Out of my depth? Me? Again? Never.. well, of course I was. Sitting in a room with 40 highly experienced personal trainers and coaches, all silently absorbing every word Dan John, this animated and open American, was saying and I was quietly wondering how I had ended up here.

Strength Matters

I had come across Strength Matters just a few months before and was immediately hooked on their beliefs, systems, and aims. Having only just qualified as a personal trainer, it was their simplicity and clear approach to fitness that, intuitively, I completely associated with.

It’s not about showing off with big weights, it’s about maximising the performance of our clients that yes, may involve big weights. It’s not about selfies and social media but about using modern technology to best coach and engage our clients. And, it’s not about seeing other trainers as competition but opening up to, supporting, and benefiting from each other.

Only a few years old, the SM community is exploding. New members are signing up every day, each bringing yet more experience and energy to the already vibrant online community. On top of the online groups, support network, training assets (guides, movement drills, stories and tonnes more), they have started putting on some truly fantastic event, the first of which I attended being The Art of Coaching by Dan John.

Dan John

Dan John, instructing

Dan John, instructing

Dan John is a bit of a legend, let’s just get that out of the way first. He knows his onions, as they say – though who they are, i’m not sure.. As an All-American discus thrower, Dan has also competed at the highest levels of Olympic lifting and kilt-wearing, whisky-sipping Highland Games. He has been coaching athletes of all ages and backgrounds for more years than I have been alive and his hunger to change, improve, and develop is, if anything, stronger than ever.

The first thing that struck me upon meeting Dan the night before the 3 day workshop started was his humility. Here is someone who controls the room, his personality and energy is contagious and everyone was rapt from the moment we sat down. However, he was just as interested and excited to hear about each of our individual stories, catch up with old friends, and listen as much, if not more, than lead the conversation.

Several pints of Guinness later and a few whiskeys, we were all heading to bed, excited and, in my part, nervous about the day ahead.

The next day, as we kicked off The Art of Coaching, it became instantly apparent that I was in for a ride. I cannot convey how many knowledge-bombs, pearls of wisdom, and takeaways I amassed over the weekend but needless to say, a lot.

What I found most enlightening, however, was how applicable these nuggets were for life in general and not just physical training.

Though full of diamonds, I wanted to share three that resonated most with me, and that I try daily to adhere to though, I’ll be honest, it’s not always easy.

Step by step

Step by step

The goal is to keep the goal the goal

This is so often dropped at the first hurdle. We have a dream or a goal in mind; we plan how we are going to get there, we start along the path of achieving glory then, all of a sudden, a little way down the line we realise we have not just drifted off course but are sailing towards an entirely different continent.

Life has a habit of throwing curve balls that can veer us off path but also, without keeping a laser focus on where we are heading, we can just get distracted. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been working towards something and, en route, I discover something new or cool or that I’m just good at then all I focus on is this new aspect, ignoring what I am not so good at and thus compromising reaching my goal.

Regular and uncompromising reassessments of where you are and how your current direction is going to help you reach your goal is crucial to keeping the goal the goal. If not, I find myself floating around from one half executed idea to another and only a bag of excuses to explain why I’ve not made it to where I hoped I would.

Perfection is in the way of pretty good

If you’re not going to do something right then don’t bother. Words to this effect regularly come into my head. I understand why, I like things to be right, I like to do things correctly and, if I’m going to invest my time in something I want to do it well. Damn well.

However, always striving for perfection often stops you even getting started.

Chipping away and trying hard is actually far more beneficial than striving for perfection and, often, leads to what an outside party might perceive as perfection. Pretty good is, actually, amazing, especially when it is a darn sight more proficient than but I’ll start tomorrow.

Just getting started is 80% of the battle and, making sure that you are neither hurting yourself nor someone else, taking that first step and trying your best is an excellent and strong place to be.

Consistency is king

For me, this can be the hardest to maintain. It is certainly the one that requires the most deliberate thought and implementation. I can be a little skittish sometimes with my attention and enthusiasm darting around like a kitten catnip. I see something bright and shiny over yonder and I’m instantly attracted to whatever it might be regardless of its relative value.

I am, however, doing my best to not get distracted by the new and different, and to keep plugging away, step by step, keeping the goal the goal, and being consistent. Daily workout grinds that will correct weaknesses, drills that will improve technical skill, and the simple fact of doing something every day will lead to mastery. Though this is certainly where I want to be, I am the first to sabotage my progress through lack of consistency.

Stick at it, Charley!

The Art of Coaching 2.0

The Art of Coaching Team Shot

The Art of Coaching Team Shot

At the end of the weekend boss of Strength Matters, James Breese, said that due to the amazing success, they would do everything they can to bring Dan back in 2016 for another seminar, developing on what he taught this time round. With a year’s worth of implementation and practice, it will be absolutely fantastic to build on this knowledge and see what new learnings he is bringing to the table.

Right now, however, I need to keep the goal the goal – of becoming a competent and effective trainer; focus on pretty good – and not let the idea of being perfect nor the best get in the way of getting there; and, keep practicing every day safe in the knowledge that progress will come if I keep true.

If you are interested in learning more from Dan, I would also highly recommend signing up to his newsletter, Wandering Weights, a witty and informative email shot on all things strength related.

by Charley Radcliffe

2 Responses to “The Art of Coaching with Dan John”

  1. Sarah

    Wow, sounds pretty inspirational. I don’t have any experience of coaching, but I liked how you picked up on the goals that can be applied to pretty much anyone’s life and goals. Definitely some good philosophies and things to keep in mind!


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