I wrote an article back at the end of 2015 on what the year taught me – or to be more precise, what the year forcefully made me learn by way of kicking my ass relentlessly. It got a lot of positive feedback as it was very much written from the heart and I think it resonated with a lot of people. I like to tie-in the end of the year with a bit of goal setting – on which I will have a (useful) article to follow in the next couple of days, and also take stock and look back at past goals.
This blog post kind of ties in with that – I may go a little off track and a lot of it isn’t gym related but its just something I feel like doing. For what ever reason I didn’t write a ‘What 2016 taught me’ as that year was a bit kinder to me. Nevertheless I did make notes, which I just found and can recall some of the more subtle lessons received that year, along with some from the past 12 months. They will be presented in absolutely no order whatsoever…
In terms of business, 2016 was probably marginally more successful than 2017 – which is the first year that this has happened. One contributing factor I noticed was that not many people went away in 2016, more folks seemed to take holidays this year. This was very noticeable early Summer this year when, for whatever reason a substantial amount of members left the gym. At the time it was a significant blow financially and also my own confidence in running the gym took a hit – I genuinely felt this was the moment I was found out and the game was up, back to get a ‘real’ job.
One of the frustrations with this dip was that it seemed to be from various reasons I would not have been able to fix even if I knew in advance (such as people moving away – victims of the rising rental prices and cost of living in Dublin).
Being self employed means giving up an element of control and letting things be – which is extremely challenging for me but every time I come through these episodes, I realize how truly important and how much of a necessity it is to be able to do this in order to keep my own sanity.
Thankfully the year ended strong and January 2018 is looking like it will be the busiest month membership-wise, the gym has ever seen. So from this I learnt to let go, or at least try to. In some way, believe that the Universe will provide – I don’t buy into ‘The Secret’ but sometimes shit happens and the more you try to fight it, the more you will get caught up in the panic. Focus on the things that are going well (more on this later). Think of a time when something really bad happened you – if you can do that, then obviously you got through it. As difficult as it can be, these trials and tribulations can help build our resiliency and we are always more resilient than we think we are.
Rowing a marathon on the erg is not much fun – boredom aside, even though it was to raise funds for the Hospice in Harold’s Cross, the literal pain in my backside was almost a deal breaker.
Everyone is competitive – especially when it involves a scenario where they have a chance of ‘winning’. Girls are as competitive as guys but they need to have the odds more in their favour before accepting a challenge. They are also more subdued in displays of competitiveness but the subtle tells are there – notably when the ‘alpha’ females aren’t in class, the other girls numbers will generally increase. They will stab each other in the back, whereas guys will stab each other in the face.
Within the past 24 months I attended Yoga classes – when I hurt my knee and couldn’t train BJJ. I enjoyed it and felt the benefit but I was still unable to focus on my breathing and I found it difficult to slow down. Conscious incompetence. A lot of my training is sympathetic (high intensity) and I need to add more parasympathetic protocols (lower intensity) to my regime. But as with a lot of people that are of a similar disposition, I got bored. When I missed a couple of weeks I got out of the habit entirely – again, underlining the importance of structure and how easy it can be to fall out of the habit of doing something, even when you know how beneficial it can be.
Even though I don’t attach myself to competition results, I felt an overwhelming feeling of pride when Sarah and Jason did so well competing this year. It was great to see Jen try her first powerlifting competition too.
Age really is a state of mind
The past couple of years has been the first time in which either my age has been brought up by someone else or myself in terms of my own sport. Also I am beginning to see that I am generally older than most people I coach and train with (I was always younger). It makes me laugh when I hear someone come into the gym and tell me how they are ‘getting too old’ to be doing this or that and it turns out they are 5 years younger than me. On the other hand I have a group that I train who are in their 60s and they bring more effort and energy to the session than people I see that are half their age. Hiding behind age as an excuse not to try something or make an effort is, for want of a better word, lazy.
Private doctors / surgeons are more eager to open someone up than Freddy Kruger. I put off a pending knee operation for a torn meniscus and was glad I did. The alarm bells started after a surgeon wanted to book me in for an operation without even looking at an MRI scan.
I dodged what was looking like another knee surgery last year. There is now a certain amount of arrogance that has come with that as I feel as though I have ‘gamed’ the system, dodged a red light and gotten away with it. This is a silly attitude but on the flip side, discipline, hard work and patience can bring you back from pretty much anything…. WHICH IS A GOOD THING…
* this was a 2016 note – recently I broke my hand, trained with it for 2 weeks and then had to go under general anaesthetic to get a plate inserted and then only to wake up and go out on the tear for two days. A valiant display of arrogance and stupidity. And maybe some self loathing too. Like I always say about myself, a high pain threshold and a low I.Q are a dangerous combination.
Home is where the heart is.
I really got a strong smack of this when I was in San Diego last year. I traveled there years ago to train and I loved the place, the training, the southern Californian lifestyle. For years I dreamed about going back but never got around to it. I always felt as if it was something I regretted not doing – living there for an extended period of time. When I was there recently I remember feeling almost underwhelmed by the whole experience. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it – maybe it was the training camp before the Masters Worlds, the exhaustion, I’m not sure but I remember thinking how good I actually have it back home and (ironically) how important it is to make the most of things in your current situation.
