Impressive Toolbox!

I'm currently right in the middle of a pretty busy speaking schedule which thankfully eases up just in time for Christmas (sorry for saying the C word in November) and I've been beavering away this week, sorting out the next couple of months speaking schedule. You can take a look at how the next couple of months are shaping up and see if I'm going to be visiting a town near you! 

Anyway, last weekend I travelled down to London to catch up with Jean Claude Vacassin (JC) and Sebastian Cormier (everyone in London has fancy Dan names!) to deliver a 2-day workshop. JC and Seb are both based in London (JC - W10 Performance and Seb - Marylebone Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine) and figured it would make perfect sense to organise a 2-day workshop for their colleagues. 

Day one was all about rehab and reconditioning, aimed squarely at the physio's, pilates instructors and sports therapists based at Marylebone Physio (we had a bunch of S&C coaches and PT's in the mix too!) whilst on the second day we mixed it up and looked at Performance Based Training and how to optimise the training process, whether you were working with athletes, or general population. 

What I liked about this workshop was that it was hosted in a training venue with the coaches that operate out of them. We weren't stuck in a conference facility, we we're in the gym, on the floor, getting stuck in. What a fantastic venue as well, W10 Performance is the brain child of JC and he's worked incredibly hard since attending my 3-day mentorship programme here in Newcastle to revolutionise how he delivers coaching to the great and good of west London. 

The gym is buzzing nicely and I've come away from the workshop with some useful tips from JC and his team (every day is school day)

Anyway, I'm waffling! 

On the train ride back to Newcastle I had time to reflect on the weekend and work out exactly what we had achieved. On reflection, the key message that I delivered was this:

As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I know I'm not the first person to use this quote bit it hits the nail nicely on the head. We spent pretty much the whole weekend talking about training 'principles' and hardly looked at specific 'techniques' (although we had some fun during the Saturday practical looking at some of my favourite  training techniques). Why did we spend so much time on what is often thought to be the 'boring stuff"? Well, there's no point simply picking up techniques without understanding the principles that allow you to apply them and get results. Imagine I'm a mechanic and I've been given the task of stripping and rebuilding an engine. Where would I start? Well if I take the approach that a lot of fitness professionals adopt, I would start by picking up lots of training techniques. This is a bit like the mechanic opening up a nice shiny toolbox packed with loads and loads of tools. It looks good, but to be honest I have no idea what most of the tools do or how to use them. 

Even worse, I focus in on one tool/training technique (heaven forbid you become the kettlebell guy etc)...what is it they say, if you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail! Sound familiar? I see people hitting the streets on a regular basis with a good knowledge base on all the latest training techniques but without a clue on how to use them. So here I am with lots of techniques but no idea how to apply them. 

The next step is to get some instructions. As a mechanic with loads of tools I reach for my trusty Haynes Manual to work out how to strip an engine. Now, I'm of a certain age where I've actually stripped an engine with my dad on our driveway and I can tell you that whilst the manual is helpful, it's not a bit like real life! The reality is that it's bloody messy, fiddly and never goes according to plan, oh and you always have nuts and bolts left over at the end! 

 This is the next stage where coaches go wrong. They are still focusing on instructions on how to execute techniques. DVD's, training manuals, equipment workshops etc all add some knowledge to show you how to use a technique, but they still miss the most important thing.  


Coaches understand what to use (the techniques) and how to use them but they fail to appreciate the, why. This is what we spent 2-days covering in the Integrated Performance Training workshop. I spoke, at length, about the fundamental training principles because this is the missing link that I'm seeing over and over again in newly qualified fitness professionals. They know what a vibration platform looks like and how to swing off a suspension trainer. They may even know how to follow a programme that they've picked up in a training manual but where they struggle is to understand and appreciate the fundamental training principles that make sense of everything we are trying to do as a coach. 

You need to understand why you are doing something if you really want to have an impact. The problem is that learning why (the principles) ain't sexy, so why bother. 

Well, Ralph Waldo Emerson can tell you why. 

The path to being a great coach is to truly understand the fundamentals of your profession. Forget about filling your toolbox full of tools, they're no use unless you understand the how's and more importantly the, why's.