Why Every Trainer or Coach Must Watch The Olympics.

I’m watching the Olympics right now.  If you have any questions about what I’m doing between reading this and February 23rd, you can bet your ass I’m finding as much coverage from Sochi, Russia as possible.

My love for the Olympics is less about the suspense of competition, and more about appreciation for the feats these athletes perform.  It helps that my Mom was a PE teacher and passed down her love of sport. Since attending the 1996 Atlanta games, I’ve been hooked,  I can’t find a valid reason for missing them.

In fact, I think it’s the responsibility of all fitness professionals to watch the Olympics. This is how I feel when someone shuns the sports:

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Accounting for my own love of the pageantry that goes into the Olympics, here are my:

Reasons Why Every Trainer or Coach Must Watch The Olympics.

We can experience the Olympics every 2 years, thanks to cycle between summer and winter games.  This means that there are 4 years between each event.  There are World Cups and World Championships for every sport, and a whole bevy of organizations that work underneath the Olympic umbrella to ensure that the rules and athletic preparation for each sport is appropriate.  The odds that we’re following each of these governing bodies is low.

The Olympics serves as a springboard to launch years of preparation and performance into your TV/phone/computer for 3 weeks every two years, exposing us to sports and movements we may have never seen before, and to the best athletes in the world.

I don’t think that you train world class athletes.  Unless you’re blowing some sunshine up someone’s ass for motivations sake, they’re not the best in the world.  Maybe it’s something, but it’s most likely not an athletic achievement. Olympic qualifiers, competitors, medalists; they are the best in the world, and they perform at a level that nobody else can.

There is an incredible amount we can learn being mindful of their movement, from the brutally explosive starts in bobsled, to the agility of slalom skiers, to the grace of the ice skaters.

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If you’re a fitness professional this is your education in action.

Whether you have a significant academic background or a basic certification, the Olympics include everything you’ve learned. The anatomy and physiology, the kinesiology, the motor learning, the exercise science.  It’s all packed into runs, laps, periods, and on courses, happening in real time. My biggest issue with academic and certifying programs is that they don’t best prepare you for the profession ahead of you.  They leave out practical components, skimp on science, or both.  We’re left with a spectrum that includes trainers and coaches who can’t see the fine details within the box, and those who can’t see outside of it.

Human movement is not about perfection; it’s about exploring and manipulating your environment.  While the majority of us need to move more, we can also get lost on the quest for the Holy Grail of movement.  It doesn’t exist, but the Holy Crail does:

The strength and conditioning community often likes to say that the best exceed despite what they do, not because of it.  I’m all for using science to inform our training decisions, but when we identify what’s considered abhorrent movement patterns, mechanics, or breathing among the most elite level athletes in the world, I’m less skeptical of their performance and more skeptical of your adherence to an arbitrary movement model.

Too often we become stuck in the weight room, in the gym, and fail to appreciate the diversity of movement capable on land, sea, air, and ice.  When we’re accustomed to movement in the vacuum of volume, sets, and reps, we forget that an inline lunge doesn’t matter when you’re wearing a snowboard, or that a Zone of Apposition isn’t on the mind of the people with the highest measured VO2MAX.

These are variables to consider when training Olympic athletes, but we’re not training them; they’re training us.

In many ways, the Olympics are the greatest laboratory for sport study in the world.  In 2014 we can view almost every moment of movement in the Games, providing us with ample opportunity to watch how athletes react to their sports in real time.  You’re not training them, but they’re training you.  We are the students.

The Olympics are the pinnacle events of human performance, and I believe it’s the responsibility of every fitness professional to appreciate the Games.  Be it a 2 mile long downhill course, or a 3-period hockey game, we must understand these high level performances and movement extremes to best serve our clients, may they be future Olympic hopefuls or that young athletes grandparents.

Disregarding the Olympics as a fitness professional is foolish, and I’d venture that with an open mind and a critical eye it can be one of the best continuing education events you can find.  On top of that, if you’re reading this, I doubt that accessing the online content is going to be any sort of issue for you.

Go get yourself some Olympics.

I don’t care what event it is, but watch something.  Watch the athletes in action.  Listen to the commentators; ignore the commentators.  Listen to the coaches; ignore the coaches.  Learn from the sports in Sochi, take what can to inform your work, and integrate it.  Getting better as a trainer can be done in a variety of ways, and for the next two weeks, we have the opportunity to see the best in the world in action.  Go get yourself some Olympics.

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