3 (More) Confessions from a Physical Preparation Coach

This week I'm continuing the introspection train I started two posts ago.  Call it part memoir or even part snooze fest, but I think it's important to show how you're continually trying to improve your craft, regardless of how vulnerable and flip-floppy it makes you appear.  

As with my first post, everything written below are lessons I've learned through the past few years. Still, they can help almost everyone out there even if training and lifting heavy things is merely a hobby.  Enjoy!

1) Everything Matters

Earlier in my career I noticed a trend: when clients were stressed, they tended to have more back pain.

At the time I didn't know why.  I also didn't do much other than write it down and quickly move on, still putting them through a hard workout that avoided their pain. In those days if I was one thing in addition to being stubborn, it was a dumbass.

 H/t to @exercise_science

H/t to @exercise_science

Of course, now I know why I had the wrong approach (which I wrote about here).  And I also know why more stress creates more back pain - because our body has the same physiological reactions to stress, regardless if it's mental or physical. Even worse, prolonged stress manifests itself in our eating habits, sleep habits, musculoskeletal pain and our ability to move.

I found myself trying to explain this connection last week, but was reminded that not everyone understands it.  After alluding to the fact that everything is connected, someone said, "What do you mean work stress can affect your body?"

The easiest way to explain it is that everything matters.  We may already be aware of the connection that our diet and sleep patterns have on our body.  But we often forget that giving a big presentation, or meeting a huge work deadline, can be some of the largest stressors on our body too.  It's also naive to think that Tuesday's election hasn't been affecting our pain and anxiety levels for the last few weeks - because I've seen it firsthand.

The solution?  There's plenty we can't control but we CAN moderate our workouts appropriately.  Whether it's using heart rate variability, grip strength, or psychomotor tests, using some objective data helps you decide how hard to push yourself, or if it's a day for some light recovery work. Training isn't about killing yourself, it's about giving yourself the appropriate dosage for that day.

Worst case?  You'll have a lighter workout when you're stressed (and your body will thank you).  Best case?  You'll avoid injuries and take your training to new heights.

2) Strive for Perfection and Learning. The Workout is an Afterthought.

I used to take it personally whenever someone stopped seeing me.  Did I not meet their expectations?  What could I have done better? After all, #introvertsbeintroverts

But having some years under my belt has taught me a valuable lesson - I'm not the best coach for every person.  In fact, if someone just wants to be put through a workout, I'm probably the worst match for them. That's because I continually focus on trying to teach, learn, and mastering the basics. Running someone into the ground is something I don't agree with, yet very few people would tell you that they didn't get a "good workout" after seeing me.

Interestingly enough, I've seen the best results with myself and with other people when you approach a workout as an opportunity to learn and develop your skills. Maybe it's being able to keep your toes down during a deadlift. Or getting the kettlebell to float longer on a swing. Or trying to get a fuller, longer exhale during a dead bug or front plank. We're all students of strength, regardless of how many pounds we can deadlift.

 As Chicago Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, said "Do Simple. Better."  If you do that, don't worry. You'll get your workout too.

3) Stay Positive on Social Media

I don't talk much about my previous career in "social media marketing," mostly because I hated it (and yes, those quote marks are warranted).  But I did learn a few things along the way:

  1. Posting sunsets gets the best engagement
  2. That you can buy Facebook likes for less than $0.01 in South America
  3. That the best way to interact with others is to stay positive.

When I first started in this industry, however, I forgot that last part.

On a forum with other coaches, I decided to jump in and share my opinion on how harshly one should grade a screening system (FMS).  Never being short on confidence, I decided to make my opinion known in a less than welcoming and friendly way.  Kowtow you imbeciles, I was right!

As one could guess, it didn't win me any friends.  And it didn't matter if I was right or wrong because neither I nor the guy I was arguing with were changing our minds. What DID matter is that I pushed that person away - and possibly others - and left a bad taste in their mouth.

I learned my lesson pretty quickly, but it's an issue I see all too often in the fitness industry as well as during election season.  There's not much to gain by correcting someone, being negative, or espousing political views on social media.  But there is definitely a lot to lose.

Remember: strong people lift others up, not push them down.