This article is going to be somewhat of a departure from my past two. While the others were research oriented and focused on adapting texts to fit a current situation, this will come off like more of a rant of sorts. Maybe it is the fact that I am on break from work and have time on my hands to think of loose-brained commentary, but it may make for an interesting read...or at least kill a few minutes.

A few quotes...

The other day, one of my training partners posted a video of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I'm not exactly a massive Arnold fan, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't watch his movies along with Stallone's or the other action films of the late 80s and 90s when I was young. In this particular video, he was talking about who you want to be in life. While a lot of the video is him talking about those who told him he couldn't do it, there were two quotes that stuck out to me.

The first one that stuck out was, “Don't be afraid to fail.” I know this doesn't sound like anything new, and a lot of people probably know this, but you really can't be successful without having some level of failure at some point. There can't be this fear that everything will come crashing down if, for the first time you do something, you aren't the best at it. A fear of failure can lead to a fear of even attempting something. And without attempting, how can you ever plan to succeed?

The second one, and the one that rings out more is this:

“When you're out their partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard, someone is getting smarter, and someone is winning, just remember that.”

While a lot of people will take that quote for the part about working hard, what I really take from it is the part about getting smarter and winning. I think it is important to look at the all-encompassing aspect of what was said and remember that just hard work isn't enough. You also have to know how to apply that hard work and make it work for the situation you currently are in. Success can't be made from copying and pasting what someone else did. It takes some critical thinking and proper application to build yourself or someone else into a success.

How this applies to training, coaching, and elsewhere...

In my own life, as far as how this relates, it all depends on which of the quotes we are talking about.

“Don't be afraid to fail.”

As for the fear of failure, I had a few different situations where I felt this. One way myself and others in coaching or training experience this is when it is time to actually sit down and design a program for ourselves. Why? Because it is easy to think that what you may be doing doesn't make much sense, or that you aren't as good as those who have more established programs or teams. This really applies to all aspects of preparation, whether it is physical, technical, tactical, or mental. If all physical preparation coaches simply went with the flow, everybody would still be doing Boyd Epley's Husker Power program because this is what the NSCA advised (and by some was erroneously considered the Holy Grail of strength and conditioning). But some people have evolved and changed how athletes have been prepared because at some point coaches thought outside the box. In American football, if people were afraid of their offensive game plans being considered bullshit, we would have never ended up with such things as the no huddle or spread offenses, and everyone would still be playing smash mouth, blow-it-up-the-gut game plans.

Even well-respected Soviet coaches like Verkhoshansky were considered somewhat against the grain. In the Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches, the preface explains that he developed many of the special exercises because other options weren't available in the winter when he was coaching at the Moscow Institute of Aeronautical Engineering. Before this, a lot of people believed that weight training, as Verkhoshansky was utilizing, was counterproductive. Yet, through trial and error due to lack of other means, his special exercises such as depth jumps showed the benefit from these means.

When I first began using information to design training programs, I always felt like I needed to double-check with others. I always felt that I needed someone to validate what I was doing before I would want to use it because I was afraid of being wrong or looking stupid. But now I realize that no one has all the answers and sometimes it takes thinking without the help of others. Most coaches, athletes, or professionals in other sectors have become successful because they developed their own system of doing things.

The other time I really experienced the fear of failure was when I was interning. Like a lot of people just starting out, there is the fear of asking questions because I didn't want to look like I didn't know what I was doing. This is kind of the opposite of what I said just before this, but it is a different situation. When you are in the position to learn from very knowledgeable people in the field you are trying to get into, you should be trying to find out about what you don't understand. Don't just blindly follow what they do because you won't ever learn why it is done and how to actually apply it. The reality here is that you aren't failing anyone by not knowing something, but you are failing yourself by not taking the opportunity to learn and have a greater understanding.

“When you're out their partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard, someone is getting smarter, and someone is winning, just remember that.”

Where I feel that this quote really applies to me is my willingness to learn. (I took it from the line about getting smarter). I don't think most people that read sites like this have a problem with working hard. For the most part, I would wager to say that some people work too hard but perhaps lack direction. Because of this, they can't realistically put together a long-term or even short-term training cycle that will actually produce the desired results. I know because I was also in the same position before.

Just because my name ends in -ski, -sky, -skij, or skiy (yes, it has been spelled all of those ways) and my heritage is from the former Eastern Bloc doesn't mean that I grew up reading manual upon manual of books on physical preparation in the native language. I can read some Cyrillic here and there, and I know some very basic (and I mean basic) conversational Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish, but I am nowhere near proficient (I wouldn't even say adequate), and I can't sit and dissect scientific studies. I am like most people who decide that they want to look to those books for information, and I have bought the translated texts. And, as some may know, these aren't always easy to follow.

My first “ah-ha” moment came when I was living in New Jersey about five years ago. The electricity was off for the thousandth time in my one bedroom shit hole, so I decided that there had never been a better time to read. The book I was having a hard time comprehending at that time was Verkhoshansky's Programming and Organization. I sat on the stoop outside and really dedicated some time to trying to understand what exactly was being discussed. Low and behold, I started to understand a lot of what was being said about progressing from general physical preparation and special physical preparation and how to actually place this in a logical sense during both the short and long term. After this struck me, I kind of felt stupid since what was being said sounded like common sense. Yet, many times this is the best information and is sometimes almost too simple to be true. From this point forward, I decided to start reading as much as I could—not just articles and easily read texts, but also the ones that actually make you think.

This same moment also finally gave me insight as to why some great coaches would always answer a question with more of a theoretical response than, “do this.” The point here is that no one can really tell you how to exactly do anything. It depends on many variables that can't necessarily be considered over an internet forum. To place a simple sets x reps x days a week on any form of training without having more information than a general query is not really warranted. It is better to understand the hard science behind the actual work that you will perform. This way, some level of intelligent thought is being put into the hard work.

All of this has made me want to keep learning the actual “how” and “why” behind training. This is where everything ties into that quote about those who are getting smarter and those who are winning. To the lifters and athletes that I coach or consult with, I want them to actually pick this up so that they can take control of their training. In my own training, I want to actually find ways to better myself, but I want to do it through a lot of my own findings—not merely by plugging-in sets, reps, or exercises. As coaches, athletes, lifters, trainers, and businessmen, once you stop trying to learn and better yourself, you are no longer progressing. The search for knowledge and how to apply it fits in any facet of life. It is merely a matter of figuring the logical application to your particular sector and making it work for you.