally just like me – the slightly neurotic, planning the majority of my day (whether by necessity or not).


The process involves a series of actions required in order to achieve the end product. To make it sound less monotonous, the process involves understanding the pieces of the puzzle that comprise the big picture. However, some people might mistake the pieces of the puzzle for the big picture.

A + B + C … = Alphabet + Logic + Grammar = Sentences + Logic + Thesis = Essay/Papers

Understanding the capacity for what the letter “A” stands for is great, but you still have to have sound logic to create sentences in order to write a paper of any sort.

Within my industry, this is like someone falling in love with improving on a singular corrective exercise that is a minor part of the whole movement pattern – the brain works on a much higher level than monitoring the small pieces of the puzzle on a conscious level. Improving your ability to move is great, don’t get me wrong. But the brain, in my opinion and from my readings and research, operates on a much higher scale than any singular exercise will be able to improve.

Don’t mistake one piece of the puzzle (corrective exercise, facts in a relationship) for the whole picture (performing hundreds of workouts a year, spending time together to build a foundation for a relationship).

Not many people fall in love with the process in the fitness or strength and conditioning industry because of how much weight they lifted.

Just because I can hip thrust, a popular hip hinging exercise, with 640lbs for 5 repetitions does not mean I can deadlift this weight for that many repetitions.

And just because you may have set a world record does not mean you can now rest on your laurels – someone else may be gunning for your record, and that competitive spirit may be the missing component that you need in order to improve upon your process.

It is often the continual progress that many lifters are in love with. Athletes can be in love with any part of the process of improving, certainly. I’m not saying lifting weights isn’t fun – of course it is. I’ve worked in a gym for the last 6 years of my life.

I’m merely saying that even if an athlete’s broad jump improves, that is a small drop in the larger bucket of the big picture. As long as they make the team, are utilized, and are making progress, and staying injury free – that is the big picture that needs to be focused on.

Simultaneously, I have to remind many of my athletes who are coming back from an injury or surgery that they have improved their capacity for movement, and it is often very encouraging when I remind them where they have come from, and show them where they are now!

Managing Expectations

Many people fall out of love with this process for several reasons. With attaining any goals, many feel discouraged because they are not honest with their expectations. Similar to a relationship, if expectations are not managed, well then some may be in for a rude awakening. Trust is a large component of any relationship, whether it is with yourself to achieve any goal, or creating a foundation for a relationship with a significant other.

If you fall out of love with the process, you perhaps lacked the self-awareness necessary to achieve your “bigger picture.” Simon Sinek had it right when he made that book with the ever-so-catchy title, “Start with Why” – it merely makes sense to have a purpose for your actions.


Just like any relationship, if you have arguments or disagreements, but you love the chemistry you have for one another, then you might try to make it work… but it ultimately won’t work out because of other, larger circumstances that are abound.

From a fitness point of view, it is not uncommon to improve your strength on a squat from 100 to 150lbs in a certain amount of weeks or months. However, it is unlikely to improve your squat from 100 to 2000lbs in a few weeks. There is no process there – just unrealistic expectations.

There can be unrealistic expectations if you’re an athlete – you literally cannot look like another athlete from an aesthetic point of view, simply because of individual variances. Wishing you looked, played, or did anything like any other individual will go to disrespect the creative process that you have as a human!

Do what you can, with what you have, and pursue those options with a fervor like no other.

Powerlifting Squat

For example, I can’t wish to dance like anyone else, because I am my own individual. I can aim to model myself like others, but at the end of the day, my choices are mine!

Wishing you could shoot three pointers like Stephen Curry is great – but if you are a dedicated center with the reaction time of a sloth, it will be difficult to pull off that three point shot from the hip as well as Curry does. It is even much more difficult to actualize if you have a pre-existing shoulder injury that will limit your ability to bring your arm up to shoot in a reactive way.

These examples and more can cause you to fall out of love with the process of training if we’re talking about improving sports, or if we are talking about inter-personal relationships. Expectations are necessary towards improving towards a goal, something that can be managed on a psychological and emotional level.

What I can do involves setting realistic expectations day to day, month to month – aiming to lose 4lbs in a month is do-able! Aiming to lose 20lbs in a month is difficult, if not dangerous.

The Difference Between Tangible vs Non-Tangible

So what is the purpose of explaining the differences between the tangibles and non-tangibles of something involving goals?

Well, after attaining some type of self-awareness within yourself, I’m of the opinion that you can get really good at one thing by falling in love with the non-tangibles of a goal.

To go back to the relationship point of view, sure many people fall in love because of the facts – someone has a lot of money, or someone has lots of material things – tangible things.

Hey ladies… want a ride in my Batmobile?

However, in my experience I’m of the opinion that people fall in love with the things that can’t be replaced, or the things that comprise an individual’s being.

Falling in love with the process of a relationship not only involves being attentive to the other individual, but also being proactive and providing care for the individual. Anyone can give you attention. Showing care through words and actions and being proactive are the non-tangibles that cannot be physically counted.

Now to bring it back to goals… sure you can simply be efficient towards a goal by respecting the tangibles.

If your goal is to achieve an elite total as a powerlifter, I’d assume you can improve in several different manners: dropping weight class, improving strength levels, and discover what leverages you have in order to pass a certain standard of movement. These are all quantifiable and tangible items that involve being a powerlifter.

However, this does not mean you’ll fall in love with the process involved with being a powerlifter.

If you are looking to get strong, there are hundreds of methods of doing so – the lens of being a powerlifter is merely one more method to attain maximal strength. There are several non-tangible items that can be involved with powerlifting. Surrounding yourself with a team of people, encouraging each other, understanding the woes of not going out because you want to improve your diets, or improving your sleep quality by any means necessary is all a part of that process as well. Working out every day is merely part of the process.

If your goal is to get really good at dancing, I’d venture a guess and say that you should not be entering competitions in order to spark a fire that isn’t there yet. Competitions and auditions could call for a certain standard of movements, and performed to a certain degree or quality. Not many companies will allow a sloppy dancer within their ranks. There are quite literally certain tangible goals necessary in order to be a professional dancer.


If you want to get decent at dancing, well guess what? All you have to do is start, do it everyday, and fall in love with the process of the non-tangibles involved with dancing:  moving in some capacity to music, exchange experiences with others, going on road trips to competitions, and having shared experiences with music and dancing being the cornerstone of your dancing life.

Actionable Items

So where does this leave us? How can I qualify an actionable item for something that is largely unquantifiable?

If you find yourself getting burnt out, fall in love with the process by bringing to light the non-tangible items involved with whatever goal you have. Whether it is dancing, losing weight, improving your business, or any other goal – the non-tangibles are what make the big picture worth it all.

Look for experiential items that make any goal worth it – get your family, friends, and significant others involved with the process in order for you to make things stick, and make things matter to you.

If you have a quick and easily attainable goal, identify the tangible items that you can do in order to achieve those goals as efficiently as possible.

No one falls in love with the process of accumulating $100 a single time during the week – you simply just do it by not going out for drinks and cooking your own food. However, if you have a bigger goal of doubling your annual income, well then you better start hustling to fall in love with that process.

Next time you find yourself burning out with respect to your goals, hobbies, or relationship, ask yourself whether you are even meant to be doing what you are doing. No one says you have to do it. But it does have to be internalized in order for anything grandiose to be accomplished.

As always,

Keep it funky.