Training and dəˈpreSH(ə)n

Since back in 2013, I’ve believed that I’m on a ‘hero’s quest’ about exactly the topic in this blog.

If you aren’t familiar with this concept, there is a graphic below. Every one of us has a mission of a higher order in our lives. Something goes above and beyond waking up and sitting at a desk and in front of a TV for 16 hours a day for the majority of our lives.

From personal experience with this topic, as well as observing my own clients and thousands of clients across the world as I taught my seminars. So what role does training play in depression? Well, that’s a huge topic and one I can split into several blogs. But in this case, I’m going to deal purely with it from a perspective of intent, program design and ID (individual design) vs Group.

During the process of consultation with my clients and talking with other coaches, its very apparent that for many people, training is holistic. It should be. Of course, there is a motivating factor that training will make us look better in our bathing costumes. But beyond this, its an amazing coping strategy.

In his best selling book, ‘The Power of Now’, Eckhart Tolle talks about depression and anxiety. Depression being something from thinking about and being in the past and anxiety being something brought about by worrying about the future. Both of these scenarios can be mitigated by living in the present moment. For a large number of us, that ability to be present is very difficult, especially when emotionally and mentally we are overwhelmed. This is one of the reasons why people self harm. The pain and shock of that brings them into the present and for a time, depression or anxiety is relieved.

If we think about the nature of the training methods typically employed in a group training scenario, we see many clients being asked to express contractions and energy system work that they aren’t ready for. There is a lot of HIIT type work, work that leaves them in a heap on the floor. Its painful, it brings them to the present. It alleviates mental and emotional anguish and it sounds much healthier than hurting ourselves in other ways to achieve that ‘now’. I mean, its healthy to workout and do fitness, right?

This is where this idea begins to unravel. Firstly, training cant ever be a band aid for poor lifestyle. You shouldn’t be training to support pizza. You shouldn’t be training to escape your problems. Its ok to train as part of an overall strategy that includes talking through issues and traumas, but not as the sole intervention.

Lets take a scenario whereby someone has a coping strategy for their trauma by needing to control things. In this scenario, they control eating. They develop an eating ‘disorder’. Recognising this isn’t healthy, they enrol in classes to find a release for their anguish and stress. It helps. But like what happens with all outcomes in a general template type model, after a while it plateaus and stops working. The first thing we do when something we have been doing stops working is to increase the volume of what we were doing. So now we see this client add more volume, more work. Their body starts to be overstressed and they cant recover and an injury occurs. Having suddenly lost their training coping strategy, they rebound to their old strategy of eating to control things.

This isn’t an imaginary scenario. I have literally seen this EXACT thing play out. Beyond this happening, we have situations where we have clients being injured by being asked to express movements they simply cannot or should not be performing. I have had coaches say to me in the past that I shouldn’t be allowed to say what people can and cannot try to perform. WRONG. I’m their coach, I should be doing exactly that. It’s called DUTY OF CARE. At OPEX, we have this saying ‘assess dont guess’. Via the processes in place of consultation and assessment, I should know exactly what the reasons are for my clients training. I will also know what they can currently express physically and how to steer the ship.

In other words, I dont believe that anything other than ID will help clients to be safe in the long term and help them achieve their goals. I understand that the group can feel more supportive and that ‘fun’ aspect helps with accountability and attendance. Which is fine. But if you are designing programs for a demographic of masters clients with low training ages and a goal to be more mentally and physically healthy, is there really any need for them to having training protocols of an ‘athlete’?

Every single client needs to be respected as an individual and be viewed as one may view an iceberg. What we see on the surface, above the waterline is a small percentage of what is going on and we need to chart and navigate the waters carefully to ensure the best outcomes.

I would encourage all coaches to think about their clients on a level that includes their mental and emotional wellbeing because we are organisms that encompass many facets to ‘wellness’ and health. Physical stuff is the tip of the iceberg, but a break down in that leads to bigger problems we cant see.

Think about your 'hero's quest' and what brought you into coaching and what changes you want to make on peoples' lives and then evaluate what you are currently doing and ask yourself if those things align. Is there a better way to do it?