It hit me the other day I have been coaching athletes in the weight room (and on the field) for eleven years. This post is eleven pieces of insight gleaned from this time as a strength and conditioning coach,
- Keep a journal!
I cannot overstate the value this has. I'm so grateful that I am able to go back in time and read not only old workouts, but paragraphs about what was going in my life, or quotes that were resonating with me at that time, and stumble across forgotten essays about my plans for the future. There are so many things I would have forgotten by now if I hadn't recorded them.
"Well, I guess I'm done trying to play this game. My shoulder just won't let me. It's time to pass on my passion to this next generation and help them get to experience what I got to; and what I didn't. It's time to stop feeling sorry for myself, and to devote myself entirely to a new passion: coaching and mentoring these kids. I am going to go all in on this."
This was on July 14, 2013. There are tons of these types of excerpts over the years, but this one kind of started it all...
2. Be religious about your soft tissue work!
In terms of keeping your body feeling good, this is a non-starter for me. Specifically, focus extra on the back of your shoulder and your glutes. When I neglect to dig into these areas every day, inevitably my body starts to nag at me with various issues.
We still don't know exactly what SMR work does, but with eleven years of anecdotal research with both myself and hundreds of athletes, I know it works.
3. If something is important, do it every day.
Need to improve your squat pattern? Squat daily for two weeks. It doesn't need to be (and probably shouldn't be) heavy each day, but if the movement needs to be improved, work on it.
Grip strength sucks? Program it in every day.
Want to gain a social media following? Post every day.
Stop being in motion. Stop planning to act. Act.
4. Write handwritten thank you notes and send letters.
This is a lost art. I have a box of various notes, cards, and letters that I've received from family and friends over the years. They're special to me. Thoughtfulness goes a long way. I try my best to pass that along.
5. A 20 minute workout is better than no workout.
"The best is the enemy of the good." - Voltaire
There are going to be days where you just aren't motivated. Maybe bunch of stuff at work comes up and the day gets away from you.
On these days it's so easy to just mail it in, cut yourself some slack and not train. "What's the point?" is easy to think in these situations.
Instead, do something. Not nothing.
Over the span of years, these days will compound favourably for you!
6. Take care of your hips.
The hip joint is meant to rotate, not just flex. If it gets stiff and starts turning into an elbow, it's a recipe for your lower back and knees (and hips) to hate you.
Motion is lotion! Move daily. As you get older, this gets increasingly important.
7. Drink more water.
I can't remember where I first I read it, but a habit I started in college was simply making chugging three big glasses of water the very first thing I did upon waking.
Your body hasn't had any in (hopefully) at least eight hours. Get hydrated right off the hop and then you can just sip water throughout the day.
I think people take for granted the benefits of being consistently well-hydrated.
8. Suffer. Attack your weaknesses.
"To live is to suffer." - Nietzsche
There's not many better feelings than pushing yourself to the line of where you don't think you're capable of one more rep and you do it.
Or crushing a tough conditioning circuit where you just want to quit but you keep going.
I think it's good for your soul to do these things. Test your mettle. Push yourself.
9. Train on one leg more.
I love squats and deadlifts, but if you get stuck doing predominantly bilateral work I have found that little aches and pains gradually start to creep up on you.
Don't think of unilateral work as only accessory work either.
Heavy bulgarians, lunges, and lateral lunge variations will get you strong in a different way and also have tremendous carryover to the big lifts.
10. Do pull ups every day. Press over your head.
After college my throwing shoulder was in shambles; an absolute mess. (Two separate times, actually, but I digress) What eventually fixed it was getting strong overhead (among other things of course).
Can't press overhead pain free? Start with landmine variations and kettlebell bottoms up variations and progress from there
11. Be the bigger person.
"I won't forget to put roses on your grave."
Fight cynicism. People are going to let you down.
While it's true that sometimes these people do not, in fact, care about you, often times they are not hurting you - or neglecting you intentionally.
The best example I can give is this: Let's say you and a good friend start losing touch. You don't hear from him and vis versa.
You can become jaded.
You can realize that it's a two way street. Life is busy. Value the memories you've had, and the friendship you still have. You can wait for them to reach out, allowing your resentment to grow, or you can let all that go and just reach out.
It's been a great run so far, and I'm looking forward to the next eleven years and the lessons they're going to offer.