In this day and age, the explosive growth of the internet is both a blessing and curse. For instance, we have access to training concepts that were once confined to college lecture halls; thus, we are able to share ideas that were once relegated to dusty, overpriced and often outdated textbooks. It’s also simpler than ever before to get inside the minds of experts in just about any field, and sometimes to even engage them in conversation. And yet for all the promise and potential that such proliferation of information holds, there are also some new challenges, particularly in the health and fitness space. First, the sheer quantity of data and the speed with which we’re barraged by it can be counterproductive. Second, in the age of the web celebrity trainer, it’s hard to know who to trust and how much stock to put in a popularity game that elevates would-be authorities because of their Instagram following (consequently, true experts oftentimes become afterthoughts). And third, there’s a serious lack of curation to help us separate the hype from useful information.
As a result, even highly competent and experienced coaches and their athletes can feel overwhelmed, get caught up in minor details, and struggle to find the real signals in the noise. It’s all too easy to also get trapped in the false belief that to be successful, you have to embrace complexity and keep adding more to maintain progress and preserve a competitive edge. Unfortunately, this can put us on a treadmill that we’re barely able to keep pace with.
Now that we are almost 2 full months into the new year, let’s step back and make sure that we’re on the right track. Rather than pursuing complexity for its own sake, it’s high time that we get back to focusing on basics and doing simple things well, both for ourselves and the clients who depend on us for guidance.
Here are 4 ways to get started:
1) LOOK BACK TO MOVE FORWARD
If you look at daily practices from around the world, you start to see commonalities and crossovers in those that have stood the test of time. Breathwork; use of hot and cold; and meditation are three examples of practices that have endured for centuries or even millennia. Why? Because they work. Tibetan monks don’t need a high-tech lab to show them the efficacy of controlled breathing and how it can change state. Nor do people who use cold plunges and saunas in Sweden need double-blind studies to verify the effects of thermal cycling. They just know that it works. Rather than blindly trusting in technology and assuming that every new thing will lead to forward progress, we need to look to ancient traditions to find practices that can truly move the needle. And then turn to the likes of Brian Mackenzie and Andrew Huberman to see the evidence behind breath work and other life-enhancing practices and find new ways to put them into practice. Focus on owning your positions and movements by focusing on controlled breath.
2) PURSUE MASTERY, NOT HACKS
One of the reasons that branches of the military do PT (physical training) every day is to maintain a continual state of readiness for combat, a concept that was even more necessary for warring tribes thousands of years ago. Similarly, martial arts practitioners carve out time daily to hone their craft and believe that true mastery is to be continually pursued but never obtained. Contrast that to the quick-fix, buy-it-now, microwave mentality that we’ve cultivated in recent years. The hacking movement has yielded some useful tidbits, but for the most part, immediate results obtained from hacks do not last. Simply put, there is no shortcut to excellence. It requires sustained effort over the course of a lifetime. Respect the process and dedicate time and mindfulness to a daily practice.
3) FIGURE OUT FIRST THINGS
It’s tempting to fill our lives with too much clutter, much like the jam-packed basement of a hoarding relative (we’re looking at you, Grandma!). When we’re just focused on the accumulation of more, what we often end up with is less – less time to think, plan, assess or relax. Fitness is no different. The phenomenon of “health anxiety” is all too real – whether it’s trying to cram as many so-called “superfoods” into our diet each day or trying to do everything all the time in the gym. To counter this, we need to get back to first things that we can invest significant time in to see real improvements. At TRX, one of the main examples is our Foundational Movements. And even within these, we can identify those that have a huge positive impact on all the others, such as the plank, pull and the hinge. Focus on one or two (at most) movements each session to really practice each position, then challenge yourself with load, speed or endurance. Remember, movement first.
4) DO SOME EARLY SPRING CLEANING
In order to see the proverbial wood through the trees, you’ve got to cut a few trunks down and clear out the deadwood. Start by assessing what habits are negative, harmful or deleterious in your own life. Then look at your coaching practice or training sessions and honestly identify what’s working, what isn’t and what’s ripe for change. It can be helpful to get a trusted third party, like a fellow coach/ mentor/ friend, to speak truth into your life and help you find a better path forward. Once you’ve identified a list of habits and practices that need to go, then you can figure out what should stay and which new things can be added. If you are unsure where to start, play around with creating your personal training sessions or workouts to include no more than three to four exercises and experience the results. Before you add in other exercises, decide if you are getting enough return on the inclusion, if not, then you may have found a way to clean up and focus.
5) FIND YOUR WHY
One of the most impactful business books of the past few years is Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. In it, he implores the reader to focus on their purpose by, as the name suggests, asking why they’re in business. For a non-profit it could be bringing clean water to African villages. For a startup, maybe it’s giving people a better way to get chores done, like Task Rabbit. What about you? If you’re a fitness professional, why do you love coaching people? If you’re trying to lose a few pounds, figure out why -- and then assess if your reason is enough of a driver to keep you going. Asking this one simple question can help you get out of a rut, re-energize and return to why you chose this calling/goal in the first place. Then work backward from there to figure out the details of what you’re going to do differently and better from now on as you fulfill your mission.
For TRX, our primary value and “why” is Movement. We treat Movement as the forgotten component of fitness and as a “vital sign” for health, fitness and performance. Our why always starts with the foundation of strong standards that improve your quality of training and living. TRX has developed a system of training and a curriculum of professional education built from an elegant training device, the TRX Suspension Trainer ™ that embodies the concept of essentialism.
To learn more and elevate your coaching and training game to a new level, check out TRX Education.