Do you want to be a loser?

Last weekend I visited one of my oldest and best friends in Germany. One of the great things about our friendship is that the conversation naturally flows from toilet stories over politics, society and parenthood and crude inside jokes. We pretty much cover everything.

My friend works with some real characters and one of them recently offered this little golden nugget of wisdom:

Winner in highschool, loser in life.

While this obviously doesn’t always hold true, I really like the underlying message. While the “carpe diem”-cliche may seem attractive at first, long-term planning is the way to go. In training and in life.

Training for today, this week or even this month is better than not training at all, but if you really want to kick it up a notch, you have to think long-term. How hard and how heavy you can go this week doesn’t really matter if you’re not training next week. Slow and steady wins the race.

Develop a philosophy over time and stick to it. Results will come.

Too thin to win?

A couple of years ago I ran into that mantra from a good friend of mine. It was a reference to a movement in CF where athletes became increasingly focused on appearance and, more specifically, abs.

Crossfit was originally marketed as a performance based counter movement to the appearance-based fitness culture. What a load of shit. I don’t think I know anywhere as appearance-centric as Crossfit gyms.

The problem is, if you want single digit bodyfat, performance suffers. For optimal strength and recovery you simply need to focus your eating on performance and not appearance. There’s a reason the only professional athletes that are super ripped are the ones competing in sports with weight classes. Exception to that is extreme endurance athletes, but then again it’s hard to label them as “ripped”. πŸ™‚

marathoner

 

Now you’re probably thinking “but Rich Froning….” and that’s a good point. Except for the fact that you’re probably not 1) a mutant and 2) on PEDs.

Simply put – if you’re sporting super chiseled abs, you’re probably hurting your own performance in a major way.

Remember to make the goal the goal. If your goal is to have razor-sharp abs, then that’s fine – I aint judging. If your primary goal is performance though, then try training in the 12-18% bodyfat area for six months and see how much better you’ll perform.

Fuel that engine! πŸ™‚

The evolution of a philosophy part one

Over the years I’ve read a silly amount of books on training. I’ve followed quite a few programs and have applied different philosophies to my own training.

Recently when preparing for a presentation at Spartan Mentality Crossfit on strength training, I realized that I’ve developed a philosophy. A system. A way of doing things.

Having a strong belief in a system makes everything less complicated. Just like habits in all other aspects of life – automatized thinking frees up mental capacity.

But – and this is a big but. You don’t want to be too set in your ways either. You have to keep an open mind – that’s how the system will evolve.

My system is based on something as simple and old-fashioned as submaximal training. I don’t believe in killing yourself with the heaviest possible weights on a weekly basis but rather in building yourself up over long time. I have little interest in the short-term success of a program – all I care about is long-term and longevity.

Instead of wondering how fast you can put another 5kg on your squat, I try to figure out how long I can put off adding weight to the bar. The longer I can gain strength at a given weight the better. The slower I can build my strength up, the better. The Chinese philosopher Confucius said something along the lines of:

it doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop

and that’s become somewhat of a mantra for me and my philosophy. Continual progress over time will not only bring great results but it’ll also make the process all the more enjoyable. After all being stuck isn’t all that funny.

Key points:

  • Slow down your progression – even the tiniest progress will add up over the years.
  • Instead of thinking sessions and weeks, think years or even two-year periods.

Have a great day. πŸ™‚

Have a hard time finding time to train?

Most of us have been through stretches where we’re pressed for time. The first thing to go is often training, then a decent diet and finally sleep. In this post I’ll give you a small handful tips that’ll make it easier not to get that snowball-effect going. As soon as we manage to stick to our training, it becomes easier to eat well and rest, simply because of the synergy.

1. Write down your training plan

A simple but effective tip, this subconsciously works as a written contract between you and you. It also makes it easier to go once you have the time because you already know what you’re gonna do.

2. Put your training in your calendar

Another contract with yourself that also reminds you every time you look at the calendar. It’s also a way of telling whoever has access to your calendar to expect you to be at the gym at that time.

3. Have your bag packed

Pre-packing your bag is another way to make it easier to get out the door. While it doesn’t take very long to do, every bit counts. The more obstacles you have to cross to get to the gym, the harder it’s gonna be. Make it easy on yourself.

4.Β Train on specific days/times

Another way of bypassing the whole “motivation” thing. If you decide to train every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon you don’t have to decide if you want to go train on a specific day or not. This also allows you to plan around your training and thus prioritize it.

5. Train with somebody

Having a friend or a personal trainer makes it easier to show up. Again you’ve made a “contract” but this time with another person. In addition to this, if you agree on training at a specific time each week, you’d actively have to cancel if you can’t go. We’re lazy and if we have to do something actively to stay home from training, we’ve just made it harder for ourselves to skip training and thus easier to get it done. Another simple psychological trick.

Conclusion:

All of these five points deal with the psychology of getting out the door and to the gym and that’s just one set of tools. If you’re going through a long stressful period, you should probably modify your training so that you can blast through it quickly. You’re not gonna make huge gains anyways during a stressed period, so planning a few weeks of easier training will take away from the stress and just give you a place to relax.

You could also add in a weekly run or two as it’s an extremely time efficient way to train for most people.

What’s so great about the five points detailed in this post is that they work for everybody. It’s an easy way to hack your brain and keep it from keeping you from training.

Yay. πŸ™‚

 

Don’t say this!

One of my primary fields of interest is what works and what doesn’t work linguistically. Saying things the right way can have a huge impact on your life, not only as a trainer/coach, but also your professional life.

What happens in our brains when we hear a word, is that we anticipate the following word(s) and these are made more easily accessible. Words activate related words to speed up reading/understanding. This is what framing is basically about – knowing which words to use to create the associations you want, and equally important – knowing which words to avoid.

