Coach's Corner 4 Transcript


Hello and welcome to the Over 50 Health & Wellness podcast.  I’m your host Kevin English – I’m a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach and my mission to help you get into the best shape of your life – regardless of your age – so that you can show up in life as the healthiest, strongest, most vital version of yourself.  I want to let you know that if you enjoy this podcast, I have additional free resources over at  There you’ll find my mini guides on nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle.  Today we have another edition of the Coaches Corner – so no guest today – it’s just me, and we’ll be back next week with our regular interview format.


Here’s what we’re covering in this episode.  I’ll start out with a bit of a rant on COVID-19 vaccinations and the state of our collective health.  And then as long as I’m covering triggering topics, I thought I’d share my experience as a vegan and my lessons learned during that part of my life.  After that I’ll give an update on how things are going with my client Broc.  If you’re not familiar Broc is a podcaster himself – he’s the host of the Midlife Mastery podcast – and he’s hired me as a personal trainer and nutrition coach – and he suggested that we share our journey on our respective podcasts – me from the coach’s perspective and Broc from the client’s perspective.  He’s on a journey to get into the best shape of his life in his fifties, and he’d like to lose 40 pounds and regain some of the strength he had when he was younger.  I cover most of this in earlier editions of the coach’s corner, so today we’re going to pick up where we left off.


After that I’ll do a quick book review, and we’ll wrap up with a brief discussion on my main takeaways from some of my recent podcast guests.  OK, let’s get on with today’s show!


COVID Vaccinations

Here in the US, we are a country divided.  As of the date of this recording, only 50% of Americans are fully vaccinated.  And strangely enough, this is strongly correlated along political lines.  If you’re liberal leaning, chances are you’re fully vaccinated, and if you’re more conservatively minded, chances are you are not vaccinated.  And the division between the two camps seems to be deepening.  This week’s issue of Newsweek has a scary looking graphic with words The Doomsday Variant – and the online headline reads” A Doomsday COVID Variant Worse Than Delta and Lambda May Be Coming, Scientists Say.  With so much extremist rhetoric and emotion coming from both camps, the population seems to becoming more and more entrenched in their respective beliefs.


But regardless of where you fall on the vaccination spectrum, one thing seems to be lost in all of these vaccine wars, and that is the simple fact that strong healthy people are harder to kill.  In other words, people who are metabolically healthy have much less to fear from getting sick and injured.  A healthy population has much less to fear from diseases like COVID-19.  The CDC reported that over 90% of all COVID deaths had co-morbidities associated with them – most of which are lifestyle diseases – things like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, dyslipidemia (poor cholesterol health), and many types of cancer.


So regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of vaccination, this is the perfect time for us to rally around healthy lifestyle changes.  According to the CDC, 6 out of 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease, and 4 out of 10 have two or more, and goes on to state that chronic disease is the leading cause of death with a healthcare cost of over 3.8 trillion dollars here in the US alone.  Without diminishing the severity of COVID-19, preventable chronic illness kills way more humans that COVID.  And it has for a long time now, and it’s only getting worse.


Which brings me to why I wanted to talk about this.  I can’t figure out for the life of me why we as a human race aren’t using this pandemic as a platform to discuss healthy lifestyle changes.  Where is the media coverage on this?  Where are the health officials breaking down crying on national TV beseeching the public to give up eating crappy processed foods and sugary drinks, why aren’t they educating the public on the benefits of regular vigorous exercise?  Instead we have ridiculous programs where – I kid you not – you can get free McDonalds or free donuts for getting vaccinated.  Seriously?  We’re bribing sick people with metabolic poison to get vaccinated in the name of health?


And now we’re starting to see legislation stating where non-vaccinated people can and can’t go.  Picture this… imagine a proposal that said you couldn’t enter a public building without you providing proof that you exercised vigorously for a minimum of three hours the preceding week, or that you didn’t eat any ultra-processed foods or exceed your sugar allowance for the week.  That’s ridiculous – it’s your body and your health is your responsibility.  But the fact remains that chronic illness kills way more people than COVID, and has for a long time, and is getting worse – not better.  And the vast majority of these chronic diseases are lifestyle diseases – meaning they are within our power to control.  We can consider these chronic diseases – things like diabetes, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol health, certain cancers, arthritis, and obesity – more as symptoms of poor metabolic health at the cellular level, and these symptoms are caused in large part by our daily dietary choices and activity level.  While we obviously can’t – and shouldn’t - legislate eating healthy and exercising, we can do a better job of education and support.  In our lifetime we saw smoking greatly decline as a direct result of targeted public service campaigns.  Now seems the perfect time to attack these poor lifestyle choices that are literally killing us.


