Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"But I want to train athletes.."

A lot of folks who get into training want to jump to the head of the class. They want to be Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle and Louie Simmons all rolled into one. They want to train competitive athletes, and leave the "housewives" for someone else. There are a few problems with that:

1)Knowledge. Most trainers just don't have the resume, track record, or even time under the bar to train athletes. In order for someone to listen to you (particularly a competitive person) you have to be speaking from a position of authority.. no 26 self published e-books don't count (particularly if the only person who bought them is your mom). You have to have more knowledge than the people you want to train, and you have to speak with enough authority that those athletes believe you.

2)Contact. If you're not an athlete or coach in a particular sport.. how are you going to come into contact with athletes to train. They're not going to fall out of the sky.

3)Volume. There aren't that many athletes out there to train. Most either drink their own kool-aid, have their strength and conditioning done by their sport coach, or are being trained by someone smarter and more established than you.

The answer is simple: take those sedentary people who want your help and teach them to be an athlete. Get them excited about what they can do. PRs are more addictive than crack, nicotine or heroine. Establish some benchmarks and train your clients to blow past them. This is actually easier in untrained people as they make progress in leaps and bounds.

Case in point:
"R." Adult male, Early 30s. single dad with 2 kids and terrible eating habits (fast food). Could not do 5 push-ups. Was starting to get aches and pains was "feeling old." Lacked the lower body strength to do a reverse lunge. Horrible posture: kyphosis, rounded shoulders, poor ankle mobility and no glutes.

5 months later: can crank out 3x15 push-ups with good form. Deadlifts 205x5 and more importantly "feels great" plays basketball 2xweek, lifts 3x (all with proper warm-up of course) and is looking for things to do. Posture is much better: shoulders squared off, glutes actually fire, ankles improved. He feels good, and looks great.

"S." Adult female. Early 40s. Has significant eczema and allergies. Can do a few push-ups but lacks the trunk strength to hold position long enough to test. Diet consists mainly of cheese, processed meat and sugar. good upper body posture, but zero hip mobility.

5 months later: 3 body weight pull-ups, 18 push-ups with significantly better trunk strength. Diet cleaned up significantly (despite her protests). Direct quote "My skin hasn't been this good since I was a kid.. damn you." She actually wore shorts to the gym today for the first time. I don't weigh people because I could care less especially at first, but "S." had to buy new belts because she went from "down to the last notch" to "too small for the furthest notch." So I'm guessing some bodyfat went away. She is training for a run/bike biathlon in August.

So what happened here? There was no super secret mind meld. They didn't go to a psychiatrist. I didn't yell or scream. I got them into shape. I worked on their mobility and stability. I taught them to lift. I taught them that if they pushed their limits that they wouldn't die, just get really really tired.

Most importantly I treated them like athletes. Whatever they could do was not a judgment on their character, but simply a number that I expected to improve. They were judged by effort alone. They saw improvement and improvement became an expectation. Suddenly they feel in control of their bodies, and that's what it means to be an athlete.

Too often people new to the business of training come in with the outward attitude of "I'm far too good to deal with Joe Sofa-spud." The truth is they have no idea how to deal with an out of shape client. They have 1 training method. If the client's needs don't fit their method then the 'trainer' blames the client. You should be able to help anyone willing to do the work. If you can't, then you have no business training anyone. So stop looking for athletes, and build some.



Christine said...

Great post!

The untrained are usually far far more greatful than us whiny needy athletes. :)

J. B. said...

It's just maddening when people are trying to establish a business, but yet somehow they're too proud to train people who need training, basically says to me that they're not serious.

Christine said...

I agree, completely.