This post is about a group of words you should avoid completely as a coach.

When coaching someone you should always aim to tell them what they should do instead of what they shouldn’t. Simply because mentioning something activates that action/word. George Lakoff cleverly titled one of his books “Don’t think of an elephant” and the title alone explains this concept. Even if you’re using a negation in your sentence (ie “not”) you’re still activating the neuron circuits connected to “elephant”.

Our brain simply processes information in a hierarchical structure where negations are applied very late in the process. What that means is that you’ll first think of the elephant, then try to erase that thought. Same goes for a nutritional guru saying “don’t eat chocolate” or a weightlifting coach who doesn’t want you to round your back, shift the weight to your toes or something else.

Try to keep your coaching as negation-free as possible. Tell the people you work with what they should do and how they should act – not how they shouldn’t. Same goes for the workplace and in your private life – telling people what you want instead of what you don’t want is a simple but effective way of avoiding misunderstandings.

Have a great weekend people. πŸ™‚

You’re not a coach!

Through a life of athletic adventures I’ve had good and bad coaches as well as non-coaches. To me being a coach is a badge of honor. It’s not the same as being a trainer – a coach is much more than that. A coach is a trainer, a role model and a mentor.

Instead of going on for hours on the finer aspects of what I consider good coaching, I’ve made a good coach/bad coach table.

A good coach:A bad "coach":
Rewards and encouragesPunishes
Uses his name and lets others decide if he's a coach or notCalls himself a coach
Wants his students to be as successfull as possible.Wants to be as successful as possible.
Inspires, motivates and is a good rolemodel.Doesn't, hasn't and isn't going to live what he teaches.
Uses loud music occassionally, but mostly uses his time with his athletes to coach them.Blasts the music out loud all the time, to "motivate".
Helps is athletes with individual and specific cuesis a cheerleader.
Connects with peopleKeeps distance to "maintain authority"
Tells the athlete what they *should* do.Tells the athlete what they *shouldn't* do
Is great at coaching the basic lifts.Has billions of weird exercises.

Some of these points will be touched upon in later posts, as they may be more complex than they seem. Others are pretty straightforward.

Basically, I’m of the opinion that as a coach, your primary responsibility is to inspire, motivate and better your athletes. Improving technique is a very important aspect, but in my perspective it belongs at the “trainer” level. That said – a great coach is not just a great coach, he’s also a great trainer.

It’s also quite obvious that I seriously dislike the “drill sergeant” type of coach, who wants authority and uses it to punish and scare the shit out of people. Not only is the athlete/client oftentimes technically the trainer/coach’s boss, but it’s also a safe way to lose respect. When training dogs, you use treats exclusively – why be any different with humans?

I’ve seen my share of bully-benchings and other nonsense (90 minutes doing nothing but shuttle runs because of a bad game?) and I’ve also seen what it does to the coach/team chemistry. You should always have a reason for the things you do with your athletes. More on this in another post.

This is not meant as an exhaustive checklist. Actually I could think of specific scenarios where some of the “don’ts” would be appropriate.

However!

If your trainer fit into a small handful (or more) of the “bad coach” points – I’d suggest that you find a different person to spend your money with. If you just realized that you’re “that guy” – better start working on getting better.

Thanks for reading this post to the bottom and thanks for the support. Have a great day. <3

My visit to Parisi Speed School, Fair Lawn, New Jersey

During my recent trip to New York, I was fortunate enough to get to train at Parisi’s Speed School with TFW-legend and world champion deadlifter Rich Sadiv. If you don’t know who Rich is, this clips speaks for itself (by the way, he’s 45 in the clip):

Yea.

Wow.

Anyways, we took the 160 out to Jersey and had a great conversation with the bus driver. As decent food is hard to come by around Times Square, I had to make due with strong coffee, trail mix and Cliff bars.

The gym itself is great. Huge turf, running tracks, great weight area, lots of freaks.

I trained with Rich and Chris, both ~700lbs deadlifters, and we did a good volume upper session. Though it obviously would’ve been great to see Rich (and Chris) deadlift, we’re pretty much at the same level in the presses, so it worked pretty well. Swiss bar, dumbbells, pushups, more dumbbells, more pushups and some triceps. Oh and a weird apparatus designed to kill my arms with lactic acid.

After the workout I got a fantastic shake, that tasted like gains (and peanut/banana/chocolate – YUM!).

ParisiThe training was great and left me sore for days, but what really made this day one to remember was Rich. He’s first and foremost a very very nice guy, who made me feel right at home in his house. On top of that, he has some very nice insights on training from a lifetime spent in the weight room. Rich picked up his first weights right around the time I was born.

It’s obvious that he knows what he’s talking about. Rich has an aura of experience and knowledge around him, and every word he says is pure gold. Since the second I stepped out of Parisi’s to head home, I’ve regretted that I didn’t keep my mouth shut and ears open some more, but that’s a work in progress and I’ve gotten better.

Rich also invited me to join him for deadlifts the following day, but we had to catch the flight home, just five short hours after training. I’ll be back though.

After training, the wife and I went sightseeing at the local K-Mart, where I managed to pick up a decent lumberjack shirt and two plain sweatshirts all for about $17. Gotta love the US (especially when you get out of the city).

If it wasn’t for Martin Rooney, that day wouldn’t have happened. Martin, like Rich, is an extremely giving person, and I’m truly grateful for everything they’ve done for me. Though I know it’s in no way expected, I hope to be able to repay them in some way at some point. For now, telling you how great a place Rich runs and how great Martin’s teachings are is the best I can do.

I’ve previously posted about role models, and I’m very happy I’ve got people like Rich and Martin to keep me on the right track.

One last thing – Rich shared some very secret secrets with me on training partners. Blog post on the topic coming up soonish.