Wednesday, February 26, 2014

And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Program


The Olympics are over and I'm sad to say that I didn't get a chance to watch all of our athletes in action, but I did see some memorable moments, including an early morning gold medal game.  Go Canada Go! 

With the games now behind us we're back to our regularly scheduled programs.  I wouldn't categorize my television consumption as excessive but I did notice its absence during the Olympics.  It's not uncommon for me to unwind at the end of the day with a television show.  I'm not glued to the boob tube but I did miss catching up with some of my favorite characters and found myself wondering more than once this past month what to do with my free time?  Meeting up with Olivia Pope and her team each week had become a habit for me - a routine of behavior that's repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously.

I had a similar eye-opener last October.  Although I normally eat pretty clean, I decided to take on the Whole30 saying no to grains, dairy, sugar, legumes and alcohol for thirty days with no cheats, slips or "special occasions."  The most revealing part of the program was recognizing my cravings as habits.  For instance, why did I "crave" wanting to treat my taste buds on Mondays?  What was so special about the first day of the week for me?  After thirty days of thinking about it I came to the conclusion that Mondays were my Fridays, and I was in the routine of treating myself with a well-deserved yummy yucky to unwind after my work week.

So what do these two seemingly unrelated topics, television and treats have in common?  For me?  Unconscious indulgence.  A sneaky saboteur that disguises itself as part of my regularly scheduled program.  And while it's fine to trade my time for television or treat myself to a yummy yucky every now and again, it becomes a problem when it's no longer a conscious choice - but instead a result of training unconscious habits.

If you can't unwind until you've had your post-work wine or find yourself looking forward to going to the movies for the treats, not the show, you may be a victim of the unconscious indulgence.  The great news is behaviour can change.  You got yourself into the predicament and can get yourself out by recognizing your routine and taking the "un" out of unconscious.

Do you have an unconscious indulgence you'd like to share?

~ Sasha

Monday, February 17, 2014

Don't Kill My Buzz

One of the hardest things for a coach to manage or work around is when the biggest obstacle to a client's success is their "support system".  Unfortunately, it is an all-too common occurrence where the very individual that you turn to for encouragement, motivation, accountability and inspiration - is the same one that holds you back.  It might be your spouse, best friend or sibling - but often their fear of failure or lack of confidence means that instead of helping you succeed, they instead choose to passive-aggressively manipulate or control your actions to prevent you from improving where they can't.  I still remember the first time I dealt with this as a coach, way back when I first started in the industry 12 years ago - he was really trying hard, eating healthy lunches at work and training 4-5x a week, but would go home and his wife continued to feed him crap food.  She'd complain that she didn't want to eat what he was eating, and she'd complain if he didn't eat the food she'd "worked so hard to prepare".  After 6 months, he was no closer to his number one goal (weight loss) than when he'd started.

There are three ways this can turn out.  If you are not a strong enough personality to get by this, then you'll wind up on the hamster wheel with the other person... getting two steps forward, then falling two steps back. 

The second way it can go is that you stand up to the person - they can make the choices they make for themselves, but you are not going to let their baggage hold you back any more.  They can join you on the journey to success, or they can keep doing what they've always done and you'll leave them behind.

The best result would be that you stand up to them, and it elicits change - they realize that they are holding both you AND themselves back, and instead of fearing and avoiding the challenge, they join you in tackling it - and together you become that much stronger.

Sadly, the first scenario is the most common, but here's hoping somewhere, someone reading this will change their approach as a result of it.  Look at your journey into health and wellness - are you being held back by your support network?  Or are you the one holding someone else back?

Stop fearing change.  Take control, and direct the change you want to see.

~Guy

Monday, February 10, 2014

Beware of "Experts"

I'm a knowledge junkie.  

I'm aware of it, and although I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing, it can be difficult when every article, book and seminar that you come across looks like it might have something to offer.  I like to be "in the know" of the developments in my industry, even if it doesn't mean that I'm becoming an "expert".  No, to become an expert you need not only knowledge but experience and application as well - all of which take time which is, sadly, a rare commodity.

