Training or “Entertaining”?

Posted: October 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

As a fitness professional working with a clientele that crosses numerous different genres– from relative beginner adult to the “hey, I’m  also a trainer, already know everything, but need something new”, from dedicated working women and moms to driven-to-succeed businessmen, from youth to pro athlete, and all the way to seniors well into their 80’s–I am confronted with some interesting challenges when it comes to program design. This not to mention the typical physical impairments many of these clients deal with on a daily basis as well.

When you’ve trained individuals and small groups for nearly 3 decades, no matter how much you truly love what you do there is the tendency to become a bit bored (not complacent, mind you!) with the basics. However, reality is that these foundational (albeit mundane) components are essential to true progress and desired results. And, unless human physiology gets altered…that isn’t changing.

In years, and decades past, if was a much more efficient task keeping a client or group motivated by making progress in the basics on a regular-and-consistent basis. The results spoke for themselves, and these individuals were healthier, moved and performed more efficiently, AND even looked better.

However, with the over-reliance on “fit media” (you got a smart phone?…you’re a potential fitness expert), the over-saturation of weekend or online “personal trainer certifications”, and self-appointed gurus with all of their training tenants, rites-of-passage, and cult-like disciples, the task of keeping clients attentive, interested, on track, and accountable to the PRINCIPLES THAT MATTER has become as challenging as keeping a first grade class focused on mastering addition and subtraction with clowns in the room.

Admittedly, in the past, I, too, have taken the plunge into the ‘attention deficit’ ocean (fortunately I was able to swim to shore) and thought I had to come up with something different on a very regular basis to keep the interest of the client(s). The self-inflicted stress of “out-thinking” an already successful program was both exhausting and humiliating. It was one of those situations where I was torn between giving a client “what they wanted” while still getting the true job (re progress) done. This reminded me of getting our kids to eat healthy foods while also giving them  a little of what they wanted to eat while making sure the overall objective of nourishment was satisfied.

It would get to a point where when a client or group had been with us for a certain length of time, I could get-a-sense a few of those individuals were growing stale with just ‘making progress” (why that can be boring is beyond me!). Yes, as backwards as that sounds, some people would truly rather be “pushed to the brink” so they’d leave with immediate gratification feeling as though they’d paid their dues no matter what subsequent result. Still others simply wanted to be entertained with some “new stuff” that fulfilled their inability to simply get better at the basics. Or as Charles Staley so astutely says, “If it hurts (sucks) it’s gotta be working”.

What I found is that many clients cared less about getting stronger and actually making positive, and lasting, changes in their body as long as they were doing what they were assured of was going to give them what they wanted about of the session: the feeling they were doing something that “sucked” while providing some sense of “entertainment”.

Now, I am definitely an innovative trainer/coach, and have been since I got my start training athletes back in 1983 with drills and methods that were then observed as bizarre and outright silly-looking. These same drills are now commonplace such as lifting odd objects, kickboxing and grappling drills, sled pushes, gymnastics drills, sandbags, bands, medicine balls, resisted sprints, and dedicated mobility and activation drills. I used these methods with everyone from housewives to professional tennis players to businessmen to golfers to football, baseball, soccer, and basketball players and beyond.

There are plenty of advantages to the plethora of good training resources out there today. I’m the first to say I LOVE talking training with colleagues and people in general. The fact that there are ways not yet uncovered to make our work even more efficient is one of the inspirations in my starting each day with great expectation. However, beyond that, it is absolutely imperative that we refuse to allow that mission of becoming more ‘proficient in efficiency’ to compromise the proven, time and again, benefits of sound training principles of progressive mechanical overload (intensity) in combination with regulated technical workload (volume).

Whether you choose to lean towards the “it’s a science with some art in it” or “it’s an art with some science in it”, is not a life-and-death issue. As in centuries before us, the study, innovation, experimentation, and application of physical training and human performance is one of the most basic, yet exciting, endeavors on this planet.


  1. thecoachpc says:

    Awesome read, Coach!

  2. Jason Hall says:

    Vince, I could not agree more with your blog and will take it a step further. Not just entertainment but what may be faddish is equally frustrating. This in my opinion is happening even with you in Fairhope. You are too good of a trainer for those who just want rec league performance and results verses wanting career building, life altering, and lifestyle fitness.

    I get the monetary aspect of what you do and even the foundational ” put a hunger in their spirit ” position that could be established. But personally, I am not paying to have my athletes entertained nor “not pushed”. Furthermore if you have to be soft because of your clientale then change the clientale. I want you in mine’ s grill if you know what I mean. I want lifestyle diets, habits, and college like pursuits to be at the forefront. The infamous words of “Eminem”…. “For opportunity comes but once in a lifetime”. My kids do not have time for the Faddish workout habits of a soft society.

    If there is a way to ” make the team ” then lets have tryouts. If it is rec league workouts then lets get hourly trainers under your guidance with graduation and advancement opportunities. I appreciate you more than any coach I know. You are the real deal. I am available to help in any way. Seize the day my friend and lets make kids not only physically fit but mentally and spiritually strong as well.


    • MUCH appreciation Jason.Thank you for the words and input.

      I understand EXACTLY where you are coming from, and with more parents taking this approach (re clarifying a primary objective) we would ALL be much better off and significantly more successful with creating an environment where our young athletes not only excel in the immediate but also have a solid foundation to build on into the future.

      Regarding MY objectives, there is zero compromise or wavering in my purpose working with athletes no matter if an 8-9 year-old or a seasoned professional. The only thing that may be altered is the “delivery” in conveying what they NEED to understand. However, no matter the age and/or level, reality is that there will be a small percentage that just DOESN’T GET IT. As the saying goes, we “can lead a horse to water but can’t make them drink”. Seemingly “everyone” THINKS he/she is “working hard”. People have begun to equate even slight effort and sacrifice as grounds of deserving everything be handed to them.

      The spirit of indifference and/or complacency is a modern-day epidemic not only amongst our youth but also in many who’ve appeared to achieve greatness by most people’s standards. The solution is not as simple as most think (i.e. education). I believe the problem starts with a ‘spirit of entitlement’. It’s not just the “spoiled” who fall into this trap of futility and defeat. Even those who seem to “have little” have become jaded and “above” the need to commit to a cause and work to see it through.

      The solution begins with those of us who are aware of the issues and have the forum to help create leaders within each peer group. A successful coach helps to cultivate leaders out of his athletes, and these leaders confront their peers with their consistency and refusal to compromise.

  3. Robert Cunningham III says:

    I was pushed to the brink on Tuesday and it sucked

  4. […] Training or Entertaining by Vince McConnell […]

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