Taylor Patterson
How a Back Injury Forced Me to Focus on Mobility and Flexibility in the Gym


We talked with Taylor Patterson in October, 2019. Follow Taylor on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook
Country:
Canada
Age:
34 years
Weight:
86 kg
(190 lbs)
Height:
180 cm
(5 '11)


Instagram, @thevegantrainer

Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training

My name is Taylor Patterson and I live in Vancouver, Canada. I’m 34 years old and have been a personal trainer since 2010.

My biggest aspiration has always been to get as strong as possible, but my body is naturally built for endurance so I’ve had to fight for every 1 rep PR.

I injured my back a number of years ago, so I’ve had to eat some humble pie and adopt a more patient approach to training while strengthening my deep core.

The injury was a result of overtraining and not listening to my body. Essentially, I was squatting every single day and deadlifting once a week. Eventually… my low back caved.

My biggest accomplishment, if I’m allowed to shamelessly gloat, is building a fairly impressive physique naturally on a whole foods vegan diet.

I’m 190 lbs at 5’11” and stay lean year-round.

The reason I’d say it’s my biggest accomplishment is that it’s allowed me to have conversations with men and women around the stereotype of being vegan.

In fact, it’s been the foundation on which I’ve built my in-person and online training business – helping men and women achieve their ideal body without contributing to a food system that causes harm to their body, the planet, and the animals caught up in the system.

I started training in high school while playing baseball and rugby but stopped going to the gym when I graduated. In fact, when I was in my early twenties I dropped to a weight of below 140 lbs!

When I moved to the big city I started taking up weight training again, which is about the same time I switched to a vegan diet.

I found out I loved the science behind training, so I dove headfirst into the literature and eventually became a personal trainer to further immerse myself.

My favorite thing about building muscle or creating a body you feel confident in is the paradoxical nature of the outcome.

When many people start, including me, the goal is to build a body they feel powerful and confident in. They are faced with feeling a lack of self-confidence for not representing a particular body shape.

The interesting thing for me is, it’s not the body that’s built that ends up giving the person confidence.

It’s becoming the person who can put in the work, dedication, and continuous effort to achieve the body that gives someone a deep feeling of empowerment.

When I’m not working with clients or training myself, I enjoy surfing, hiking, camping, playing music, and reading.

I don’t have any sponsors. But shout out to Power Plant Body – the online vegan nutrition and fitness coaching company currently paying my bills.

Describe a typical day of training

My training philosophy is K.I.S.S – keep it simple, stupid!

Training principles are often over-complicated in the industry to make the person on the screen in front of you seem more important and knowledgeable than they actually are.

It’s a great way to sell products, but a poor choice if you want to empower regular people with applicable knowledge.

For clients, I start with the most basic, foundational movements and train 3 to 4 times per week with full-body splits. Generally, that will be a lower push/upper pull followed by a lower pull/upper push, set to repeat for the days of the week they are able to train.

For my training philosophy, I have key principles I follow when building programs for myself or other:

  1. Balanced over the workout based on rep ranges/intensity/rest (depending on fitness target)
  2. Balanced over the week between the 11 movement patterns
    • Hip Dominant
    • Knee Dominant
    • Vertical Push
    • Vertical Pull
    • Horizontal Push
    • Horizontal Pull
    • Rotational
    • Anti-Rotation
    • Anti-Flexion
    • Anti-Extension
    • Anti-Lateral Flexion
  3. Balanced over the month based on fitness target progressions
  4. Balanced over the year based on changing fitness target through every mesocycle
  5. Balancing the program with restorative practices – stretching, mobility, mindfulness

Instagram, @thevegantrainer

How do you keep going and push harder?


If I don’t workout, I get grumpy, tired, and unfocused.

There was a time when I was training clients when I started falling off my own training.

I had a hard time getting into the gym for my own workout because the last thing I wanted to do was count another rep after counting hundreds before it for my clients.

