Earn the Right

By February 18, 2018Blog

It was  Christmas morning, and the nine-year-old you just couldn’t wait to rip open those gifts under the tree. You had a pretty good idea it was under there, but you just had to see it to believe it.

Mom and dad finally rolled out of bed and you went straight for it. You tore the paper and there it was, in all its glory. The Super Nintendo you had asked for, along with Super Mario Brothers.


Your dad helped you set it up, and you played until you could smell the turkey cooking late in the afternoon. You didn’t even change out of your pajamas until your mom told you to get your ass upstairs before everyone came for dinner.

You played and played and played until your thumbs were sore from the controller.

And you sucked.

But it was so fun, you continued to play the game, often to no avail.

Finally, after a couple of weeks (just in time to go back to school – of course), you were starting to figure it out. You were getting better and starting to knock off some levels.

Then came the epic battle with Bowser. Damnit, man that took forever to beat.

You recruited your friends. You asked for cheat codes. You scraped and clawed to avenge your thousand deaths at the hands of the evil turtle.


Then finally; on a cold, blustery day in mid February, you did it.

You EARNED it.

It felt so good. You were so proud.

It’s funny; because as silly as this analogy seems and as clueless as the nine-year-old you most certainly was, this is exactly how your fitness journey often shakes out.

But you didn’t stop playing after a week just because you weren’t very good at it. Was that partially because your dad would literally kill you since he spent so much on this system? Maybe.

But the point is, you didn’t quit.

You took the time to acquire the skills to literally get better at the thing and earn the right to hit some pretty significant milestones.


So what if you flipped your fitness mindset to create smaller goals that you could knock off, feel the rush of success and truly be proud of?

All of my new clients start with a general preparation phase after their initial intake.

Throughout this time, you learn to move properly and create tension. We will slowly start to layer different elements of movement on top of a solid foundation in preparation for the obstacles that lay ahead on their journey.

We focus on one habit at a time, creating an optimal lifestyle around training sessions and allowing you to become a better version of yourself.

You cannot move on to the next level until you earn it. You have to beat the boss.

And just like that fateful Super Mario Brothers, the bosses keep getting bigger and better with every level.

Earning the right is a big thing in my books. Not only does it make you proud, but it allows you to celebrate victories along the way; even if the ultimate goal still seems far off.

You Have to Earn the Right to Get Your Ass Kicked

The common misconception about personal trainers is that we’re going to judge you for the way that you are and punish you for whatever you’ve done in the past.

If anyone does that to you – trainer or otherwise; remove them from your life immediately. It’s not their place to judge you about anything.

As a trainer, it’s my job to meet you where you’re at in life and put the building blocks in place to create the best version of you; both physically and mentally.

Things often start out slow. The body and mind need time to prepare for the onslaught and struggle that lies ahead, just like you need the entire Christmas holiday to prepare for your first meeting with Bowser.

This is when people start to see that they’re on the right track. They feel better. They see progress in every movement pattern. They start to feel strong and stable. They may even start to see progress in the mirror.

Then, and only then, will I layer metabolic stress on top of a complicated movement pattern.

Think about it. Let’s say you have a hitch in your squat. As you descend, your right knee dives in. It may not seem like much now and it may not hurt. Most people probably don’t even notice the incongruence until it starts to hurt.

But I do. And any trainer worth their salt should, as well.

So what happens if you’re forced to repeat that sloppy squat 50 times in a row? Then what happens if you’re forced to do those 50 squats as fast as possible? Then you add a weight to whole thing?

Add up all those shitty reps you did over a month, 6 months, a year: you’re gonna  have a problem.


It would be like trying to take on Bowser on Boxing Day… without playing the first six levels before getting there. You’re building a house on a poor foundation.

So put in the work to build the foundation before layering on any metabolic work or ass kickings. You’ll thank me in ten years when you can still walk.

You Have to Earn the Right to Say “It’s Not Working”

So my friend Anna approached me because she knows I do “health stuff” and asked me about sleep. She said she’s not sleeping well and can’t seem to get any shuteye before midnight, even though she’s up for work at 6:30.

She feels exhausted all the time and has tried everything.

“What kind of supplements can I take for that?”

These days, no one seems to sleep as well as they’d like. We are “on” all day and almost no one takes quiet time for themselves.

So I started my normal line of questioning when it comes to sleep.

“What time do you go to bed? What time do you rise? Is it consistent?”


“Do you have a bedtime routine?”

“I… uhmmm, watch TV?”

“What is your sleep environment like?”

“What are you talking about?”

As you can see, I quickly turned the tables on Anna. I showed her that she is responsible for her lack of sleep; she can only say it’s not working AFTER she’s put all these things in place.


The problem is that a lot of people don’t even know they’re off base when they say something’s not working for them. Have you actually tried anything worthwhile before turning to that nice little bottle of pills?

Scale’s not budging?

Have you been diligently tracking your calories?

Have you followed the basic habits we laid out every day for nutrition and exercise in An Unconventional Guide to Losing Fat and Getting Back the Body You Once Had?

Weights on the bar aren’t increasing?

Have you been diligently completing your warm-up and mobility work every day?

Have you been working on breathing so you can create more tension?


Usually, somewhere along these lines of questioning; people will have a moment where they realize that it’s on them to improve their own lives.

I’m not going to give you a supplement. YOU can earn this on your own. 

Go fix at least one aspect that is within your control, give it a week, and tell me if it improves.

I hear far too many people make excuses for things in their own lives that they have full control over.

So I’ll wrap it up like this.

We tend to externalize things we aren’t very good at or don’t like and wonder what some pill or some other person can do to help us.

We do this because it’s easier than facing the facts and doing the thing we know we need to do.

Mario can’t just tell Yoshi to go in and talk to Bowser. Bowser is not to be negotiated with. The only way past him is to fight and earn your trip to the next level.

So go. Fight. Earn the right to be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Video game or otherwise.

And if you figure out a way to beat Bowser in less than 8 tries, give me a shout. Because I never could…

Yours  in earning the right,


If you want more exclusive content, access to lots of FREE shit, and to better understand the twisted mind of a former goalie turned fitness pro, sign up for the McHale S & C email list. Once you join the team, I will harass you with musings on hockey, lifting heavy shit, and fitting alcohol into your macros.


Gavin McHale

Author Gavin McHale

Online training and nutrition coach, retired semi-pro hockey goalie, and ex-skinny kid. Currently a beer league superstar, and lover of lifting heavy things, Gavin will help you reclaim that athletic, dead sexy body, and shrink your clothing budget. Because tarps are always optional.

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