Yesterday evening I attended my college graduation rehearsal. I am still not sure if it was mandatory or not, but I figured graduating was more important than potentially being penalized because I wanted to skip the thing.
It was quite the waste of time and rather unimportant.
It was a lot of basic stuff that just about everyone who has graduated from high school has heard before. I understand wanting an event to be organized, but in my opinion there are somethings that we just don't need to say, especially to a room of college graduates because supposedly our expensive piece of paper means we are smart however I didn't get that feeling from the meeting last night. I mean I would think someone who made it through 4 years of college and figure out how to stand up, pose for a photo, walk across a stage, and shake a couple of hands, but hey that's just me.
Anyways I did get the opportunity to sit next to my step-sister who is also graduating this coming Saturday with me. She got her degree in biology and is actually returning to school in the fall to pursue an associate degree in radiation technology. We most sat and made fun of how pointless the meeting was making a lot of the same points I used in the above paragraph. But we also talked about the college experience in general and how each of us felt about it.
I would have to say personally I have a lot of mixed feelings about my college education and although I have my issues with it I did learn a few lessons from my time at Missouri Southern State University that have impacted how I approach my fitness, my lifestyle, and my profession in coaching others on both as well. I figured since this whole thing is drawing to an end soon now would be a good time to reflect and share those lessons with you. Who knows maybe one will resonate with you and change the way you approach you fitness and lifestyle.
1. Leverage your time effectively by focusing on the big rocks.
My degree is Biochemistry. I don't say this to impress anyone. I just want to give some context to what I am saying. This particular degree pursuit meant I spent a lot of time around pre-med, pre-vet, and pre-dental students. In fact when I entered college convinced I wanted to eventually become an Orthopedic Surgeon who specialized in sports medicine. Four years later and a lot of experience in the healthcare world proved that aspiration ill-suited to my overall life goals. However what I am trying to say is that for most of these kinds of students getting really good grades is super important. It probably is one of their highest priorities in life. They chase A's like I chase the elusive 500 pound pull. They'll do just about anything to get them and spend an astonishing number of hours studying in hopes of getting a better grade. Way more hours than I ever spent on studying for any one class.
And here in lies the lesson, my grades are either just as good or perhaps better than many of theirs, but I spent a fraction of the time studying. It could be argued either way that this was out of necessity or choice, but the fact is I choose to investment a lot of time and efforts during my college career in pursuits outside of the academic world. I worked a couple of jobs, built this website, produced content for it, opened a gym, and maintained a long-term relationship. Again I am not trying to impress I am just trying to give you an idea of how I came to learn this lesson.
With my time being so stretched across a lot of different commitments I soon learned that I had to pick where I would invest my time studying the subject material for the class. I learned to identify things in each class that were the big rocks or ideas and concepts that where crucial to understanding the subjects and solving problems. I spent most of my time honing in on the big rocks and little of my time concerning myself with the minutia. Really similar to the idea of the Pareto principle. And it worked. I spent much less time slaving over school work and got scores either just below the students who spent countless overs bent over a book or scores just as good as theirs. This allowed me to have success both in school and out of school which was a big goal for me when I entered college. I knew I wanted to leave those fours years with something more to show than just an expensive piece of paper from an institution.
This lesson demonstrates a lot of the problems people face when trying to improve their health. They get so caught up on the minutia of whether to eat fruit or not because they read the sugar in fruit makes them fat that they never take the time to make sure they aren't consuming a hyper caloric diet or spending 10 hours of their day in a seated position.
Everyone's most precious resource is time because it is non-renewable and finite. This means we only have so much to spend on any one particular thing. This makes it vitally important that whatever we spend this time on it has to yield us a high return. For losing weight this means eating less than you are expending and trying to develop new food habits. For gaining muscle it means performing a training program that creates mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscular damage and providing the body with enough raw materials to make the new tissue.
Focus on the big rocks, the things that matter and have the highest return on investment.