And I get it, it’s a poor comparison comparing chronic illness to COVID, since these lifestyle diseases aren’t contagious…  you’re not going to catch somebody else’s diabetes or hypertension just by coming in contact with them.  But the fact remains that these diseases are killing way more of us than COVID currently is.


Before we go any further, let me clarify.  I’m not anti-vax.  I certainly have concerns about emergency use vaccines without any long-term studies, and I have my concerns around vaccinating entire populations of people whether they are at risk or not.  But it just seems to me that we’re missing a golden opportunity for public outreach and education for reducing lifestyle diseases.  If we poured one half as much hype and attention to making citizens healthy as we are in trying to convince them to get vaccinated, we’d be in a much better position to fight off COVID.


Unfortunately, there are three major roadblocks to making this happen, and those are behavior change, politics, and money.


Let’s discuss behavior change first.  Getting people to change their behavior, their ingrained habits, is extremely difficult to do.  And this is especially true when it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes.  We’re asking people to make difficult choices, every day, for the rest of their lives.  I get it, ultra-processed foods and drinks – chock full of sugar, fats and salt, taste delicious.  A pop tart tastes better than a leaf of kale, soda is tastier than plain old water.  And exercising every day may not be as fun as binge-watching Netflix.  Going to bed at the same time every night and ensuring you get 8 hours of quality sleep may not be as much fun as going out and partying.  But consistently making these tough choices are what make us healthy resilient humans.  But instead we advertise happy meals and sugary cereals and drinks to our children, we place convenience and instant gratification above our health and well-being, we allow quote-unquote food companies and pharmaceutical companies to lobby our governments.  When we walk into a supermarket, the vast majority of the products in there aren’t even real food.  We’ve normalized unhealthy living, we actually encourage metabolic disease, and it’s against this mighty headwind that we’re trying to convince people to make behavior changes that would have massive benefits to both the individual concerned and to society at large.


The second major roadblock to getting people healthy is political.  There simply is no political currency in championing a healthy citizenry.  Giving lip service to this is fine, but actually trying to effect any real change here is almost certainly political suicide.  Try and tell people we’re gonna tax their sugary drinks or fast food and see what kind of reaction you get.  And don’t get me wrong, with my libertarian leaning I’m not advocating for more government taxation, but with police enforcement of mask mandates in some areas and the increasing restrictions on what unvaccinated people can do and where they can go, we’re moving into uncharted territory and in my experience, politicians are more concerned with reelection than with the health and wellness of their citizenry.


The third major roadblock to a healthy population is money.  There are literally trillions of dollars to be made from sick and unhealthy people.  Now I’m not a conspiracy theorist – I don’t believe there is an evil cabal of rich men in a room somewhere wringing their hands in glee over sick people and the financial windfall that brings – but the ugly reality is that a chronically ill population is worth a lot of money to a lot of corporations.  Pfizer recently stated that a third booster shot will help mitigate the effects of COVID, and while that certainly may be true, it’s indicative of just how truly wacky this situation has become.  I mean, you want to talk about the fox guarding the hen house.


So while there are millions, billions, and trillions of dollars being made and traded during this pandemic, there are thousands being made by gyms, personal trainers and nutrition coaches.  Thousands.  I myself am a self-made thousand-aire.  I too am reaching out to the unhealthy population, trying to sell them on the benefits of making permanent healthy lifestyle changes.  But sadly, many people aren’t the least bit interested in this form of medicine, even though it is literally lifesaving.  Sadly, many people want the quick fix of an injection or a pill to save them – and while there is certainly a time and place for these medicines, for the most part they are “treating” symptoms, and do nothing to help the root cause of our metabolic health.


So, are vaccines the answer?  Will they save us from COVID?  I honestly don’t know.  But wherever you fall on the spectrum, my plea is that you take care of your health, that you become the healthiest version of yourself, and that you encourage others in your sphere of influence to do the same.  You’ll handle our current pandemic better, as well as future variants, maybe even the Doomsday variant.


But I’ll leave you with this final thought on the subject.  You and only you are responsible for your health and wellbeing, whatever decision you make for yourself regarding vaccination, I personally honor, and respect that decision.  I’d love to hear your thoughts – and we can continue this conversation over at  I’d ask that you keep the conversation civil, but if you feel strongly and decide to unload, that’s ok too!


