Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Strength to Change the World

By Andrew McGunagle

As a university underclassman, I often complained about being required to take general education courses. I was stubborn, and I did not want to waste my time studying things that were unrelated to strength and conditioning. If I didn't think it would make me a better lifter or a better coach, I didn't care to hear it.

"GE classes are useless!"
However, as I near the end of my undergraduate education, I realize that many of the general courses I have been forced to take have enabled me to view strength training through many unique lenses. The perspective I have gained from these courses has not necessarily caused me to invent amazingly effective new training means and methods, but it has allowed me to get a clearer view my role as a strength and conditioning coach in this day and age.

This fall quarter I am taking my final general education class, and it is an interesting course that focuses on the global environment. Two professors teach the class and tag team the lectures, and they discuss a variety of topics such as ecological systems, human impacts, and sustainability. Often, their analyses are bleak, as they convey that the human population is going to get larger, the amount of resources available are going to diminish, the world's poor are going to suffer more, and the climate is going to get harsher.

My twenty minute walk home from class is often spent trying to figure out what I, as only one individual on a gigantic planet faced with enormous challenges, can do to make the world a better place.

Given my educational background, my intellect, and my career path, it is unlikely I will discover a clean and powerful renewable energy source or figure out how to keep the ice caps from melting and the sea from rising. However, I have realized that I can help change the world on a much smaller scale. How?

By helping people get healthy and strong.

If there is one thing I have learning about strength training in the beginning of my brief lifting career, it is that the physical effects of lifting weights represent just a small portion of a well-designed and well-executed training program's impact.

You see, exercise seems to make people better people, and not all exercise is created equal. Don't you feel great after jogging on the treadmill and cycling through a bunch of different exercise machines? Well, imagine walking out of the gym after completing a training session consisting of targeted mobility drills, technically correct heavy lifting, and some intense conditioning work. Imaging using top of the line equipment and being coached by someone who is well-versed in the technical aspects of each exercise and is able to teach these maneuvers effectively. Imagine that coach has also outlined a long-term training plan that will enable you to work towards achieving your health, fitness, and athletic goals.

As that coach who will own that gym, I will not be changing the world directly. Instead, I will be changing the people who will, in turn, change the world. An overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy person is never as happy, confident, and productive as they would be if they were lean, strong and well-conditioned, and robust. The people I train are going to have the energy to walk or ride their bikes into town rather than drive. They are going to support wildlife conservation efforts because they will thoroughly enjoy being outside and being active. These individuals will think clearly and will be able to make informed decisions about their environmental impact. My trainees will have the courage to stand up for what they believe is right.

Training changes people, and those changes are not limited to their bodies. If our generation is going to change the world, then we must change ourselves first. As a strength and conditioning coach, I will enable many people to be the best version of themselves. I can change the world by making the people who impact it both physically and mentally stronger. You can change the world by taking control of your health and well-being. Together, we will save our planet.

Thanks for reading!     

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