Training and Coaching: Getting It Done (Part 2)

TAGS: Training & Coaching: Getting It Done, sacrifices, personal and professional balance, Metal Pro Squatter, continuing education, discipline, David Adamson, competition, time management, gear

In my previous article, I discussed the importance of strength coaches getting under the bar to train. As with any profession, it is important for a coach to continue his education throughout his career. However, while training is an integral part of the education of a strength coach, it is only a part of the education a coach must keep up with. For instance, a coach must also keep up with his team responsibilities, and this may include the responsibilities for two to six teams. (However, if football is one of those teams, then there could be an additional four groups a coach must work with each day). Beyond education and team responsibilities, a coach is also responsible for a number of administrative duties including purchasing; maintaining the equipment; working with interns; and meeting with coaches, trainers, and administrators.

So, the question is, "how does a strength coach balance training with the rest of his job responsibilities?" An A.D. probably isn’t going to take too kindly to a coach skipping a meeting so that he can get his training in. Trust me, he won’t understand the continuing education argument. Below, I will discuss how to keep up with your training while also balancing coaching responsibilities and life. Please note that this article is written from the perspective of a powerlifter and a Division I strength coach. I cannot give advice to those in high school or private settings as I have not worked in those positions.

It’s Not Optimal

First off, it is important for a coach to understand that training will not be optimal. You have to make it work. Just because you work in a weight room doesn’t mean you have an unlimited amount of time to train. If you are trying to train twice a day for an hour and a half each session—while also eating six balanced meals evenly spaced throughout the day (including pre- and post-workout meals for both sessions), then you are living in a world I can’t comprehend.

As a lifter, you must be willing to make adjustments to your training. There will be times when you will have to cut out a few exercises or even move the entire workout to the next day. This is the reality of working a hectic and sometimes unpredictable schedule. In turn, due to this, competing at a high level will be difficult for most.

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Be Willing to Work Long or Different Hours

Any strength coach can attest to spending what seems like countless hours in the weight room. Yet, if training is a priority, then these hours may need to be extended. Most athletes will be in class from around 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 or 2:00 p.m., so this tends to be the best time to get other work done (such as programming, meetings, equipment maintenance, etc.). However, this is also the best time to train since you won’t be worn down from the long day yet. For me, I would much rather do my programming in the late evening or on the weekends than train at that time. A heavy squat workout at 7:00 p.m. after being at work since 5:00 a.m. isn’t going to go well. Sitting at a computer working on programs, on the other hand, is quite manageable at this time.

Cut Social Activities

Trying to balance a 60- to 80-hour work week with a demanding training regimen and an extensive social life will most likely not work well. Something has to give, and if you insist on doing all three, then your training will suffer. The need to recover and the lack of much-needed sleep after each hard weekend will take its toll on both coaching and training. And with every birthday, recovery becomes more and more difficult. I’ve heard many coaches complain that they don’t have enough time or are too tired to train, yet those same coaches never miss spending three to four hours at the club every Friday and Saturday night. If you are serious about making progress in your training, then the only logical activity to give up is your social life. Having a huge social life really isn’t as important as everyone seems to think (but I’m not exactly a social butterfly, so this is easy for me).

Take Advantage of Weekends

By the time I finish work on a Friday, I am physically and emotionally exhausted. I don’t want to do anything or see anyone on Saturday, which means no training and no having fun. This is my day of rest and will be the only night of the week I get eight hours of sleep. For the most part, I also attempt to refrain from any work activities (with the exception of game days during the fall). Sunday, on the other hand, may be my busiest day of the week. Training, programming, working around the house, and football workouts (during the fall) all take place on Sunday. Typically I will start all of this around 8:00 or 9:00 a.m., finish around 11:00 p.m. or midnight, and go to bed around 1:00 a.m. Taking advantage of the weekend, for me, means I recover on Saturday and I get stuff done on Sunday.

Split Training Sessions & Training Late

I use to have the mentality that all of my training would get done in one session, and anything that didn’t get done wouldn’t get done. However, that’s not always possible in this profession. Sometimes all I have time for is one or two exercises, and this isn’t going to get me to where I want to be as a powerlifter. Therefore, when this happens, I will try to get in my assistance work in the evening before I go home.

In the event that I can’t get any training done during the day, I have to make a decision as to whether it would be better to train that night before going home or to train the next day. If it’s a Monday and I miss a squat session, then I will push it back to Tuesday and cut my cardiac development work. Squatting at 8:00 p.m. won’t go well. If it’s a bench workout on Wednesday, then I will try to do it in the evening (unless all of my spotters have gone home). In this case, it may have to be pushed to Thursday. If I can’t deadlift on Friday, then I will stay late and get it in before going home. Remember, I do not train on Saturday, and there are almost no exceptions to this. If I do have to train late, then much of my assistance work may get cut since I do have to wake up early and it probably won’t be productive at 9:00 p.m. anyway.

