If there could be one line to sum up what I took away from the intensive two days I spent learning from “the coach’s coach” Dan John it was this – the goal is to keep the goal the goal.
Taken from his years of working with clients from Navy SEALS to Olympic Athletes to high school wannabes, that simple line both sums up the job of the coach and the reason that so few people succeed.
I’ve written many times before about how Dan John is one of the major influences on my training philosophy and how he is recognized around the world as one of the top strength coaches around. If you don’t know who he is then I highly recommend checking out his site www.danjohn.net where he has enough free info to fill 2 reams of paper (apparently someone printed off all his stuff and told him how much paper it took).
I was lucky enough to have met Dan a few times and have even been over to his house for one of his famous garage workouts. Most days at 9:30 in the morning Dan opens his garage doors and welcomes whoever shows up to train with him and his friends and it (his garage) has even been named a Top 10 Gym in America by Men’s Health.
His newest project is a workshop he is calling The Art of Coaching and I was able to get a seat at a secret “beta test” of the materials. In it Dan shows exactly how he uses his assessments to drive the direction of a program and how he focuses things in order to get the best results possible.
If you are a fan of Dan John then I can say that this is the workshop you have been waiting for. He pulls all of the concepts he has shared in his countless articles and books like Never Let Go and Intervention together into a coherent system that shows you exactly what a client needs to work on.
Here is how Dan explains it. The process breaks down to 3 steps, which follow something he got from a book called the Gnolls Credo:
Step 1 – Plan the hunt (Create a program based on your goals)
Step 2 – Hunt the hunt (Follow the program)
Step 3 – Discuss the hunt (Assess what happened)
In Step 1 you need to assess what you need in order to achieve your goals. Dan uses several simple questions and tests to assess a client and find out what they really need, including concepts from his 4 Quadrants of Training and his Intervention book/ workshop. As he pointed out several times, what you think you need and what you really need may not be the same thing.
For example, most mountain bikers think they need to work on their cardio when the truth is that mobility, strength or body composition may the real weak link. Without some objective way to tell you what your weaknesses really are it is easy to go “hunting” for the wrong thing with your program.
This makes it important to have some basic assessments but also, more importantly, that those assessments actually tell you something. For him an assessment should do 3 things:
1 – Clear out basic risks
2 – Highlight some problems to address.
3 – Outline a program map based on those problems.
While there are a lot of ways to go about doing this, Dan shares his assessments and methods for finding out what someone really needs to focus on. Of course, for most people this is actually the easy part. Figuring out what to do is usually a lot easier than actually doing it.
This is where Step 2 comes in. And this is where things get real tricky and the value of a good coach really shines through. Making sure that you actually follow the program – or hunt the hunt as the Gnolls would say – requires a balance of motivation and focus.
You need to understand motivation because once you do then you can make real change. Most people fail to understand how to use their current motivation levels to their advantage. We aren’t always motivated the same way and for a lot of people the trick is to use their motivation to focus on the tiny habits that will lead them to their goals.
For example, if you found out that mobility is an issue for you, is adding an extra cardio training session in when you have more time during the week the best use of that time? If you found out that skills are an issue, is getting your ass kicked in a “bootcamp” style class or spending most of your off season riding a road bike really the best way to focus your efforts?
To help with this question Dan likes to use what he calls “The Prisoner’s Dilemma”. It is a question you pose to someone to help them focus down to what it really takes to be successful and goes like this…
Pretend that you are a prisoner for some reason and that you only have 15 minutes, 3 times a week to train. What would you do with that time?
As you can see it really makes you focus on what is really the most important stuff. You don’t have time for fancy warm ups or extra exercises – you need to focus like a laser on what will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
But, like Dan points out, this is hard because the basics are “boring as shit” and we want to look for that extra something that we hope can help but will ultimately lead us off course. And this is why Step 2 is so hard for most of us. Following through on the plan is really the most important step in a lot of ways and knowing how to stay motivated and focused is essential to long term success.
Having a coach who really understands how to push the right buttons at the right time can really come in handy during this time to keep you on the right track and the tools Dan shares to do that are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Again, if you are a coach then this info will change how you view helping your clients succeed.
After you “hunt the hunt” and are finished with the program it is time for the last step, which is to discuss the hunt. In our case this means to look at the results from the program. And when doing this it is important to remember the difference between “health” and “fitness” goals.
Dan explains that health goals are measured in longevity, quality of life and a lack of bad health. Fitness goals are simply the ability to do a task.
For example, getting a KOM on strava is a fitness goal. Being able to ride without knee or low back pain is a health goal. Trying to combine the two will often get you into trouble.
This makes the lens you use to assess your program very important. If your only measure of success is faster lap times or pushing harder numbers in the gym then you will probably start to have some health problems, so be sure to keep it all in perspective. Especially if you aren’t paying your bills with how fast you ride your bike.
All in all, I feel like a much better coach after attending the Art of Coaching workshop. Dan lived up to the hype – one of the few I can say that about in the fitness and strength training world – and I’m glad that he has taken the time to prepare this workshop to help other coaches improve their craft.
I hope this recap of the weekend gave you some things to think about with your own program. Following Dan’s 3 step plan for training success is pretty simple. But like he said several times, just because it is simple doesn’t mean it is easy. Good luck with the process and let me know if I can help out with keeping the goal the goal along the way.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training Systems