Today, I've got the second half of an article from former Cressey Sports Performance, Brooks Braga. In this article, Brooks talks about how he prepared himself for the internship with us, but you'll find that his suggestions can help you toward success in any endeavor, fitness or not. In case you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1. -EC
In Part 1, I kicked things off with some reflections on how I used Dale Carnegie and Keith Ferrazzi's advice to build relationships and improve the quality of my interaction with clients. Here, in part 2, I'll discuss how two other authors, Chip and Dan Heath, impacted everything from my study habits to how I coached. Let's get back to the tips...
1. Make use of time in the car and daily activities!
In late December of 2013, as I was preparing to leave Milwaukee for Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA, I punched in the starting and destination points on Google Maps, almost afraid to look at what came up.
17+ hours! How was I going to pass the time? I still had one of my three yearly-allotted good ideas in the bank, so I figured I’d use it since we were so close to 2014.
As I type this, Eric’s YouTube channel has 454 YouTube videos. He has been incredibly generous on YouTube, giving out great content for free on a weekly basis that his followers can take advantage of. Now, for the good idea: take advantage of this one, as my good ideas are like Halley’s comet – they come around once every 75 years or so.
I had the idea to use a YouTube-to-mp3 converter to convert many of Eric’s YouTube videos into mp3 audio files. I was then able to fill 3 CDs worth of incredibly valuable material to listen to on my 17-hour drive to Massachusetts. There was a lot of rewinding, but I got through them multiple times. I’m convinced that listening to Eric and Greg Robins go over exercise tips and coaching cues is what allowed me to be thrown into the fire on my first day and survive during the busiest time of year at CSP.
Don’t have a 17-hour drive to your new job or internship? Consider using this method to maximize your time to and from work in the car. I had a 30-minute drive each day to CSP. That’s an hour of valuable time right there. You can also utilize time spent cooking, cleaning, and a lot more. Play YouTube interviews of the staff members if they exist, listen to videos or podcasts that will help you transition into your role, or anything else you can think of while you do daily mindless activities that eat up time.
2. Prioritize your studies.
As I was studying for a final exam in December, I had an epiphany of sorts.
What was more likely to contribute to me getting where I wanted to be in my career – spending hours studying for a class with a textbook from 1999 or using that time to study material related to my internship at one of the most well-known and connected gyms in the world?
It got me thinking about my educational priorities. As far as my career was concerned, whether or not I got an A or A- in this class was so miniscule compared to the kind of impression I made during my internship.
I'm not saying you should “dog it” in class or “settle” for mediocre grades, but rather, I’m encouraging you to ask yourself the following questions:
a. What are my goals?
b. What can I do today to work towards achieving these goals?
c. Is there something I could be doing right now that is more valuable to my long-term success than what I’m currently doing?
It will be different for you than the next person, so there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach.
3. Tweak your environment.
If you’re anything like me, you get sidetracked easily on the computer. Consider tweaking your environment. This is a technique discussed in Switch, a fantastic book by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.
For example, I regularly use the program “Self Control,” which lets me add whatever websites give me the most problems to a “block list” for a period of time that I choose. You’re unable to access these pages for the time being, and it’s actually a really great feeling. This would be “tweaking the environment.”
In my personal experience, the itchiness to check the latest news or sports scores nearly vanishes as soon as I run “Self Control.” It’s only available for Mac users, but plenty of similar programs exist.
4. Highlight exercises/ideas on which you need to spend more time.
I was pretty stunned when Pete Dupuis, the business director at CSP, sent me the “CSP Exercise Video Database,” a mega Excel-file-of-death with 600+ exercises, all of which I was expected to be able to coach on day 1. I thought I was doomed.
In full-blown panic mode, I decided to make a “notes” column and filled the cells of exercises I knew but thought I should come back to in yellow and did the same for the exercises I had no clue about, this time in orange. Highlighting these exercises really helped me figure out what I needed to work on and ensured I spent my time efficiently. It’s normal to get “stumped” here and there, but having a system to overcome these roadblocks makes it all part of the learning process.
Highlight ideas, themes, and exercises that you know you need to get better at when you come across them. It will help you allocate your time accordingly in the future.
