Information is abundant. Expertise on the other hand, is not so abundant.
One story that springs to mind when Im thinking about picking mentors, and finding the right teachers to help you in your quest. My good friend, and 1958 RÁS Tailteann winner Mick Murphy has often recounted to me how he started weight training. He sent away for a series of books by the famous Charles Atlas, and also sent for a book by the famous Weightlifting Champion Al Murray of Scotland. This book was ahead of its time, and documented training methods that would be beyond the remit of most degree holding Strength and Conditioning Coaches today, despite being published in the 60’s! Mick also learned from the Circus people, who trained under Russian methods for years, and also picked up tips from the Egyptian style of training. Mick went straight to the top for his information, and implemented the training methods we was learning with great ferocity to win the RÁS, become a Prize Fighter, Wrestler, Circus Performer, and well known Olympic Weightlifter in his time. Mediocrity was never an option fro Mick. But if he didn’t have the guidance of the experts at the time, the chances are he would not have gained the notoriety and success that he did as a tough competitor and a versatile talent that could compete and win in a wide range of sports and activities. Remember too that this was the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s! No Internet, smartphones, or infinite television stations.
Today, there are hundreds of thousands of website out there on the world wide web purporting to have the secret way that will bring you to the promised land. This is just as true for the health, fitness, nutrition, and sports performance world as it is for music playing, money making, or fishing! This means that you need to pick some trusted sources of information VERY CAREFULLY, and use the information from these sources to build your own perspective and approach to things. Access to the real experts has never been so easy with the advent of the internet, podcasting, and the explosion of amazon that allows access to the brains of the experts in just about any field to be posted through your front door with the click of a button. Pick the best mentors and teachers possible. The experts in the field, the MASTERS. Ask yourself why you trust this particular mentor before going in with both feet. It’s good to skim through the following questions in your head when deciding if you can REALLY trust the information you are reading.
- Does this person have the relevant experience that qualifies them to speak with authority on this subject?
- Does this person practice what they preach?
- Has this person got real life examples of how their approach has helped other in the past?
- Is this person aligned with your underlying core values or philosophies on this subject matter?
I have my own teachers, and trusted sources that I have used throughout the years to build my approach to building health and sports performance with our clients at ACLAÍ, and I want to share a few of them with you.
Firstly, Ido Portal is the modern day master of movement. I have been training under Ido and his elite team of coaches for 3 hours per day since December. Ido and his team practice what they preach in a way that is so obvious that they are walking billboards for their philosophy on moving, training, health, and strength. The Movement Culture Facebook group is drawing attention from all corners of the world, and the results from the Ido Portal Method are there to be seen every single day. The approach ties in perfectly with my own philosophy of ‘doing’, and being a student to the art of movement. The key being healthy, strong, and vibrant is movement (something that we do very little of these days), and the power of well selected movement can even more powerful that you can imagine when it comes to your health. In 2 weeks, I will travel to Thailand to take part in the Movement Camp, and spend a week of intensive training and moving with what could potentially be the most well selected and elite team of movement teachers on planet earth. This is worth a few articles on its own, but for now, the key point is that Ido Portal is one of my main sources of learning and teaching at the moment.
Nutrition is another key part of our business at ACLAÍ, and something that we are always working on with our members. On this, I always try to lead by example. I recall a story of a woman who brought her child to an old sage to get advice on how to help her child stop eating sugar. ‘I cant get my son to stop eating sugar. Can you help?’ She said. The sage told the woman to come back in 2 weeks, and ask him again. The woman returned in two weeks with her son, and got some great advice from the sage. After he had passed on the valuable information the woman asked ‘Why did you tell me to come back in two weeks?’. The sage replied that he had to go and give up sugar himself first, before being able to dispense advice to her that would help her son.
For years, one of my guiding lights when it comes to nutrition has been John Berardi, and Precision Nutrition. I have studies their philosophy and teachings carefully, and completed the Precision Nutrition Coach Certification. The common sense, science based approach has worked wonders for me personally, and for many of our members at ACLAÍ. Often the way is not overly complicated, and the most crucial ingredient is perseverance with the simple things that works the best. From a nutrition perspective, there is a new kid in town! Danny Lennon, and Sigma Nutrition is absolutely raising the bar when it comes to providing real-life, common sense, science based information to the public. Danny’s podcast is smashing it on iTunes, in no small part due to his own wealth of knowledge, great presentation style, and the quality of expertise of the guests that are on the show.
Another key influence in my own personal development as a coach has been Dan John. I first read Dan John’s book ‘Never Let Go, as a Sport and Exercise Undergraduate at the University of Limerick in 2003, and I can safely say that it was this book that started to tie it all together for me that strength and conditioning was a career that I wanted to pursue with everything I had. Dan ties consistent training, with compound lifts, and fostering the right mentality that results in getting the changes that you want from your efforts. I often think that 50 years of laboratory research in the sports science field, would probably result in something that was maybe approaching the effectiveness of Dan John’s teachings. When it comes to getting the strength, body composition, and fitness gains that many require, my own philosophy is that its best to do the things that will bring the most benefit with the least amount of effort first, and work from there. For me, Dan John epitomizes this approach, and that is why I follow.
Paul Chek is another figure that I have studied comprehensively, and learned a lot from. Paul’s book ‘How to Eat Move and Be Healthy’ is my number one recommendation for you if you want to see the ‘big picture’ of health, and want a starting point to work from in terms of diet, peace of mind, happiness, and movement. Paul shines a light on everything from digestive health, spirituality, and strength training, and has been my go-to source on many occasions, especially when I want to return to basics with my mindset. I have not gone as deep into some of Paul Chek’s teachings as some of my other influencers, but nonetheless he is right up there on the list.
So there you have it. 5 major influences on my career and personal development so far. When you are considering your own influences, teachers, or mentors, pick them carefully. Weigh up their credibility, and their comp ability with your own philosophy. Make sure that your teachers are a good fit for your personality, and the way that you want to approach things is a key element to success. Its also worth noting, that working with the masters in the field can, and most of the tie does, cost more that learning from the amateurs. At first glance this might seem prohibitive, but with a little bit of digging, you will see that working with amateurs costs MUCH MORE than the extra investment that you will make by going straight to the top. Would Mick Murphy have won RÁS Tailtenn in 1958 with poor training advice?
This Article is by ACLAÍ Managing Director, and Strength and Conditioning Coach, Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS.
Ainle’s previous roles include Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Cork Senior Football Team, and Trainer at the Adelaide Crows Football Club. He has lectured at the University of Limerick PE and Sports Science Department, contributed to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, and also works as a tutor with Strength and Conditioning Institute, Setanta College.