I have always been fascinated by how I can work hard and get better at what I do. It’s been like an obsessive-compulsive disorder my whole life. I place a high value on the importance of not just being good at something but seeing how great I can become. Not at everything, but certain things – mostly athletic activities.
That’s what really matters to me and it’s one of the characteristics I admire most in people.
I have always been involved with team sports. I was an elite youth athlete in several sporting disciplines. As a result, I worked with some of the keenest minds in coaching.How do people get better at what they do? How do they become great?Click To Tweet
Looking back now, I realize that I took coaching for granted. I didn’t know any different; I thought it was normal to be surrounded by great coaches. I thought it was normal to have great people around helping me became the man I am today.
Well, I was wrong. After ten years of being a coach myself, I now see that most people over 30 have never had that privilege. Hiring a personal trainer is sometimes the first (and last!) taste of coaching many will experience in their lifetime.
My Athletic Career Was Over Before It Began
By age 21, my athletic career was over. Injuries (back, hamstrings, neck and shoulder) and not enough talent were the main reasons. For the first time in my life there were no coaches or teammates around to support me, and I went off into the big wide world on my own.
I got lost. I had no motivation to train or play sports and I put on a significant amount of weight. My back injury prevented me from living the life I truly wanted, and I just didn’t know which way to turn.
At age 22, I discovered snowboarding which re-ignited my passion for fitness. I taught myself how to board and tried to improve my skills whilst self-managing my back pain (which had its ups and downs I can tell you).
I lost the weight I gained and was able to train consistently doing what I thought best at the time: Applying what I read in magazines and Arnie’s Encyclopaedia of Bodybuilding without consulting anyone. This was a poor man’s attempt at fitness, which ultimately led to further injuries down the line, because I didn’t know what I was doing.
I joined the Metropolitan Police Service at age 24. My injuries, and weight, continued to fluctuate. Unfortunately, the flare-ups led to significant time off work. By age 31, after ten long years of struggling through the pain, the frustration was too much. So, I finally sought help.
After ten long arduous years, I sought professional help. Ten years later. TEN “fricking” years!
It began with a chiropractor, then an osteopath, then a physiotherapist. These were the types of people I was surrounded by for years as a youth athlete. People who were always there when I needed them. People I didn’t have to pay for their services. The visits cost money this time around.
It’s funny how during this ten year period I didn’t once think to seek out the help of a coach or mentor. It just didn’t occur to me. I feel so stupid now. If I knew back then what I know now, I’d have sought help on day one and would have bypassed a decade of misery, and hundreds of dollars in health care.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Another Three Years Of Frustration
Results weren’t instant; recovery is hard work. I left the Police, but my work with specialists in movement, strength, and rehabilitation led me to seek and achieve my personal training qualification and found Strength Matters. I wanted to coach myself and get a pain-free life back. I thought becoming my own specialist was the best option. Things looked good, but only for a while.
It took an epiphany moment to realize something had to change. On a beautiful morning with friends, who barely considered themselves active let alone athletic, we set out to run an easy trail in Melbourne. About a minute in, my lungs couldn’t take it, my legs gave way, and my heart was pounding. I simply couldn’t run. It was embarrassing. I needed to re-evaluate what I was doing with my own training, again.
ANOTHER three years had gone by. I could see history repeating itself, but this time with regard to my fitness level not simply my athleticism. Although my body was nearly pain-free, my athletic results were mediocre at best.
I was, yet again, trying to solve my own training issues without guidance.
The Penny Finally Dropped
I started to believe I was seeing results in my clients because they were athletic, and I just wasn’t. I couldn’t fathom the thought of achieving my previous athletic feats. In my own mind, I was no longer athletic. I felt hopeless and lost but determined to break the cycle. I wanted my pain-free athletic body back.
I began researching what “athleticism” meant. Surprise, surprise there was no clear definition, no universally accepted explanation of what I was seeing in others and wanted desperately to see in myself.
I bounced my ideas off the people around me. Trainers I respected, employees I valued, even old teammates. I compiled a list of what athleticism meant to me and shared it with these people. These later became the Strength Matters Ten Components of Athleticism.I become fitter, faster, stronger. I was more resilient than I had ever been before. Click To Tweet
It was during this period that I inadvertently “outsourced” my own training. My colleagues used me as a guinea pig: I tested out the assessments and every activation sequence, every strength combo. I was, without knowing it, being coached. And results started to happen.
In 12 months, the system that would become Strength Matters identified my weaknesses and flaws. I become fitter, faster, stronger. I was more resilient than I had ever been before. Weaknesses that I had failed to identify or didn’t want to work on were no more. I was applying what was needed, not what I wanted.
My back, neck, and shoulder pain all but disappeared with this new approach. And at age 35, I started competing again in the sport I loved the most – cricket.