2. Take care of your physical and mental health above everything else.
Your body and mind our your most prized possession. They are one of a kind and cannot be remade anew. They are vitally important and necessary to every single thing you do on a daily basis in every role you play in life. You are utterly hopeless without them. This means optimizing and maintaining your mental and physical health is of the utmost priority. Don't sacrifice them for anything. No matter how important you perceive a task. If your mental and physical health are optimal then you will perform better in everything you do.
I learned this the hard way myself and am still paying the price physically for it.
My first two years in college I believed that I was indestructible (still do to some extent. I think it's a male thing or maybe just a stubborn thing.). I believed that I could with stand any stress I threw at my body. I was right for a time. The human body is a resilient thing and it will always try to find a way to do what you ask of it in the short run, but usually sacrificing something in the long-term.
During these two years of college I took 17 hours of classes each semester and another 6 hours of classes during the summer. I got my first full-time gig working for a local commercial gym that my sister worked at for several years. I split time working as a trainer and as a front desk employee. I was new to training and loved what I was doing. I was given a full roster of clients and was so excited to begin a career in the fitness industry. I had yet to find the Personal Trainer Development center and really had nobody in the way of mentor professionally so I did the best with what I knew. I took on any and everyone as a client. I opened up every hour of everyday that I wasn't in class for appointments.
Essentially this led to me starting clients six days a week at 730am. I trained until 10:30am on average most days of the week then would go to class from 11 to 2 sometimes 5 depending on whether I would have lab that day. Then I would leave class go back to the gym to put in my workout followed by training clients from 4pm to 8pm. I would then close the gym Monday through Friday from 8pm to 11pm usually getting home around 1130 or 1145. Then I would sit down and do any homework that was urgent for the next day. This usually kept me up till 1am most nights if not later. Inter mixed with all that I did a lot of reading and watching for professional development.
It was insane and all the while I didn't think a thing about it that I wasn't sleeping more than 4 to 6 hours a night. I wasn't allowing myself time to decompress and enjoy my life a bit. I was so consumed. Not to mention that during my second year of college my clientele dropped off and I ended up taking one of my current jobs that I hold now in the ER as a medical scribe and began working all kinds of crazy flex shifts which though off my sleeping schedule even more.
I still like to tell myself that none of this affected my performance and by objective measures I could probably support that argument, but knowing what I know now I realize that I could have been so more effective in all areas of my life if I had just made it a point to first take care of me.
These decisions also did not come without consequences. I am not sure what I did to myself because I haven't investigated it much deeper than how I feel, but I know that I struggle getting out of bed and getting going more now than I ever before in my life irregardless of how much sleep I get.
Take my advice and believe me that you need to prioritize your own physical and mental health now so that you can perform your best now and for years to come without dealing with any of the consequences. You may feel like your invincible now, but I promise it will eventually catch up to you in one way or another.
3. Having a guide is great, but you still have to walk the trail yourself.
I've had the fortune of having some really great teachers in my academic career both at the high school and collegiate level.
The common denominator between them all was that they all placed a heavy emphasis on helping me succeed. They provide all the guidance, support, and accountability I could have ever needed. I had the same experience as an athlete in high school as well. And while they placed my success in their class or sport as their top priority they never though actually went as far as doing the work for me. They understood that if I was going to truly learn and grow as a person I needed to experience it all for myself with them their to provide feedback so that I could make adjustments and course correct as needed.
This parallels what I see as the common denominator between awesome coaches in the fitness industry.
They don't do the work for their clients, but instead put their clients in a position to be successful by meeting them where they are at and then guiding the client along the path to get to where they want to be all along providing support and accountability. They function as a guide. There to help the client navigate the sometimes choppy water that is changing one's lifestyle and behaviors. Sharing experiences, struggles and solutions with the other person to help inspire and encourage them along the way.
When trying to improve your fitness or health everyone should have a guide. Someone their to expedite the process, but this doesn't mean that the guide is actually going to do all the work for you. You actually have to stand up and walk with the guide and navigate the path together. You have to take ownership of the journey and the work for it to be successful.
I know none of these things are earth shattering and likely have probably been said before, by someone else, in some other way, but what hasn't?
I am sharing these lessons and stories so that perhaps I might save someone the time and pains of going through them themselves and thus hopefully making the path to improving your health all the more effective and efficient.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training