I steal things from people, and I do it often. Now before you start to judge me I’m not talking about money or things of material value, although on a college student’s budget the thought has crossed my mind. Instead, I am referring to information and intangible qualities from other people. I take bits of knowledge from various sources and use it to better myself and those around me. In a sense this isn’t stealing after all, but instead borrowing the things that I find valuable and passing them along to others. In some ways isn’t this what the field of strength and conditioning is all about? There are very few novel training concepts or ideas at this point. Every once in awhile, someone comes up with a new exercise or variation of an old methodology, but in reality most of this stuff has been around for years. In my opinion, good coaches are those that have amassed large amounts of knowledge and are able to apply this knowledge to the right situation at the right time and with the right dosage. Let me give you a few examples of what I’m currently in the process of stealing, and some advice for you to become better at acquiring information on your own.
I have found that the intangible qualities other people posses are just as important to learn from as books or seminars. Currently, the most important things I am looking to acquire come from this category. For example, one of guys I train with attacks the barbell with more intensity than I have ever witnessed. He doesn’t just lift weights, he goes to war with them. Every rep is taken with the same intensity as the last, and the same intensity as the next. I have a pretty mellow demeanor, and I want to be able to harness the same amount of aggression and focus for each rep that he does.
Another guy I lift with has an incredible passion for training and improving himself and others. He is always learning, but most impressively seems to grasp the concepts and be able to utilize them with such a rapid turnover. He sees something, understands it, and within days or even hours is implementing it on himself or others with a well founded sense of confidence. It is this self confidence that I seek to instill in myself to a greater degree. What use is knowledge if you don’t have the confidence to share it with others and stand behind what you say.
When it comes to gaining information, my top recommendation is to read everything you can get your hands on. This is one of the greatest pieces of advice I can give when looking to expand your knowledge. Read books, read articles, read journals, and read studies. I don’t care what it is you read but for god’s sake read something. One of the most frustrating things I hear from my peers in the exercise science major is “I don’t like to read”. Aside from getting in the gym and putting in work, reading is probably one of the biggest things you can do to benefit yourself as a coach, trainer, or lifter. If you’re serious about your career and bettering yourself, you will make reading an important habit in your life. Just remember that reading and acquiring all this information is worthless is you don’t learn how to apply it. This leads me to my next point…
Get in the gym. I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you want to train other people you should be training yourself. Not only does it show that you “walk the walk”, but it allows you to be your own guinea pig and experiment with new training ideas and concepts. However, the most important reason for you to get in the gym is the reason why you shouldn’t have to be told this in the first place; You should be passionate about training. If you want to be a coach, athletes will be able to smell out the fact that your aren’t passionate about what you do. If you want to be a personal trainer, how are you going to instill major changes in someone else’s life if you aren’t willing to make them in your own? If you’re not passionate about training, why do you want to be in the industry? If it’s money you're after, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Listen to people. I know what you’re thinking, “I listen to people all the time”. No, don’t just hear them, actually listen. How many times has someone told you something and you smiled and agreed, only to immediately write off what they had to say in the back of your mind. Maybe they weren’t as strong as you, maybe they started the sentence with the words “functional training”, or maybe you didn’t think the information could apply to you. Whatever your excuse, don’t make the mistake of being quick to forget the things that others say. None of us are so smart that we don’t have to listen to the advice or criticism of others. Let other people challenge your opinions and beliefs, it will only benefit you in the long run. Remember, don’t just hear things, listen. For the guys, this will help your relationships as well. For the ladies, you’re welcome.
Unless you had a really messed up childhood, I’m probably the first person to tell you that stealing things is okay. There is nothing wrong with taking information from other sources and using it to better yourself or others. Books are written, seminars are conducted, and podcasts are recorded all with the intent of sharing information. There are no secrets when it comes to lifting weights, and there is no yet to be discovered magical solution to instantly get stronger. The difference between success and complacency is the ability to acquire information, understand it, and then appropriately apply it or manipulate it to meet your goals or those of the people you train. Just remember, taking information from other sources is fine as long as you give credit where credit is due. Stealing is fine, but plagiarism is a great way to lose all your friends.