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The Best of 2014: Baseball Articles

Written on January 4, 2015 at 3:30 pm, by Eric Cressey

With baseball athletes being the largest segment of the Cressey Sports Performance athletic clientele, it seems only fitting to devote a "Best of 2014" feature to the top baseball posts from last year. Check them out:

1. No Specialization = National Championship? - I posted this article right after Vanderbilt won the College World Series, and it was my biggest "baseball hit" of the year. There are some great lessons on long-term athletic development in there.

2. 6 Key Qualities for Long-Term Athletic Development - I wrote this post right after 18 Cressey Sports Performance athletes were selected in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft. As with our #1 baseball post from the year, long-term athletic development was a hot topic!

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3. Are Pitchers Really Getting "Babied?" - Many baseball "traditionalists" insist that pitchers are getting injured because we're babying them in the modern era. I disagree completely, and this article summarizes my thoughts on the subject.

4. Long-Term Success: What You Can Learn from Corey Kluber - Long-time CSP client Corey Kluber won the 2014 American League Cy Young, and a lot of the points I make in this article on his work ethic help to explain why. It was featured on Gabe Kapler's website.

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5. Draft Q&A with Eric Cressey: Part 1 and Part 2 - This two-part article was actually an interview of me for Baseball America. I think it delves into a lot of important topics for up-and-coming players as well as coaches and parents.

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The Best of 2014: Strength and Conditioning Features

Written on January 2, 2015 at 6:16 am, by Eric Cressey

I really enjoying creating features with multiple installments because it really allows me to dig deep into a topic that interests both me and my readers. It’s like writing a short book, with each post being a different chapter. That said, here were a few of my favorite features from 2014 at EricCressey.com:

1. Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training - I'm at my best when I'm my most random, and I think these posts are a great example of that. What started as a one-time post wound up becoming a regular series based on reader feedback. Here are links to all eight installments from 2014:

Installment 1
Installment 2
Installment 3
Installment 4
Installment 5
Installment 6
Installment 7
Installment 8

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2. Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better - This series is mostly CSP coach Greg Robins' work, but I jumped in quite a bit in 2014. Installments 53-60 ran this year; here were the most popular ones:

Installment 53
Installment 54
Installment 57
Installment 58
Installment 59

3. Is Thoracic Spine Extension Work Necessary? - My good friend and colleague, physical therapist Eric Schoenberg, put together this in-depth series to demonstrate that not everyone needs extra thoracic extension work, contrary to what many folks think.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Hypokyphosis

The Best of 2014 series is almost complete, but stayed tuned for a few more highlights!

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The Best of 2014: Strength and Conditioning Videos

Written on December 28, 2014 at 1:49 pm, by Eric Cressey

With my last post, I kicked off the "Best of 2014" series with my top articles of the year. Today, we'll highlight the top five videos of the year. These videos only include instructional videos, not quick exercise demonstrations.

1. Thoracic Mobility and Back Squatting - Upper back positioning is a key factor in squat technique, but not everyone starts in the same position. Check out the video to learn more:

2. Serratus Wall Slide Variations - Serratus anterior is an incredibly important muscle for shoulder health and function. Here are two exercises we use in our serratus anterior activation progression.

3. Do You Really Have Poor Ankle Mobility? - It's been my experience that ankle flexibility restrictions are really "overdiagnosed," and in reality, people just don't know how to shut off their plantarflexors (calves) as part of a heavily extended posture. I elaborate in this video:

4. Are You Packing the Shoulder Correctly? - It's important to be able to pack the shoulder, but in many cases, folks don't know exactly what is or should be going on functionally. This webinar should clarify.

5. Limited Shoulder Flexion in Pitchers - We often hear that shoulder dysfunction relates to elbow pain in throwers, but very rarely do we hear the "why" behind this link. In this video, I elaborate:

I'll be back soon with the top guest posts of 2014!

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 8

Written on December 23, 2014 at 7:34 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for the December edition of my musings on the performance world. Our twin daughters were born on November 28, so this will be a "baby theme" sports performance post.

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1. Sleep might be the great equalizer in the sports performance equation.

For obvious reasons, I've been thinking a lot about sleep quality and quantity since the girls were born. Obviously, how well you sleep is a huge factor in both short- and long-term performance improvements (or drop-offs). I think everyone knows that, but unfortunately, not everyone acts on it.

