Some say that as you get older, you get wiser. I’m not entirely convinced. As I get older, I can sense a few shifts of mind-set, for better or for worse:
I suffer fools less well.
I’m becoming more cynical.
I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact I’m not actually Batman.
(Actually, that’s not true. I still believe I’m Batman.)
I find myself retelling more and more stories from “back in the day.” I see the new breed of trainers and athletes and I genuinely feel they don’t make ‘em like they used to. I see consistent hard work, experience, and earned respect as values that are fast disappearing within this generation.
These values are being replaced by the concepts (they are not values) of immediate gratification, entitlement, and being an expert. This article explores why and how to avoid these three societal traps as athletes and coaches.
These days we can drive up, order food (well, supposedly it’s food), and receive it within seconds of ordering. We can sit and watch television with whatever we could care to watch available on demand at our fingertips. Without much effort, it’s pretty much possible to have anything, anytime, anywhere. So is it such a surprise that this model of immediate payoff pervades our training?
Recently, I wrote the following statement on the Strength Education Facebook page:
SO MANY training mistakes could be avoided through replacing immediate gratification with long term development.
I was interested to see what people felt about this reasonably open-ended statement. As it happens, this status received plenty of likes, shares, and support. This tells me that either these supporters recognized this error in themselves or others. The more honest will say they have made these mistakes themselves.
Can you hold your hand up and say that you’ve never gone for that one rep max when you know you should have held back, that you have never ground out those last few reps with terrible form, or that you have always avoided the more ego-boosting but less developmental option?
But this is not just about day-to-day training choices. Perhaps even more important are the wider decisions we make. How many times have you seen someone be unwilling (or yourself been unwilling) to take the weight down and build improved technique, preferring instead to muscle ahead to get a heavier weight overhead? What about choosing to work on your strengths because it feels good and is fun, rather than work your weaknesses, which are hard work and miserable, but much more beneficial to you in the longer term?
Avoiding the trap: If you’re debating an issue, be brutally honest, remove your ego from the equation, and replace your immediate gratification with long-term development. This will keep you clear of all-too-common training mistakes.
Let’s get one thing straight. The iron owes you nothing. And neither does the world, your parents, or the government. It continues to surprise me when people feel that they are hard done by when things don’t just happen. But that’s just it. Things don’t just happen. You need to make them happen.
How does this relate to training? You need to get into the trenches, work hard, make some mistakes, and learn from them. And for ****’s sake, listen to your coaches. If you don’t, then don’t turn around and wonder why you haven’t made as much progress as you want or should, or as your mate has. Just turning up and paying lip service to your training session doesn’t entitle you to automatic gains.
Coaching is no different. Just as doing a few squats doesn’t entitle you to gains, a two-day certification doesn’t make you a coach. However, I feel these weekend certs get a bit of a bad rep. There’s no reason to steer clear of them. The good ones are a great start. But this foundation then needs to be cemented and augmented with experience – and don’t expect that to fall on your lap.
Experience is gathered when opportunity allows it. And you create your own opportunities. So if you want to be a coach, you need to get down and dirty, just as you do as an athlete. Work for free, travel to work with your mentors, do whatever is needed for you to get coaching hours under your belt. Just put in the work, damn it. And quit whining about how hard, far, or tedious it is.
As the former Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman once said, “Everyone wants to be a bodybuilder. Don’t nobody want to lift no heavy ass weights.” I wonder if he knew just how profound that was when he said it.
Avoiding the trap: Realize you deserve nothing. You get out what you put in. If you get more than you give, you are lucky and you should fully expect that luck to dry up any moment. So you’d better work hard and make your own luck.
Everyone is an Expert
I love the Internet. It allows the quick, easy, and free exchange of information. It allows me and you to learn from some of the best in their field around the world. It also allows anyone to set up as an expert. These experts might not fool everybody, but they fool some of the people some of the time, and this is my concern.
I believe true expertise doesn’t need to be shoved in people’s faces, particularly using scare tactics and deceit. True expertise shines through and is clear to all who encounter it. As a coach, I believe and understand that confidence is important. It filters from the top – have confidence in yourself and your clients and peers will have confidence in you. But that confidence should be backed up with sound knowledge and genuine self-belief. If you don’t believe in yourself, or don’t have confidence in yourself, how can you expect your colleagues and clients to have confidence in you?
To my mind, confidence comes from belief and understanding of what you are coaching coupled with belief and understanding of why are you are coaching it. And this comes from real experience. And experience comes from…well, see the section on entitlement above. Respect is earned – including respect for yourself. Do the work, get the experience, and have the real life stories and scars to show for it, along with the confidence from having been through it and out the other side.
Avoiding the trap: Don’t pretend to be something you are not. And if you are a true expert, believe in yourself with a quiet confidence. Be proud, and become more excellent at what you do. People will find you.
Society can lead us down some shady paths. These paths are dangerous and can take us to dark places with our training and coaching, but we know better. Strike up a light, (possibly under your own ass), take a look around, and make sure you are facing the right way. Then walk that way with self-belief and determination.
Hmmm, maybe I am getting a little bit wiser as I get older after all.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.