6 lessons from 6 countries

I never thought that I would be travelling this much in my life (for me at least). However, now it seems inevitable for my profession. So far my career has taken me to 6 different countries.

Now, when I reflect on my past, I ask myself, what have I learnt from travelling? What did people I meet teach me? How did it change me?

Let me reveal what I think are the most important lessons from my short career:

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ Croatia, 2015.

“When you travel within your country, your experience adds. When you travel abroad – your experience multiplies” – my mentor told me.

Recently I uploaded an Instagram post about doing your best (here). In Croatia I have witnessed this advice at its finest level. National teams’ coaches worked with professional athletes at low quality weight room. Did they coach sloppy? No, they provided the best service regardless of the equipment!

This is definitely one of the most important things that I understood there. Being “good enough for this job” is not the right mindset. You need to be better than what people expect. You have to do more than what people ask from you. Often people might not even mention that you have done something good, they would just take it for granted and assume that this is part of your job. However, if you did something incorrect – they might say it couple of times. Therefore, ask yourself, "can I do X better?" If yes – do it and you will not regret it.

Be grateful. Lithuania 2016.

”Everything is possible” - was a slogan of the battalion that I served in.

When I joined the Lithuanian Armed Forces I really wanted to test my physical and psychological abilities. Swimming in the river in winter; living in a forests regardless of weather and season; not having a shower for 10 days; running without knowing when to stop; sleepless nights; hunger and etc. These are only a few of the many things, however, it is not even close to what soldiers experience in real war. Or, unfortunately, what some of us, could experience in life.

Almost every night I say to myself, who and what am I grateful for. Bed and a duvet? Roof above (duh)? Food? Dry clothes? Everything. Just look around and don’t complain. Now when I face a problem (every problem but one), I say to myself – “at least it is just this”. The mindset helped to change my attitude toward everything that happens to me and concentrate on what I can do about it. If there is anything I could do – I do it. If there isn’t – sooner or later I get over the problem. Be grateful for what you have. Say it every night.

Think critically. Finland 2018.

“Critical thinking is one of the most important assets” – University of Jyvaskyla.

During my Master’s degree we used to read scientific papers and ask all the possible questions from it. E.g., Why are there this many subjects in this research? Why use this intervention? Why study is this short/longterm?

This directly translated to my occupation. I have started asking myself “why did I do this? Why did I put this many repetitions/sets? Why did I choose this particular exercise?” I am the one who is the hardest to convince and prove that certain program/exercise/sets&reps will give the best results for the client. This critical thinking led me to delving into details in many areas.

There are different paths to reach same destination. Spain, 2019.

“When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” – mentor strikes again.

When I came to Vitoria-Gasteiz I was exposed to two completely different training approaches. Both approaches were at the same club and nonetheless, both were my mentors. The best part of it – two approaches provided great results and most importantly – both made sense.

After a few months working there I came to realization again that there is no best practice regarding training. Maybe in the future there will be but now we just tend to shift more towards what we like or what we think is better for a particular client. However, it is highly recommended to see all possible training methods, even those that you don’t like. It is important to read articles or books that you would not like at first sight. Be open, learn something from every person and try to have more tools in your box, not just a hammer.

Connect before coach. USA, 2019

“The goal of the first week is to learn as many names as possible” - said one of the coaches.

For a second though “how this could be? This is one of the best strength and conditioning facilities in the world!” But after a few seconds I realized that it is true. And that is exactly the reason why this place is one of the best.

We are dealing with people. Not with robots. You can be the best coach with all the best exercises but if you cannot communicate well, it is most likely that you will struggle with coaching. It does not mean that you need only to connect well. You still need to reach results client want but improved communication could really make your job easier. Invest to this area at least half of what you are investing in your field.

Small steps lead to big success. Czech Republic, 2019

“[Small steps] Used productively carries you up toward success. Used carelessly, it pulls you down toward failure.” – Slight Edge

I will repeat the quote from the book again: “[Small steps] Used productively carries you up toward success. Used carelessly, it pulls you down toward failure.” This is extremely important because everything you do matters. Whether you go to lift or not; you read 10 pages every day or not. You ate healthy meal for dinner or pizza. All these small steps could and will lead to future success. And this is my mantra that I am not only living by but coaching too.

How can I implement this at my work? I explain to my athletes what are the long term effect of exercising and recovery. What 9h of sleep could give to athletes; why it is important to monitor what you eat; how proper hydration could boost performance and etc. All these actions are performed daily and could easily be neglected because we might not feel the acute impact but long-term benefits are non-negotiable. I spend 5-10h per week with each athlete so around 160h is still left. What do you think will have bigger impact to their performance?

The further I go, the more I understand that my job is far from only strength and conditioning. We work with people who are very complex organisms and sport is only a small piece of coaching.

Be smart.


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