I am a good coach because I was a stupid runner. I did not know that I was stupid then, but now I am a good enough teacher to be able to see it clearly and simply. I could spend my time wishing I wasn’t stupid and imagining the things I would do in a game, but it wouldn’t get me that far. Instead I realized that my bad and / or wrong choices made me a better teacher than I could ever have been. I developed knowledge, compassion, and awareness from my mistakes. And I can see the stupidity of my runners for miles.
My stupidity manifests itself in two different ways – over-teaching and injuries. I exclude this, because although injuries can occur as a result of over-training, they are not always connected. Because of my experiences, I am able to teach my athletes how to live and how to deal with the difficult, dark times that come with training. And anyone who has been taught any measured length knows what I mean by difficult, dark times.
In 2005 I was kicked out of every gym I was in. I was fired because I looked too good. I was unemployed and taught two or three times a day. It was mine fighting strategy. I had just run a race, I was doing BJJ almost every day, I was teaching a smoking game, and I was teaching CrossFit I don’t know how many times a week. I had a cold for a month, I could not sleep at night and I could not stay awake during the day, I was fat even though I ate little, and it took me ten to fifteen minutes to shake. hit to put on my pants every morning because my sciatica was so bad I couldn’t bend my hips.
For some reason it didn’t happen for me to drop out of school. But one by one my coaches told me to go home, that they would not let me pass through their doors. When Andy Petranek for CrossFit LA sent me home, I went out to the parking lot, sat in my car, and cried. I thought the world was over.
But the world was not yet finished. A few days later Andy called me to come to an observation class or, well, help him teach. This was the beginning of a new career for me. It was the first step that would turn into an eight-year career as I learned more about life and education from Andy than I did for 30 years and beyond.
I have never been involved in kickboxing and I have had back problems to this day. But I would not be a teacher if I did not teach myself too much. I can’t change my job as a teacher so I don’t have to suffer every day. And, as I mentioned at the outset, I also got the gift of seeing a fool for a mile. I know who you are, the extreme educators – I know you inside and out. And since those difficult, dark times, I have made it a point to reach people who are on the same path, so that they may not go as far below the rabbit hole as I do.
Turning injuries into a mission is not uncommon for coaches. When I spoke with Zach Even-Esh earlier this year, he told me that he, too, had turned an obstacle into a chance. After years of trying to use exercise to support his sport, Zach’s body stopped:
When I was 25 I was fighting and the UFC was huge. I was doing a shot and tore my ACL during training. When I went into surgery, I was furious. I was very angry. I remember before I replaced the surgery and thought, “I will take action on this course and train fighters around the world on how to avoid all my mistakes.” I was at work.
Like Zach, my injury was an eye-opener that completely changed my relationship with my clients. The second major lesson I learned that made me a good teacher is when I broke a rib.
I broke my ribs and did the traction. No, I was not strong enough to pull and my ribs were broken (this is what people think at first). Instead, I exercised and became greedy. I was going to write a series of drawings. I finished my twenty-nine rep, which was my right then, but I decided to go for thirty. Thirty sounds better than twenty-nine, doesn’t it? Well, I lost my temper and fell. It would not have been so bad, except that there was a lot of force involved when jumping, and our wound was too far to reach the ground, so I would climb out of the pyo wooden box. . Instead of landing, I fell on one of my ribs, and it was right.
What I learned from the injury – with the exception of the obvious aspects of max reps, greed, and box office – came at a time when I was recovering. I have been teaching CrossFit for a number of years at that time. And I had forgotten how difficult it was to be first. When I broke my ribs I did not exercise for several weeks and I was walking slowly for several months. My first back exercise was a slow 20-minute walk. A few weeks later I did a very simple part of yoga and I was in pain for days. The first time I tried to pull it off again, with a thick rubber band to help me, it was very difficult.
I remember standing there in the gym, looking at the bar, looking at the rubber band, and then exclaiming, “I do not remember how difficult it was.” Andy Petranek looked at me and said, “Why, get up?” And I said, “No, CrossFit.”
The months of recovery reminded me of how it feels to do everything, it helped me imagine how difficult it can be to be new and free of sports, and it gave me a sense of sadness and patience that I never had. Being stupid, being greedy and falling at that bar, made me a good teacher for the rest of my life.
People have a lot of ideas about why big and fast coaches are different people. They think that fast runners, too, forget how to be a beginner. But I wonder, after all the coaches I have talked to over the years, as well as all the coaches who have told me about their injuries, if the athletes whose careers were disrupted due to injury are not as well trained as this. . Jeff Martone, who endured injury for the rest of his life cured through kettlebells, shared this with me:
If you look at all the surgeries and injuries I have had over the years, I would say this: everyone was a blessing in disguise, because he made me a good teacher. It has also made me more sympathetic to the injured … it has made me a better teacher, giving me a better detail, and being more patient in dealing with people.
So whether my injuries were due to ignorance, a habit of stiff competition, or due to excessive endurance, all those bad, mysterious, stupid things made me feel better. While it may have hindered my progress, it has made me a better runner in many ways, and it has made me a better, more personal trainer.