I got around it by turning my goal of completing an hour or more workout into a goal of completing the 5 minute warm-up.

If I didn’t feel like working out after getting my heart rate up during the workout then I would allow myself to go home. I almost never went home.

This trick with forming tiny habits is a cornerstone concept I use with all of my clients when creating new habits.

I continue training because my emotional wellbeing and mind have come to function in parallel with it. If I don’t workout, I get grumpy, tired, and unfocused.

I am a better human being and more enjoyable to be around if I’ve worked out that day.

My best hacks are, bring music and use your rest time for something else constructive. If you’re not doing something like a tertiary exercise with bands during your rest time, that is 2 or 3 minutes you could be using for something else productive.

I learned how to speak Spanish (decently) by using my rest times to boot up the app DuoLingo.

If you’re studying for an exam and struggling to get your workouts ins, what better time to read some of your textbook then between sets of heavy squats?

There are many ways to continually improve in the gym – whether that’s adding more weight, more reps, shorter rest time, more volume, more time under tension… the list is long.

One of the best ways to continually improve, though, is knowing when your body needs a break.

Sometimes it’s not about pushing through as much as it’s about giving your body enough time to bounce back and recover so you can continue forward.

My workouts don’t last longer than an hour and a half. Generally, they are around an hour.

I don’t care who you are, everyone has an hour in their day they can devote to improving themselves. If you don’t have an hour, go on your lunch break at work and knock out a 30-minute workout. You can find the time.

The biggest challenge I face is my lower back. I had an injury a number of years ago because I wasn’t listening to what my body was saying and ended up laying myself out for a long while.

Keeping on my mobility and flexibility has been the biggest challenge for me, but this year, in particular, I have been very good about it.

I’m looking forward to using the foundation I’ve been building in 2019 to pack on solid strength in 2020.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?


I have .5 lb weights I add strategically to my lifts

My training right now is pretty good. I was doing a linear progression program until that peaked a month and a half ago. I’m now working more on playing around with technique in my squat and deadlift.

My training goals for the end of 2020 is to have a 1300 total, be able to do the side splits, and be able to say I’m relatively free from hip and back pain.

Over the next 5 years I want to start transitioning more into calisthenics. Not necessarily move completely away from barbell training, but hybridize my training to be more holistic.

My plan to reach the 1300 total is, honestly, a loft goal. For me, the thing that’s worked best for adding strength has been micro loading. I have .5 lb weights I add strategically to my lifts which, over time, add up to the big goal.

For my coaching business, my goal is to have clients on every continent. I hope to play whatever role I can in helping people empower themselves through a diet that is compassionate to their body, the planet, and the animals we share it with.

For my life goals, I plan on returning to the small town on the coast where I used to live and build a small house to grow a family in.

If I could go back and start from square one with training, I would start SLOW! I would have built a foundation of bodyweight strength, flexibility, and mobility before moving into the primary lifts. I would no doubt be much stronger.


Instagram, @thevegantrainer

How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?

Injuries and setbacks are inevitable. The best course of action when they occur is to not beat yourself up for experiencing them and do EVERYTHING you need to do to get yourself right.

Don’t skimp or take shortcuts. Listen to your physio and do the exercises they prescribe.

If you don’t have a physio, learn what you can about the injury from science-based articles and apply what you can. Time flies, so you’ll be back to lifting in no time if you keep on your rehab.

Travel is a tough one, but you can always do pushups, air squats, lunges, etc. And you can ALWAYS stretch – so do that.

I use a foam roller for my thoracic, shoulders, glutes and quads. I use bands for strengthening my rotator cuff and stretch a ton. I hold my stretches for 3 minutes each.

How is your diet and what supplements do you use?


I just eat when I’m hungry, which is pretty much all the time.

I follow a whole food vegan diet and have been since 2010. I don’t take protein powders, but I do take iodine, b-12, DHA/EPA. and I occasionally take creatine .

