Coach Caleb’s Corner
One of the most wonderful things I get to hear every day at Breakthrough Strength & Fitness is, “I did it!” This phrase is usually accompanied by a lot of cheering in the room by a group of highly supportive and enthusiastic training partners. It’s the magic of semi-private and small group training. We’re a team. We try harder for each other than we ever could by ourselves. This even works when a team member has to train remotely. They know that they’re a part of something bigger and that even if they have to fit in a training session by themselves from somewhere on the road or outside the gym, they are not training alone; their team is with them in spirit and the next time they’re at the gym the cheers will start up again in person.
When I had the privilege to attend my first kettlebell instructor certification, I knew I had signed up for a difficult weekend of physical, mental and emotional testing. I was quite nervous, excited and hoping to be one of the better performers on my team. I even thought I was reasonably well prepared for it. Ha! The three-day course was aptly referred to as “The Russian Kettlebell Challenge,” which sounded more like a sporting event than an instructor certification program, and I soon discovered that my hopes of performing at the top of the class had to be recalibrated. The instructor candidates were grouped together in smaller teams, led by highly qualified leaders. When our Chief Instructor, Pavel Tsatsouline kicked off the first day of learning in earnest, I went from trying to be the best performer on my team to simply trying to keep up. At the end of Day One, my new goal was to not to be the weakest performing member of my team.
I discovered that at that time, the percentage of instructor candidates who actually passed the course on their initial attempt was only about 30%. I was eager to be among those 30% but I knew there was a very real possibility that I might not be. As a team, we struggled through each of the demanding days of the course, bonding together, helping each other learn, trying to keep each other safe from injury; undergoing a right of passage. Somehow, in spite of about nine torn blisters on my bleeding hands, difficulties with asthma and muscle soreness beyond anything I’d previously experienced, I found myself able to rise to the occasion, grip the kettlebell and pass the course. I couldn’t believe it, but I did it! Half way through, I was mostly sure I wasn’t going to make it, but I kept thinking that I couldn’t let my team and training partners down; I had to keep going and not be a weak link in our little band. As a result I was able to accomplish something I wasn’t sure was possible. I found another gear, a higher purpose, a sense of something bigger than my own self-imposed limitations.
Years later, having undergone a few more of such challenges, I discovered that this phenomenon is referred to as The Kohler Effect. (No, it doesn’t have anything to do with bold looking bathroom fixtures). Studies have shown that in group tasks, performance gains are seen in weaker individuals who are striving to keep up with the accomplishments of other group members. The Society of Behavioral Medicine, published a study in 2012 which yielded some more surprising results; demonstrating an 87% increase in athletic performance for those training with a partner over those going it alone. Furthermore, the trainees who were trying not to be the weaker of the two performers actually tested twice as well as those who trained by themselves. In effect, an athlete can about double their performance by striving to keep up or not let their team down!
There isn’t an athlete I know who feels as though they’ve achieved their best self yet. Those at the top of their game are looking to get better just as much as those who are looking up to them. Training together keeps that desire alive and kicking; pushing us to be even better than we thought we could be! Training alone and feeling frustrated? Get a friend to train with and you might even double your performance. We are so fortunate to have an amazing team at Breakthrough Strength & Fitness. Every trainee has inspired another training partner and has been spurred on by a another team member at some point. Our mission is to celebrate the strength in us all and anyone who is willing to show up, challenge themselves and not give up will always be welcome. The results we achieve together far exceed the expectations we set by ourselves.
PS – Next Saturday 10/27 is a perfect time to experience team spirit in action at the StrongFirst Tactical Strength Challenge! Stop by Breakthrough to catch some deadlifts, pull ups and kettlebell snatches anytime from 9:30 – noon.