Thursday, February 27, 2014

Its not complicated.

A good coach is a good teacher.
Matching socks not required.
This article is going to start off talking about diet, but that's not what its about.

I recently hired a performance nutrition coach.  I hadn't ever considered doing it before because, well, I know performance nutrition.  If I give someone a plan and they follow it, they will lose fat, gain muscle, all the stuff they want to do.  But, that's the hard part right?  Following the plan?  I've been trying to follow my own plan for the better part of a year and, well, I'm not really good at telling myself to shut my mouth and make better choices.  Sometimes the coach needs a coach.

My nutrition coach gave me something relatively simple, not so different from what I would give my clients, but tailored specifically for me.  Amazingly, I'm finding that I am doing some things very differently under his direction.

1.  I'm following the plan and not making excuses, justifying substitutions, thinking I can think my way out of not eating ice cream every day.
2.  I'm sticking to my training plan and making time to train because if I don't train AND eat the right way on the right days, it doesn't work.

So, did I need "THE" magic diet prescription?  Or did I need someone to tell me that this was the plan that I would be sticking to if I wanted the results I want?

A little of both I think.  I spend so much time thinking and planning for others that I don't really have a lot of time or energy left to think about myself.  This is the primary reason I handed over my training plans to a trusted colleague a few years ago and I've trained better every since.

So, this idea that sometimes the coach needs a coach is an important one because the truth is, we all do better with a little outside coaching no matter what it is we're doing.  Writing, teaching, learning, we all do better when we have someone to provide a little guidance to help us take ourselves from point A to point B.
To train for the Highland Games, I didn't need
a complicated plan.  I needed to learn to throw.
To bring this around to my area of expertise, I see in the fitness industry these days a trend where enigmatic individuals promote their complicated and enigmatic diet and training protocols and receive great fanfare and praise from the masses.  Let me translate that to be less snarky:  There are training programs all over the market these days that are the end-stage training programs for very experienced athletes who have been training for 10-20 years.  There are also overly complicated nonsensical programs being pushed as one-size-fits-all solutions for a number of different sports and disciplines. Due to "I-can-do-it-all" syndrome, its more and more common for people to believe that they need to adopt the practices of elite athletes and follow complicated programming for their general fitness needs.  And like the title of this article says, its not that complicated.  There's no need to buy into this idea that advanced and complicated is the way to go and I'll tell you why.

Most people do very well with a simple program and the guidance of a thoughtful trainer or coach.  The plan does not have to be complicated, it has to address the needs of the individual and there's no better way to do that on an ongoing basis than to have someone who is knowledgeable give you regular and helpful feedback.  A simple plan and a thoughtful coach will lead to more success than all the complicated plans you may come across.  It doesn't mean that training isn't hard or demanding.  But, with a simple template to work from and good feedback, a plan can be far more efficient and exclude all the extraneous nonsense that can negatively impact recovery or even get you injured.  Perhaps it is also easier to follow a simple plan when you have a coach to guide you as you have someone interested in your success.

Since he was already competing in track and field and
baseball, Francis's powerlifting program was all
about a few lifts with good form.
I will go so far as to say that a coach who gives you too many instructions or restrictions is not confident in his or her plan and has decided to cover ALL bases just in case.  But, this isn't the role of a coach.  The coach is there to steer you on the best course, prioritize your needs in the context of the plan, and keep you motivated such that you reach your goal.  If my nutrition coach told me to drop all grains, dairy, and fruit, I would know he didn't really know what he was doing and was trying to starve me into my body composition goal.  Instead he gave me some calorie ranges to start out with, some macronutrient recommendations, some solutions to some issues I was already having, and some relatively high expectations.  He expects me to succeed and so do I.

A good coach will start you off slowly on whatever course you are on.  He or she will assess where you are, see what you can handle, enhance your strengths, and improve your weaknesses.  All through simple observation and feedback.  If you are trying to eat an elephant, swallowing it whole is neither possible, nor safe to try.  You have to do it just like everyone else, one bite at a time.  

If you are a coach or a trainer and have your own training goals, follow your own advice and hire a coach.  Think about what you want out of that relationship and empty your cup.  Be prepared to do what you are told, but at the same time be wary of overly complicated schemes and a lack of support.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Embrace Being Vulnerable

A friend sent me this TED talk earlier today and I encourage you to sit through the full twenty minutes.  It is indeed, life-changing.  For me, it made me realize how much I appreciated my family and our "vulnerable" whole-hearted approach to life and also made me realize why I felt so bad when I shared my life with those who were not vulnerable, but merely sat by and judged.

The one "thing" I would like for all of you to take from this regarding training is this:  If you are not training to do the best that you can do, regardless of outcome, think about why.  Are you ashamed that someone may think less of you?  Do you feel you simply can't do any better?  Are you worried that if you don't come in first, second, etc., that you aren't worthy to compete?

For some of you, these questions may seem strange, yet, they are the challenges that most of us run up against and therefore decide to stop trying.

I have a friend who once ranted against people entering competitions "for fun".  I didn't understand it til now.  Its not that one can't have fun competing, its just that if you aren't trying to do your best, consider why?  Because you do, indeed, have a best.  And its better than you think.  Don't be afraid to be vulnerable.  Its the only way to use your whole heart.