For as long as I can remember, companies in the fitness industry have been promising to deliver the holy grail; the body we have always desired (the one created in someone else’s image, by the way). The grail may be a new method that promises to tone and sculpt a body part, a pill that guarantees weight loss without ever leaving the couch or changing your diet (that is still one of the funniest things I have ever heard), or a new ‘workout’ class; you know, the one that everyone is doing. Good marketing companies are exceptional at fleecing the uninformed.
One of the things I learned early in my life was that if something sounds too good to be true, well, it probably is. My parents pontificated that lesson. Over time, I no longer accepted claims at face value. I stopped believing the alleged subject matter experts and started asking questions and researching things on my own. Why? Well, I absolutely hate feeling like a complete moron and I want to make informed decisions. With more information, if I still choose to believe something that is not true, well then I deserve the ‘Idiot’ label. Those who know me well are keenly aware I typically question everything.
I really do not know much in the big picture. I have dabbled a little bit in the whole exercise thing, but I believe that I may know enough that I can speak on the subject when I want. Two decades ago, I was not as informed as I am today. To be honest, I was guilty of arguing with my trainer about the caloric expenditure reading on cardio equipment in 2002. When I began studying for certifications a couple years later, I humbly apologized for my indignation. In fact, those calorie counters are a big fat lie, and while that makes sense to me now, my naivety led me to believe that it was true. After all, those people wouldn’t lie about how many calories I burn, right? Of course, they would; these are the same people claiming the Thighmaster will make my thighs thinner.
Where am I going here? Well, insomnia was winning earlier this week, so I turned on the TV in the very early morning hours. Behold, Jeeves! The grail, the Arc, the secret! At long last, the product that will deliver us all; Squat Magic. I gaped at the screen as I could feel the blood now coursing through my veins. As I watched and turned up the volume, something I still deeply regret. I posted the segment to Facebook with a comment that it should be illegal to sell this stuff; all of it.
I have held my tongue for a very long time. You can thank the extortionists marketing the Squat Magic for me reaching the end of my rope. I am simply apoplectic. My colleagues and peers actually have integrity, and for that, I am grateful. It is this kind of product that undermines the science and the truth. ENOUGH!
I am going to say this one time. The Thighmaster, Shakeweight, and the myriad of other pieces of exercise equipment claiming to be the solution are crap. The Squat Magic is crap. Not one of these modalities do anything they claim. Each of these is brought to market by marketing companies that spend a ridiculous amount of money to lie to all of you because they know you will buy. Please just stop. I am not going to break down each modality for you in this article. If you want to actually start listening, please go retain a qualified individual, such as a NSCA or ACSM professional, to explain the science in laymen’s terms. You can even go to the library to research the Exercise Science books; go back to school for an education in Kinesiology, but do not continue to take the alleged expertise of an actor (yes, actor).
Not only does this company have you believing the magical claims, they also flash across the screen the words “dual certified celebrity trainer” to support this blasphemy. Guess what my friends; he isn’t a trainer of a thing, but he did play one on TV. He is an actor. His IMBD profile with reference to the work in which he has appeared. Wake up! “Well, ‘so and so’ said so, and he’s on TV; you’re not. Clearly he is successful to get to TV so he must know.” Um, well, for those not willing to do some homework in order to make truly informed decisions vs nonsense, then good luck to you. Eject. Don’t blast it all over social media later when the latest fad failed. For the most part, I blame the companies but at some point, buyer beware. Wake up and smell the crap. Own your part of the ignorance.
Anyway, the other night, I am staring at the ‘unicorn.’ Here is the device that is going to give me the shapely ass of my dreams; tone and sculpt my gluteus (This is literally nails on the chalkboard for me). Not only was my butt going to be amazing, my form while performing the squat would be immediately perfected.... (insert colorful commentary here). My blood pressure must have reached an all-time high that night, just as I can feel it rising as I write. I would like to destroy the construct of this product; however, I live by a set of rules. Yes, many are Gibbs’ rules. My rule number #10, ‘Never argue with an idiot; they drag you to their level and then beat you with experience.’ Rather than ripping every claim to shreds, I am going to provide some science based in research and evidence.
What does this all mean? Put the brownies down, lift heavy stuff, push out of your comfort zone, and nothing changes overnight. More importantly, find an activity you like to do. Research has proven we are more likely to achieve our goals and make new habits when we are enjoying the work (yes, this can be done). If you want the holy grail, do the work. If it sounds too good to be true…
Phil Heath is a legend in bodybuilding. He's won Mr. Olympia LLC consistently over the past several years. But what does he attribute his success to? I found a quote he made which I think is quite insightful. Spend a minute to learn from one of the very greatest bodybuilders of all time!
What I've Learned
- Every client is unique, and the challenges they face are unique. A generic program can demonstrate success and be beneficial, especially for large groups and teams where time and efficiency are issues, but it will never replace one-on-one support.
- It takes time to develop trust with clients. This is especially true when clients don't know me personally.
- I can help most, but I can't help everyone.
