Coach Tip Tuesday: Don't (Try to) Do Something Just for the Sake of Doing It
Hip, hip, hoooorayyy! It’s Coach Tip Tuesday!
This week, I want to talk about something that I see all the time in my work: doing something (or trying to do something) for the sake of doing it.
What do I mean by this? Well, I cannot possibly begin to tell you all the number of times I have observed people doing a movement that they cannot do well. Sometimes, honestly, they cannot do it at all, and yet they still “do” it. Examples: push-ups with improper form, planks that look like Downward Facing Dog, squats with improper foot placement, and the list goes on and on.
I encounter strength training on a regular basis in two places: Fleet Feet Syracuse’s FFXT strength class (which I have coached for the last three years and am currently in the process of turning over to the absolutely wonderful Greg Hartwich) and at Amnesty CrossFit in Oswego, NY (a gym that I attend and is owned by my pal and colleague Rachel Harvey). Both of these places focus on FORM, not just doing something for the sake of doing it. And I’m absolutely convinced that this focus is what has lead the athletes who take my class at Fleet Feet Syracuse and who are members at Amnesty CrossFit to make progress over time.
If someone cannot do a full-position push-up with good form, we don’t allow them to “find the path of least resistance” and complete it using a modification that doesn’t make sense (the greatest example of this is when people try to do push-ups from their knees). Instead, we focus on finding out what people CAN do, and then we lay down some groundwork through *proper* modifications that will set the athlete up for success down the road and will ultimately let them be successful at completing the movement properly AND safely (band work, wall, or incline positions are usually wonderful places to start as far as this particular movement goes).
Why don’t we allow athletes to do their own modifications or to find that “path of least resistance” on their own? Well, first and foremost, doing a movement in a way that doesn’t make sense is inviting injury to move into your spare bedroom. And since avoiding injury is our number one job as coaches, it would be foolish of us to endorse a movement that could lead to injury.
Second, doing a movement improperly or with a modification that is unwise may FEEL like it’s the path of least resistance, but it’s actually a path with a LOT of resistance, as it is a path that will slow, limit, or possibly cease progress altogether. Our second job as coaches (after not causing injury) is to help athletes reach their goals. So clearly, endorsing anything that doesn’t positively contribute toward that is not in the best interest of the athlete. So, even if it means recommending something that is challenging or hard, we do that. That discomfort that comes from doing something that is challenging or hard is what enables our athletes to remain healthy and succeed over time.
I am using strength training as a major example of my point this week, but this point does not only pertain to strength training. This idea can (and should) be applied to all forms of movement. If running for an hour is challenging for you, don’t feel the need to run that entire hour. Perhaps shorten the duration or adopt a run/walk strategy until you feel stronger. If you are uncomfortable on the bike, don’t just “bike through it.” Try to get to the bottom of what is causing that discomfort and do the specific work that is required to help get you more comfortable. If swimming 1500 meters is beyond your capabilities, don’t muscle through it. Focus on drills, shorter sets, and work on feeling GOOD about what you are doing. In all of these instances, the little things you do will add up to be the BIG things.
While there is absolute truth in the idea that you have to test limits to know where the limit currently is (so you will need to try doing things to see if you CAN do them), I want to emphasize that that is where the limit CURRENTLY is. It doesn’t mean that it will ALWAYS be there. (Remember our discussion about how no human is limited?) In fact, if you do specific, focused work (versus doing something just for the sake of doing it), you will almost certainly “raise the limit” from where it currently exists.
So my friends, please don’t do things (or try to ;) ) just for the sake of doing them. Think BIG picture. Set your sights on what you want 1+ years from now, not what you want 10 minutes from now. Your future AND current self will thank you. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.