Additionally, I'm not sure folks realize that sleep is probably the only factor in the performance training equation that isn't impacted by socioeconomic status. Good coaching, gym access, massage therapy, and quality nutrition and supplementation all cost money and can be hard to find in certain areas. Getting quality sleep really won't cost you a penny (unless you're forgoing sleep to try to earn a living), and it's easily accessible. tweetSure, you can buy a better mattress or pillow, turn the air conditioning up, or get reinforced blinds to make your room darker, but the truth is that these aren't limiting factors for most people. Usually, the problems come from using phones/tablets/TVs on too close to bedtime, or simply not making time to get to bed at a reasonable hour. That might be why this Tweet I posted a few days ago was well-received.

I think the lesson here is that if you're struggling to make progress, begin by controlling what you can control. Sleep is usually a good place to start.

2. You need a team, but not an army.

Without exception, everyone who has ever had a child is willing to offer advice. Unfortunately, while it's always incredible well-intentioned, it isn't always useful. We've found this to be particularly true because we have twins, which is a total game changer as compared to a single baby. It's like getting a pitching lesson from a golf professional; he might "get" efficient rotation, but have no idea how to apply it to a new sport.

With that in mind, as an athlete, you have to have a filter when you create your team. Too many cooks can spoil the broth, and having too many coaches (and related professionals) in your ear can lead to confusion from over-coaching and mixed messages.

Taking it a step further, as a facility owner, this is why I love to hire from our Cressey Sports Performance internship program. We get a great opportunity to determine if folks can seamlessly integrate with our team while still providing unique expertise and value to our clients. It's also why we don't ever have independent contractor trainers come in to coach under our roof; the "team" becomes an "army"and the messages get diluted.

Speaking of internships...

Mastery_Cover3. Apprenticeships are tremendously important for athletes and coaches alike.

The current audiobook on my iPhone is Mastery, by Robert Greene. Greene goes to great lengths to describe the commonalities of success for many of history's great "masters:" Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and many others. One experience they all seem to have in common is a tremendous track record of apprenticeship (or internship) under a bright individual who has gone before them.

It goes without saying that we know this is the best way to learn in the fitness industry. If you need proof, just look at the loads of successful trainers out there who have never opened an exercise physiology textbook, but have logged countless hours "in the trenches" - much of it under the tutelage of a seasoned fitness professional - to hone their skills. As Greene notes, however, not all mentors are created equal, and you have to be very picky in selecting one that is a good match for you.

For us, that meant listening to parents of multiple babies, as well as the nurses at the hospital who had experience caring for twins. As strange as it sounds, it was a blessing that one of our babies needed supplemental oxygen for a few days after birth, as my wife and I effectively got a bunch of one-on-one tutoring from some incredibly helpful nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit. I could have tried to learn it from a book, but there's no way it would have come around as quickly as it did from performing various tasks under the watchful eye of a seasoned pro.

4. Don't take advanced solutions to a simple problem.

I'll admit it: screaming babies terrified me about three weeks ago. While I kept my normally calm demeanor on the outside, every time one of the girls cried, on the inside, I was actually as flustered as a pimple-faced teenager who is about to ask the captain of the cheerleading team to prom. I'd suggest to my wife that we play some music for them, try a different seat/swing, let them cuddle with one another, or play Monopoly (kidding). Not surprisingly, none of it worked.

In reality, the answer is a lot more simple: 99% of the time, they want to eat, get a diaper change, or be held. Seriously, that's it. Who wants to listen to sit in a nice swing, listening to Today's Country radio on Pandora when they're wallowing in their own turd?

Basically, the athletes needed to squat, press, deadlift, and lunge - yet I kept trying to program 1-arm, 1-leg dumbbell RDLs off an unstable surface while wearing a weight vest on a 12-6-9-4 tempo. This is a stark contrast to they way I live my life and how I carry myself as a coach. Lack of familiarity - and the stress it can cause - was the culprit.

Extending this to a coaching context, when you're working with a new athlete or in a new situation (i.e., sport with which you aren't familiar), always look to simplify. Remember that good movement is good movement, regardless of the sporting demands in question.

5. Different athletes need different cues.

Here are our two little angels:

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Even after only three weeks, they couldn't be any more different. Lydia, on the left, can be a little monster. Even the slightest disturbance throws her into a fit, and she wants to eat just about every hour. On the other hand, Addison, on the right, is as mellow as can be. In fact, as I type this, she's quietly sleeping next to my desk - while her sister is in the other room doing her best to wake my wife up from much needed sleep. While the goal is to get them on the same schedule, doing so requires much different approaches for each girl.

In applying this to athletes, you'll have different kinds of learners. Kinesthetic learners will need to be put in a position to appreciate it. Auditory learners can be told to do something and usually pick it up instantly. Visual learners just need to see you demonstrate it, and they'll make it happen shortly thereafter. Your goal as a coach is to determine an athlete's predominant learning style in the first 20-30 minutes of working with him. Most athletes will require a little bit of all three (depending on the exercise you're coaching), but determining which approach predominates makes your coaching more efficient; you can get more done in less time, and fewer words.

