I was thinking about when I taught ESL

In the early 1990s, while trying to train at an elite level and teach full-time, our family found ourselves in a financial crisis. To ease things, I took on a night job teaching English as a Second Language. Three nights a week, I would drive off after dinner and come home well after my kid’s bedtime.

I taught ESL II. On paper, everyone had ESL I, but when the beginning course filled, they just sent people to my class. In a roomful of 40 adults, I had fourteen languages and no baseline of knowledge. I had some students who were well skilled in English and some could barely find the school as they couldn’t decipher the street signs.

This experience taught me a key lesson about sports and coaching: the larger a group gets, the more the coaching staff needs to focus on clarity. Every student in the ESL program struggled with certain issues of English; eliminating confusion in these key areas would help all students. Subjective and Objective Pronouns seem to be an area, so I gave them this chart:
I see me.
You see you.
He sees him.
She sees her.
It sees it.
They see them.

“They” is also a problem as it means multiple “its” and it also means “you all,” but just explaining that opened the eyes of my students. Soon, I had a single page Cheat Sheet of these basic points of English and I was always happy to see students show up with Xeroxed copies of this that they had borrowed from a friend.

In most people’s training, and in their understanding of training (and nutrition), we should probably make some kind of Cheat Sheet, too. We can talk for hours about the nuances of bar placement for the back squat, the correct initial foot position for the Squat Snatch or touch down and turn over for 100 meter runners.

And, no one cares. For the bulk of people training, we just want to know what to do.

Okay, here you go:

First, you MUST do the Fundamental Human Movements. I consider them to be the Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat, and Loaded Carry.

Push: Press (any kind) or Push Up
Pull: Row or Pull Up
Hinge: Deadlift or Kettlebell Swing
Squat: Goblet Squat or Barbell Squat (any kind)
Loaded Carry: Farmer Walk

If you are doing all five of these in your training, you are doing better than…well, everyone. Adding Goblet Squats and Farmer Walks will do more for your mobility, body comp and work capacity than all the silliness you see online.

For low end cardiovascular work, go for a walk. If you have a dog, you have a built in training partner. Load a backpack up with some books or weights and you can get your heart rate high enough to take care of all your fat loss needs.

Once or twice a week, find a hill and sprint up it a few times. That will provide those leaps in intensity that the body seems to crave and I have never met anyone who got hurt sprinting UP a hill.

For recovery, sleep 8-9 hours a day. Turn off the TV or click off the net and go to bed. For nutrition, eat your veggies, drink clear water, get your protein and don’t eat like a kid. Eat food.

Teaching ESL, I learned that confusion generally wells up from missing the basics. There is nothing more true in fitness and performance: master the basics.

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