In part 3 of this series of articles I explained how a "training buddy" can help you in many ways, like a fitness trainer can. In this article I will show you additional ways that a "practice mentor" can help you. We'll find that an exercise mentor can give you pretty much the same benefits as a fitness instructor.
An exercise mentor
A mentor is a person who you admire for their accomplishments in a particular area of activity and who serves as your guide or coach in that area. In terms of training, a mentor would be someone who does exceptionally good strength and / or endurance training – perhaps at an advanced age. Age could be the best indicator that what the person advocates is "on the money" since it has stood the test of time. For example, what impresses you the most, a 25 or 75 year old man who can do 300 pounds in the bench press? Obviously the 75-year-old. There are thousands of 25 year olds who can lift the 300 pound weight, but only a handful of 75 year olds.
A very special exercise mentor and friend
I was lucky enough to have such a mentor in the early 1970s. Win Franklin ran a small fitness club in New Jersey that I now know was his dream job – his way of sharing his amazing skills and experience with the community he lived in. Win was really a "superman" and outperformed both strength and endurance sports. In fact, in his seventies, he celebrated his birthdays by first running a marathon (26-1 / 4 miles) and then running and running continuously until he had covered one mile for each of his years. He didn't sneak in either! A reporter who documented one of his runs, researched and found that his marathon time at the 1908 Olympics took first place! To top it off, he was the typical skinny distance runner. With a height of 5 to 8 inches, he weighed 175 to 180 pounds, a weight that is more typical of a strength athlete – which he was for sure! In his younger years he did a lot of heroic deeds. I will only mention one of them: a one arm, curved press with 220 lbs. This lift is no longer in use and is one of the old power hubs of the early 20th century.
Back to fitness trainer …
The point is that if you are lucky enough to know a person like Win or even someone who is less successful than him, you may be willing to act as your mentor. Practice is not rocket science. A century ago there were strong men and endurance athletes. What worked for them will work now. Whether it's engineering (my job) or sport, the principles are timeless and the person who masters them will be the best teacher. Sure, changes happen over the years. In technology, we are now blessed with computers that allow us to solve problems that we did not begin to solve 50 years ago. In physical training, there are now many different types of machines that can be used to train. However, the principles on which most fields are based do not change. A person who has mastered exercise principles and successfully applies them to himself may be a great teacher – a great practice mentor.
What can an exercise mentor do for you?
The list is essentially identical to the list of a physical fitness trainer (see Part 2 of this series of articles). He or she can:
- Assess your physical condition and indicate your strengths and areas where you may need improvements. Your mentor may even recommend seeing a doctor if he or she has doubts that you are able to start a physical training program.
- Help identify short-term and long-term fitness goals and then change them as you progress.
- Help you choose exercises to achieve your goals, and change them later to ensure well-rounded development and to avoid stalks.
- Take care of yourself while you train. If you're really lucky, your mentor will train with you! No fitness trainer can do that!
Most importantly, an exercise mentor is your friend. Like an exercise buddy, an exercise mentor spends time with you and helps you because he or she enjoys your camaraderie and believes in you – your ability to succeed with an exercise course. This is not a business relationship for your mentor. Friendship is free!