Home Posts tagged "Made To Stick"

Preparing for the Opportunity of Your Lifetime – Part 2

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

In Summary:

• 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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5 Great Analogies for Training Baseball Players

In their outstanding book, Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath emphasize that a new idea will always be more readily accepted if it is incorporated into an individual’s existing schema. In an example I've used before here at EricCressey.com, if I give you the letters TICDGFASOH and then ask you to list all the letters I included to me 20 minutes later without writing them down, most of you won’t be able to accomplish the task correctly.

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However, if I reordered those letters as CATDOGFISH, you’d accomplish the task easily. You know the words DOG, CAT, and FISH – so it would fit into your existing schema. I work to apply this same logic to how I educate my baseball players. With that in mind, here are five analogies I like to use as part of the long-term baseball development process.

1. Arm care is just like making bank deposits and withdrawals.

To me, every action you make with your arm either takes you closer to or further away from arm health.  Every time you do your arm care drills, get in a strength training session, do some soft tissue work, or get your arm stretched out (when appropriate), you're making a deposit in your bank account. Each time you make a throw - especially off a mound - you're making a withdrawal. If withdrawals exceed deposits over the course of a year, you're likely going to go bankrupt (get injured).

2. Bad scapular positioning or scapulohumeral rhythm is like starting behind the starting line - or you're backpedaling when the starting gun fires.

I've discussed the importance of scapular positioning and scapulohumeral rhythmic for throwers in the past - especially in our new resource, Functional Stability Training of the Upper Body. Here's a video to bring you up to speed:

In this video, I talk about "ball and socket congruency." In other words, the ball can't ride up, and the socket can't stay too low. I like to refer to neutral scapular resting position as the starting line. If you sit in too much downward rotation, you're effectively setting up behind the starting line. In the photo below, the black line is where the medial border of his scapula should be at rest, and the red line is where it actually is.

ScapularDownwardRotation

Other folks may actually start in the correct position, but begin what should be upward rotation with an aberrant movement - such as a "yank" toward the midline (rhomboid dominance) or into scapular depression (lat dominance). These are the exact opposites of what you want to occur - which is upward rotation, or running toward the finish line.

3. Doing arm care drills with a faulty core recruitment pattern is like shooting a cannon from a canoe.

I always talk about how the spine and rib cage "deliver" the shoulder blade. You can do all the arm care drills in the world, but if you don't know how to keep a stable core in place, you'll never really put your shoulder girdle (or elbow, for that matter) in an ideal position to throw - and you certainly won't effectively transfer force from your lower body. Here's what a lot of athletes look like with their overhead reaching pattern:

Instead of getting good shoulder flexion and scapular upward rotation, they just go into lumbar (lower back) extension. When you see an aberrant movement pattern like this, you realize that it's no surprise that some of the same underlying movement inefficiencies can contribute to upper extremity, core, and lower extremity injuries alike. It's really just a matter of where an athlete breaks down first.

4. Committing to a college really early is like proposing to the first girl you ever date - and then letting her "shop around" for other dudes while you stay faithful.

This observation has less to do with the actual training process, but more to do with long-term management of an athlete. Why in the world does a freshman in high school need to be verbally committing to a college - especially when he can't sign on the dotted line to officially commit until his senior year? If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that we always look back on what we did 2-3 years earlier and laugh, as we realize how misdirected we were. I do it at age 33, and you can just imagine how much faster an impressionable teenage athlete can acquire new views on the world.

It's fine to take your time and see what's out there - and any coach that pressures a freshman or sophomore to commit so young is probably not a person for whom you'd like to play. And, 99% of the time, that offer is still going to be on the table 6-18 months down the road in spite of the false deadlines they throw on you.

Finally, as an "in the know" friend reminded me the other day, don't forget that even if you verbally commit to a school, they're still out there trying to "date" other athletes. If they can find someone who they think is a better prospect than you are, they'll drop you like yesterday's newspaper. The ethical coaches don't do this, but it is nonetheless still a sad part of college sports. With that in mind, it's okay to go on "dates" with different schools and take your time in finding the one that's right for you.

Side note: if you're looking to be a more informed consumer with respect to the college recruiting process, give this a read: 25 Questions to Ask During the College Recruiting Process.

5. Stretching a loose shoulder is like picking a scab; it feels good for a bit, but only makes things uglier over the long haul.

There are a lot of hypermobile (lose-jointed) pitchers out there. It's often a big part of what makes them successful, but it comes at a cost: increased injury risk, if they don't stay on top of their stability training.

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What they often lose sight of, though, is the fact that it's just as important to avoid creating instability as it is to train for stability. In other words, continually stretching a hypermobile joint is likely even worse than just leaving out your strength work. The former reduces passive stability, whereas the latter just doesn't improve active stability.

The problem is that a lot of loose-jointed players feel "tight" - and it's usually because they lay down trigger points to make up for their lack of stability. The stretching feels good in the short term, but the trigger point comes back stronger and stronger each time - until you're eventually dealing with a torn anterior (shoulder) capsule or ulnar collateral ligament. Eventually, reducing the passive stability leads to a pathology - just like picking that scab eventually leads to an infection or scar.

