I have known James Clear since 2006 as one of my athletes, students, and interns. He has established himself as one of the most impactful writers of his generation in my opinion and I am proud to have seen him grow into the person he is today. I put together some basic lessons I learned from James and wrote about. If you haven't read his stuff I highly suggest it. I am looking forward to sharing more of his work through the news page n the near future.
3 Rs of Habit Change
I can say it enough. The best thing about being a coach was the relationships that I got to develop with the athletes. More important, it was watching them develop from 17-18 year old boys and girls to 21-22 year old grown men and women. This is why I sacrificed so much to stay in the profession as long as I could. Being a College Strength Coach fit my skill set better than any other profession at the time. Just look at the 3 words in the title:
College - working with this age group fit my personality and I sincerely felt I had the skill set to mentor and motivate this age group. Communication through a connection.
Strength - when most aspects of athletics are subjective in nature, strength & conditioning is one field that should eliminate most of it. Even when looking at a stat driven sport like baseball where batting averages are still subjective due to line-ups, batting orders, etc. The weights don't lie and there is no hiding from the iron.
Coach - Coaching is teaching and teaching is the most rewarding thing I can possibly do. People that become teachers because they love kids are in it for the wrong reasons. Being a strength coach because you love lifting weights is probably the fucking dumbest thing you can do. You should probably be a coach because you love to motivate, monitor, and mentor the age group you are working with.
So, as I was saying, one of the best things about being a coach is seeing those young men and women graduate and become better people. Adding 30 pounds to their bench press in minor in comparison. I have former interns and athletes in med school, as strength coaches, and business owners. Several have written excellent articles for our site including Dan Fosselman, Jordan Hougton, Dan Kindell, Nick Showman, and Bryan Christopher. Another former intern and baseball player at Denison is James Clear. James has an excellent website and has written two outstanding eBooks available at www.jamesclear.com. James is an accomplished author and speaker and one of the smartest young men I have ever been around. In one of his e-books, Transform your Habits, He talks about The 3 Rs of Habit Change he adapted from Charles Duhigg's Habit Loop.
1. Reminder: The trigger that initiates the behavior
2. Routine: The behavior itself; the action you take
3. Reward: The benefit you gain from doing the behavior
One of the most important jobs of a strength coach is to change habits of our athletes. Think of the squat technique of your freshman compared to seniors. It is important that coaches provide the framework for the athletes to make specific and complex motor tasks into habit through proper mental and verbal cues, repetition, and various forms of feedback.
The Art Of Repetition
I got a text from one of my good friends and former interns. Those two titles come hand and hand. I have developed some great friendships from the individuals who I have once coached, taught or mentored. The text was from Dan Kindell and he asked, "...do you ever just smile about the people DU weight room has produced?"
The answer is absolutely. The number of former players, interns, and assistants that are head strength coaches, football coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, doctors, etc. is overwhelming. It makes me proud without a doubt.
One of those young men who made a significant impact on me and still does to this day is James Clear. James played baseball at DU and interned for me. Anyone involved in coaching or dealing with people for that matter should check out jamesclear.com. He has a few eBooks and wrote about some of his thoughts on habit change here:
Why Trying to Be Perfect Won’t Help You Achieve Your Goals (And What Will).
James talks about the important of repetition. He gives an example from the book Art & Fear. Here's an excerpt from the book James gives:
"The ceramics teacher announced that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.
Well, grading time came and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work — and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat around theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay."
Bottom line is repetitions are the most important aspect of any skill development and goal attainment. Waiting for the perfect job and disregarding all those internships can actually hurt your chances of reaching your goals.
There is a point where poor repetitions can be a detriment. Incorrect technique, bad experiences, etc, can all add up and hinder performance and skill.
But for the most part, quality repetitions will always trump waiting for the exact opportunity.
You want to write an article but you aren't sure you are experienced enough or you are waiting for the perfect topic? Start writing. Even a weekly article will help develop the skills that will help you become a better writer.
James give the examples of an artist either waiting for the perfect picture or taking 100 photos a day. Over time, the quality of those photos will improve over time. You will have more data to compare to and more experiences to learn from.
If your form on a particular lift is lagging, there is nothing wrong with getting some opinions from other lifters and doing some video analysis. But at some point, you will need to put the improvement plan into action and get the reps in.
3 Layers of Behavior Change
James Clear is becoming one of my favorite authors. And it's not because he was a great player, student-coach, student, and leader when he was at Denison. I am definitely proud of all that James has accomplished, but the real reason is his articles connect with me and people like me.
One of the principles James has created and talks about frequently is his "Layers of Behavior Change."
The model is set up with 3 layers from inside to out. Here is it in a nutshell.
The Way the World Perceives You
The Actions You Take
The Person you Believe You Are
Too many people worry about how they appear to everyone else. Their efforts are spent on how their players, athletes, other coaches, opponents, or random trolls will feel about them. This is a wasted effort because it is out of their control. Now, you CAN change how people perceive you but you can't start with that as the initial intention.
