Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Can I Train Myself? By Master Trainer Kamal Ramgoolam

Can I Train Myself?
By Master Trainer Kamal Ramgoolam

Are you in control of yourself, or is it the habit of getting told what to do is so ingrained into you that you cant do anything by yourself. If you fall into this category, bodybuilding is not for you, you cant be a champion in any filed, you must realise by now that you are a loser, is it?

The purpose of the article is to answer a simple question...'Why i cant train my own body to the best by myself?'
In a world of competitiveness, where everyone wants to be better than the other, where most are carried away by the ego of 'self', its not so hard to break the shackles of the system and be a master of your own destiny. Many has done it before and achieve great success and you can be one of them too.

 I thought it would be worth addressing: how can you be your own trainer, coach or teacher?   I want to point out that a good trainer can offer a lot more than I’m going to discuss in this article. In fact a good trainer is a 'father' like character, he imbues you with all his experience and knowledge to make you a better man or athlete than he was.( congatulations for those who got a father like that, someone in the sky is been generous to you)

The most basic  technical guidance, is teaching yourself to do the movement correctly.  A disturbing trend over the years is that a number of people in gyms doing exercises  wrong and guess what, even teaching others the wrong things.  Nobody knows what proper technique is, much less how to teach it, and it saddens me a bit that the handful of people using good form on weight training movements stand out and keep to themselves. I know its not their business, but hey, if you see somebody doing the wrong things with a probability to hurt themselves, it just takes a few words to make the person comprehend what is wrong and right. Like they say, doing good things-'its good for the soul'.

It goes without a shadow of doubt, that for more technical activities or sports, a trainer may move from a good idea to absolutely required because there’s simply no way to learn the movement on your own (the Olympic lifts spring to mind as a weight room example of this).  But I’ll make the perhaps poor assumption here that those reading this already have good technique.

Something else a trainer often provides is motivation. Interestingly, how much motivation a trainer needs to offer depends on the crowd, he is dealing with.  With athletes, usually they are too driven and want to work too hard too often; a coach spends more time keeping their exuberance in check.  With the general public, it’s often the opposite, getting them to work out of their comfort zone is the hard part.  I’ll also assume (perhaps incorrectly) that your motivation is good, you don’t need someone pushing you to work harder.(a very sad incident was an overweight woman with puffy watery eyes coming crying to me to seek advice how she can lose weight fast coz her boyfriend left her for a model...not to forget she had suicidal tendencies and driving all the women in the gym to tears. That scene was an ultimate challenge for me to take out all i've got to motivate a whole bunch of estrogen ballonned people to get training...)

So far, so good, right? Like everyone on the Internet, your technique is brilliant and you work harder than 10 normal trainees put together.  What can I possibly have to tell you about being your own trainer?

There’s an old saying to the effect that “A man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.”  We might extend this to say “A man who tries to be his own coach has a fool for a athlete.”  And there’s be much truth to that.  In a related vein, there’s a reason that doctors are often unhealthy (and can’t treat their family members) and mental health professionals are complete nutcases,lol.

Simply put, it’s staggeringly easy to be objective about what someone else should do.  People do it all the time, give other people stunningly excellent advice that they fail completely to follow themselves.

Because it’s easy to be objective about other people, and damn near impossible to be objective about yourself (or people that you have a close emotional investment with).  You’re too close, you can’t look at yourself, chaps emotionally close to you and carry that same level of objectivity.  A doctor can’t treat his own family members because he can’t be cold, clinical and objective; his emotions will come into play.  And the same holds true for training.
Most people can’t be objective about themselves and their own situation.  You’re too close.  So…you rationalize.  That you’re different, that you’re situation is special and unique and all of that crap. (sorry am cracking up with laughter & driving your testosterone down, but never mind, you will see more sense by viewing the greater picture). But here’s the thing, you’re not different.  You just think you are.

But you’ve lost objectivity and are too busy rationalizing why that excellent advice (that seems to apply to everyone but you) somehow doesn’t apply in your situation.
How Does This Apply to Training?
I’ve talked to many trainers, trainess and athletes  in the strength and conditioning field about this and they all basically report the same thing to the effect of “I can’t train myself.  Because the things that I would never let an athlete do, I’ll find myself doing.”oops!