A Return To The Sporting Arena
In 2018, I returned to playing competitive cricket for the first time in over a decade. My pain-free athletic body was back! Relatively anyway. It wasn’t smooth sailing, but I loved being back in a competitive team sports environment. I practiced and played weekend matches.
Yet, four matches in something wasn’t quite right. I wasn’t performing as well as I thought I should have been. I thought it was a lack of match practice and time away from the game. I continued to train under my own supervision (see the pattern??) thinking this would do the trick. I was wrong and another couple of matches went by before I was hit with a reminder.
My first ever club coach, Robin, made a comment about the way I was performing. He had known me since I was eleven years old, and suggested I make a small change to my technique.
So, I did. This change was something that hadn’t even occurred to me to think about, but it was profound. It made an immediate impact on my performance. So much so that I asked Robin to work with me one-on-one.
Over the next several weeks, he worked with me and shared his ideas, tips, and observations. I worked hard, and the rewards were huge. I was on the fast-track to success! The work that Robin put into me as a coach carried over into what mattered most – my on-field performance.
After working with Robin, I realized I had let my ego get in the way of my performance. For years I had been stubborn. I kept telling myself, “you can fix this, you can sort this out.” I was so caught up in the emotional side of pain, I had lost sight of what it would take to break free of these shackles.
Here’s what I did next: I called up Josh Kennedy, one of our coaches here at Strength Matters. I told him that I’m not training myself anymore, he’s in charge of what I do from now on.
Without missing a beat, he put me straight to work by assigning our three-layer assessments.
In just two days of coaching, we discovered my performances had dropped. My 2km row and 1-mile run times were both slower by over 30 seconds each – for the first time in over 12 months. And I had put on an extra 4kg in weight since returning to cricket.
I was mortified. This convinced more than ever that having a coach was the right decision to make. Josh is now my full-time coach and I have outsourced all my training needs to him.
It’s been a great experience so far as I no longer have to think about what I’m doing on any given day. I’m addressing my weaknesses and I only focus on what’s asked of me. I finally feel like an athlete again.
Why Coaching Is The Secret To Long-Term Fitness Success
In the world of health, fitness, and sports, coaching isn’t a “nice to have” benefit. To succeed and reach your greatest potential, it is an absolute necessity. It’s the difference between going from good to insanely great.
The fundamental question is this:
How do people get better at what they do? How do they become great?
Traditionally, there are two views about this:
One is the teaching view. You go to school, you study, you practice, you learn, you graduate, you go out into the world. People help you along the way, but you learn to manage your own improvement. That’s how doctors train, that’s how lawyers train, accountants, scientists, the list goes on.
And the thing is, it works.
The second view is the coaching view. In sports, from rookie levels to the pros, players are never on their own. Everybody needs and everybody has a coach. Everyone. Even the greatest players in the world have a coach. Sometimes, more than one.
In my opinion, and experience, the coaching view works better.
How Does This Apply To My Own Health & Fitness Success?
I look back at this 13-year period of my life with anger and keep asking myself “How could I have been this stupid??” And it’s a story I hear time and time again from people all over the world who continue to battle their own health and fitness demons on their own.
It’s these stories that led me to share mine in the hope of inspiring you to act and avoid the same mistakes I made.
I grew up in an environment of coaching yet failed to acknowledge the importance. Knowing what I know now, there’s no way I’m ever going to make that same mistake again.
I almost feel relieved at this revelation. I feel that I can finally get my athletic life back on track – even at the tender age of 36!Personal coaching can take you to a whole other level of awareness. Great coaches are your external eyes and ears. They provide a more accurate picture of your reality.Click To Tweet
Whilst working with Robin on my cricket technique, he said it was “just small things” that we needed to work on. But in health, fitness and sporting performance, it’s the small things that matter the most.
Personal coaching can take you to a whole other level of awareness. Great coaches are your external eyes and ears. They provide a more accurate picture of your reality. They recognize the fundamentals. They break your actions down and help you build them back up again.
Being coached can be painful. Nobody likes being observed, or “judged.” There are times when you don’t want to have to work. There will be periods where you will get worse before you get better.
Without a coach, you won’t recognize the issues that are standing in your way or, if you do, you won’t know how to fix them. And, somewhere along the way, you stop improving.
I now realize that was exactly what had happened to me as an everyday athlete. This is why the “sports” model of coaching in health and fitness is so important.
If you feel frustrated or helpless, hiring the right coach might be the most important step you ever make. It could be the one thing that’s holding you back from making real, meaningful progress and change.
Whatever you decide to do, please don’t wait thirteen years as I did.
It’ll be one of the single, greatest regrets of your life.
Every Journey Begins With A Single Step
If you’ll take that first step, you can achieve anything you want. The Strength Matters System isn’t easy, but it’s guaranteed to work if you follow it. And we’re here to help every step of the way. But it’s up to you to get started. Are you ready?