Want to learn more about whether or not you're hypermobile? Check out my article, Assessments You Might Be Overlooking: Installment 1.

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3 Strategies to Avoid Getting Too Comfortable with Your Strength and Conditioning Programs

In the past, I’ve written about how fond I am of the writing of Chip and Dan Heath, brothers who’ve written best sellers like Made to Stick and Switch. These books have provided insights about why certain ideas are accepted while others are rejected, and outlined strategies to implement paradigm shifts effectively. Effectively, they analyze how people behave and process information in order to help readers make effect positive changes in business and in life. On my recent vacation, I read their newest release, Decisive, which discusses all the factors that affect whether we make good or bad decisions. I stumbled upon a gem in this great read that I think applies heavily to folks’ fitness programs.

In reference to a meta-analysis of the psychology literature, the Heaths write: “In reviewing more than 91 studies of over 8,000 participants, the researchers concluded that we are more than twice as likely to favor confirming information than dis-confirming information.” Furthermore, the brothers note, “The confirmation bias also increased when people had previously invested a lot of time or effort in a given issue.”

Think about how this applies to the fitness community. There are a lot of folks who go to the gym and do what they’ve always done because it’s comfortable. It’s much easier to just go and do an exercise that you already know than it is to have to learn something new. And, beyond just the comfort factor, being willing to adopt new ways also means that you may have to accept that your old ways weren’t up to snuff – and that can be a bitter pill to swallow when it means thousands of hours at the gym may have been used inefficiently.

People want to confirm their awesomeness, not refute it.

One of my most important roles as a strength and conditioning coach is to help people embrace change when it comes to exercise. This generally means that I make a living “dis-confirming” what others are doing in their own exercise programs; otherwise, I wouldn’t be needed.

While there are certainly exceptions to the rule (in powerlifting, for instance, you want to be as efficient and consistent as possible with the three main lifts), change means creating a disturbance that least leads to greater fitness adaptation. It may be a richer proprioceptive environment to better prepare someone for life's demands, a different metabolic conditioning stress to drop body fat, an exercise variation to help someone avoid an overuse injury, or a new warm-up to improve movement quality on the way to achieving a goal.

Change must, however, be implemented differently for each individual. Some folks are ready to jump right into the deep end, and others are more reluctant and need to be eased into adjustments. Some folks may really need a complete program overhaul, while others might just need some tinkering.

How, then, do you know where you stand without someone like me there to help you? I’d ask yourself these five questions to determine if you’re getting too comfortable:

1. In the past four months, have you been moving toward your goals or further away from them?

2. What have you sacrificed to make this progress? This may be time, energy, money, or allowing a different fitness quality to detrain (e.g., losing metabolic conditioning as you put on muscle mass and strength). Are you comfortable with this sacrifice?

3. Are you motivated to get to the gym when the time comes to train?

4. Have you remained healthy during the program, or does it hurt to do certain exercises?

5. Can you do the things you want to do in life? Can you walk up the stairs without getting out of breath? Are you capable of putting your own luggage in the overhead compartment on a plane? Does it bother you that you can’t fit into some of your clothes? Will you make up an excuse to not play catch with your son because your shoulder is killing you?

If any of these questions left a bad taste in your mouth, then you need to evaluate how you can better structure your workout routines. And, in order to do so, you need an unbiased perspective, because we’re all wired to simply agree with ourselves.

1. Get a training partner. – Training partners aren’t just about offering spots, carpools, or accountability to show up for all your training sessions; they’re also there to give you brutal honesty when you need it. Find someone who can tell you when you’re spinning your wheels or being an idiot.

2. Outsource your training. – It might mean you buy a book or DVD and follow the recommended program or hire someone to work with you in person. At CP, our staff members write programs for each other and we all train together so that we can all work toward our individual goals with impartial feedback along the way. Interestingly, we have many fitness professionals who have looked to us for their own training. We have several clients who are personal trainers and strength coaches who appreciate outsourcing things to us in the same way that their clients do to them. Additionally, Show and Go has been very popular with fitness professionals not only because they can look at how the programs are structured, but also follow the program to shake up their own workout routines.

3. Think up alternatives. – The Heath brothers talk extensively about how the best way to come to a good decision is to realize that there is an “And” and not just an “Or.” In other words, not all questions are “yes/no” or “A/B” in nature – even if we try to make them that way. It’s important to brainstorm and investigate alternative solutions that could work best.

As an example, think of a lifter whose shoulder hurts and thinks he needs to stop training until it’s healthy. He might wonder, “Should I train through pain or stop?” The alternative answer is to train around pain, finding exercises that help one maintain a training effect without exacerbating the injury. I know: it sounds logical to assume one would pursue this third option, but you’d be amazed at how many people shut it down altogether. They avoid comprehensive decision-making processes, and you can imagine how this may apply to decisions they encounter in other aspects of their lives.

