How The Matrix Can Make You a Better Coach
It’s no secret I love movies.
I always joke that if I weren’t a strength coach I’d try to finagle a way to watch movies for a living. I don’t know know how I’d make a living doing that, all I know is that it’s pretty much my life’s dream (outside of owning my own real-life Airwolf).
I can’t think of an instance in my life where I haven’t been transfixed or excited to head to the theater to catch a flick.1The ones that really stick out in my mind, that made my jaw drop and were almost biblical in how they affected me are…Return of the Jedi (of course), Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Avatar, and The Matrix.2
Who can forget that opening sequence with Trinity? Remember how it started off with her taking out that whole SWAT team single-handedly, with that slow motion 360 degree camera shot, then building to a chase scene crescendo out-running an “agent?”
Nerd boner city.
You knew, after watching that, that the next two hours were going to be something special.
And, arguably, maybe one of the more iconic lines/scenes of the movie was when Neo first visited The Oracle and he had the “bending spoon” conversation with the little girl.
“There is no spoon.”
The whole point of that interaction, at least to me, was to provide some much needed perspective to Neo.
To demonstrate to him that, sometimes, all you have to do is shift your perspective to see someone’s else’s truth.
The Matrix is real, and you know, the spoon isn’t there.
In the health and fitness industry, and in particular as a health and fitness professional, understanding someone else’s perspective is a crucial and germane talent to posses.
I + XI = X
Take for instance the equation you see above.
Is that a “true” or “false” statement?
I snaked this little gem from author Dan Brown’s latest novel, Origin.3
You’re looking at the equation and thinking to yourself:
“One plus eleven is ten? That’s false Gentilcore. Idiot.”
Alas, when the main character in Brown’s novel, Robert Langdon, wrote out the same equation in sand during a pivotal moment in the story, and presented it to another character (named Ambra)…he received the same perplexed reaction.
When told that the equation is “absolutely false,” Langdon responded with “And can you see any way this could be true?”
“No, the statement is definitely false,” replied Ambra.
Langdon then reached out and gently guided Ambra’s around to where he was standing.
It was only then that she saw the equation from his vantage point.
The equation was upside down:
X = IX + I
“Ten equals nine plus one.”
I was sitting in bed when I read that tidbit and chuckled to myself. “That’s good,” I thought to myself. I then reached over and wrote the equation on the little notepad I keep at my bedside figuring I’d use it at some point to make a blog post out of it.
SPOILER ALERT: This is that blog post…..
Many of us are steadfast in our beliefs in this industry.
I remember when Mike Boyle caught a metric shit-ton of flak years ago when he told the strength & conditioning world that he had omitted back squatting from all his programs.
I think he could have live streamed himself clubbing a baby seal and that would have been more universally accepted.
From his perspective, however, he saw a correlation between back squats and the vast number of athletes experiencing back discomfort and in worse case scenarios…missing playing time due to injury.
He switched gears and opted to emphasize building single-leg strength instead. For the record, he’s still producing world renowned athletes (and he’s seen a reduction in injury rates).
This is not to insinuate I agree with all of what Mike has to say about back squats – if it’s any consolation, I still use them with my athletes – but rather it’s to note that he’s not wrong.
He just has/had a different perspective.
He’s still getting results.
And the world is still spinning.
Likewise, I recently saw a thread on Facebook with a personal training attacking Jenny Craig.
She went off on how she’s frustrated with one of her client’s who decided to enroll in the program.
I’m paraphrasing but she said something along the lines of:
“It’s just a foo-foo fad diet, and she (her client) is just wasting her money.”
Don’t get me wrong, I too have a hard time not rolling my eyes at Jenny Craig. It is a touch “faddy,” and I believe most are better off not adopting an often unhealthy relationship with food by following a point system.
Hamburger w/ wheat bun: 719 points
Celery sprinkled with sawdust: 1 point, Mmmmmmm.
That being said, it does work for a lot of people and it does serve as a way for many to learn to appreciate portion/calorie control.
That’s not a bad thing.
Are there better, maybe more long-lasting and sustainable avenues to take?
But from a client’s perspective, Jenny Craig may be the most un-intimidating starting point to take.
And that’s a huge win. Assuming they follow the rules to a “T” and stay consistent, it stands to reason some cool things will happen.
What they don’t need is their trainer/coach discouraging them.
Perspective goes a long ways.
It helps to explain why some coaches don’t use back squats, or don’t incorporate a lot of overhead pressing, or maybe omit the olympic lifts from their programs. You may not agree with them, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
In addition it’ll help to better understand where your clients are physically and emotionally, and what will likely be the best course of action to take to set them up for long-term success.
I’m not even sure what my overarching rationale was for writing this post. Maybe it was to note that Keanu Reeves is capable of making good movies.4. Or better yet, to encourage you not to be an uppity dick.
No one is saying to turn your back away from your experience and expertise. I implore all fitness professionals to use both to educate their clients/athletes.
But too, try to make a habit of walking around to the other side, to see the vantage point from their perspective. You’re only going to be a better coach in the end.