5. Shrink the change.
You might think getting through 600 exercise demonstration videos, reading required material, etc., is a tall task when preparing for your internship, new job, or project. Another great technique from Switch is “shrink the change,” or breaking up large tasks into smaller ones so they don’t seem so daunting.
Does watching 25 short, 15-second videos a day still seem so impossible? If you accomplished this, you’d have it done in less than three weeks.
This also works great for reading. I set goals for reading 10 pages of two different books each night. It’s pretty cool being done with two books every three weeks! The best part is that you usually don’t want to stop after getting through 25 videos or 10 pages, either. The hardest part is just getting started.
Here are a few strategies to ensure a smooth transition into your internship or new job…
6. Talk in simple terms and utilize schemas.
Newsflash: most of your clients won’t understand what “lumbar extension,” “humeral anterior glide,” or “posterior pelvic tilt” mean.
I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but really try to make it point of emphasis to show the client what you’re looking for instead of using big fancy words that will leave their head spinning.
Another fantastic method is tapping into the client’s existing “schemas,” a concept talked about in another one of Chip and Dan Heath’s great books, Made To Stick.
To illustrate an example, most clients have no issue posteriorly tilting the pelvis when you ask them to flatten out their lower back against the wall on a Back-to-wall shoulder flexion exercise.
If you need to cue them into posterior pelvic tilt on an exercise without the benefit of wall feedback, say something along the lines of, “Remember how you flattened your lower back on the wall for the back-to-wall shoulder Flexion drill? Let’s get in that position again.”
This would be taking advantage of the client’s pre-existing “schema” of how to posteriorly tilt the pelvis to bring the lumbar spine into an ideal position.
7. Ask questions.
It can be intimidating being around people who know so much more than you on a daily basis, but try to take advantage of all the knowledge and experience walking around while you can.
One of the first things Tony Gentilcore said at intern orientation was “Don’t be afraid to ask questions!” This is really how you grow as a trainer. If something doesn’t make sense, ask. If you’re working with a client and you can’t remember what a certain exercise is, ask! No one expects you to be perfect! The people around you will probably be glad to help, too – regardless of the environment in which you work.
8. Write down a few trigger words of what you learn throughout the day.
Here’s a little tip I picked up from Alwyn Cosgrove, but with an added twist. Alwyn is a big believer in keeping a daily journal as you get your start in the industry. He advocates writing a paragraph each day detailing what worked with clients and what didn’t work. After a few months, you’ll know what your clients respond to and start developing your training philosophy.
The sheer magnitude of what I learned on a daily basis at Cressey Sports Performance required a little more, though. If I waited until each night to write down my experiences from the day, I surely would have forgotten a lot of what I learned.
I decided to keep a notebook off to the side at CSP and would bring it with me on break, writing down trigger words of what I had learned that day to jog my memory for later that night. If we were going through a quieter period of the day and I wasn’t needed at that second, I would repeat the process.
9. Don’t be late, ever.
There’s no better way to make a poor impression than by being routinely late.
There’s an easy way to prevent this – if you’re able, plan on getting your own training in before the gym opens for clients. This way, even if you’re running a little behind, it will only affect your workout, not your job duties or clients.
• Multitask whenever possible – YouTube to mp3!
• Prioritize your studies – what is most important?
• Tweak you environment for productivity.
• Highlight things you come across that you need to improve upon.
• Shrink the change – make big tasks seem less daunting to get started.
• Talk in simple terms when instructing clients and utilize “schemas.”
• Ask questions.
• Write down thoughts throughout the day for retaining information.
• Don’t ever be late.
That wraps up this two-part article, and I hope you enjoyed it! I highly suggest you check out the Heath brothers’ Amazon page (note from EC: Decisive is also an outstanding book. Buy the three-book package; you won't regret it.). As with Part 1, feel free to comment with your thoughts or strategies you’ve used that I didn’t cover.
About the Author
Brooks Braga (@BrooksBraga) is the Head Trainer of Athlete Performance Oconomowoc, a sports performance facility in the Greater Milwaukee area, where he works with everyone from professional and youth athletes to general population clients. Between playing college baseball and a brief stint in professional baseball, he completed an internship at Cressey Sports Performance. He operates BrooksBraga.com, where you can subscribe to his free newsletter and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
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