- I have always believed my role with a client is to compliment the training/expertise they receive from others. This philosophy results in positive, beneficial relationships with the client's support team rather than harmful/negative ones.
- The suspicion about sport psychology and mental training still exists among many people in sports.
- Tied with this suspicion about mental training is a willingness for those in sports to invest heavily in the physical training aspects of the sport over anything else. This is perhaps because physical improvements are easier to measure and demonstrate.
- A good training session can be easily undone by the actions of an athlete when they are not training (e.g., poor nutrition, sleep).
- Athletes and teams, even in major sports with significant coaching and financial assistance, can still lack the support they need to be their very best.
- In general, coaches rely on their own experiences as athletes in combination with their successes/failures as coaches to become and continue being successful. Most do not engage in any professional or personal development to become better. Some do, but it's often because they are required to do so. Finding coaches hungry to learn and improve is quite rare.
- Some people claim they want to be their very best, but lack the discipline or desire to actually become their very best. There's a difference between words and actions.
- In almost all sports, the mental challenges are similar. Dealing with anxiety, controlling negative emotions, working with others, motivation, believing in oneself, and many other topics cross sports, ages, and abilities.
- Most athletes and coaches work very hard, but cannot explain why they are training the way they are training. There remains a distinct lack of scientific process in training for sports and sports in general.
- The behaviors, feelings, and actions of an individual that have been developed for many years, and often for decades, cannot be undone with a few hours of work. Small changes can be made, but it takes time to undo bad habits etc. There is no magic pill!
- Working with clients online and with video technology has worked well, but it will never be more effective than working in person.
- My clients make me better also. I love working with clients, and they inspire me to continue learning and improving. I've spent considerable time this year working to improve my knowledge base and ability to be a more effective coach.
- I have competed in many different sports at various levels throughout my life. I enjoy and have always enjoyed performing at the best of my abilities, and winning is always good too! But this year has taught me that the success of my clients is more rewarding to me than my own personal successes. I love seeing my clients succeed!
It's been a great year, and I'm so excited to see what the year has in store! My thanks to all my clients who have instilled their trust in me. You challenge, encourage, and inspire me to continue bettering myself. In other words, I'm working toward becoming my GOAT! I hope you are too.
It's great to see professional athletes recognizing the mental battle that goes on between their ears. In this situation it's tennis pro John Isner. Yet, I can only imagine how he could have been helped throughout his junior, college and young professional career to change some of his failures into successes.
"As a professional athlete, you want to feel so strong and impervious to everything, but that wasn't the case for me and I let him know that," Isner told me in Houston at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships last month. "I let him know what I was feeling in the big moments. I let him know sometimes how scared I was."
"I'd find myself seizing up, not freeing up," Isner said. "And just wanting to win so badly that I didn't want to go after it myself, I was a little afraid of that. With how I'm built, it's the absolute wrong thing to do. When other players get nervous and get tight, say, be it a Nadal, a Djokovic, a Murray -- they can rely on their wheels. I can't. I'd just find myself hoping my opponent would miss. I knew what was holding me up was myself."
I discuss a quote from Tim Grover's book Relentless. He highlights how important mental training and toughness in and external to sport is.
Congratulations to GSP athlete Alok Mehta, who won gold at the India racquetball qualifiers this weekend! He will be representing India at the International Racquetball Federation - IRF World Championships in Colombia later this summer. Alok is also one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the IRF Senior World Championships. Congrats Alok!
My wife and I have really enjoyed hosting professional racquetball athlete Marie Renee Rodriguez for the past 10 days. We spent a considerable amount of time working on developing a training program, practicing weight lifting, spending time on the court, discussing strategy, practicing emotional control, and analyzing her game. It was a busy period but we both gained much from the experience. Be sure to click on her name and keep up to date with her career progress!
Have you ever thought about buying a fitness tracker (accelerometer) such as a Fitbit but didn't know which one to buy? Dr. Shelley Holden and I recently wrote a short article on what things you should consider when making the decision. The publisher has made this article free to the first 50 people who click on this link. If you have specific questions about fitness trackers, please send me a message. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
Over the past year I have been blessed to include a variety of guest speakers in our Oklahoma State University Sports & Coaching Science program. Professional and amateur athletes, sports administrators, international coaches, professional trainers... the list goes on. It's been amazing to hear and learn from so many successful professionals in sport!
Recently, I was reminded by a guest speaker the importance of knowing WHY. The speaker, a director of a large rowing program, highlighted how imperative it was that coaches (and anyone working in the sports professions) knew exactly what they were doing but also WHY they were doing it. Why this training program? Why this nutrition? Why this rehab? The list could go on.
This is a valid point: how many coaches, if asked WHY, respond with examples such as...
"Because I'm coach."
"That's how my coach did it and he/she was very successful." "It's what I did when I was competing."
"I read it somewhere."
There are more. The point I'm making here is that we, as sports professionals, have a responsibility to continue learning and improving our craft to ensure that we have the most current knowledge and skills necessary to get the best from our athletes and clients. Anything less and we are failing to give our best.
Stay current with my professional activities and recent articles.