As the torrent of New Year’s Resolutions!!! articles and news segments begin to pour in I find myself increasingly grateful to be working with a coach. Too many consumers of media will take in the glossy photos of women twirling tiny dumbbells and contorting themselves into bizarre positions, the dire diet plans, and resign themselves to a short-lived attempt to “get in shape” by following haphazard and not very helpful advice (no cookies for 21 days!).
January 1 doesn’t mean anything different for my fitness and diet plan. But I’m lucky, because, like every other day of the year, there’s someone who knows what the hell he’s talking about to plan my strength and fitness program, assess my progress, and make sure I’m doing everything I need to be doing. My coach will never put me on a treadmill, never expect me to pick up a weight that doesn’t require some aggression to move, or ever ever tell me to cut calories. In fact, when I broached the topic of doing some extra work to make up for what was sure to be a Christmas calorie overload, he nearly blew up. JUST EAT! he said. So I did.
That’s what a coach does. He (or she) keeps you focused on your goals. My goal is not a certain pants size (although I won’t lie – I get distracted by that sometimes). It’s to move a lot of weight – enough that I will qualify to compete in the 2013 USA Powerlifting Championships at the Arnold Sports Festival. My coach’s job (which is never done) is to keep that in sight at all times.
But there’s more to being a coach than just planning a training regimen. He has to put on the brakes when I try to do too much, and not cut me any slack when I’m being a pansy. A coach has to deal with the very human side of working out — missing a lift can take a toll on my confidence (the same as it does for any type of athlete who misses their mark). Every time I’ve missed – and I’ve seen it happen many times with other lifters – Ben is right there, first to tell me what I did wrong so I can learn from it, but also to let me know that it’s ok to have missed. I find it very difficult to look past having failed. He can see the bigger picture and understand, for example, why I hit 195 on squat the other night and not 200, and know that it’s nothing to worry about. He’s even usually got a story about something similar that’s happened to him to help put things in perspective.
A coach also has to prevent injuries, and not just through careful programming. When I first started getting strong I wanted to test my strength all the time (in other words, I did stupid stuff). That’s a fast track to injuries, and a coach has to be able to let a lifter have fun, while preventing them from going overboard. I’m still learning to control these urges, but when I’m out of the gym and tempted to perform some feat of strength I just picture telling Ben – it’s immediately obvious in my mind if it’s a good or bad idea. (That’s not to say after a couple drinks I won’t do it anyway, but it’s not because I don’t know better.)
So I’ll skip the shiny New Year’s resolutions, thank you, and just be glad to have a coach.