Challenge Your Biases

“It is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”.

This quote, often attributed to Aristotle, contains what I believe to be one of the fundamental keys to developing a training philosophy as a coach (or indeed, any development as a person). Challenging our biases as coaches – testing our views of the training world – is as uncomfortable as it is essential.

If you’ve heard the name Frans Bosch before, you’re one of the few who have. You also probably have one of three opinions:

  1. He’s brilliant
  2. He’s crazy
  3. He trains runners, so he MUST be out of his mind (…said every powerlifter ever)

Bosch has been of the most polarizing figures in performance training since the early 2000s. While he is very strong on biomechanics and anatomy, his approach to weight training has caused massive controversy. He tosses many core principles coaches deem sacred out the window, and instead insists on an entirely different approach. I have been working my way through his book “Strength Training and Coordination” again, and continue to find it fascinating. Bosch has a unique perspective, and he is not shy about making his case.

The reason I’ve enjoyed the book so much is that it has required me to step completely outside of my normal mindset. In order to read his work seriously I’ve had to distance myself from all of my assumptions about training. I had to start from scratch.

In other words, I didn’t enjoy the book because I agree with his ideas (I am, shall we say, highly skeptical). It’s that his book has required me to challenge my biases, and consider thoughts completely foreign to me on their own merits. His book made me think about coaching.

Challenging our own biases is something I don’t think enough coaches do regularly.

Humans naturally seek out things they agree with and shun or ignore things they dislike.  Don’t believe me?  Head out and start reading through comments on any political news site (and brace yourself for the storm!).  People don’t like gray areas. We don’t hate unknowns – we want to believe that our ideas are 100% right. And we especially dislike people that think differently than us advocating strange new concepts.

Incidentally, that is EXACTLY why it’s so important that we actively engage people that believe things dramatically different than ourselves, and do so sincerely. Ask questions. Listen to what’s said.

None of this means that we have to give up what we believe. You can and should have firm coaching principles that you believe in. However, coaches who do not want to reflect on what they believe (and why they believe it) will eventually become obsolete. The challenge to think deeply is what’s important, and the age of the Instagram fitness celebrity has made it increasingly rare to see anyone with a fitness following reflecting on what they’ve learned, and not just what they can sell to others. There is no long term impact there.

As for Bosch, I think his book is well worth reading for an experienced and highly knowledgeable coach looking to challenge their training philosophy. However, for a young trainer or someone just starting out the book would probably confuse more than clarify. Stay tuned for more on that subject.

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