Normally reminiscing is not high on my agenda. I would rather think to the future rather than glorifying days gone by. However, the internet crowd of wannabe trainers, keyboard tough guys and 'I can do anything' athletes has really got me thinking.
Before the internet we got our information from books and magazines and from talking to each other on the phone, in person or via letters (yes, we actually used to write to people with a pen and paper!). Now the internet has everything you could possibly need to get better with regards to health and strength. If you need to know about Westside it's all there, if you need to know about grip training it's all there and if you want to know about healthy eating, it too is all there.
The trouble is I don't think people are getting it. Reading about training is all well and good but the most important thing is the doing. Trying a routine or training style once isn't enough. You have to go through trial and error, making mistakes and learning from them yourself. No one can tell you how hard a PROPER set of HARD 20 reps squats is going to be. And you will never know how hard you can work them until you have tried them many, many times.
What makes a champion?
I have travelled to many places all over the world and I believe I have seen the very best athletes in sports ranging from martial arts to strongman to athletics. I have trained them and trained with them and I know where I stand personally. The elite are truly on another planet. They have it all. Great genetics, superior levels of recovery, near perfect joints, tendons and ligaments and most importantly high standards of discipline and work ethics. Truly great athletes, like Michael Johnson or Ed Coan or Mariusz Pudzianowski have all this. This is why they are great multiple time champions.
Below them you have the champions that get it right once and achieve greatness. Not many people have won more than one Olympic or World Title but a lot have one them once. They are still great champions but they are below the true greats.
Underneath them you have the also rans. This is an unfortunate term. These men and women are superb athletes but have one of the main factors that is not quite in check. They may not recover so well and are riddled with injuries. They may not be quite as strong mentally and so break under pressure. Whatever it is, they are missing just one element of greatness to become a champion.
The next section is where I put myself. The athletes here were great at county or state level. They may have even competed at National level. A lot of these guys and girls get overtaken by the world around them. They get married, have kids, travel, live life, get careers and move on from their original greatness. This is perfectly normal. Many great athletes might have gone on to further greatness had they not been distracted by life.
In my own case I was lucky enough to live life, go wild, come back and still enter into a career that was physically demanding and required at least (if not more) of the dedication it takes to become a great athlete. For me, being a stuntman meant I could be a jack of all trades rather than a master of one. That suits me very well.
The Internet Hero Phenomenon
I remember the first time I went 'on' the internet. It would have been around 1996 in an internet cafe with a friend. I can't remember what we were looking up but I do remember not having a clue what to do. I think we used google or something but I let him type as I had no idea. When I went to Australia in 1998 I kept in touch with friends via letters and phone calls. Then I found an internet cafe and was amazed at the information on hand. It changed my life and yours forever.
Now, going back some years to around 1993 or 1994 I remember sending Stuart McRobert my first article for Hardgainer magazine. This was all done via letter and was typed on a typewriter. Around the same time I took an interest in an advertisement in the back of Hardgainer for 'David Horne's Iron Grip Course'. I ordered the course and then started communicating with David. At the time I was also in touch with other people all over the world who were interested in strength and health, again via snail mail.
I met David at an IAWA competition where I was competing and he was coaching. Later I travelled to Stafford to train with David. I competed at his Grip Competitions and a friendship was formed and remains to this day. I got to know a great coach through reading about their accomplishments and repsecting them for it. We still talk most weeks, usually via Messenger, discussing training and life and catch in person 3 or 4 times a year in person.
This is how things were done 'back in the day'.
What seems to have happened since the internet is a very different way of getting to know people and learning what to do to become a better athlete no matter what your sport. Anyone can become 'famous' on the internet through YouTube today. It would seem that anyone can become a 'coach' or an 'expert' in any field just by starting a website and writing about it. That's all very good but there is one MAJOR problem. Who are these people?
SO many of these 'experts' have really never even done what they are writing about. Have they competed in sports? Have they been successful? Do they look the part? Is their writing original or is it just a rehash of someone elses? What is their motive for selling their products?
VERY FEW are totally original, bringing out new innovative products, offering up effective tried and tested knowledge without over sensationalizing their products. You know the ones. I know I do.
Forums are a breeding ground for even worse behaviour because the internet moves so fast. What was new yesterday is old today. The forum geeks seem to have forgotton everything that happened before the internet was created. Before the internet there were great athletes doing amazing things, far greater and far more original than much of the antics seen today. Even worse are the 'gurus' passing off this old, pre-internet information as their own ideas. Or worse again, passing off ideas of other people and not giving AT LEAST, the credit to where the idea originally came from.
Having had a rant about the past and the present I see the future in a bright light. Here are some ideas to getting the most out of the future of your training.
1. We are always going to have the bad things with the internet but you can use it to your advantage. If you need information make sure you cross reference it. Eventually you will find out where the original information was written.
2. Read books. I know, that's a little bit radical but much of the internet comes from books.
3. Read it. DO IT!
4. Actually train.
5. Ignore anyone that hasn't actually been there and done it. That includes me. If I start writing about how to win at golf you can tell me where to go!
6. Check out the forums and blogs written by peope who have experience of life. I really have trouble with 20 year old Personal Trainers who have taken a 6 week course telling me how to squat!
Here's a list of people you can trust and get excellent information out of. They have been there and done it. It's a short list and there are others of course.
The INCREDIBLE John Gallacher Deadlifts 200kg/441lbs at age 77!