Wrap-up

This will be my last post before Christmas, so I just wanted to take a moment to wish you all a very happy holiday season. Thanks so much for your support of EricCressey.com in 2014!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/22/14

Written on December 22, 2014 at 7:33 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you're all doing better than I am with your holiday shopping. While I

Kettlebell Swing: How to Cue the Hinge and Never Perform a Squat Swing Again - Here's a great video post from Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Gentilcore's website. It'll help you to avoid one of the most common kettlebell swing technique mistakes.

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Squat Right for Your Type - Todd Bumgardner authored this insightful piece at T-Nation last week. I see a lot of folks try to jam a round peg in a square hole when it comes to squat technique, and the information in this article can help folks avoid that tendency.

Dodgers Betting Brandon McCarthy Can Shoulder the Load - I Tweeted about this article last week, and I think it's a great message for the blog as well. Brandon McCarthy just got a big contract with the Dodgers, and his recent success can be heavily attributed to the fact that he's healthy and durable for the first time in his career. That came about because he was open-minded enough to tinker with his training approaches - even when he had already "made it" to the big leagues. It's a great lesson for young athletes.

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5 Lessons on Coaching

Written on December 18, 2014 at 6:52 am, by Eric Cressey

Today, I've got a guest post from John O'Neil, who is wrapping up his internship at the new Cressey Sports Performance facility in Jupiter, FL this week. John brings an excellent perspective, having been a CSP athlete before entering the strength and conditioning field. Enjoy! -EC

Late in my senior year of college, I didn’t know what I would do next. I wasn’t passionate about my major- mathematics- and couldn’t see myself sitting in a cubicle crunching numbers. My main passion is strength and conditioning and I wanted to become a strength coach. I contacted everyone whom I regularly read to see if I could spend my internship with them, and I quickly realized that the industry is filled with people looking to help out. Todd Bumgardner offered me an internship and I got my introduction to coaching at Ranfone Training Systems in Hamden, CT. I was fortunate enough to go from a summer there to a fall internship at the new Cressey Sports Performance – Florida, where I continue my transition from S&C junkie to S&C coach.

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Here are some of the major takeaways I’ve had as I’ve gone from someone obsessed with the industry to someone actually in the industry:

1. You are a coach.

The most important thing I realized early on in my internships is that I was a coach, first and foremost. I needed to stop worrying about understanding PRI concepts when I wasn’t great at coaching a goblet squat. A basketball coach isn’t worrying about how his team can implement the triangle offense if his team can’t make a layup. During my first weekend at RTS, we hosted a Nick Winkelman seminar. Afterwards, I thanked Nick and told him I was less than a week in to my coaching career and that his cueing and motor learning lessons were stuff that I was looking forward to implementing. Nick responded by telling me that the most important thing at this stage of my career is to get great at coaching what you know, then expand how much you know. Your base of knowledge is only as useful as you can coach it.

JohnO


2. Understand your impact.

One conversation I had with Todd early in my internship has resonated with me throughout. “My greatest skill as a coach is my ability to relate to my athletes,” he said. It had nothing to do with the science-related knowledge he has gained over the years. As a coach, your most important role in working with youth athletes isn’t to make sure they can perform a half-kneeling chop correctly; it’s to make sure you’re having a positive influence on said athlete’s life. Most of the people you work with won’t make a living performing these movements and may not even be an athlete beyond high school. Make sure your athletes know you care about them as people first and athletes second.

3. Understand the level of your athlete.

A typical day at CSP could involve working with a 12 year old kid who has never lifted a weight, a MLB player, and a 50-year-old with a 9-to-5 job. Each of these people will need to be coached very differently, and it’s important not only to get great at coaching exercises but coaching to populations as well. The kid is much more likely to need hands-on attention (kinesthetic), the pro athlete probably just wants to see and do (visual), and the middle-aged person might just want to be told what to do (auditory). While these aren’t set in stone, being able to coach everything you coach in different styles is very important.

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4. Understand what kind of “vibe” do you give off.

