As I enter my 15th year as a strength coach I often look back on the various stages that I have gone through in my career path. As a young and impressionable coach I was easily swayed into one form of thought or stream that was espoused by a particular celebrity coach.
As I first dipped my toes into the coaching world I identified myself as a “functional fitness” coach that believed that anything that could be done on the ground could be done better on unstable surfaces (for the record, I am now 100% against this edict. If you’d like, I’ll send you a paper proving this). As I grew as a person and a coach I shifted to the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I believed that strength was the end-all and be-all; I had 101 different loading parameters to suit any client. This actually reminds me of a quote from my favourite movie, Good Will Hunting “Of course that’s your contention. You’re a first year grad student. You just got finished readin’ some Marxian historian — Pete Garrison probably. You’re gonna be convinced of that ’til next month when you get to James Lemon, and then you’re gonna be talkin’ about how the economies of Virginia and Pennsylvania were entrepreneurial and capitalist way back in 1740. That’s gonna last until next year — you’re gonna be in here regurgitating Gordon Wood, talkin’ about, you know, the Pre-revolutionary utopia and the capital-forming effects of military mobilization.” I absolutely love that part. Carrying on, I banged that drum for a few years until I was exposed to a coach that showed me that it was the form and structure of a program that was the most important. This allowed me to take a little from the left and a little from the right and meet in the middle and make it my own. I developed my own unique style and philosophy of training. This would become my personal brand, what I was known for. Each coach will develop their own personal coaching philosophy that will become the backbone of every program that they write; kind of like their professional DNA. But like all living organisms we undergo mutations and adapt to the changing world around us. Personally I’d like to believe that my DNA change was more similar to how Peter Parker’s double helix changed than Darwinian evolution.
It is no secret that I whole heartedly believe that we can never learn enough, that we should never stop growing both personally and professionally. I end all my emails and have even painted a wall of our facility with this quote from Jim Collins “Good is the Enemy of Great.” I am driven to always be better, and I hold all of our coaches to this. To this end I am constantly reading, following giants in the field, communicating with other coaches and staying ahead of the curve in the industry. What this does is arm me with more tools, more techniques and refined processes to implement to our clients. But lately I have seen another shift in my focus, which I will explain through the following analogy.
To those who know me, it will not come as a surprise that I love to cook. I love to experiment with dishes, to attempt classic meals and expand my culinary knowledge. I suppose that this is an extension of my career as well. I have never considered myself a creative person. I can’t sing worth a lick, even though I absolutely love it. I couldn’t draw a stick man to save my life. For me, cooking is my creative and artistic outlet (it has been suggested that my programs are also a creative process, but I haven’t fully bought in to that yet). Also to those who know me, I like to tell stories, like Raymond Reddington of the Blacklist (a must watch; James Spader is fantastic). His stories, much like the rambling of this blog have an underlying meaning in them.
For you impatient types, here it is. All of this knowledge that we seek as coaches to improve our programming is very similar to cooking. Each new philosophy, technique, exercise, etc. is just like an ingredient in cooking. We need to have a pantry full of diverse quality ingredients so that we are capable of making any recipe at any given time. But we cannot simply combine everything in the pantry and get a wonderfully prepared dish. Like a great cook, a coach must know which ingredients work well together and are complimentary. Similarly a cook must know how much of each ingredient to add to create a harmonious balance of flavours. Like many trainers in the industry, I have fallen into this trap on many occasions; trying to show everyone how much I know, how good my techniques are. The outcome is an overly seasoned product that really doesn’t work/taste well. Some of the best dishes in the world are remarkably simple. Use the best cuts of meat, seafood and produce. Add in high quality seasonings and prepare just enough to get the best result. That my friends is where I am now in my evolution as a coach. Cut out all of the unnecessary garnishes and the gimmicks and deliver a simple and extremely effective program/dish. Use the highest quality ingredients and cook/coach the hell out of them.
Where will this new direction and focus in my coaching career take me? I don’t know yet, but I do know that it will allow me to get better results for all of my clients. And who knows, maybe it will land me on MasterChef Canada.
Shane Pizzey MKin, CSCS, CEP
Director of Sports Sciences