Become less attached to outcomes
I have learnt to become less attached to outcomes – for instance in BJJ it was something I strived for, to be a winner and the past year especially was a terrible time for me results wise – even though I have felt training has been going great. I have learnt that it is far more important to turn up to training with a smile and a good attitude and you can be far more valuable to those around you doing this than winning medals.
I really dislike driving in traffic
Yea, rush hour traffic is one thing that can make me lose all rational and years of these life lessons and turn into a basket case within seconds.
Sport Psychology is not called sportS psychology. A key detail I learned while completing a part time course this year. Although I enjoyed the experience and the challenge, I think academic writing is something that would destroy any passion within me for writing long term.
A professional website
It only took me 7 years to get a proper website built (thanks Brian) and it is amazing what a game changer having a contact form on the front page of the website was.
Focus on the positive
Being let down by people sucks BUT instead of getting hung up on this, it is far more important to appreciate the people that still have your back. May seem like obvious advice but I think it is human nature to focus on what we don’t have. Gratitude goes a long way towards making things better. And when you do have those people in your circle, look after them.
Let go of the past
Without getting too virtuous I have been called out once or twice this year and deserved it. Holding onto the past is a definite way to make sure that you wont be in a place to be ready for the good things in the future. I have made a big effort to do this and sure enough I started to notice the good things or at least I was ready for them when they came my way.
Systems are great when running a business and in theory an essential aspect but there will always be that one person that will fuck your system up and challenge some area you didn’t anticipate. Be ready!
Females and strength training
I may as well add at least one coaching insight…in strength training, girls very much respond to more volume when looking to get stronger. Same with chin ups, there is no secret, just practice them. Consistently.
Cats v Dogs
A few years ago I admitted that I may like dogs as much as cats, upon further reflection I was being an idiot. Cats are far better. Yea I went there.
Near death experiences
Even after a near death experience it is easy to slip back into old habits. After nearly getting wiped out by a truck breaking a red light, I became the most zen person in Dublin for 24 hours. After that it was back to getting frustrated and annoyed by the football results.
Mental health is still a huge issue in this country. Yes there is less stigma attached to it and more folks are talking about it but I have heard of more suicides this year. A hell of a lot more needs to be done, I am not sure how I can help or make a difference to this but it is something I feel I need to figure out and contribute.
Visitors to SDSC
We had some big visitors this year – Greg Hammond and Alex Dunne from Concept2. For me personally this was amazing as in some way it validated what I am trying to create here at SDSC – a small gym recognised far beyond the boundaries of Harold’s Cross for its level of coaching and creating an all inclusive environment providing expert training in a safe, holistic environment with a strong and supportive community for all levels (/sales pitch).
We had great fun training with the guys as things got competitive and I think it also reinforced the value of what we are doing to our own members as guys of the calibre of Greg got in touch with us (slid into my DM’s) saying he liked the training we were doing through our Instagram account. It was nice to get validation from someone at that level – especially for doing things our way and not selling out. We hope to catch up with Greg and Alex again in the future. There will be more big names coming this way in 2018.
No such thing as a free lunch
I have seen a lot of people – openly declaring they want a job that pays them a lot for working as little as possible. No one that gets paid a lot for what they do has this attitude, and certainly not initially (unless they are breaking the law). I am reading a good book at the moment that talks about this and it also reemphasises the main point of another favourite business book of mine – focus on and contributing a valuable service to as many people as possible and the rest will look after itself.
I am dangerously competitive and completely untrustworthy around physical challenges. This became evident when I programmed Jason’s half marathon skierg 1 meter short of the target. This then turned into a pissing contest when he completed one more meter than my half marathon and I returned the favour again. I would like to think this behaviour will end in the not too distant future with neither of us getting hurt BUT, in training the seniors on Tuesdays I witness guys in their 60’s partake in this carry on, so I am not too hopeful for any truce with Jason in the next few decades.
Jason’s 5 marathons in 5 days
The above messing aside, I was so proud of Jason for taking on a personal challenge of completing 5 skierg marathons in 5 days for Jigsaw. This was something I knew Jason was very capable of doing, even though he had his own doubts.
To see the difference in him since he first came into the gym – go back over the old facebook pics for the lols, but in all seriousness, from someone who wanted a ‘stronger bench press’ to becoming one of the better coaches in this town, in the space of 5 years is a huge achievement. Not to mention that bench has gotten him to international powerlifting competitions. He has been a huge asset to the gym.
As you know I love burgers, In-N-Out burger was one of the biggest let downs of my life. The Supermacs I got in Moneygall that gave me a dodgy stomach was nicer. I can’t believe idiots over here paid €50 to buy a burger when they opened a pop up branch in town.
Online Christmas Shopping
I will order my Christmas presents online in advance next year… (this was a note from 2016, I still didn’t do this in 2017).
Believing in oneself
Believe in yourself. I am awful at this but beginning to see the importance of self-belief and the futility of having no confidence – all I need to do is to figure out a way to bridge the gap from the latter to the former.
I am sure there have been many more lessons and no doubt they will be forced upon me if I haven’t taken note this time around. I will write more about practical goal setting in the next couple of days but have a think about some targets for the New Year and look to formulate a solid strategy – don’t bank on fleeting motivation to achieve your goals, set your systems up to succeed this year!