I heard about StrongFit and Julien Pineau the moment I started coaching at Lifting Room in 2018 - Sophie would often mention this Frenchman and the BarBell Shrugged episode where Julien first stepped into the limelight (LINK) - I watched it once and I was hooked! Unbeknown to me, I had already been hearing StrongFit principles since May 2017 as a Lifting Room member. If you’ve done a session at LR, you’ve likely heard them too: “Internal Torque”, “External Torque” “Tension over position” etc…
‘CrossFit’ is in our name but we have always incorporated elements from a number of training methodologies due to Sophie’s experience and partly, due to Julien’s influence – the turf, the yoke, the sleds, the sandbags…not to mention the approach to coaching, teaching and educating. The value of Lifting Room is really in our relentless aim to help people be happier and in our approach to giving members a service and a product that we are proud of representing!
In the past 12 months, the message that "CrossFit is not EVERYTHING that Lifting Room stands for" has slowly been made clearer partly because of all the learning and experimenting we, as coaches, have been doing and partly because of Sophie’s journey (If you haven’t yet, check out ‘Sophie’s Choice’). I think there was some ‘fear’ initially to start being more clear with the message because “no one likes change” but… all of it made sense and finally clicked during our weekend seminar at StrongFit HQ in Utrecht.
Almost exactly 6 months after I reduced my hours at DHL (from a full time position) and joined Lifting Room part-time we were off to learn from Julien and Richard - what I expected and what I got turned out to be very different things. If you’ve ever spent 5 minutes with me, you may have noticed that I like structure and from having such a formalised education, my expectation of a ‘seminar’ was that there would be a pre-determined structure and flow. Instead, I got something so much more refreshing out of it, I got to observe two coaches do just that…coach; and in the most unexpected ways I got reminded of something that I am ashamed to admit I sometimes forget at 5am on a Monday:
Our job is to help people understand themselves better because THAT will have infinitely more value to them inside and outside of the gym than just showing them what a deadlift ‘looks like’.
Now…Don’t get me wrong, yes…there was an overarching structure to it, there were concepts that were covered and theories that we went through that are important and make up the ‘StrongFit’ system but what was different was HOW the session was tailored to the audience and, much like workshops we aspire to run, the power that was given to the attendees to decide how deep we wanted to explore a given subject.
After a 20 minute walk from our lovely AirBnB, we found StrongFit in a commercial area in Utrecht and we first see Richard casually sitting on a bench cross-referencing the names of the people arriving with the list I assume he had on his laptop. We introduce ourselves, tell them where we’re from, a bit about why we’re there and then we head on upstairs (not forgetting to take our shoes off because “upstairs is a shoe free zone…” ‘I love it already’ i thought).
Richard started by going through the expectations for the weekend and how the seminar runs and then Julien started blowing our minds but, not before asking the room “What do YOU want to get out of this weekend?”…I remember thinking how exciting it was to be in a room with someone who is so interested and curious while also so confident in their knowledge that they would ask that question like that as a starting point!
What followed over the weekend were a number of golden nuggets in addition to the concepts that they normally cover in the seminars. These ‘golden nuggets’ ranged from new movements, to exploring the real ‘why’ of coaching, some hints about emotional mapping, new IT/ET concepts, nervous system rabbit holes etc…
As I look over my notes, I can’t pick ONE favourite concept or takeaway so here are just some new perspectives I gathered from the seminar:
‘Objectives vs Constrains’ training: Think about this one…With objectives, the more you have, the worse off you are because you are converging into that one objective / with Constraints, the more you have the more you find out because you are diverging away from what you already know.
Importance of Exploration: It’s important to ‘Play’ and give yourself the opportunity to ‘feel’ movement. It’s important to find out how it feels to do something ‘wrong’ because if we can identify how not to do it, we can ‘avoid it’ (constraint) and find new connections.
There is a massive difference between ‘Pain’ and ‘Intensity’: Do YOU know what that is? If you don’t I suggest you find out! Since the seminar, my approach to ‘intensity’ has definitely changed and as a consequence I now push myself and the members that little bit further! It's important to introduce stress (good stress) into our training because that's how we learn to deal with it outside of it so, if you feel like we are adding a little more 'stress' to your sessions than usual...good. That stress, that intensity and your drive to push through that intensity is what will get you the results you are looking for.
Getting a ‘win’: A win isn’t always about ‘fixing something or solving a problem’ on that day (this is important as a coach AND as an ‘athlete’). Sometimes it’s just about showing up and that is okay! We have consistently said this at Lifting Room but it was so good to hear it from someone else!
Fight, Flight, Freeze: Too many golden nuggets to include here but some will definitely come out while coaching. A lot of them already have since! Does anyone remember those 60s max Lunges? Sam Swain/Jo E., remember Kalsu?
As a whole, it was reassuring to see that all the work put into the new Lifting Room system made sense and that ‘Burn’ in particular was going to be an important part of helping people. This was further confirmed with the AKD ‘Performance Workshop’ we had in March (if you didn’t realise, Andrew is also part of the StrongFit community)!
The StrongFit seminar ended with a 1.5hr Q&A session on Sunday - I do wish that had lasted longer because this is where we got to see Julien be more ‘free’ and ‘passionate’ with his thought process as the seminar concepts were now complete and this was about free flowing conversation!
I was comforted by the admission that in their experience, real change, having a real impact takes time - “Clients think it takes 2 weeks, we as coaches think we can do it in 2 months but the reality is, lasting change can take up to 2 years”. After that, I was ready to hit the ground running and get to work!
Although their ultimate goal is the same, Richard and Julien are very different in their approach which, in my opinion makes them an extremely good team. As a consequence of their differences StongFit benefits from a complex, yet simple system: Richard’s methodical approach to running the seminar and his focus on movement/emotion coupled with Julien’s ability to link theories and concepts that no one else would link make for a valuable approach and a strong learning and development platform.
It’s important to also mention that the experience they have in their field and the time they each spent getting to know themselves and their bodies and mastering their craft add up to an even more ‘complete’ learning experience for the attendees - definitely something to aspire to!
I particularly liked the realisation that their relationship is slightly mirrored by mine and Sophie’s in terms of our approach to working together but also in the care we have towards each other and the people we’re aiming to help. Richard’s protective instinct over his ‘coach’, Julien, was so nice to see and something which reminded me that we’re all human and that we were all there for the same reason - to learn how we could get better at helping others!
On Sunday evening, Sophie and I went for drinks with Richard, Julien and some of the attendees. We ended up having a few too many beers (and shots!) but what that did lead to was a lot of conversation and some breakthroughs which I believe will end up being an important part of my ‘coaching journey’. It also led to a ridiculously hungover Monday where we didn’t get to see as much of Amsterdam as we wanted but…that’s a story for another day (some pictures of how we felt below)!
I had a feeling we were on the right path but I was starting to doubt it based on some of the reactions we were getting. The weekend at StrongFit made me realise that we were in fact heading in the right direction: here were two people who had been in the industry for a number of years; who had coached a variety of audiences; who had an infinite number of experiences, reflecting the same things we were saying to our own members, and we hadn’t even met before!
Yes, this new Lifting Room system may take longer and it certainly requires more work, more reflection, more focus (from us and from our members) but it certainly lasts longer too and delivers better results.
“Don’t try to fix people on day one…that won’t work. Your job is ‘better’ every single day, not ‘best’. ‘We get you results from day 1’ only works to sell programming”