Reality Checks

As a coach, my job is to teach and encourage my athletes through a lot of changes, hard workouts, higher expectations, the occasional injury, and hopefully, successful competitions.  Every now and then however, I have an athlete that gets a little too comfortable with the status quo, watches too many Youtube videos or Instagram tips, or simply starts to believe their own bullshit.  This is when a reality check becomes necessary.  This is not fun.  Nor is it as easy as saying Dr. Phil’s favorite line, “So, how’s that working for you?”

People don’t like change, especially about their personal training practice.  Or any practice for that matter.  And I’m not exempt.

As I’ve written about before, I spent a lot of my youth riding and training horses, teaching lessons, and practicing a number of disciplines including show jumping, cross country, dressage, etc.  I’ve recently returned to my horse addiction and have been working with some young horses and stallions.  I’ve been feeling a bit uncomfortable at times because I’m just not as confident when things start to go sideways.  So, I decided to hire a riding coach to give me some eyes on the ground to help me fix what I’m doing wrong.  I felt I needed some refresher lessons on a calm horse and I need to ride more regularly to increase my conditioning.

Colt:  He’s a sweet boy, but is just learning.

(**Remember, conditioning is activity specific.  Being conditioned to sit in the saddle, hold your core and posture upright while keeping your legs stationary and fixed on the horse is a lot harder than it looks and has nothing to do with how much you can squat or how far you can run.)

So, at my first lesson, my instructor noticed how out of breath I was getting.  And she said, “You know what you need to do?  You need more cardio.”  I got a little irritated.  I’ve been doing cardio 4 times a week in addition to 5 days of weight training.  And its not like I’m deconditioned.  I decided to ignore this bit of advice. 

At my second lesson, I was a little better conditioning-wise, but she noticed that I was having trouble maintaining my posture at the canter.  I have a tendency to let my back hyper-extend a little when my legs fatigue.  She then tells me, “You need to strengthen your core.”  This time, I actually (to my great shame) talked back, “My core is actually pretty strong.”

And it is.  I can do a lot of situps.  I can squat and deadlift under heavy load.  I can do a lot of rotational work and throwing has made my core very strong for explosive movements.   (but not sustained posture in the saddle.)

But, thankfully, she ignored my bravado and said again, “You need to work on your core.”  And I let my ego deflate and recognized that she, like me with my athletes, was simply telling me what she saw.  My core was not conditioned for riding.  And while riding might make that better, I needed to do more work off the horse.  And as I came to this realization, I recognized that although I am doing cardio 4 days a week, I’m probably not pushing it the way I need to and so she was right about that as well.

So, here I am with a highly recommended coach who I know will improve my riding technique (and already pointed out some subtle problems that I was able to correct) and I was temporarily unwilling to take her other advice about my general fitness because I felt that maybe I knew better.  But, I didn’t.  And by taking her advice, I will improve and get to the higher expectations I have for myself.

If you are seeking advice from a fitness or sport professional (or any professional for that matter), be willing to empty your cup, accept their observations, and recognize that although your vision may look 20/20 from the inside, you may actually be blind.

“The best lies about me are the ones I told.” 
― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

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