One example comes to mind, a trainer who generally follows a low-volume, high-quality approach to training his athletes and clients.  Yet when he’s in the weight room, he starts adding stuff. A set here, an exercise there until he’s doing double what he’d ever have an athlete do.  There are plenty of other examples.

But that’s what happens.  If you were a trainer watching someone lift and you saw that their technique was falling apart on a movement, or they clearly looked exhausted, or their bar speed was dropping or what have you, you’d stop them and either send them home or move onto something else.  But if you were training yourself, you’d be far more likely to keep training on..

Years ago, I was my own worst enemy in this regards because I did the above constantly especially with training.  As a martial artist, i would combine traditional martial art exercises with modern strength conditioning and end up sore, moody.

It  was part of the overall learning process.  I learned a lot about what didn’t work. The irony is that’s often how you learn....

In that context, until I figured out the solution I’m going to present next, the absolutely best and most productive experience I had was one where I basically side-stepped my own stupidity.  I set up a basic plan like I’d give to anybody else and then had a bunch of friends email me once per week to ask simply “Are you sticking with the plan?”  By giving myself the accountability (that a trainer might provide) and not wanting to tell them “No, I messed with the plan.” I kept myself from screwing it all up by changing a bunch of stuff and doing things I knew better than to do.
I’d note before moving on that that is certainly one approach to train yourself, just make yourself responsible to an outside force (that is hopefully objective and won’t just tell you what you want to hear) so that you don’t mess with the plan and start rationalizing a bunch of mistakes.

But beyond that, I’m going to give you two simple strategies to hopefully keep you from becoming your own worst enemy.
Solution 1: What Would I Tell Someone to Do?
The first solution is one I learned from another trainer.  If I’m in the gym, boxing, or whatever the specifics of the workout is and I have any doubts about what I’m to do next, I’ll simply ask myself the following question:
If I were training someone else in this situation, what would I tell them to do?

Yes, that’s it.  That’s the exciting solution.  But by putting it in those terms, I force myself to step outside of myself and be objective, or at least more objective.  Because if the answer to that question would be different for them than it would be for my own training, then there’s a problem.  And if I can’t come up with a real reason (and I don’t mean “But I want do the next set.”), then the answer to the question is made: I do whatever I’d tell them to do.
If I’d tell someone I was training to stop for the day, spin down, move onto another exercise, that’s what I do in my own training.  It’s no longer an issue of what I want to do or what I think I should do. Rather, I make it an issue of “What would I tell someone else in this situation?”  This forces me to find objectivity even if the answer doesn’t make me happy.
Solution 2: Asking the Question Provides the Answer
My own coach takes a slightly different but equally useful approach to the issue.  He figures that if you’re in training, in the gym,  and you ever ask the question “Should I do the next set or repetition, the next evercise?”, the answer is always no.
The approach is this: if you have any doubts whatsoever about the intelligence of doing something in training, you should listen to your brain and not do it.  Because invariably it’s that last start, that last set, that last interval that you get hurt on anyhow and you wouldn’t be asking the question if you didn’t doubt doing it in the first place.  And the simple presence of doubt is a good enough reason to stop.

I’d note that the above is more an athlete application than anything useful for the general public.  Athletes are almost always too motivated (if they are anything) and always want to do more than they should (another one of his suggestions is that, when athlete draw up their own training programs, they should take what they wrote, cut it in half and that’s probably a good workload).  Athletes tend to fall into the trap of thinking they need more and more and more work when what they usually need is more rest.

For the general public, the above doesn’t really work that well since, in my experience, most of them don’t want to really train (or train hard) in the first place.  If you let them ’stop whenever they doubt working out’, they won’t ever show up in the first place. Just like i anticipated for the abs challenge, it was no surprise for me that only a fraction still stick to the training protocol

But as I noted in the introduction to this article, I’m going from the assumption that you’re a little more driven than most.  In which case, this approach applies: if you’re training and have any doubts about doing the next set, the next repeat, the next drill, the next exercise it’s your brain telling you something that you should listen to.  If you have to ask the question, you already have the answer and that answer is “No, don’t do it.”
Summing Up
And this is it! A quick and dirty way to save you from yourself in your own training, to avoid the dangers of loss of objectivity and rationalization.  It’s hard enough being your own coach but it’s even harder when you become your own worst enemy by doing things that you’d never let anyone else do.  Hopefully the above two strategies will save you from yourself and drives you towards your goal of a better YOU!


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