Embrace the journey

Posted on November 28, 2011. Filed under: Exercise | Tags: , , , , , , |

Tell me, what do you see?

Don’t worry it’s not a trick question.  Merely the illustration of a point.  What figures first jumped out at you, white angels or black devils?

If I asked a group of people the same question, some would see devils first, others would see angels, and over time either view would see both.


Along with actual reading I am also a big fan of TED talks.  I hope to some day qualify to give one.  Any way, one speech I enjoyed is by the ‘wrongologist’ Kathryn Schulz.  Who makes some wonderful points about being wrong, and how we perceive others who we believe to be wrong.


My favorite quote is that “being wrong feels just like being right” until you realize you are wrong.


So what am I getting at?

Well, what is your current work out routine and how did you come about it?  Did you hire a professional?  Study the fitness mags?   Get a degree in the field?  Intern with a coach?

What made some ideas stick with you as opposed to others that didn’t.  Were they too complicated?  Too involved?  Unrealistic?

What makes you right?


I am feeling contemplative on this topic because a friend has asked me to help him lose fat.  10 years ago my perspective would have been one of excitement.  How I was going to help him understand what it means to be fit and lean.   And how he would benefit from my knowledge.   I was only seeing the angels so to speak.  Now that perspective has changed, I am aware of the devils.


My friend has talked of getting in shape for years.  Then one day he tells me he’s going to do the ‘Spartan race.’  My first thought to this was, “are you nuts?”  I didn’t say it, but I thought it.


He asked for my help which I gave him.  But where as the fitness zealot I was, would have preached to him of the angels, I instead kept my guidance basic.  and allowed him to recognize his devils.

My friend was the typical male who never trained his legs, back, or any other muscle that can not be easily seen in a tshirt.  I knew the workout I gave him was going to be a shock to his system.  He however thought he was in great shape and could handle it easily.  Till he did the routine.  He saw himself as the angel.  Then after the first day realized he had been allowing his personal devils of pride, fear, ignorance get the better of him.

Essentially what he was doing prior felt like doing things right, until he realized it wasn’t.


He then tried the devil of overcompensation.  Asking about supplements and doing 2-a-days, neither of which was a good idea for his situation.  Not until he faced the facts of where his current level was, and what he had to do to improve.  No supplement can compensate for bad eating.  And you can’t hang with 2-a-days unless you are giving yourself the proper recovery time, which I knew he wasn’t.


For those of you reading this I strongly encourage you to be aware of these devils.  Whether it be for yourself or someone you are trying to help.  They will come up.  Also just because something works for you does not make it the best approach.


One benefit I had as I started my coaching career, is majority of my clients could not do my workout routine even if they wanted to.  This forced me to be aware of how I designed programs, and how I considered information to apply towards them.


CrossFit sounds like a lot of fun.  But it is not the end all be all of fitness.  It’s not even original.  The same goes for Zumba, Pilates, kickboxing cardio, the list goes on and on.


I feel many people who struggle with fitness do so, because when they finally get the courage to take their first step into the Church of health, their first encounter is with a CrossFit or Bikram yoga zealot.   This preacher tells them that their way is the best way, and if they can’t do it then they will never get in shape.  They only see their personal angel.


None of this is backed up with any sense of knowledge or coaching experience.  It’s merely what works for them, so automatically it is the right way.  And when it doesn’t work, it’s the new person’s fault.  They didn’t try hard enough, or put enough effort into it.  But how do they measure that effort?


When my friend asked me for guidance, I wrote out a program I felt he could handle with effort, along with some basic eating guidelines.  Where he succeeded I congratulated him, where he failed I counseled, and where he ignored me I merely observed and listened.


He finished the race.  Though he knew he would have done better had he followed my guidelines to the letter, and he said as much.  He contacted me a day or so after the race about a fat loss program.


I never talked about fat loss to him during the course of the coaching, I let him realize what he was ready to do.  I let him face the consequences for those choices, within reason, I would never have let him run if I thought he would get hurt.  I merely coached, observed, and listened.


We of the healthy faithful forget what it’s like to not know something.  And when we find something that works we tend to jump on it as the ultimate answer far to soon with out any form of evaluation.   It’s not enough to know what you believe, you should know why you believe it to be so.


If I had focused solely on my angels I would not have been able to coach my friend, and would have lost him to his devils.  I would have preached to him, and written off any of his failures as weakness and unworthiness of my angels.  He still has a few devils to contend with but now he contends with it from a position of awareness.


When you coach someone, or yourself.  You want to do it from a position of awareness.  Which takes time.  A good start is to get your information from quality sources.  Personally I like the following books among others:

  • Athletic Development  by Vern Gambetta
  • Supertraining by Mel Siff
  • The Essence of Program Design by Juan Carlos Santana
  • The Abel Approach by Scott Abel


Keep in mind that awareness is a journey, a constant journey.  Consider this my take home tip.


Any time you hear someone say they have it all figured out, and have learned all they need to know.  RUN!!!  you want no part of what they are selling.

If you start thinking that you have it all figured out.  Then I suggest reading this book as a test:

  • Movement System Impairment Syndromes of the Extremities, Cervical and Thoracic Spines by Shirley Sahrmann PT PhD FAPTA.


If you can read that book easily, you have it all figured out.  If not, don’t worry, it just means your human,  and you have the joy of the journey ahead of you.  I have been schooled many a time by another coach, and every time I am the better for it.


Now if you’ll excuse me, my friend is here for his session.  🙂



Keep Fitness Groovy,

Coach W


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