Saturday, February 28, 2015

Expanding on Progressions: Essentials of Coaching & Training Functional Continuums Part 1

No matter where you are as a professional on the continuum of a Health and Fitness practitioner we all need to recognize our common origins. Our undergraduate education sets the foundation for us to have a shared vocabulary. Standardized medical terminology. The medical terminology class that most of us took that first semester of our college careers set the stage for us. It allowed our instructors and mentors to communicate with us. The importance of this shared vocabulary is greatly understated and mostly underutilized. Strength & conditioning coaches, sport specific coaches, physical therapists, athletic trainers, chiropractors, physicians all have a common language that we start with. Next, we took basic anatomy and physiology, biology, biomechanics, kinesiology, exercise physiology, exercise prescription and soon had a solid introduction to the concepts and theories that we would use and set in motion on our journey as a Health and Fitness professional.

Unfortunately many of us stopped there, many of us felt our educational journey was complete. We thought we had all the tools necessary to be a Professional                     (fill in the blank).  For those of you still reading congratulations. We are lifelong learners. Individuals that recognize and appreciate that our undergraduate education was merely a springboard that facilitated the ability to undertake greater studies. To truly be a master coach or clinician you recognize that it takes a willingness to be open to learning from and collaborating with other leaders, from other disciplines throughout your career.

Gray Cook, Dan John and Lee Burton exemplify this in their latest collaboration: Essentials of Coaching & Training FunctionalContinuums.

Lee begins by helping us all re-establish a common language to communicate with other professionals on the continuum. 

We need to do the Right Thing, with the Right Person, at the Right Time.

What is your entry point? Where do you begin your training and conditioning programs? Your clinical exam? You discharge criteria? Where do you end? If you are not able to clearly answer these questions I would suggest that you do not have a systematic approach to delivering your services. And that you do not have the ability to articulate to other professionals where clients and athletes are in your programs. How do you know that the individual in front of you is appropriate for your knowledge, skill and expertise?

Entry Point. The Functional Movement Screen. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is the entry point into a well-developed, systematic approach to Health and Fitness. The FMS allows us rate and rank fundamental movement patterns in an easily communicated way. It allows us to correctly identify where an athlete or individual is on the performance continuum and whose professional services will benefit them the most at this point in time. Yes, screening and testing will help you efficiently categorize an individual as in/appropriate for your services. Build your network and find practitioners, clinicians and coaches that you can work with to best serve your clients. The more helpful you are to directing them to the appropriate services the more likely they are to return for yours. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Appropriate Progressions (The Right Thing, with The Right Person at The Right Time)

Life is always on a continuum, and throughout life we travel a long and often winding path on our health and fitness journey. (Notice that Health comes before Fitness). Training and Conditioning program design is one factor on this continuum. As we design training and conditioning programs we need to pay particular attention to many aspects of the individual in front of us requesting our services. The general medical health of the individual is our first consideration as we determine their appropriateness/readiness for physical activity. Then we factor in the individuals recreational/sport interest(s) and assess & test their current fitness levels and capacities to determine where they are on a Health and Fitness continuum.

Our first priority for fitness should be general health and well being then add fitness to that. Unfortunately many in our culture seem to want to focus on either Health or Fitness, believing one will bring the other. We can't ignore our general health and dive into the latest fitness fad to attempt to become healthy. Nor can we ignore our bodies need for physical activity and simply eat "healthy" and assume that we are therefore "fit". Don't misunderstand me, Health and Fitness need each other, but you can be healthy and quite unfit; as well you can be unhealthy and "in shape" for your chosen sport or activity. Think about a slim healthy and totally inactive person that goes out for a casual walk and ends up in an emergent situation that they need to run for their life, unable to run very far or fast: Healthy and unable to meet the demands of the situation. On the other side think of the ultra marathoner on the same walk also but currently recovering from a recent bout of the Flu: Unhealthy although appearing fit, still unable to fully meet the demands of the situation. Just as health is on a continuum moving between various stages of illness, injury and recovery; fitness is on an ever oscillating path as well. We need to recognize that we as whole individuals are at the point of where the two continuum's intersect.  But if your daily life is similar to mine it feels a bit more chaotic than a simple XY axis graph.

Sean Manseau, CSCS recently offered his version of lifting variation in an article for Breaking Muscle: A System for Maximizing the Movement Potential of Every Person. Manseau describes the need to recognize that all of our personal training clients and club members are individuals and that a "one size fits all" approach to programming leaves gaping holes in our ability to help them. We need to test & asses our clients physical fitness and performance to assist us in determining the appropriate exercises for them. Once we have baseline measures then we can determine the most effective exercises within a progression. I'll repeat for emphasis the word "progression". We need to be able to offer our clients reasonable progressions within a given exercises that allows them to properly learn the movement patterns and techniques in a safe manner but at a level that is challenging. Simply plugging a client into a scripted program, setting a group goal and turning them loose sets them up to be feeling Awkward, Disconnected, and Intimated. Because of poor participant readiness for our programming we lose many of these individuals through attrition. You may have previously heard me talk about this concept described by Gray Cook, PT. And if our clients feel this way in most athletic endeavours no amount of our brilliant coaching cues to "keep yours knees out" will deliver the results clients are looking for.

Dare to be different: give your clients the programming they need instead of wedging them into your group program.