• Jake

The Trick of Self Selection

Subtitle: Or who I'm looking to work with

They think you have the right stuff, so they send you to the special forces, or the pre-season trials, or whatever. There, they run you through the ringer, people drop off in droves. Don't for a second think this is training; it is selection.

The trick is, most of what we think of as study or training is just like this. Its not training, its selection. The folks who can go do Crossfit multiple times a week and excel as other people mount up injuries and fatigue, they're built for it. Its not (necessarily) that they're harder working or better than you, but they have the ability to recover from hard core workouts and thrive least for a time. Even our school system, with its over-emphasis on testing and quick, rote learning, can be characterized less as education and more as a drawn out form of selection. We aren't really 'that' concerned with what you understand, only what exams you can pass. They're supposed to be proxies for one another, but sadly they are not. One can be brilliant and suck at test taking; it happens.

Likewise, any exercise program can work, and be guaranteed to work. And maybe you see all the people it works for, but you don't see the people it doesn't work for. They've already dropped out. Then you drop out because you feel like you're doing the same thing and not getting the same results. You blame yourself for it, but, so long as you're giving it an honest go, its not your fault. Its just a bad fit for you.

Look, its not like you do yoga to become super flexible, its that super flexible people like to do yoga. Most anyone can do gymnastics, but the elites top out at around 5'8". Want to build a perfect dead lifter? He'll be shaped like a gorilla, with squat legs and long arms, but he'd probably be terrible at the bench press.

Don't put yourself in a box

If you want to specialize toward an athletic pursuit, go for it, and I'll help. But know what you're built for, and know that the elites are built differently than you, even if they look like you. But also know that you can get really, really good at anything if you put the effort and intent in, and that will always be satisfying. Build a good base first, and keep your body balanced. If the sport wants to take you one way, unless you are going to super specialized (which almost always involves a trade-off with your health) you've gotta to keep a general level of fitness in all qualities. Keep an eye out for programs--whether thats a GPP program like I do or even a specialty program--where it looks like they're doing more selection than education, where people are going into extreme ranges right off the bat or are huffing and puffing and looking like they're at death's door. If everybody looks the same, and they don't look like you, know that even if you stick with it, the program is not suited for you and you'll likely need to do some improvising on it to make it work okay.

Be this flexible...but only metaphorically

I want to be able to reach any kind of person with my coaching, and I know that may way of doing things can bring results. But there's a self selection process with me too. Teaching math, I'm not one to try to stuff a bunch of info for a test into some kid's head who just wants to pass the course. For me to be really at my best, the kid needs to 'want' to learn the math. Now, maybe you're saying that's true for anyone, but its not. Some folks could motivate that kid somehow, or are okay motivating the kid externally ("Do the math, and you'll get the grade, the money, etc.) versus me who wants you to want to understand it for the joy of understanding. So in training too, I'm looking for people who enjoy learning, who don't mind working, who don't expect things to be handed to them, who understand that there's a process and that finding strength and dexterity takes time and effort and study.

Anyone can train somebody til they drop, crushing a person with high reps til they're dead in a puddle of sweat. The client may feel good after this, and maybe they'll see results for awhile. Most people, though, its not going to last. Then they'll quit and blame themselves; maybe it is their fault, maybe they are just lazy, but maybe its the trainer's inability to create an actual, impactful long-term program. We can't entirely blame the trainer; he or she is in the unfortunate situation of having to dish out to 'consumers' what 'consumers' expect, so be smart and don't be a mere 'consumer'. Be a student.

I have a personality, and I have my way of doing things that I'm stubborn about. That doesn't mean I'm always right myself, but sometimes you have to not listen to what people want so you can give them what they need...though sometimes you have to give them what they want so they're willing to also get what they need. There's a balance there, its different with everybody, and I'm constantly learning afresh how to dwell on that line. I'm willing to put in the effort to help anybody, so long as they're willing to put the effort into learning. And when your journey becomes about learning, and the learning itself becomes fulfilling, that's when really good things start happening. Then your training becomes about education, not selection.

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