You asked? We answered! In this bonus part four, Jonny responds to your burning questions!
What are the fundamentals of “coachability” for athletes?
“I think the most critical component of coachability is communication. This is particularly true when working with a coach remotely. One of the most important pieces of information I impart on new clients: I only know what you tell me. If feedback isn’t given for workouts, if goals aren’t clear, if e-mails go unanswered – you leave me completely in the dark. I am not going to progress an athlete through different training phases if I do not have concrete proof that they have done the requisite work to advance, so a lack of communication ultimately results in stalled progress.
Of course, this is all part of a total coach/athlete relationship, which makes this a two-way street. What this means is that a coach has just as much responsibility to uphold their end of the bargain as an athlete does, so establishing trust via communication is critical. Especially since without trust, you can’t have honesty.
Being coachable means feedback, but it also means being completely honest. This goes beyond merely listing weights accurately, or being truthful about hitting Macro numbers. This also means being truthful about how you feel about the coaching, the progress, and the programs.
Once again, this is a two-way street and any coach worth his salt will be open to questions and willing to be flexible if you are not progressing the way you’d like to be. Bear in mind, though, that you will need to be open to a coach telling you things that you possibly don’t want to heat. Don’t take things personally! We are here to help and I can think of very few coaches that take pleasure in having “difficult coaching conversations”, but sometimes they are required and we always have your best interests in mind.
Finally, I would say to be open minded. Particularly with the Hybrid Model, we may program things for you that seem unorthodox. We get this from military folks all the time: “Why am I not doing hundreds of push-ups per day?” or “Why do I only have 1-2 Zone 3+ runs per week?” Trust in the process, as programming is often the product of trial and error, experience, and a collaboration with every coach within CHP.”
Much of the conversions are regarding physical training and nutrition, but I would say that all high level athletes value the mental side just as much. Since CHP deals with a range of athletes, have you found methods to develop the mental side? What do you believe is the most under appreciated aspect of high level performance?
“I’m going to give you a bonus and answer the first TWO questions you asked, as I feel as though they really tie in to one another.
Yes, you are correct: most of the conversations in the fitness world revolve around the physiological side of the house (diet and training), while not particularly stressing the mental side. This bothers me, mostly because my formal education is in Sport Psychology and I understand how critical this component is to success in athletic (it also bothers me because I am insanely biased and, generally, very grumpy).
We offer Mental Skills Coaching at CHP, and there are many tool I use in order to help athletes develop a variety of skills to optimize performance, and I’ve listed a few below to give you an idea of what we can do:
Mental Skills Assessment – Like is sounds, we use tools to assess what you are good at and what needs improvement. Also, we work on self-awareness in order to continue the growth process.
Goal Setting – Simultaneously the easiest and hardest component, but the biggest bang-for-the-buck in terms of overall enhancement.
Self-Talk – Both awareness and tools to reframe and counter negative self-talk
Relaxation/Energization – Tools to keep your anxiety down, yet still provide you with enough “pop” to complete the task at hand, whether that require a steady effort (Marathon) or a single, concentrated burst of power (shot put).
Confidence Building – New to a competition? Coming off of an injury? Building and maintaining confidence is another tool that is vital to optimal performance.
Competition and Training Mental Plans – Custom checklists and tools to keep you focused and on “auto-pilot” when it matters most. By creating these plans, athletes only have to worry about performing and have custom contingencies in place for when the going gets rough.
By no means is this list all-inclusive. The fact is, every athlete is an unique person, so Mental Skills programs are customized and updated real-time in order to ensure optimal performance and optimal growth.
This leads me to your second question…
What do I think is the most under-appreciated aspect of high-level performance?
THE MENTAL GAME
How did you get started as a coach? Like, from the very very beginning…even before the beginning. What tools and mindset did you have regarding fitness before you ever programmed for other people, and what have you learned about the business/science/art since then?
“For me, coaching was an extension of being a Navy Chief Petty Officer and really enjoying the process of leading people ad watching them grow and develop. As for the specific drive toward coaching, it was easy: in every command I went to, I always seemed to be one of the Sailors in the best shape, so they always put me in charge of Command Physical Training. In a lot of ways, my drive to study programming and hone my coaching abilities was the result of being thrown into a job for the wrong reason and realizing that I had a responsibility to ensure the Sailors I was training were in a state of mission readiness and within body composition standards for the Navy.
As for the tool sand mindset I had: as a service member, my initial training was very calisthenics and run heavy. I loved to run (did it in high school) and frequently ran road races from 5k to marathon…so my programming was all about endurance and running. Sure, I went into the weight room every once in a while, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. In the early 2000’s, when CrossFit emerged, a lot of military personnel were jumping on the wagon, so I decided to give it a shot – and found out I couldn’t even squat 95lbs to parallel. (Seriously, I got a CF Level 1 Cert WAY back in 2006 or 2007 and when them put us through a Fran workout during the course of the weekend…let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
From there, my curiosity took over. I wanted to get stronger, maintain my endurance, work on my 1.5 mile time, etc. This led me to researching and participating in everything from Powerlifting to Bodybuilding to organized sports.
What have I learned? Probably the most important thing I have learned is that I have yet to even scratched the surface of understanding with regards to programming, nutrition, and the mental game. This is a wonderful field that requires you to be on your toes as the science and technology changes.”