• Kevin Mullins

One Thought: Then Go Catch your Wave

Today's post is a rather short one, but comes from a thought I had while vacationing last week in Costa Rica. It's something that I've immediately implemented in my coaching philosophy, and so I feel compelled to share it with my fellow coaches in the industry.


So I surfed.

And what I mean by that statement is that I repeatedly attempted to stand up on a surf board while being propelled by a wave, and the thoughtful acceleration from my surf instructors hand. It was a satisfying experience. One which provides an exciting amount of freedom, physically and mentally, once your feet steady and your body relax.

Truthfully, I wasn't all that bad. I took to the pop-up quickly as it is literally a burpee from a cobra pose. My instructor and I shared a laugh as he related to my analogy with astounding accuracy. Then, once up it just took a few landmarks on the board to help me establish where I should be standing. Add in how my body should feel, my arms should move, and where my weight should shift (and why) - I took to it.

I certainly didn't have a clue when I walked up, although having a background in fitness certainly helped me be in tune with my body, the demands, and what changes needed to be made. I understood what the goal was - stand up on the stinkin' surfboard. My development occurred because of an outstanding coaching method.

He knew I hardly knew what was being asked of me by him, the board, and the waves. He knew I was motivated to succeed, for equally intrinsic and extrinsic reasons (I was with my girlfriend - a stud trainer and athlete herself). Yet, most importantly the thing he knew was that he couldn't inundate me with a bunch of terms, local lingo, and overly-specific instruction.

He gave me the tools to succeed and let me find my own wave, with a push of course.

He didn't follow me as I rode the wave. He didn't race after me to meet me on the shore and tell me what I did right or wrong. He pushed, watched, and waited for me to return - however long that took. He didn't hold my hand and try to control everything.

He just gave me a focus and let me work.

Cool story bro. Now, let's make it relevant to fitness shall we?

In training we encounter excited clients, full of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and a moderate understanding of what is going to be expected of them. Sure, they don't know the specificity behind deadlift variations or the subtle differences between metabolic pathways, but they know they will work hard, move weights, and sweat a few beads.

The equipment that surrounds them is the surfboard for their journey; forever floating with the current of the gym, an ocean of people all looking to catch their wave.

And there we are, the coaches, as the conduit between getting up and falling down.

And this is where we often drop the ball.

Quick to make promises of losing weight, dropping body fat, and lifting alllllll the weights. Quick to assess their readiness and throw them into the fray - lift this, pull that, keep your head up, butt down, don't round your spine, and only slam the weights if they weigh more than the biggest guy in the gym.

Somewhere in our desire to get our clients to their goals we forget to let them learn. In a rush to help them catch the perfect wave we forget to give them the tool to catch it themselves.


Now, this isn't a petition to stop coaching with fine points of science and craft. In fact, it's quite the opposite. This stream of conscious is meant to implore you to consider which science and craft you share with a client, and more importantly, when.

  • A client should eventually come to understand how to take the slack of the bar on a deadlift, but not on day 1.

  • A client should perfect their arm drive in their sprints, but not when they are still fighting to get some cardiovascular capacity.

  • A surfer shouldn't consider how they carve a pipe when they can't even paddle the speed of the approaching wave.

As a coach we should all strive to be a little more like a surf instructor. Our jobs are just the same although our tools and locations differ. Our boards aren't waxed and our ocean is a bit dry and temperature controlled.

  • Coach your clients, but don't choke your clients

  • Allow room for personal growth - it sticks longer

  • Give your client one amazing cue, and then let them surf

Surfing is a physically demanding sport that contains much art within. So too is training. The best practitioners and coaches understand the importance of this fact, and that is why they succeed.

Everyone is out here trying to catch their wave. No one wants to be the one that doesn't get up on the board. As coaches - it's our job to figure out how to get them up and ready to ride the flow. That happens when we give a great coaching point and step back. That's when we allow for real learning to take place.


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