Last week I attended the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Tactical Strength and Conditioning Annual Training, a meeting of leaders in the police, fire and military community. Recognizing the commonalities in their units, programs, and experience allows for faster learning and implementation of effective programs.
In short, when our police, fire, and military departments are fitter, we are all safer.
So, we meet, listen, learn and talk a lot!
You might wonder why, as a personal trainer in Austin, Texas, I chose to attend the TSAC Annual Training.
Continuing education is a huge component for trainer’s integrity. The chance to meet and learn from other strength and conditioning coaches is hugely beneficial to me.
But, I could have attended a general fitness conference or a personal trainer specific conference. Why a tactical conference? Last year, I was employed as an exercise physiologist with the Austin Fire Department. We attended the TSAC Conference, and I was taken with the people I met and the experiences they shared.
And how does this apply to my clients? Let’s back up and minute and consider the goals of a large scale military training program. The individual soldier will be most effective when he or she is strong, conditioned, agile, and healthy. Healthy includes recovery, diet, and sleep.
Similarly, the optimal firefighter will be able to meet unexpected physical demands, understand how to recovery properly, and generally be fit. Police officers also must be quick with their feet and their mind, and conditioned to run and wrestle if necessary.
Add in the extra stresses these populations face. They do not have the luxury of knowing what specific abilities they will need, or what exact situations they will encounter. Nutrition will certainly not be planned and perfect; hello, fleeing suspect or box alarm at dinnertime.
They don’t always have the best training circumstances either. Deployments don’t necessarily lend themselves to regular and consistent training in perfectly equipped gyms.
Certainly, the rest of us can learn from these tactical athletes. If they are able to get their training in with an uncertain schedule, potentially limited equipment, and limited meal options, the rest of us civilians can do it too.
There are 6 gyms or personal training studios on the 1.2 mile “commute” from my home to my second home. That is, Hyde Park Gym for those of you who don’t know me. Granted, I live in the fitness crazed town of Austin, but the point remains: we who are lucky enough to live in a major city have every opportunity to be fit and well surrounding us.
Several of the talks I heard were about mental toughness, a crucial skill to develop, with wide application from soldiers to civilians. Matt Wenning, one of the strongest powerlifters of today, taught my favorite hands-on session, which was the sumo deadlift, a major foundational lift for strength.
I got to listen to Eric Cressey, Dan John and Dr. William Kraemer, none of whom need an introduction to those familiar with the training community.
Many more names that you would know shared their experience with us, and some you would not. All in all, it was a week of great learning, ideas, and doing. I’ll leave you with one last thought. Mark Taysom, who is a strength and conditioning coach responsible for thousands of soldier’s training, said in his opening remarks, “A lot of people are great. They just don’t know they’re great.”
My job is to bring out the greatness in people. Some of them are performance athletes or public servants. Others are civilians like me. If I can learn from those coaching individuals whose hurdles are higher and responsibilities are great, I can help my all my clients better.
About the author
Kathryn Alexander is a strength coach and personal trainer in Austin, Texas. She loves hiking, college football, and the feel of a perfectly knurled barbell. Read more about Kathryn here.