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Training & Work vs. Family

As far as a home life, I am fortunate to have a wife who seems to understand how important my training is. I will actually get more flak for staying late to do work than I will for training. However, I do know that some are not as lucky as this, so my best advice is to do what’s right. Not every husband or wife is going to understand why you have to spend so much time away. Give them the respect they deserve and know when to be home and when to devote time to your family. Not being there could make for a rough marriage. Coaches with families may not be wise to follow my lead when it comes to my personal time commitments and may need to find a way to have more balance. However, if you are single, then this advice should work well.

Alcohol

Beer, wings, and pizza may be many strength coaches' three favorite food groups; however, they don’t really fit the recovery demands of a coach who takes his training seriously. The time and emotional commitment that must be made to coaching, combined with the commitment that must be made to training, will take its toll on the body. You may be able to get away with this at 25 years old, but at 35, it’s a different story. Still, even at 25, progress would likely be better without the alcohol. The less you recover, the more difficult training becomes and the more progress ceases and the chance of injury increases. I’ve never been one to go overboard with drinking, but I do enjoy a good beer or whiskey. This is like an expensive hobby that I can’t afford. At times when I’m training hard, I keep alcohol to an extreme minimum. In turn, during the last twelve to fifteen weeks before a meet, I will not consume one drop of alcohol. Training is just too important to sacrifice it for a little bit of temporary pleasure.

Competition & Work

Competing presents another set of unique circumstances for the college strength coach. The teams you work with will dictate when you can compete, and your location will dictate which meets you can attend. Working in El Paso, Texas, the nearest town with powerlifting competitions is four hours north. However, these meets only occur at times when I cannot get away from my teams. For the most part, the only places that hold meets within driving distance and during times when I can get away from work are at least ten hours away. With this great of a distance, I do not want to spend ten hours in the car on Friday and then compete on Saturday. Therefore, I will drive on Thursday, relax on Friday, compete on Saturday, and drive home on Sunday. So, since I need four days to do a competition, the only times I can compete are December and May. This may not be everyone’s reality, but my point is that you have to find a way to make it work. The possibility is there if you don’t limit your options.

Taking time off from work multiple times a year may also not be an option. Besides the fact that your boss may not let you take off this much time, running off to every possible meet doesn’t look good to sport coaches or administrators—and you want these people on your side, trust me. Only competing once or twice a year is probably the best option for a strength coach.

Competition & Training

As a meet nears, workouts will last longer. For all lifters, there will be more warmup sets to get up to your near-competition weights, and more rest will be needed between heavy sets. For geared lifters, more time is needed for adjusting suits and shirts between sets. Therefore, to make this work, it is imperative to find the time to get in the main exercise without interruptions and at times when spotters are available. This may mean that training days will need to be changed to make these accommodations. Also keep in mind what your spotters/handlers may be doing when you are trying to train. If they are also coaches, then they may have their own work responsibilities and will not be able to tend to your every need. There is nothing more upsetting than being halfway through your work sets while using the shirt, and the person helping with your shirt and lift-offs must leave to go to a meeting.

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Finances & Gear

While some strength coaches make decent money, there are many more who are on tight budgets. This means that buying a new shirt every time one comes out will most likely not be an option. While working in the latest gear is fun, it doesn’t really fit into most coaches' budgets. In turn, unless you are competing at a high level, having multiple shirts and suits or the most current gear on the market is not necessary. I have a Metal Pro Squatter that I bought in 2006 and a bench shirt that I bought in 2009—and I am still hitting PRs. Instead of relying on the gear to hit PRs, why not try getting stronger?

Training & Work vs. Education

Beyond getting under the bar, a coach must keep up with his book knowledge. And by this I mean not only books, but also articles, journals, videos, and conferences. It is important to have a deep knowledge of both practical and scientific information. Keeping up with your book knowledge will help you with both the training of your athletes and with your own training. In the middle of an 80-hour work week, the last thing you will want to do when you get home at night is pick up a book. ( And if you have a family, then it might not even be possible to concentrate on a book with a wife and kids running around). However, I try to keep up with my book knowledge every day. Even if I only have fifteen minutes, I will get on elitefts.net to check out the new articles and go through the Q&A. A great time to get reading done is in the restroom. For an extended stay, I almost always take an article with me, or I pull up an e-book or video on my phone. I save longer and more technical books for those times of the year when my athletes are out of town and I have more time, such as the semester break, spring break, or when classes end in May. When travelling to football games, conferences, or meets, you can bet that I’ll have a book with me to read on the plane or in my hotel room.

Make Training a Priority

If training is a priority, and it should be, then you will find a way to get it done. One of the better pieces of advice I’ve received over the years came from Ellyn Holle, a girl with whom I went to school with in undergrad. She said that the common statement, "I don’t have enough time" was not true and that if it’s important enough to you, then you’ll make time. While you may not have enough time to do everything, you always have the time do what’s important to you. It’s just a matter of deciding what your priorities are and then making sacrifices to make those priorities happen.

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