Here is installment #2 of my random thoughts from Saudi…I’m all over the place this time talking about things such as driving, group training, overplayed songs, silver platters, and more.

Being 3+ weeks in now I’ve started to establish somewhat of a consistent schedule. I used to be a guy of routines, so all the change lately has challenged me to adapt. It’s a work in progress.

1. Quality vs. quantity – I’ve decided to keep my client load at around 34-36 hours per week for now. I’m also writing some content for the facility that I’m here to help open up so I didn’t want to load up too much on client sessions. Sadly, I’m turning some folks away already, the demand here is high. Another reason I’m happy with my current client load is a simple manner of quality vs. quantity. Sure, I could take on 50+ hours a week, but I know me and I know I would be wiped out quickly. That 9pm client on Thursday night would not get best effort. I would rather train a few hours less each but give those hours a more effective effort. It may not make me as much money but I’m driven more by quality & results as opposed to quantity & dollars.


2. Group training – Keeping with the above ‘quality vs. quantity’ theme, one thing that is extremely popular here is group training and “boot camps”. It’s not uncommon for trainers to have 25-30 people in the large group classes. I’ve seen video of a number of these workouts and…let’s just say I’m not all that impressed. Most of the exercises are fine but form and technique in a lot of footage I’ve seen is questionable. Maybe I’m just not that great a trainer but I would have a hard time ensuring 30 people all have proper form on a certain exercise. Sure, I’ve trained large groups like that in the past, and I think they are great from time to time. I’m just telling you that my personal preference is to keep my groups in the 6-10 person range. I can simply manage the session more effectively. Clients get more out of the session and I’m more in control. Again, just my personal preference.

3. Group templates – personalizing group training is a challenge. It’s a oxymoron and hard to do with folks with different issues and goals. Here’s a real general template of what I do:
Step 1: Warm-Up - Individualize the warm up to each person. Everyone may do jumping jacks and bridges but then I may have a couple people work on the t-spine mobility while another group focuses on their glute activation.

Step 2: Circuits – Depending on the number of people, I will set up stations that each person will complete. The exercise at each station will be progressed or regressed to accommodate each person. Example: pushups – advanced folks will perform clap pushups while beginners will perform elevated pushups off a bench.

Step 3: Finisher – Like the circuit exercises, the finisher will be adapted to the client as well. If we are doing treadmill sprints…adjust the incline and/or speed to meet the client’s ability.

Step 4: Cool-down/Stretch – This step will be just like the warm-up; personalize the stretches to the areas the client needs it most. Someone with tight hip flexors should focus on the hip flexors for example.

4. Facility update – The primary reason I made this move is to help open a new facility in town. Most gyms here are large, big-box type facilities. We are opening a relatively smaller (~9,000 sq ft) space with a lot of open room and turf space. I recommended against loading it up with STDs (selectorized training devices) and pushed for sleds, TRX straps, kettlebells, barbells, ropes, etc. Most of the gyms I’ve checked out here have none of this…we are going to blow people away with this “new” type of “functional” training. The equipment is currently somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a barge and should arrive into town later this month. If things go well, I hope to have the facility up and running in April. Photos and videos will certainly be coming soon.

bizcardsno facility yet, but I’ve got business cards

5. Home training - In the meantime, I’ve been training all my clients at their homes…er…mansions really. These are some of the most amazing homes I’ve ever seen. I wish I could post some pictures of these home gyms but I want to remain respectful to my clients…just know that many of these spaces are amazing. I’m actually working out with one client who is in pretty good shape. A highlight of the session is when our post-workout shakes are served to us on a silver platter. For real.

6. Driving – 3 weeks in and I’ve seen at least 5 accidents. At least. I’ve gotten better at the driving here, however, it’s something I’ll never get completely comfortable with. On the bright side, I’ve discovered a great exercise for grip training…simply drive down “King’s Road” for 10 minutes while gripping your steering wheel and doing your best to avoid collisions. No need for farmer’s walks anymore.

Here’s a recent ‘Arab News’ article on the driving in Jeddah…

carDon’t mess with the Kia

7. Overplayed music – Is the Robin Thicke tune, “Blurred Lines” still popular back in the states? I think I hear it 8 times a day…embarrassingly, I used to think it was a catchy tune. I can’t stand it now.

8. Pizza – I have and will continue to try many local dishes, like the najil fish (from the Red Sea) I had recently. I just need my pizza 2-3 times a month. This place is from the states and I think it tastes pretty good. They use some organic ingredients too which is always a plus.


More posts coming soon. I’ve got a trip coming up in April to Dubai that I’ll fill you in on and I’m trying to plan another trip for May or June…trying to decide between Greece, Egypt, or Croatia…

Ma’a salama

About Doug Balzarini
Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is the owner of DB Strength, which provides fitness training, education, and resources. He is also the strength and conditioning coach for Alliance MMA where he works with UFC Champion Dominick Cruz, Bellator Champion Michael Chandler, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Ross Pearson, Alexander Gustafsson, and more. Prior to starting his own business, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).

He has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU and has obtained multiple certifications including ACE, NSCA-CSCS, MMA-CC, TFW Level 1, TRX instructor training, RIP training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, and FMS training. He has produced his 2 DVD projects on strength training for combat athletes, appeared in many fitness videos and articles, and was a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” FOX TV show in 2012.

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