Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Standard of Excellence

While attending the USSA Level 300 Coaches Symposium last weekend I had the great privilege to visit 2 renowned training facilities; the USSA Center of Excellence in Park City and Gym Jones in Salt Lake City.
COE Gym Floor
Both gyms are unique in terms of facility design and training equipment as well as their approach to producing results for their clients.  One is spartan in design (similar to my gym, the Colorado Kettlebell Club), basically an open space with a few racks, pull up bars, kettlebells, boxes, sandbags, ropes, rings, slam balls, AirFits, SkiErgs and Rowers, and a ‘Green Room’ – the other has multiple platforms/racks, traditional weight machines, boxes, slam balls, bikes, rowers, treadmills and some high-tech machines and testing equipment that look like they belong in a mad scientist’s lab.
Gym Jones Green Room #1
Gym Jones Green Room #2
Olympic Lifting at the COE
Gym Jones is a place to do work - hard work.  They believe in developing your mind as the pathway to developing the body. 
If You See This, You're There
The COE is also a place to do work, but includes a rehab center, trampoline and foam pit practice areas, which creates a total support system for a Winter Olympic Athlete’s development; from learning technical air and trick skills, to coming back from injury and all the physical training required in between.
COE 'Functional' Training Area
SBX Start Gate Practice Area
At Gym Jones, Rob MacDonald, leads by example; not just by setting the standards to work toward, but by demonstrating them repeatedly in weekly work-outs (see his 100 Kcal AirFit effort as an example).  Though the gym can have an outsider’s perception of being in-your-face intense or unapproachable, I was welcomed and treated as part of the family when I visited after one of their ‘FYF’ training sessions (thanks also to Preston Wood for taking the time to talk me through their programs).  I could sense a definite attitude and expectation for participants to work past boundaries (whether real or self-imposed) in the atmosphere and from the whole ‘FYF’ crew.  This I like and am attracted to in terms of the kind of place I want to train (one of the reasons I lift, etc. and work with clients at the Colorado Kettlebell Club).  Leading by example and cultivating this kind of gym environment seem to be key elements in the foundation of how they achieve success with their clients.
I'm Old Enough to Recognize These Guys
Cool to See Some of My Childhood Ski Heroes

The COE has a different atmosphere though still exudes a high expectation for excellence.  Their environment is cultivated in a slightly different way as well.  If Gym Jones’ vibe could be described with the mantras “Lead by (and Follow Our) Example” and "The Mind is Primary", the feel one gets in the COE could be summed up as “Follow the Standard Set by Those Who Have Come Before You”.  What I mean by that is you are surrounded in the training area with reminders of what’s expected from you as an athlete by giant pictures of all the Winter Olympic Medal winners from the US Team.  I was able to work-out twice at the COE and felt this immediately upon walking in the gym and looking around the facility (you can see this in the photos and in the background of the video).  It’s almost as if you’ve got each US Olympic Champion dating from 1924 to present watching over you as you train and asking if you’re working hard enough to achieve.  Add into the mix, your teammates working along side of you and you’ve got a great setting for success.     

Which one is better?  Both are very effective.  As a Mountain Athlete, I would prefer to spend most of my training time at Gym Jones, but my sport doesn’t require technical aerials and spins/flips and I’m not part of a National Team.  SBX/SX or Alpine athletes would benefit more from spending a larger portion of training time at a Gym Jones style location.  If you are a halfpipe and/or slopestyle competitor, you’ll need the extra equipment offered at a facility like the COE on a more frequent basis.  As far as a winter sports team goes, I think a mix of both would be ideal.  Much of the off-season and some pre-season time spent at a location like Gym Jones (or the Colorado Kettlebell Club), and then some pre-season and periodic off-season efforts based at a location like the COE.

Either way you need a professional to lead your physical training.  Unless, your coach is an experienced, certified trainer, they should just stick to helping you on snow and with competition elements.  In some cases there are coaches who can do it all, but if they are truly honest with themselves, even they know there are aspects that they’d do better by referring their athletes to someone else.  For example, I do not yet have World Cup or High-Level Professional Event experience, so I would refer an athlete for this kind of on-snow and competition coaching to someone who does.  I would though, continue to assist them with their gym training, as that is an area of expertise for me.  If you need to up your physical training game for the winter, contact me today to set up a session and start living to a new standard of excellence.

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