After my Sophomore year of college at Messiah College (small division 3 school) my coach left and there were no immediate plans to get a new one. I did well under my previous coach and learned a lot from him, so I was pretty unsure where my career was going to go. The only thing I knew is that I wanted to be all All-American.
I finished my last two years without a coach in charge of my training and accomplished more than I ever thought I would. Not having a coach in some ways was a blessing in disguise as I could branch out to a number of different coaches to learn how to craft my training. The biggest contribution was that I could get Dane write my strength programs, which bumped my bench up from 350 lbs to 430 lbs, and helped me through a series of back injuries (throwing related). Here are some specific reasons for my success:
I had three main priorities in my life during college: throwing, school, and my friends. This is a pretty typical list, but how I prioritized my time between the three is how I felt satisfied in every area. Looking back, throwing and training was the only priority that I didn’t sacrifice for another area. In reality, training was the only thing that losing consistency on would directly hurt. Here is a typical schedule for my day:
8:00-3:00 Class and homework
6:00-12:00 Hanging out and rest of homework
7-8 hours of sleep
Notice that training is the smallest time slot during the day! Even if you have 5 hours of class during the day, that still leaves 8-10 hours to do homework, eat, and hangout with friends everyday. I never understood how kids on the team would skip practice because of homework. That is a clear indication that they are letting training budge before relaxing with friends, playing video games, or wasting time, because we all know they are not spending 8-10 hours everyday studying.
Effort + Good System = Success
One thing I noticed a direct correlation to over my four years of college was the amount of time and effort I put into my training and the amount of success I got out of it. My freshman and sophomore year I trained relatively the same and only PR’d by 6cm my sophomore year. Through my junior year I doubled my effort and and added 1.5m to my shot put throw. In anything, doing the same thing and expecting different results never works. However, there are a lot of people who try very hard and still don’t improve.
Having a good system of training is essential. Dane’s programs were laid out so that I could spend a lot of effort on specific details, and not just increase the volume to give more effort. Doing 8 sets of squats instead of the prescribed 5 isn’t heroically going above and beyond, it will just wear you down and decrease the efficiency in which you can do the next exercise. The programs were focused on intensity on certain lifts, technique on some, and mobility on others. Training hard and training smart, not just blindly pushing yourself is the best approach.
One specific way to train smarter is using autoregulation, or determining what weight to put on the bar set to set based on how you are feeling in order to reach the most efficient workload. This is probably one of the most valuable skills that I learned from Dane. Instead of basing all my weights on percentages, closely monitored autoregulation allowed me to go heavy when I was feeling good, or keep it lighter when I was feeling run down. Choosing your own numbers can negatively affect a lot of people if they don’t have a coach pushing them or helping them to realize their own ability, and I certainly was affected by this. However, I had goals and a support system holding me accountable to pushing my limits, and learning to intrinsically motivate myself played a large part in my pushing myself to success.
One of the main reasons my bench got so high, and I didn’t have weightroom related injuries was due to variable training implemented in Dane’s strength programs. Each program lasted 4-5 weeks and had its own unique flare to it. I would not have increased my bench 80 lbs by doing 5x5 flat bench every day. I might have gained 30-40 lbs and then just plateaued. In fact on some programs I would not even flat bench, but just incline and maybe some light and fast DB bench. When I would go back to flat benching the next program my numbers would be higher. Switching up rep schemes, exercise, and tempo never let me plateau or overuse the muscle group.
I had a bunch of people, from coaches, family, and friends, that were invested in my career as an athlete. It was not always easy getting out to train everyday without a coach directly keeping me accountable. Even though my roommates were not on the track team, if they saw I was in the apartment during practice time, they would question me and keep me accountable because they knew how important my goals were to me. A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into developing me as an athlete, and that accountability on its own would motivate me to get out to the circle and push myself in the weightroom. I knew that these people would not be ashamed in me if I didn’t succeed, because they knew the effort I put in, but it was much more enjoyable to celebrate success with other people that helped me along the way.
Becoming an All-American, and after I achieved that, being a national champion is what motivated me to get out of bed in the morning and do stuff like shovel a foot of snow off the circle in winter to get throws in. Even though I was never a national champion, I don’t feel less accomplished, because I know that with that goal driving me, I trained as harder than I would have otherwise and put more distance onto my throw. There are many things I wish I would have done differently in my college career knowing the things I know now as a coach, but I can still look back and be satisfied that I worked hard to achieve what I did.