Taking action to take action can be frustrating if there is not a goal in mind. How many people have you seen training just to train. Lifting just to "get strong"? Taking action without direction then lead to program hopping and career changes and just a lack of consistency in your professional and personal life.
Clear gives a recipe for sustained success. He says:
1. Decide what type of person you want to be
2. Prove it to yourself with "small wins"
How goddamn simple is that. Read number one out load. Deciding the person you want to be? How many coaches do I know that have not done that yet. Some don't put the effort in, some just don't know how. Knowing the person you want to be will allow everything else in your life fall in place. Not saying there won't be challenges, but you will be able to address problems more consistency and you will be less likely to waiver.
The second part of the recipe will connect the 2nd and 3rd layers. James gives several examples in his article, but I will give some of my own to relate more to coaching.
Identity: I want to become the type of coach that all my athletes respect and work hard for.
Behavior: Learn one new thing about each athlete personally, identify one way you can help them with technique, and treat every athlete with the utmost respect.
Identity: I want to be the type of lifter who's technique is flawless.
Behavior: Add extra session, warm-up reps, and film my reps to review.
You get the picture. Try thinking about the person you want to be, then figure out which actions will get you to be that person. Perception will take care of itself.
James Clear's Guide to Building a New Habit
As some of you who read my posts already know, James Clear is one of my go-to guys when it comes to tangible, usable motivation. There are sometimes a disconnect between leadership, management, and motivation information as they are sometimes theoretical and idealistic. Ambiguous motivation quotes that are easily transformed into memes are now the rage. Advise that is clearly articulated and can be immediately applied to your professional and personal lives is hard to come by. That's where James Clear comes in.
Now I am biased. James played baseball at Denison and was one of my strength & conditioning interns. James is the epitome of driven and has found his voice and a platform to help others. He is a true professional and to say I am proud of him is an understatement.
Every author has their thing and I guess (besides really making a connectoin with readers) James' thing is Habits. Habits are what shapes our lives. You have heard this one before...
Watch your thoughts for they become your words.
Watch your words for they become your actions.
Watch your actions for they become your habits.
Watch your habits for they become your behavior.
Watch your behavior for it becomes your character.
Watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
Pretty powerful when you think about it. James' "thing" is we don't truly change until we change our habits. His last article (which he adds some really cool visuals, he talks about 5 strategies for building a new habit. I will provide a link to the original article, but as you know, I try to make my own adaptations to coaching. This combined with the original articles I reference will hopefully add to the enrichment. The tips are from James, the text is my adaptation.
1. Start with an incredibly small habit.
To say you are going to watch 2 hours a film a day or make 30 recruiting calls a night are commitments that are easily broken. Make the goals so easy that you will always be able to reach them.
2. Increase your habit in very small ways.
My good friend Anthony Donskov has a sign at his facility that reads "1% better." He always talked about it and I knew what it meant theoretically, but James Clear put it into an equation.
Being 1% better everyday can be represented mathematically like this.
1.01 to the 365th degree = 37.78. Whatever that interprets to (his graphic makes more sense) it means that 1% everyday, adds up.
3. As you build up, break habits into chunks.
Trying to study for the CSCS in a few weeks is obviously not sustainable. What is you did 1 chapter every week? Same principle with improving sports skills or increasing your powerlifting total. Adding 100lbs to your total in a year is feasible, but the goals is really too far away to legitimately see progress. What if it was 10lbs per lift per mesocycle. More sustainable and easier to stay focused on.
4. When you slip, get back on track quickly.
James has a saying. "Never miss twice." Think about how much easier it is to miss a workout after the first miss. And then the second. Good and bad habits follow the same patterns. Miss one day of recruiting calls, or entering workout cards, or mobility work, can all be made up for. Missing any of those 2 days in a row will compound and ultimately hurt your program.
5. Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain.
James provided a really cool graphic that withstands every platform from youth sports to business. He has a chart and on the Y Axis is Sustainability. The X Axis is Effort. Too far on the X means burnout and too far toward the Y means Laziness.
I just saw a quote from Eric Cressy retweeted by Joe Kenn.
"Nobody ever won a Cy Young for hitting 71mph on a radar gun or having a good curveball at age 12. Crazy dads and coaches, please take note."
Young athletes today seem to almost never be in the middle ground between not doing enough and doing too much. Clear calls this the "Zone of Long Term Growth" and we as a society have taken an giant shit on this concept when it comes to PE and Youth sports. We avoid life-long appreciation of physical fitness in PE and force our children into mini-combines full-speed sprints into a wall of unfulfilled dreams, disappointment form parents, and a distain for the games they were forced to play. We are either lazy or burnt out.
How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide
I try not to share articles from other websites too often but I would suggest checking out jamesclear.com. Here is the original article.
Trap Bar Deadlift
* With the drop sets, I should be able to match reps or be +1-2. This is how I know I am not in "good enough shape" for Circa-max workouts.
supersetted with box jumps - 4 sets of 3
Fat Bar Overhead Press
1 Arm DB Row
Dumbbell Bench Press
50s x 40reps (10, 10 DUO, 10 Alt, 10)