30 for 30: What 30 years in the Trenches Has Taught Me -Tony Poggiali (part 1)

It is hard to believe that 30 years have passed since my first experience as a trainer at a local YMCA. This profession is so dynamic that new ideas, research and applications happen on a weekly basis. Here are some observations that have happened over the last three decades:

  1. The more I know, the less I know.  It is almost embarrassing what I did in the past; it was all I knew at the time.  Each week/month/year is a chance to get better and I love the process of learning and evolving.
  2. The basics, done consistently, still rule.  Strength train, play, move, elevate your heart rate, play, eat single-ingredient foods (most of the time), play.
  3. Training and coaching are similar, but not the same.  I believe the biggest distinction lies in the relationships that coaches are obligated to develop and nurture, while training is more of a job/profession that is a part of the bigger picture of a coaching environment.  I would like to think that I am a better coach now than just a trainer.
  4. The internet (and social media) changed everything.  For better or for worse, training and exercise information is ubiquitous now, as are facility options, qualified (and unqualified) coaches and trainers.  You do not need to go to college, get a degree/certification or really train people to “make it”.  If you have a phone, you have a chance.
  5. The backyard “training facility” is slowly going away.  Physical literacy and competency used to be taught in the neighborhood and, to a lesser extent, in schools.  It is where I learned every skill needed to be a good athlete as a kid and enjoy fitness as an adult.
  6. Opening, operating and running a business is much harder than I ever imagined.  It is no wonder that the churn rate for fitness businesses is so high.  It is cutthroat out there and can suck the life out of you if you let it.  After 13 years of Adrenaline Sports & Fitness’ existence, I still have a lot to learn.
  7. Trainers are a commodity; coaches are a unicorn.  I sound like a snob saying that but the profession needs more great people who can coach than people who can train.
  8. It took a while, but figuring out the Why of everything pointed my compass in the right direction.  Now I know the deeper reason of coaching athletes and adults.  It is to make an impact in their lives, to help them find their awesomeness and to be part of their framily.
  9. Sports sampling is good parenting.  I am certainly not telling you how to raise your children.  However, the vast majority of research supports exposing young kids to as many different activities/sports at young ages as possible.  So far, my nine year old has tried baseball, football, jiu-jitsu, karate, road running, swimming, tae kwon do, soccer and water polo.  Additionally, she plays for hours at a time just being a goofy kid.  This summer she will attempt her first triathlon.  Some sports she does a few months, and others are going on a few years.  The take-home message is she will be much more balanced and learn different gross motor skills and reduce injuries because of the number of activities she has tried.
  10. The more I learn about the human body, the less I know.  Since the sequencing of the human genome, we know more about us, humans, than ever before.  It still feels that we know so little though.  How do we really know how the brain works?  How diseases progress?  Why do some people age faster than others?  Is everything genetically determined?  How much control do we really have?  Do zombies exist?
  11. Walking is more important than previously thought.  As a form of activity, walking is pretty low on the “cool” scale. But, the benefits on overall health are impressive, especially stress reduction, reducing sympathetic states, getting some vitamin D exposure, enjoying nature, unplugging from technology, reducing cortisol levels…the list is endless. I used to think it was a waste of time, now I look at it as a necessity.
  12. The profession seems to be in a good place.  Opportunities are everywhere, from a physical brick-and-mortar facility to online options to social media.  The number of options for athletes and adults are numerous and it may come down to “test driving” multiple businesses before you find the best fit.  The quality of the coaching landscape continues to rise with each year; however, there is a tipping point where the quantity of new coaches cannot keep pace with the dynamic demands of being a great coach and will eventually leave or burnout.
  13. Technology will continue to disrupt the fitness landscape.  In a not-too-distant future, a robot may greet you, scan your retina and personalize your training and nutrition experience.  AR, AI and VR have already invaded the human space of fitness and will continue to nudge it’s way into fitness facilities worldwide.
  14. Coaching helps parenting and parenting helps coaching.  I realized this about four years ago (and even wrote about it); there is a direct transfer to how you raise a child to how you coach an athlete.  Coach Macdonald, who wrote a piece earlier this month also has learned the degree of transfer.  He will only improve his coaching skills now that his daughter was born.
  15. With more information at our fingertips than ever before, recovery is making a strong push to the forefront.  Training has only so may new ideas and concepts; nutrition is still figuring itself out; the last frontier is the scientific and practical way to recover from training, where true adaptations take place.  Everything from sleep to cryotherapy to supplementation and more will challenge training and nutrition for the lead in the quest for ultimate results and the perfect body.

Part 2 will be following soon…

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