OK, that’s enough of that.  If you’re not triggered already, let’s talk about veganism!



About 10 years ago I made the decision to go vegan.  This came as a surprise – more of a shock really – to my wife and kids.  At the time I didn’t really give a whole lot of thought to what I ate.  But I certainly didn’t eat many vegetables, and I suppose my diet was more or less the standard American diet, which is to say I ate a ton of refined and highly processed carbs, fast food, and deli meats.  I was doing triathlons and the occasional marathons back then, so I was burning through all the calories that I was eating.  But I certainly was a long way nutritionally from where I am now.  I was also fascinated with ultra running.  I hadn’t actually done an ultra – and an ultra is technically any distance over the 26.2-mile marathon, but typically go from 50K (which is about 31 miles), to 50 milers, then the 100K distance, then the 100 miler… and nowadays there are even 200 and 300 mile races.


Anyways, I read a book by Rich Roll called Finding Ultra.  If you’re not familiar with Rich, he struggled with substance abuse issues and overcame them in part through endurance training and racing.  He was – and still is – a big proponent of a plant based nutrition.  A lot of his personal story resonated with me, and about that time I was introduced to podcasts.  I can’t really remember, but I think Rich’s podcast was the very first podcast I ever listened to.  And his podcast is still going strong today, and I’m still a fan.  So I was exposed to Rich and his thoughts on plant based athletics, and about this same time I saw the movie Forks Over Knives.  In this documentary Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist from Cornell University, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former top surgeon at with the Cleveland Clinic make a very compelling case that most chronic diseases could be controlled – if not reversed – by eliminating animal based foods.  And as simple as that – I became convinced that the optimal human diet was a vegan diet.


I bought a few vegan cookbooks and scoured the internet for plant based research – but through the lens of someone looking for validation of what I was already convinced of – namely that the vegan diet was the optimal diet for human health.  And I found a TON of information.  Not only about the health benefits, but about the evils of factory farming, which is something that I hadn’t really considered before.  I grew up on a beef cattle farm, and each year we got a bunch of chickens that were my responsibility, and when I was old enough it was my job to butcher them.  So, I had an unsentimental upbringing in that sense.  On our farm our animals lived a near idyllic life, and then met a quick end, and then nourished us.  It seemed very natural to me.


And then later in life I suppose I had a naive romantic notion that that’s how all of my meat, eggs, and dairy were raised.  But now deep in the internet learning of the horrors of factory farming – which really is nasty business – and I’m even more convinced that the vegan diet is the best.  Oh, and apparently cow farts are contributing to greenhouse gasses, so by cutting out beef and dairy I can help save the earth.


OK, so now I was in deep – I was convinced that the vegan diet was healthiest way to eat, and I was convinced it was cruel and unusual to eat animals.  But here’s the thing – I felt fantastic in those first few months of going 100% plant based.  I mean like super human.  I had more energy, my libido improved, my recovery from long runs and rides seemed better.  And this was a key turning point in my life – it’s the first time I really connected what I ate to how I felt and how I performed.  And at this point I was 100% bought in – I was convinced that the plant based diet was the healthiest way to eat – and I was not supporting animal cruelty, and was doing my part to save the earth for the disaster of cow farts.


But fast forward to 6 months later, and all of those early health benefits wore off.  I no longer had the all that new found energy, in fact I found myself getting very sleepy  - like pathologically tired – every mid-afternoon.  What the heck.  OK, so back to the internet, and I’m googling my vegan symptoms and there’s no shortage of helpful advice – primarily the fact that need to be supplementing.  I needed to supplement B12.  Oh, and it turns out there are two forms of iron – heme and non-heme, and heme is only found in animal based foods.  Oh, I also needed to supplement Omega 3s -but only from seeds which are a poor source, calcium, zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin K-12.  And on and on.  And some of these supplements required additional supplements in order to be properly absorbed.  And of course, I needed to get my protein in, so I always had a big canister of plant-based protein powder – mainly rice, pea, and help based.


Looking back on it, there were a couple of flaws in my thinking and behavior.  The first is that when I started my plant based journey, I ate 100% whole foods.  I spent hours shopping, prepping, and cooking.  But slowly over time that got tedious, and I started opting for processed foods, lots of fake meat, vegan ice cream, vegan power bars, basically processed food that was not serving my health one bit.  So now I was eating a crappy processed food diet, and I had an entire cupboard filled with supplements.


