While I’ve been recovering from ACL surgery I’ve found I have more opportunity to read. And one author I particularly enjoy is Dan John.
Dan John has been a strength coach in the industry for over thirty years. Some coaches have acknowledged him by saying he has been recording workouts for longer than many in our industry have been alive.
In other words he has a lot of wisdom and a great manner in which he shares the many pearls he has gained over the years. Below are three random pieces of wisdom from Dan John.
i. You Can’t Do It All
Often-times we’ll have a new client come in to get started with some training. And when we discuss their goals they’ll express wanting to rehab their shoulder, get stronger and run a faster 10 k.
And individually each of these goals is possible. And is also possible to work on all three at the same time. The problem becomes one of sacrificing gains in each in order to obtain a result in all areas at the same time.
Let me use an example to explain.
Imagine you are at work. And you have a major project that is due. This should get all of your focus and attention. But rather than block out a set chunk of time you chip away at this project while also checking email, taking calls and any meetings that come up and helping your colleague with their project as well.
At the end of the day, is your project done? Do you feel satisfied with your efforts? Or did you feel pressure that there isn’t as much forward progress as you’d like and you know your boss will probably feel the same way.
So what’s the solution?
Well, as many of us have learned, the hard way, the solution is to focus on one thing at a time. Don’t multi-task. Don’t confuse ourselves with computers which can run several operations at the same time.
Case in point…what happens to the speed of many computers when you have lots of operations open at the same time? They slow down.
As do we. And we make more mistakes. And our efficiency (results) goes in the toilet.
So in order to get the best results in the least amount of time, don’t try and do everything at once. Focus on what matters most. And do that first. Then move on to the next challenge.
ii. Finish (Something)
Do you know someone that struggles with an aspect of their health or fitness? Maybe this may even be yourself. If we’re honest with ourselves we know we are a society that typically doesn’t finish things.
Except shows on Netflix.
Those we can finish in a few nights and then complain about how long it’s taking for the next season to come out.
But seriously, most people don’t see things through. They start a fitness program and quit. They start journalling their nutrition and give up. They buy gear to train and compete in a sporting event which ends up stored in their garage.
The honest truth is that almost any exercise program will work. And eating protein with veggies while drinking water would be ideal for most.
We know what to do. We just don’t see it through.
We quit and give up.
Although we don’t call it that. That would be too hard on our psyches. So instead we say we got busy. Work really picked up. My schedule changed. I took a different job. My kid joined soccer. I was diagnosed a celiac. The new season of my favourite show on Netflix started up.
The reality is that there will always be an ‘excuse’. Not a reason but an excuse. Our health however carries on regardless of what else life throws our way.
So what’s the solution?
Well, the obvious one is to commit to finishing. Let’s start there. Pick a program, course, or routine and commit to seeing it though.
Next, figure out what is manageable for you. Don’t sign up for a two-year, five day a week training program if you haven’t moved from the couch in six months.
You’re a lot more likely to finish both of these, and carry on to something more challenging, than a one or two year commitment.
iii. Get Good at the Basics
Have you heard the expression ‘success leaves clues’? Basically it tells us that we can learn from those before us that have had success. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel but we can find a smoother, easier path if we simply pay attention and ask questions of those that have had success.
And here’s where the disconnect comes.
If you looked at the training program of some of the best athletes, with the best physiques, on the planet you’d be surprised at the simplicity. You’d wonder why the do so few exercises? And where is all the funky, space-age equipment that the best in world must use every day?
It’s actually the opposite. The best of the best are that way because they got good at the basics.
They squat, hinge, push, pull and press better than everyone else. They also move really well and add in some ground work. Think of ground work to be things like Turkish Get Ups, rolling, tumbling and gymnastic floor work.
And in terms of tools they will use bars and dumbbells as well their cousin the kettlebell.
There aren’t any machines. There aren’t a lot of unique benches. There isn’t anything space-aged that you wouldn’t see anywhere else but at NASA.
Case in point…I love to travel (inside joke for my Saturday AM people). And when I travel I always try to connect with a sports team, a training institute or someone out there that I would like to meet.
Two trips in particular stand out. One was to California with some members of the Canadian track and field team. I was helping with the strength and conditioning part of the training and we were literally training out of a barn. There was no heat and minimal light. The roof leaked and we had some bars, plates and dumbbells. That’s it.
More recently, I went over to Europe to connect with some of our athletes playing hockey and competing in bobsleigh & luge. The bobsleigh and luge athletes were competing in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Guess where they got in their lifting? In the lower level of the hotel which was designed as over flow parking. They set up some platforms and some squat stands. That was about it.
Do you see the disconnect here? Often times we think the thing holding us back from the ultimate health and fitness is the facility, the equipment or some new fancy exercise we saw on YouTube. The truth is these are usually distractions keeping you away from the things you should be doing.
Get good. I mean really, really good at the basic lifts and notice how your results and health improve.
And if ever you have the opportunity to see high level Olympic athletes train, pay attention. Because success leaves clues.