I don’t have cheat days because I used to have a binge eating disorder. That is behind me now and I rarely feel like eating more than my body is asking for.

If I have junk food cravings it’s usually for something like pizza, and we are blessed with some pretty awesome vegan pizza joints in Vancouver. Shout out to the vegan cave and virtuous pie!

I never bulk. I’m pretty much the same weight throughout the year. between 185 and 190. I don’t do fasting, although I have. I just eat when I’m hungry, which is pretty much all the time.

I drink one coffee a day around 10 am. I don’t drink regularly, although I do get blitzed about once or twice a year. Other than that, casual alcohol doesn’t really enter into my life.

I use the Power Plant Body fitness app to track my workouts and nutrition. It’s also the app I use with my clients to build their programs and nutrition plans. It integrates with myfitnesspal, fitbit, and will be integrating with Apple watch by the end of the year.

What has inspired and motivated you?

My favorite books of all time are:

One of the greatest playlists on YouTube is Jordan Petersons’s (triggered!) series of lectures called “Maps of Meaning”. I highly recommend it to anyone feeling lost in their life.

I listen primarily to death metal and hardcore punk when I lift… My go-to squat song is “Bleed” by Meshuggah

I’ve received a lot of great advice from many people over the years, but one thing that stands out, at least right now as I’m thinking about it, is when a friend told me that the only person responsible for your happiness is yourself. And that you are not responsible for anyone elses happiness.


Instagram, @thevegantrainer

Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?

As I mentioned, I would start with calisthenics. Build a strong, flexible, mobile foundation before bringing in the big lifts. Once you have a strong core then move into barbell and dumbbell movements.

For those who have been lifting a long time, try changing it up! Take a yoga or dance class and feel your body moving in a different way. You’ll start feeling muscles, restrictions, imbalances that you can then take into your training in the gym. Also, train your deep core muscles if you aren’t already.

I used to live in Hollywood and about 50 to 75 percent of gym fail videos come from the LA Fitness on El Centro, of which I used to be a member. I’ve seen it all…

The thing most people do wrong in the gym is they only workout the mirror muscles. We are able to stand erect thanks in large part to our posterior chain, but the vast majority of people neglect training it.

Rotational movements are a great thing to train for surfers and snowboarders. Unilateral or balancing exercises are also great to train for surfers and snowboarders.

For outside the gym, two things I have come to love are regularly doing childs pose for a minute or so at various points throughout the day as well as doing band pull aparts. These two things have helped my posture and low back pain tremendously.

The number one hack for people who want to achieve a fitness or aesthetic goal is… MEAL PREP! It’s the key for so many people, including myself. Saves time, money, and brain power.

Are you taking on clients right now?

I do have some space right now, but that isn’t always the case. While I don’t always have space to take on 1 on 1 clients, I do offer everyone who needs help a free 90 day exercise program and meal plan they can follow from the Powerplantbody app.

All you need to do is fill out the consultation form and a program matching your goals and ability will be created for you.

I also welcome everyone to join the Powerplantbody Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness Facebook group. It’s full of other people just like you looking to achieve their goals on a vegan diet.

I take a very personalized, high touch approach with all of my clients. My goal is to help every client build self-efficacy within 90 days so they no longer need me as a coach but instead can rely on their own willpower, ability, and knowledge.

I coach a small number of people in person, but the majority of my clients are online.

Where can we learn more about you?

The best place to learn about me is powerplantbody.com – the front page basically tells my story in a nutshell.

You can also check me out on Instagram @thevegantrainer or join the Facebook group Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness.

I also have a YouTube channel Powerplantbody.


Ready to get really fit and inspired?

I’m Mads Phikamphon, founder of Bulk Hackers.

Here on Bulk Hackers we interview bodybuilders, personal trainers and fitness heroes. We ask them to share their stories and all their greatest hacks!

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