There I am, sitting at a restaurant engaged in a conversation with a stranger, and the question arises “what do you do for a living?” Sigh. Such a simple question should require a simple answer, but in my field, it’s couldn’t be more complicated. I went to a great school and have worked several internships and I still struggle with telling people what I wake up at 5 a.m. every Monday for.
“I’m a Personal Trainer.” You can hear the pain in my voice. I envision whats going through their head. They’re grouping me with past experiences of knuckle head trainers with bigger biceps than brains and group exercise instructors with a microphone. If I’m lucky, we can have a painstakingly long conversation about your foam roller.
“I’m a Personal Trainer, and implement therapy principles”
This is a little better, but now I’m grouped with some bad physical therapists, green bands, pink dumbbells. Sigh. How do I described what many of us do without a demo, a powerpoint, article, or propping someone on a bar and checking hip mobility?
This is probably more accurate, but it sounds a little extreme. Can you picture it? “What do you do for a living?” “I coach people’s lives.” See what I mean? It doesn’t portray a sense of responsibility or relay a message of anything but pure arrogance.
Strength and Conditioning Coach – This is usually what I go with. It doesn’t avoid comparisons to their yoga-pilates-crossfit-bodypump coach, but it does speak a larger message. Strength is the basis of physiological gains. Without it, you are limiting your ability to improve in all areas, including your conditioning. Conditioning speaks to the energy system training we design and implement into our programs. Your aerobic and anaerobic base will allow you to lift more weight later in your training session. Even with this, there are many facets to the job that go unaccounted for.
Coach Vs. Trainer
I’m a coach. I’m not a trainer. My goal is to help you achieve your goals outside of the gym. Championships and kodak moments don’t happen within the weight room.
(Some) Components of Being a (Good) Coach:
Quality, Not Quantity.
As a coach of mine use to say “any idiot can make another idiot tired.” It’s not hard to “kick someone’s ass”. If I tell you to do 100 push ups, and you’re tired and sore the next day, does it mean I’m good at my job? No. It doesn’t. You don’t pay me to give you a list of exercises to do, you pay me because I understand the intricacies of each exercise. I know the details about why you should perform the exercise a certain way and whether you’re qualified to do them. I understand your level of capability and tailor exercises to your needs and abilities. When necessary, I can recognize and reduce pain or fix a problem, and if I can’t solve it, I know someone who can.
Self Limiting Factors:
Although many of us don’t want to admit it, we all have them. Whether its a “bad” knee, an inability to achieve hip extension or a lack of work capacity, we all have physical limiting factors. These components can hinder our ability to perform at our highest levels. If your pelvis doesn’t rotate, good luck throwing a baseball as hard and as fast as you can. If your knees are always sore while you run, you’re limping your way to the finish line. If you don’t have a large work capacity, your mile time has a limit on how much it can improve. My job is to find as many self-limiting factors as possible and eliminate them. This alone will improve your performance.
Client: “I’m not seeing the results I want.”
Me: “Well, what do the other 22 hours of your day look like?”
Client: “I’m exhausted. I work 60 hours a week and sleep 4-5 hours a night. I don’t have time to eat home cooked meals and I love ice cream. But I have cut back to only drinking on the weekends”.
Understanding recovery is realizing that it’s probably not what you are doing, its what you’re not doing. You’re not eating enough of quality foods, getting enough sleep and/or getting enough sun light. You’re never taking time to unwind your nervous system, you’re not taking nights off and you’re not staying out of the bars. If everything in your life is a stressor, you’re not going to see the results you want. Period.
A Means to an end:
Many people like to walk tall and stick out your chest due to accomplishments in the weight room. If someone hits a 400 pound dead lift, its an amazing accomplishment….sort of. The current world record is held by Zydrunas Savickas at an eye-popping 1155 pounds. So for those of you with a 400 pound dead lift, congratulations, you can lift less than 35% of the world record.