But here’s the thing, humans evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, and in 99% of cases ate a varied omnivorous diet.  And long story short, my plant based diet was no longer serving my body, and I just couldn’t supplement my way out of it.  Now this is my personal story, there are plenty of examples of amazing plant based athletes that perform at very high levels for very long periods of time.  But for me, my plant based experiment had run it’s course.  And here’s the funny thing... it was hard to go back.  I had somehow wrapped up my identity as being a vegan.  Somewhere along the line I decided that I WAS a vegan, as opposed to a person who chose to eat a plant based diet, and this greatly complicated my transitioning back into omnivory.


But one day, without any fanfare, I unceremoniously ate some chicken.  And that broke the spell. So what were some lessons learned?  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this was my first exposure to the dramatic health effects of whole foods compared to processed and ultra-processed foods.  In fact, I may have lasted a lot longer as a vegan had I stuck with a whole food vegan diet… who knows, maybe I’d still be vegan today.  The second lesson learned was that I am not my diet, rather I choose my diet.  What we eat is often highly personal, and nowadays has even become politicized – it’s even like a religion to some.  And my third takeaway from my time eating vegan is to be more aware of the foods I choose and the impact on both the animal and the environment.  I now consider myself a conscious omnivore, and I try to source meats, eggs, and dairy as ethically as possible.  I look for humanely raised, 100% grass fed options, and try to support local small farms where possible.


My final word on veganism is this: in a time of some much division and tension, let’s not demonize one another over what we choose to eat.  If you have strong beliefs concerning diet, try and find ways to share those beliefs lovingly and reasonably, but practice compassion and understanding with folks that have differing beliefs or are on a different path than you.


Broc Update

OK, so if you’ve listened to any of the other Coach’s Corner episodes, you know that one of my clients is a fellow podcaster.  His name is Broc Edwards and he’s the creator and host of the Midlife Mastery podcast, and he’s on a mission to get in the best shape of his life.  He suggested that we each do periodic updates on our journey together on or respective podcasts.  Me from the coach’s perspective, and him of course from the client’s perspective.  If you’d like to listen to his updates, you can check him out at  During our last update Broc had a week from hell.  His daughter got ill and required emergency surgery – and just to let you all know she’s doing fine now – his mom who he hadn’t seen sine before COVID began was in town for a visit, and he tweaked his back.  He was understandably stressed out and his diet – which had been so good up until then – fell apart.


And this is a very fragile point in anybody’s fitness journey.  Broc was only a couple of months in and had just experienced a setback.  It would have been easy for him to slip back into old habits, but instead he posted on his social media that setbacks aren’t a warning to play smaller, they are a message to play bigger.


So Broc is back at it in full force, with the realization that progress simply isn’t linear – there’s going to be bumps in the road along the way.  He’s lost about 12 pounds in 10 weeks, and he’s back to his barbell training and even rediscovering his love for running again.  He’s recommitted to his nutrition – so far we’re focusing on hitting protein goals and total calories for the day, and I have him thinking about ways he can start swapping out some of his processed foods for whole foods.  Broc is just finishing up his initial 12 week intro phase of exercise – where the emphasis has been on light weights and good from and accumulating volume.  The idea is less muscle building at this phase and more neurological adaptations, that is really getting hi8s body used to these basic barbell movements again.


So next up we’ll start a 12 week strength training phase, where the emphasis will be on progressive overload and increasing Broc’s strength.  We’ll still be doing full body days and we’ll focus on basic compound movements like the barbell squat, deadlift, as well as pushing and pulling movements.  And the idea is we’ll continue this progression until he gets to a point where he plateaus.  Once we can no longer keep adding say 5 pounds to the barbell, we’ll switch up the programming to keep him progressing.  But for now, I’m getting ready to move him into his initial strength phase to help him reach both his weight loss goals as well as some performance goals that he has set for himself.


So I’m excited form Broc, he has a great attitude and I think he’s going to see some great results in this next training cycle!


Book Review


This week I want to review an absolute classic in the strength training world, and that is “Starting Strength – Basic Barbell Training” by Mark Rippetoe.  I thought since I just had Andy Baker on last episode – and if you haven’t listened to that episode, you most certainly should – that this would be an ideal book to review this week since we referenced it several times in that show.  So, here’s the deal – hands down the best way to learn the basic compound barbell lifts, namely the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and power clean is to find a qualified in-person coach to teach you these movements. But he second best way is to get a copy of this book and study it, treat it like a textbook.  Read it, re-read it, and then go back over the material with a highlighter.


