Sep 22, 2011

Training with a Giant

By: Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW

He showed up to Prevail Conditioning on his motorized skateboard, wearing jeans, a t-shirt and skater shoes.  Tom (my physical therapist) told me he was a little guy, but I thought surely he was exaggerating.  Then Jeff walked in…all buck forty-five (145 lbs) of him. 

“How can this guy beat up on guys that outweigh him by 50 pounds,” I thought.

Then I searched Jeff on YouTube and watched some DVDs he let me borrow and sure enough – one guy after another no matter how big, Jeff beat up on or submitted them all.

Jeff came to us in May of this year to improve his strength and conditioning so he could take himself to the next level in his sport (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu).  Jeff was already the top American fighter and fifth in the world.  However, he had not competed as well as he would have liked to at the previous World championships (Abu Dhabi) and was looking for the next supplement to his training to improve his competitive edge.

Over the course of the first few months of training, Jeff had made several offers for me to do a private Jiu Jitsu lesson with him.  At first I put it off as I wasn’t sure if Jeff was genuine or just being nice.  After getting to know Jeff those first few months I quickly realized two things: he had a true love for his sport that he wanted to share with me and Jeff is truly genuine…period. 

I still didn’t do it.  After another month or so of his biddings, I eventually submitted and scheduled a session with him.

So, in I went.  I wasn’t sure how to dress or act (I’ve never been involved in any kind of martial arts or self defense training).  I felt completely unsure of myself.  Of course, I was also nervous as I had—up to this point—been the expert and Jeff the student.  Now the tables were turned. 

Jeff was excited as always at the start of a training session so in we jumped.  Jeff did a fantastic job and I was quite impressed with his natural coaching and pedagogy knowledge.  We moved through (what seemed to me) a tremendous amount of information and I had a great time learning from him.  Finally, he finished with some short bouts of “rolling” (wrestling) with the two of us so I could practice what we’d covered that day.

Sixty minutes later I was fatigued and dripping with sweat (two of my favorite things about exercise). 

When I walked out the door I began thinking about why I had put off this lesson so long.  I had a blast learning from Jeff and from switching the roles he and I normally play.  After a few moments of honesty with myself the procrastination became abundantly clear…

1.  I was fearful of being in a new environment
2.  I was fearful of performing poorly
3.  I was fearful of not learning fast since I consider myself a kinesthetic learner and a movement expert
4.  I was fearful of switching roles and being the learner and no longer the expert
5.  I was fearful of “losing” to Jeff when we rolled

I was just plain fearful of looking like an idiot and had completely unrealistic expectations of myself

Why do people avoid exercise or a strength and conditioning program?

Why do people avoid getting on a good nutrition plan?

All of the things I’ve been preaching to my clients over the years I’m as guilty of as anyone (just in a different area).  I did and thought the same stuff.

I left the gym encouraged after my session that day.  I became the student and humbled myself.  It wasn’t fun to walk in the door, but it was fun after I got in and when I left.  It was hard to get there and hard to do it.  I was frustrated with myself for not being “perfect” at everything.  I felt stupid and out of place.  I felt all the same thing that our new clients feel.  But I did the simple thing I knew we ask our clients to do and that we ALL need to do on a daily basis in order to continue moving forward: be humble, learn and give effort consistently.

Two final thoughts:

1.   Our clients are awesome.  I’m encouraged at the number of people—be it a 60 year old female looking to regain health/fitness or our world class athletes—who are willing to humble themselves and become the learner again.

2.    Don’t be held back by foolish fears.  Be nervous/anxious/fearful…fine.  But don’t be limited by those things.  Yes, it is rough on the front end.  No argument.  I get that.  But it gets easier and easier.  Commit to the process.

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