The point of this isn’t to downplay an accomplishment, it’s to allow you to see the bigger picture. What you do inside of the weight room shouldn’t define you. What you do inside of the weight room should allow you to be better at whatever it is that helps define you. It’s a means to an end. The weight room is a tool that allows you to improve things like your marathon time and/or your overall athleticism. It is a long term investment. Whatever the hell it is you enjoy doing, the weight room should be a modality which feeds your desire to do more things of real value. Our society has become fixated on our exercise as a measuring stick of who you are as a person. If you tell me you are struggling with low back pain, but am excited about achieving a 350 pound dead lift, our priorities are out of wack. The most fulfilling part of my job is when an athlete tells me their low back pain is gone and now they can get back to rock climbing, allowing them go rock climbing more often, and actually enjoy it.
My disdain for Crossfit doesn’t lie within the programming, lack of progressions and weekend certifications . It’s the bravado attached to the brand. A brand that advertises their association with Rhabdomyolysis, a life threatening muscle disorder. There is also the claim that Crossfit is “warrior training.” Just because you kill yourself for an hour, doesn’t put you in the same realm as those guys. Nor does it prepare you for the harsh realities of special operations training. No matter what your trainer tells you, what you are doing is not “what the SEALs do.”
More important than helping you dead lift 400 pounds, is helping you believe you can do it. I have been lucky enough to witness clients achieve things within the weight room they never thought possible. Or, building confidence and using it achieve things outside of the weight room. Building confidence will have a bigger effect on your life outside of the gym than any strength and energy system training. Whether its going for a walk without pain, joining the “four plate” club or doing a body weight pull up for the first time. It’s all about helping people see what they are truly capable of. I’ve lied to a client about how much a 24 kg kettle bell weighed. After completing the set, I told them they just lifted over 50 pounds. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe they could lift 50 pounds. They set their own limitations. 50 pounds isn’t a lot of weight. They had perceived it to be a lot of weight! After that set, their perception of what they could accomplish was changed for the better. As a disclaimer, I wouldn’t do that if I had any doubt they couldn’t finish the set. It’s a testament that your mind is your single most limiting factor. Why do you think so many people warm up with 135? or can bench/ squat/deadlift 225? It’s because putting on a new set of 45 pound plates is a mental land mark, its a round number and almost an unspoken minimal standard. You can always do more than you believe you can, just ask Rogue owner and former Navy SWCC Craig Weller.
Quick fix results in fitness and weight gain and loss don’t exist. It’s the equivalent of a financial investment that has quick gains and an ultimate plan for bankruptcy. A former professor of mine, Dr. Richard Wood use to tell us that “95% of people who lose 30 pounds or more gain it all back within the year.” Another coach of mine use to say “you will only see extreme results by doing something extreme.” If you stop eating, congrats, you’ll lose weight….and might die.
As a coach, I see it all the time. A person steps on a scale, looks down and is disgusted with what they see. They then construct a plan to change their lives. No more drinking, no more McDonalds, no more ice cream, No more (place bad habit here). Oh, and they’re going to pick up right where they left off when they were 18 and start running five days a week. What happens? They may run once, they make two trips to McDonalds, sneak an ice cream sundae and have an occasional beer. They failed. They didn’t reach their unreachable goal and now they are ashamed.
Don’t sell yourself short. Invest in a long term plan and stick to it. If you fall off the wagon, get back on. You don’t have to start a new path every time you eat a bowl of ice cream, just consider it a bump in the road and keep moving forward. Few people can overhaul their bad habits within a week. You have to make small changes. Change one thing at a time; week by week, month by month.
The big concept we’re chasing here is changing behaviors. People who lose weight, then gain it all back haven’t changed their behaviors, they have just taken a short hiatus from them. They won’t eat chocolate for 30 days, they lose 5 pounds and then plan a serious bender for their celebration. Boom, weight gain commences. A good behavior change would to slowly decrease how often you buy chocolate and the amount, decreasing it over time.
Your last stop….
Call us what you want, I am more concerned with what our client’s think of us after training here at Rogue or online than anything. The people who really appreciate what we do have been to several different places. They have seen personal trainers, physical therapists, massage therapists and even doctors without any solutions. Maybe it’s that they struggle to keep the weight off, they’re always getting hurt while training or they have been in pain for years. Whatever the case, our clients appreciate the quality in which we strive to do our jobs. An all encompassing view of health, not just “kicking your ass” for a hour-and-a-half twice a week. Although, we can do that too.