Admittedly, this is an area in which I struggle, but have worked hard to improve. I’m an introvert by nature and don’t always convey the sense that I want to be where I am. Case in point, many of my girlfriend’s friends think I don’t like them because of the vibe I give off when I’m surrounded by them, which obviously isn’t the case. As evidenced by the energy that Mike, Todd, and Scott bring to the gym, everyone that trains at RTS knows their coaches want to be there, often times more than they do. Todd told me that I won’t get the results I want unless my clients know that I love this stuff as much as I do, and during my two internships it’s something I’ve been very conscious of. While I’ll never be a “rah-rah” style leader, I find it important to implement strategies to build rapport with every client and make sure they know that I want to be there. These are all simple, but easy to let slide. Tony Gentilcore’s blog posts on introverted coaches (here and here), as well as Miguel Aragoncillo’s Hard and Soft Skills of a Strength Coach are great reads that really explain these methods in depth.

5. You must have philosophical flexibility.

Both RTS and CSP share a common trait that I’m sure many in the industry do as well: they are constantly striving to get better as coaches as much as their athletes are striving to get better on the field. In my exit interview at RTS, Mike Ranfone said to me that their goal is not only to offer the best product they can at the time, but to insure that they will offer an even better product one year from now. At CSP, this is the same. Each of these places doesn’t have their system; they have a system that they believe to be the best they can give to the athletes at the current time.

In the strength and conditioning field, people aren’t reinventing the wheel; they are working to see if they can make it spin better.

While your core philosophy will remain the same – good functional movement is good functional movement, and your athletes will still be looking to get faster, stronger, and stay healthy – always be willing to look at new ideas and see how they can make your system better.

While I have learned a lot throughout my two internships, these are the main points that I will take with me wherever I wind up coaching in the future. I’ve stressed to myself to make sure that I realize that each hour I am in the gym is not my 6th, 7th, 8th… hour. Rather, it’s a certain athlete’s first, and I want to make sure that my presence there positively impacts their life. I’ve had a great time as an intern at both locations and would highly recommend going the internship route to anyone interested in becoming a coach.

About the Author

John O'Neil has be reached at joh.oneil@gmail.com, or you can follow him on Twitter.

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New Cressey Sports Performance – Florida Facility Featured on WPBF 25 News

Written on December 17, 2014 at 7:53 am, by Eric Cressey

The Elite Baseball Development program at our new Jupiter, FL Cressey Sports Performance facility was a local news feature the other day. Check it out HERE.

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For more information on the new Jupiter, FL Cressey Sports Performance, check out www.CresseySportsPerformance.com.

"I have used Cressey Sports Performance for my last five off-seasons. CSP has been a crucial part of the success I have had in my career to this point. The programs have helped me gain velocity as well as put my body in a position to remain healthy throughout a long season. Even when I can’t be there to work with them in person, I am still able to benefit from CSP’s resources at my home through the distance-based programs.”

-Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
2014 American League Cy Young Winner
 

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Correcting Common Landmine Press Mistakes (Video)

Written on December 3, 2014 at 10:06 pm, by Eric Cressey

I'm a huge fan of incorporating landmine press variations into strength training programs. These awesome exercises are great for building scapular upward rotation, core stability, upper body strength, thoracic mobility, and a whole lot more. Unfortunately, folks commonly struggle with technique with the landmine press, so I wanted to use today's video to cover how we coach these drills.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 7

Written on November 18, 2014 at 7:45 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for this month's edition of "musings" on the sports performance training front. Here goes...

1. Professional athletes don't need "special" exercises; they just adapt faster and need special progressions.

One of the most important lessons coaches can learn with professional athletes is that they don't need crazy advanced exercises. Far too often, coaches will assume that because a client is a high-level athlete, he/she will automatically require some fancy, innovative drill. The truth is that they need the basics, just like everyone else. You'd be amazed at how poorly some of the most high-level athletes you'll see actually move when you get them out of their sporting environments.

That said, they are unique in their ability to adapt to a given stimulus quicker than their "less athletic" counterparts. Movement quality will improve dramatically from one week to the next, and strength and power can increase much faster than you'd expect from "normal" folks. This is obviously a blessing, but can also be a burden, as it means programs may need more updating on-the-fly to continue challenging the athlete. Additionally, you have to be cognizant of the fact that their strength levels may actually increase faster than their motor control and connective tissues can safely handle. In other words, you have to be careful not to load bad patterns or degenerative tissue tendencies.

2. Don't worry about the Absolute Strength to Absolute Speed Continuum if you're untrained or detrained.

With over 55,000 views on YouTube, this is one of my most popular videos ever:

The lessons here have tremendous value to athletes of all ages and ability levels - except novice trainees, or athletes who have recently been detrained. In other words, if we're talking about a 13-year-old kid who has zero resistance training experience, or an athlete who just finished a long, grueling season and has lost appreciable strength, then you need to build strength up first.

