Words Mean Things: On Training, Coaching, And Athletes
Give Me The Fish (GMTF): The terms we use affect the world around us. They are our link to the world and how the world links back to us. Words mean things. If we are not specific in our word choice our ability to bend and shape the world in our image is severely hampered.
In this case, we are talking about word choice in the gym. A Coach is more than just a personal trainer. Training is more than just stepping into the gym, and being in the gym doesn’t make you an athlete.
But, these are things you should be, and if you want to be an athlete you need to understand exactly what those terms mean.
Table of Contents
“Words Mean Things”
This is a phrase I’ve heard yelled out, said, written down, and used as a comeback for longer than I can remember.
The Marine Corps is big on this and while I have definitely drank the kool-aid, they’re right.
Communication is a large part of being human and, it’s what allows us to function in society.
Words shape how we interact with each other, how we treat certain topics, and ultimately their use affects our actions.
Because of this, it’s essential that we fully understand what certain words mean and how they should be used before we actually use them.
In this case, specifically, coaching, training, and athletes.
Training and Working Out
Training and working out are terms that tend to be used interchangeably, but this is both incorrect and detrimental to our progress.
“Working out” is a snapshot.
It’s what you are doing in terms of physical activity that is extraneous of your normal daily functioning activities with the intent of achieving better health.
Notice how I say “intent”.
A workout by itself is meaningless without context, whether it is part of a training plan or not.
There is nothing you are building to or from. You may have short term adaptation if it’s new or different from what you have performed previously, but nothing more.
You cannot achieve better health through a single workout.
“Training” means you are developing something in a repeatable and consistent way in order to accomplish a specific goal. That goal could be as generic as “to get stronger”, or as specific as “hitting a 500lb 1 RM Squat at the Southern California Powerlifting Competition on May 22nd.”
Training requires a methodical and well-developed plan that can not only be used for training progress but can have parts easily discernable so as to know what needs to be improved, and what doesn’t need to be improved.
A training plan can even tell us what movements affect what movements, and what is preventing you from gaining a personal record in the Squat.
Training is a strategic way to reach your goals that can be viewed in context, by looking out weeks, months, and years.
Tracking both short-term progress and long-term adaptation allows us to build off previous adaptations.
Which, in English means, a series of intelligently planned workouts put in place to achieve a specific goal.
Training is the method for getting better in a specific and controlled fashion.
If you are having a hard time discerning if you are training or not, pinpoint how you are building from your previous workout (or training cycle). If you are not, or you can’t, I hate to say it (I actually love to say this), but you are not training, you are among the litany of people worldwide deceiving themselves.
A coach is not a “personal trainer”.
To be clear, a Coach is a Trainer. And, obviously, a Personal Trainer is a Trainer.
But, a “Personal” Trainer is not a Coach.
A personal trainer is somebody who trains somebody else to perform a repetitive action that is taught to accomplish a specific goal.
Just like with horses, a trainer for people will lead you through a workout and tell you exactly what to do and will tell you “when” when you are to do that.
For dogs, you teach it to sit, when you say “sit”, to heel when you say “heel”, and to come when you snap your fingers or whistle.
Same principle for a personal trainer. You walk into the gym, they tell you exactly what exercises to do, when, and exactly how often, without ever mentioning why you are doing that exercise in the first place.
Coaches teach, guide, and mentor.
Coaches teach you the methods, show you how “commands” are applied and eventually let you decide how and when to apply the trained methods.
A Personal Trainer trains people, Coaches train people how to train better.
Being An Athlete
Webster’s dictionary is incorrect.
Why do I have the authority to say this? Because, they, like most of the population, do not know what an athlete is.
By their definition, an athlete is somebody who is “proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise”.
What does that even mean, “proficient”?
If I have been training for over 10 years and I have trained numerous people to be stronger and more competent in the Squat, to most beginners, I would seem pretty damn proficient.
But, if Louie Simmons* walked in, who has been squatting for 40 years, has set multiple world records, and has trained hundreds of athletes to do the same, to him, I might not seem quite so good.
Because of this grey area, and because in the training world we try to be very specific to control the chaos, we narrow down this definition.
An athlete is somebody who is training.
As in they have a progressive, methodical, and well-built plan, who is striving to be proficient enough to accomplish their specific goal.
Not everyone that steps into a gym is an athlete, but it has nothing to do with if they are a sponsored athlete, compete, fat or slow, or look like Hercules.
It has to do with their desire to be proficient in whatever specific goal they have set and have a methodical well-built plan to achieve it.
Saying you’re an athlete is a statement of your level of involvement.
Calling someone an athlete is the acknowledgment of the respect that exists for what the individual is trying to achieve.
Acting Professional Gives Professional Results
Words mean things. If we talk professionally, act professionally, and train professionally, we get professional results.
If you step into my gym, we train.
If you ask for my help, I coach you.
When you refer to yourself, or I refer to you, you are an athlete.
Your mental state is affected by your ability to communicate, which translates into how we act and how we perform.
Let’s get the basics right, communicate professionally, and get you in the right mindset to ensure that your training is on the right track.
Until next time,
*Louie Simmons passed away 24 March, 2022. A huge loss to the lifting community as a whole, but his knowledge will be passed on for generations.