Now, to be clear, I won't implement anything into client programs without taking the time to become, if not an expert, then at least adept at the tool/system/principle that I'm working with.  To that end, late last year I decided I would take the NCCP Level One Olympic Weightlifting Course.  Frankly, I never had any intention to implement this system into my own methodologies, because it is a sport in and of itself requiring diligent practice and movement acquisition - there are other ways to generate similar (if not identical) physical adaptations with movements that are simpler to learn.  But if I'm going to say "No, I don't use Olympic weightlifting in my programs" I wanted to have the knowledge and experience to explain why.

So I signed up.  And I was awful at it.

Actually, I take that back.  I wasn't awful, but it wasn't pretty.  The limited experience I had with it had been based on the books I'd read, the DVDs I'd watched, transfer of knowledge from other systems, and so on.  But nothing - NOTHING - replaces being coached by an expert.  And in a true lesson of humility, I found myself completely out of my element, struggling to complete some of the most basic components of Olympic lifting.

I was terrible.  And I loved it.

Being that bad at something got me to focus in.  I wanted to leave the weekend competent, able to continue practicing on my own and better understand what I was reading and watching, and that meant laser focus and taking advantage of every coaching instruction I was given - because I only had two days to draw on.

It was brilliant.  I loved it, I gained a much greater understanding of it, and I'm much better at the skills/techniques involved.  But I am far, far (FAR) from being an "expert".  

You see, there are far too many "experts" out there who have done no more than complete a weekend workshop who suddenly feel that they are capable of utilizing this knowledge at the highest level possible.  Quite frankly, some of the worst of these are university graduates, who come away from their four year degree with a lot - A LOT - of knowledge but little to no practice and even less experience.  And yet the piece of paper in their hand makes them feel that they are an "expert".

This is not a slag on university grads, university programs, the certification courses or anyone else who is reading this and getting ready to send me an angry email.  It's simply an observation that there are a lot of people that, through the benefit of social media, hype and marketing, have become designated as "experts".

So be cautious as you seek advice, guidance or coaching - and check to make sure that the individual you are working with is all they think they are.  Seems to me that the louder someone is in proclaiming themselves an "expert" - the further they are from being one.

~ Guy

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Problem with Run Groups

Let me say off the top that this is not meant to talk anyone down from running clubs, running in general, or aerobic exercise.  Whether you prefer "high intensity interval" training, "metabolic resistance" training, old-fashioned weight training, kettlebells, bosu, bootcamps, spin class... well, you get the idea.  Regardless of what it is that you do, what's important is that a) it's not going to hurt you, b)  you enjoy it, c) it's active and d) it's the appropriate exercise selection to your goals (meaning, for example, don't expect yoga to significantly improve your 10k run time).

That being said, it's important to keep in mind that running is a fairly advanced activity from a biomechanical standpoint, and not everyone is meant to log long (and for the sake of definition, I'm actually going to say that anything over 5km at a steady pace is "long") runs on a regular basis.  There are some who are born with the innate running gene and they can simply start running, increasing their distances over weeks and, despite the quality of their run stride or program, they excel.

But these are the outliers.  And at the other end of the spectrum are the people who do everything right, but in spite of this, they wind up unable to run because of injury (I'm not speaking about the type of injury that can happen to anyone - like rolling an ankle stepping off a curb).  And then there's the middle of the bell curve - the people who simply start running and, without a proper movement and strength foundation, wind up with small, nagging injuries that impede performance or completely curtail the training altogether.

And that's what leads to my frustration.  Many run groups are lead by, at best, people who were good runners (though not necessarily coaches) or, at worst, people who fill the role for no reason other than they're a positive and encouraging personality that's willing to show up every week.  In either case, it's rare that these leaders have the education, practice and coaching ability to develop the fundamentals necessary to improve your running safely.  So, lacking this ability, as people keep showing up, sometimes not losing the weight they wanted to, sometimes hitting plateaus in their performance, and sometimes developing chronic injuries, the group leaders just keep high-fiving,  encouraging and, ultimately, offering consolation when the individual hits the point where they simply can't run.

It would be nice if these run groups would recognize this weakness in the service their providing and come up with a solution from the outset, rather than having a physiotherapist, chiropractor or sports med doctor on speed dial.  It might be as simple as understanding the basic biomechanics of running so that they can take a proactive approach to referring out, or even having ongoing training for the leaders to help them institute a decent dynamic warm-up/movement preparation into the program.

I always refer back to Diane Lee's quote when someone tells me that they're going to start running:

You don't run to get fit.  You get fit to run.

~Guy