Now Mark Rippetoe – affectionately known as Rip – is a bit of a polarizing personality in the strength world.  He has a strong personality and strong opinions, which he’s not afraid to share with anyone, and typically without any filter or regards for anyone’s feelings – and he’s unapologetically that way.  So he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak.  But, that does not detract from the importance of this work.  I’m on my second copy of this book, and my current copy is dirty, dog-eared, bookmarked, and highlighted.  And I still break it out from time to time as a refresher resource.


If you’re new to the major compound lifts, or if you haven’t done them in a while, I STONGLY recommend buying this book.  I’ll drop a link in the show notes which you can find at


Podcast Recap

Three weeks ago I interviewed Gene Dykes, aka the Ultra Geezer.  Gene is a 73 year old world record endurance runner.  Gene took up ultra-running – which is basically anything longer than a 26.2 mile marathon – late in life and he holds multiple world records at multiple distances.  Gene’s mission is to try and run a little further – or a little faster – every week, every month, and every year.  Most recently Gene decided to take on the Bigfoot 200 mile race through the Cascade mountains in Washington state.  He had completed it a few years ago, and wanted to test himself again to see if he still had that distance in him.  When I spoke to him, the race was still a few weeks out, and as of the time of this recording the race is officially over – it ended Tuesday August 17, 2021.  And looking at the live race tracker, it looks like Gene was unable to finish.  It looks like he covered a total distance of 125.5 miles in two days, 10 hours and 37 minutes.  I haven’t spoken to him yet, so I don’t know if he missed a cutoff, or if an injury forced him to stop.  I’ll see if I can get him back on the podcast to tell his story.


But my main takeaway from talking with Gene was this – we are all capable of so much more than we believe we are, and that age only limits what’s possible in so much as we allow our minds to believe limiting thoughts.  Gene has had an incredible running career – and he didn’t get started until late in life.  In fact his greatest achievements came at age 70.


Two weeks ago I interviewed Julia Olson.  Julia has had to overcome quite a bit in her life.  As a child she lost her little sister to cancer, and then at age 11 was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic -which eventually led to her giving herself 4-6 injections daily.  When she hit her thirties, she was told her kidneys were failing, and she opted for a still experimental double organ transplant.  In her forties she had triple cardiac bypass surgery, and then in her fifties she had a thyroidectomy.  Then in her sixties she came up on her 30 year organ transplant anniversary and decided she wanted to honor the gift of life she’d been given, and so she started her fitness journey, which resulted in a first place finish in masters bikini bodybuilding show at age 64.  Today Julia inspires her following on social media with not only her incredible body transformation, but with her message of self-love and acceptance of where you are right now, with honoring the present – the right now – to truly manifest your purpose and to share that with the world.  This really was an inspiring show, the first twenty minutes were actually kind of depressing, as we chronicled Julia’s constant health battles, but then hearing how she’s risen above that and how she’s living her life to the fullest now, it’s truly a heart warming story.


My most recent episode was with Andy Baker.  Andy has over 17 years of experience as a personal trainer and strength coach and is one of the most sought-after strength and fitness experts in the industry.  Andy coaches high level elite athletes as well as “athletes of aging” and he is the co-author of “Practical Programming for Strength Training” along with Mark Rippatoe, as well as the co-author of “The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life after 40” with Dr. Jonathon Sullivan.  In this episode Andy breaks down exactly what we need to do in terms of getting stronger, as well as how to do it… how to implement these exercises and info an effective program.  And he shares programing tips from everyone from the total novice to the person who is interested in competing in their first power lifting meet.  My main takeaway from this conversation with Andy is that an exercise program for older adults doesn’t need to be overly complicated – in fact it shouldn’t be.  Andy is an absolute expert in exercise programming, and he doesn’t hold anything back in this episode – he shares a ton of useful knowledge.


OK, that’s our show for today folks – I’ll put links to everything we talked about in the show notes and you can find that over at, and don’t forget to check out for more great free resources on how to live you healthiest, strongest life after 50.  I’ll be back next week with an interview with Dr. Gabriele Lyon – and she’s going to talk to us about muscle-centric medicine, and why that matters for aging adults, you won’t want to miss this episode!


Thanks so much for spending your time with me today, until next time, stay strong!