Effectively, treat these scenarios as if an athlete is all the way to the right (speed) end of the continuum. They need to build a foundation of strength up before they'll benefit from any of the other modalities - or even be able to perform them safely. This is one reason why handing an aggressive weighted ball program to an untrained 13-year-old kid might be harmful, and why doing a ton of plyos with a volleyball player who just finished a long season is silly. Give them what they actually need, not just what you think is "sexy."

3. Efficient rotation is efficient rotation - and consistent across multiple sports.

One thing I'm really excited about with respect to our new Jupiter, FL Cressey Sports Performance facility is working with a wider variety of rotational sport athletes beyond just baseball. My business partner, Shane Rye, is an accomplished lacrosse coach, and Jupiter also happens to be home to loads of golfers of all levels. I've also got a big tennis background, and am excited to explore opportunities on that front.

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There are a load of commonalities among all rotational sports, and it's going to be exciting to see how our training approaches impact these other sports. How can I be so sure?

Have you ever noticed how easily baseball and hockey players pick up golf? And, have you noticed how many athletes were drafted in multiple rotational sports? Think of Tom Brady in baseball and football, and Tom Glavine in hockey and baseball. These guys weren't what you'd call "powerhouse" athletes; in other words, they weren't freak athletes that played baseball and football. Rather, you could argue that they're just guys who learned to use their bodies really efficiently in rotational patterns.

4. "Where do you feel it?" is as important a question as "How does it look?"

Every once in a while, you'll observe an athlete with a movement that looks absolutely perfect, but might not be "felt" in the right place. Or, it might even actually cause pain. This is why it's so important to always solicit feedback on where an athlete (especially a beginner) feels an exercise, as opposed just assuming it was fine just because it "looked good." As an example, I commonly see athletes who "feel" all their shoulder exercise rotation drills in the front of their shoulder, which is the exact opposite of what we want.

Without getting too "geeky" on this front, many times, the reason we have discomfort or the "wrong" feeling with drills is that athletes are paying close attention to the osteokinematics - gross movements of internal/external rotation, flexion/extension, adduction/abduction - of the joint in question, but not paying attention to the arthrokinematics of that same joint. In other words, the rolling, rocking, and gliding taking place needs to be controlled within a tight window to ensure ideal movement.

In the external rotation variation, as we externally rotate the arm, the humeral head (ball) likes to glide forward on the glenoid fossa (socket). The glenohumeral ligaments (anterior shoulder capsule), rotator cuff, and biceps tendon are the only things that can hold it in the socket. In a throwing population, the capsule is usually a bit loose and the cuff is a bit weak, so the biceps tendon often has to pick up the slack - which is why some folks wind up feeling these in the front, thereby strengthening a bad pattern. There are also a bunch of nerves at the front of the shoulder that can get irritated, but that's a blog for another day!

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5. Making your room colder can be really helpful for sleep quality.

Everyone knows that turning off electronics before bed is important for sleep quality. Additionally, getting your room as dark as possible definitely makes for better sleeping. Very few people pay attention to the temperature of the room, though. I can definitely speak to its importance, though.

As many of you know, my wife and I moved to Florida in early September. As part of this transition, I made three trips back up to Boston over the course of September-November. On each of those trips, my sleep quality was insanely better than I have in Florida. The difference? Roughly 8-10°F in the temperature of my sleeping environment. With that in mind, we're cranking up the air conditioning a bit more - and thanking our lucky stars that the Florida summer has wrapped up. If you're having trouble sleeping, tinkering with the temperature in your sleeping environment might be a good place to start. Also, I'd encourage you to check out this great guest post I published a while back: Sleep:What the Research Actually Says.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/17/14

Written on November 17, 2014 at 4:13 am, by Eric Cressey

It was a big "catch up on work" weekend for me, so the new content will be out later this week. In the meantime, here are some great reads from around the 'Net for you:

Traumatic Brain Injuries - Cressey Sports Performance athlete Sam Fuld wrote up this great guest post for Gabe Kapler's website. Sam had a concussion this year after a collision with the outfield wall, and here, he discusses his recovery. It's yet another example of how we can't view concussions as "just another athletic injury."

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How to Fix a Broken Diet Infographic - Precision Nutrition created this awesome resource to demonstrate how to quickly "clean up" one's nutritional program for optimized outcomes.

Inside Man: The Veteran - This is an excellent interview with the CEO of TRX, Randy Hetrick, who was also a Navy SEAL for 14 years. I love the fact that the TRX story is a good example of how many successful companies emerge because the founder tried to "solve a problem" instead of just trying to "start a successful company." Whether you're an entrepreneur, fitness buff, or both, this is a great read.

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Individualizing the Management of
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