I have been reading Men’s Health Magazine since the age of 14. It was my first venture in fitness magazines so it became a place of inspiration to me. I know that sounds funny but I was 14 and impressionable. And for whatever reason, this publication captivated me. So 22 years later, I still have a subscription. My one regret, I did not keep every issue. It would have been quite a library of the evolution of the health and fitness industry; like a time capsule of sorts. But the newest issue has a contest… Men’s Health Next Top Trainer.
Contestants can enter in to be the considered the next top trainer, the next contributor to the magazine. Would that be cool? Sure as hell would be. For a kid who actually dreamed of being visible on the pages of the magazine that you grew up reading, that would be a bit of a defining moment. To have your voice “heard” in those pages as an expert in your field would be a milestone to some degree. Let me clarify though. I work in more of an high performance/ academic realm, and when we talk about people who inspire use to be better than we are, the people we look up to are actually people you have never heard of. The “ghosts” of training that the general population would never hear about. It is those that are researching and contributing to the professions that are not on the pages of the popular magazines that I want to be like. But, who would not want 15 minutes of celebrity status, right? I want to be known at the end of my career for my contributions in advancing the knowledge, the processes that coaches use and the ability to place athletes on the podium. When I look back in 30 years (I hope) I want my legacy to be athlete upon athlete that I have had some hand in developing, holding a medal (gold of course) on the podium at world championships and Olympics.
But here is the real reason I am not going to be on the pages of Men’s Health.
- My contributions are long term and the effects of what I do will not be seen for a number of years. Testimonials of what I do are not immediate and are in progress. I am enjoying a role in which I have a hand in developing youth athletes. And we are refining the processes by which we develop and coach a young athlete though the continuum from a club based athlete to a national or professional program. And at the end of all of it, a small percentage of the athletes I work with will go on in the sport they have chosen. In fact, many will leave the sports they are in. It is reality. But I will have been successful if they become life long active adults as well. So how do I measure that? Pretty difficult if I am not doing longitudinal studies.
- As much as I would like a little more spotlights, it is not about me. It is about the athletes. My job is to help athletes that represent the centre I work for, the clubs they compete for and for the country they live in. I have seen relatively unknown athletes become celebrities. That to me instills pride, and at the end, I am creating change that is very small. I work as part of a great team of service providers that are all there to support the athletes that we work with. We are the providers of marginal gains. 5% or less is attributed to what I do for the athletes. For them to medal requires a number of years to accumulate skill and adaptation, the right sequencing going into a competition and the stars to align. I can and do measure my impact of a small percentage change and to some degree, luck or chance but it is over a number of years. Very little that I can show someone now.
- I am a very boring trainer. I am not here to entertain clients or to develop interesting new exercises. I respect and admire those that can and do that, but my job is different. I am here to OODA – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. I test; I observe the gaps in training. I orient or develop the training plan. I make the decision on best practices and then I act or implement the program. It is not done to entertain or set up to be fancy. It is set to produce a given physiological response in a given time. When the adaptation in seen, I repeat the process. And what I measure and find impactful is not interesting to the average individual. It is the knowledge of the human system, a bit of prediction and some luck once again thrown in for good measure.
- I am going to be a life long learner. I am never going to be a good, as I want to be. I am always chasing for answers. When I completed my masters, I realized how little I actually knew. To be honest, most days think I am terrible at what I do. Only once in a while do I have what feels like a break through. And that passes rather quickly. But that is also a product of the environment of which I work in. The people I have surrounded myself with are some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. When asked whom I would like to meet for professional development, I was at a loss because most of the days with my co-workers are “professional development”. I have amazing people who I learn from every day. When that day comes that I have answered all the questions I had, and I think that I am at the top of my game, I am going to walk away from it all. But I know that day will never come. So retirement for me will honestly be just cutting back hours. You have never truly worked a day in your life if you love what you do. I am 36 years old and I have yet to then have a job. I am not where I am today because I am individually good at what I do. I am where I am today because the support team of brilliant co-workers make me better each and every day.
- When I read the entries for the contest, and I see the accomplishments that some of the contestants have, the things that they measure as benchmarks, I don’t really have any of that. I cannot take a picture of the notes, the emails, the pictures and memorabilia on the walls to measure as a measure of success. . To some that is rather “cool” but to me it is the memories and the time spent with those athletes that I see when I look at the walls of my office. This past year was a chance to see a team I had a very minor part with stand and receive the highest accolade they could in their sport. But I didn’t see the gold medals, the flashes of cameras. I saw the years of hard work, the tears of frustration, the countless sacrifices that they endured to become champions. It was funny, I watched the ceremony, and as soon as the last medal was handed out, I went back to my office and began working again. Because I know for my part, I can still do a better job.
As much as I would revel in the ability to be on the pages of an international magazine, that just isn’t me. I am not an individual trainer or coach; I am the product of a great whole. I have embraced the anonymity that I have as a coach and as a professional. And I am fine with that.