I love the internet. I can easily spend hours reading articles, checking and posting to message boards, and watching videos. I believe that the internet is one of the greatest things to happen to education and coaching EVER. But, occasionally you’ll hear strength coaches say “the internet is the worst thing to happen to strength training”. I think that’s hyperbole, of course. But, in the history of mankind, there have never been more arm-chair quarterbacks and that is almost entirely thanks to the internet.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re reading a message board and you find a thread about a guy whose squat is stuck at, for example, 450 and he’s wondering what he should do to get out of his rut. You continue reading the thread and hear replies like, “You should do Bill Starr’s 5x5”, or “You should do WS4SB”, or “Conjugate periodization kicks ass!”. Impressed by their confidence and apparent experience, you search for other posts by these people, only to find out that the advice dispensed was from a 15 year old who squats 185, an 18 year old who benches 205, and a 200lb, 20 year old who deadlifts 315.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that any of those lifts are worthless. Nor am I saying that a 15 year old can’t teach me anything. I teach for a living and (although it’s cliché) I can honestly say that I have learned as much from my students as they have learned from me. BUT, we have found ourselves in an information society that values “virtual experience” almost as much as the real thing.
In our mission to teach kids critical thinking skills, we sometimes forget that a foundation of genuine experiences needs to underpin them or those thinking skills are going to go out the window when challenged. Sometimes we say to kids “You’ll understand when you’re older”. What we are really saying is “You don’t have the breadth and depth of experience necessary to understand this from a different perspective.” In other words, “You don’t get IT. With experience, you might.”
Today, we are bombarded with words from television, internet, instant messages, text messages, cell phones, and iPods. Most of it is without purpose and depth. For whatever reason, it is comforting to some, even addictive. The bottom line (and the point I'm trying to make) is we don't get experience by talking or watching someone else. You owe it to yourself to ask the following questions and give honest answers:
How much time will you spend on the internet talking about training and coaching today?
I’m doing my very best to spend my time more productively when it comes to training and study. Less talk, more action.
One final thought before you decide whether to wheel up to your computer, or hit the gym: 500 pounds doesn’t care how much virtual experience you have.