There are surely many other ways to determine whether you’re getting too comfortable and, if so, what to do about it. However, these were a few ideas to get the ball rolling and make you consider if you’re really heading in the right direction with your training.

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2 Key Strategies for Creating Effective Strength and Conditioning Programs

One of the questions I'm asked the most frequently is "How did you learn how to write strength and conditioning programs?" Unfortunately, while it's a tremendously common question posed to me, I haven't yet determined a quick and easy response that would work for everyone.  While this may make it seem like I haven't learned anything in this regard, the truth is that I get more and more effective and efficient with creating programs every single day.  What's my secret?  Well, I actually have two of them.

1. I NEVER reinvent the wheel. Our philosophies are constantly evolving, and I'm always working to integrate new concepts into our programming to improve outcomes for our clients.  These ideas may come from things I've read, seminars I've attended, other programs I've observed, or - most importantly - feedback our athletes have given us.  I absolutely, positively, NEVER overhaul a program, though.  Why? If you change everything, you learn nothing - because you can never appreciate what modification it was that worked (or didn't work). 2. I build on previous successes, rather than starting from scratch with every new client. I absolutely loved the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip and Dan Heath.  I read this book back in early 2007, and I still refer back to it all the time.

One of the key points that the Heaths make in this book is that an idea will always be more readily accepted if it is incorporated into an individual's existing schema.  As an example, if I give you the letters TICDGFASOH and then ask you to list all the letters I included to me 20 minutes later without writing them down, most of you won't be able to accomplish the task correctly.

However, if I reordered those letters as CATDOGFISH, you'd accomplish the task easily.  You know the words DOG, CAT, and FISH - so it would fit into your existing schema.  This applies to strength and conditioning programs, too.

When I attend a seminar, whenever a new technique is introduced, I try to immediately apply it in my notes and in my brain to an existing client of mine.  How can that subtle modification make this individual's program better?

And, when I evaluate a client for the first time, I ask myself how this client is similar to a previous client of mine.  I'll look back to that old client's program to see what we used to get results - and then I'll tinker accordingly based in the new client's more specific individual needs.  I absolutely NEVER open up a blank Microsoft Excel template and write something from scratch, as it's always easiest to tinker with what's worked in the past.

What does this mean for the up-and-coming strength and conditioning program author?

Get out to as many seminars as possible.  Visit other coaches and observe their programs.  Read books and watch DVDs to learn about how others incorporate different strategies and strength exercises in their weight training programs.  Your goal is to expand your existing schema as much as possible and - in the beginning - create the strength and conditioning programs that will end up becoming the foundation for all future programs.  After the first few months, you are simply "tinkering," not overhauling.  Never reinvent the wheel, and always build on previous successes.

Want to see how a comprehensive program is set up? Check out Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

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Stuff You Should Read: 3/2/10

Here are a few recommendations for this week: East Coast Muscle - Recently, Men's Health Fitness Editor Adam Bornstein traveled all along the East Coast to check out several training facilities - one of which was Cressey Performance.  This blog post details his experiences and features a picture of one dead sexy guy named Cressey lifting heavy stuff. Five Resistance Training Myths in the Running World - This is one of my most popular articles of all-time, and with the number of crazy endurance folks getting ready for the Boston Marathon in 10-degree weather, it seemed like a fitting time to bring this piece to the forefront once again. Made to Stick - Someone mentioned this in conversation the other day, and it reminded me that it was one of my favorite books of the past five years.  It's a great read - whether you're a teacher, trainer, parent, or any of a number of other things!

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Made To Stick

UK Trip Follow-up I’m back in the US after a great trip to the UK.  A huge thanks go out to Dave Fleming and Nick Grantham for all their hard work in organizing the weekend event in Birmingham and to playing such great hosts to me over the course of my visit.  Likewise, I want to extend my thanks to Scott White and Daniele Selmi for pulling together an outstanding seminar in Oxford, showing me around town, and all the hospitality.  And, above all, I want to thank everyone who came out to the seminars.  I really appreciate your continued support and hope that you enjoyed the seminar as much as I enjoyed interacting with you. I look forward to visiting again soon! Keep an eye out for some pictures and more thoughts on the trip as soon as I’m caught up on work and sleep. All Kinds of Writing It's been a wild week in terms of publications for me.  You can check out an article I had published locally (Required Reading for Parents of Young Athletes), nationally (Men's Fitness May Issue - on newsstands April 1), and on the internet (Seven Simple Analogies).  Next week, I'll be publishing in different solar systems, and in early May, I'll be going back in time to chisel an article into the wall of a cave in Ancient Egypt... A Great Read One of the few perks of long flights is that they give you a chance to get a ton of reading done.  On this trip, I read Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip and Dan Heath.  My good friend Joel Marion recommended the book to me, and he was right on the money; there is a tremendous amount of useful information in there for people in a wide variety of professions.  It doesn't have anything to do with fitness, but who cares?  You'll never get dumber from reading a great book full of excellent insights.  Check it out:  Made to Stick. It's hard to believe that we made it to 50 newsletters, huh?  There are plenty more to come, so stay tuned! All the Best, EC
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