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Which athlete type are you?

I’ve been a strength and conditioning coach for so long I’ve forgotten what a real job looks like. The advantage of over a decade’s experience is that I’ve seen pretty much every personality and body type you can imagine. And several you can’t (or don’t want to). Today I’m going to use this knowledge to categorize athletes into 4 broad types and highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each. Hopefully you can see your strengths and weakness in one of the descriptions and pick up some good habits from the others.

1. The Methodical

I fall into this category so it will occupy the first spot. You recognize The Methodical by the sheer precision of their calculations and bar loading. If the program calls for 74.6% of 88.9% of your 3RM, you can bet The Methodical will weigh even the clips to get as close to that number as physically possible. They always stick to the program religiously, meticulously record everything and nerd out over graphing their data. You can find them on weekends listening to podcasts on nutrition or reading up on hip angles during various squat stances. Not that I do that or anything. I’m married and have a life…

What you can learn from the methodical: Strength training is a long game and your best improvements can be found in consistent, submaximal training that is progressively overloaded with planned backdown cycles. Recording, analyzing and tracking your data will keep you on the right path and help you pick up small problems before you end up wasting time going off on a tangent.

What you should avoid: Push the limits a bit. Always staying in your lane, keeping to the speed limit and never taking a risk does not for greatness make. Sometimes you need to just say fuck it, max out your squat with a bunch of friends or do sprint intervals until you decorate the walls with your lunch. You’ll learn that your limits are far greater than you think.

2. The Crazed.

99% of the time The Crazed are male. I can write an entire book on why that is but for now let’s just scrutinize this creature. The Crazed think that rest day means you only train at 85% of your 1RM and that anything fewer than 3 concurrent injuries are a sign of weakness. They would live at the gym if the coach allowed it and they own every piece of gear, clothing or shoe that has ever been manufactured. When asked what supplements they’re on, they need to whip out a list as long as their arm. During workouts, they give not only their 100%, but also yours and that of the guy next to you. Blood, vomit, broken bones and diarrhea barely slow them down. They will lift far in excess of the prescribed weight even if it means taking three times longer and entirely missing the purpose of the session.

What you can learn from The Crazed: Pushing the limits. See the point above about being too cautious. The reason the crazed tend to be stronger and in better shape than you is that they actually operate at their physical limit, even to their long term detriment.

What you should avoid: First, get a life. Unless you are an elite level athlete making a living out of your sport, it shouldn’t be the center of your universe. A balanced life filled with friends, loved ones, work and squats is the one we should strive for. Second, going at maximum effort all the time will in fact lead to slower improvements over time and eventually your injuries will accumulate enough that even “normal” training is impossible.

3. The Cautious

Ah my delicate little ones. You have grand aspirations to be stronger and better (and often you have the genetic potential) but that squishy thing between your ears is standing in your way. Every ache or bruise is treated like an injury requiring time off and if you’re not “feeling it” on the day, you happily take 15-20% off the bar and drop the working sets as well. The upside is that you’re rarely injured and manage to almost never miss a session, which in the very long run will keep you active and involved in strength training for the rest of your life.

What you can learn from The Cautious: Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right or a persistent pain doesn’t improve, it’s a sign that you’re doing something wrong. Talk to your coach or physical therapist and actually do what they recommend. That way you can avoid creating problems that require extended time off training.

What you should avoid: Being delicate. The human body is the pinnacle of evolutionary success and you’re standing here because every single one of your ancestors overcame adversity that you can’t begin to fathom. Pain is like a warning light on your dashboard telling you to pay attention. It’s not an emergency brake that should bring you to an immediate grinding halt. Toughen up a bit.

4. The Lazy

Oddly enough, The Lazy tend to have the best attendance records after The Crazed. It’s just that they do sweet fuck all when they’re in class. You can recognize the lazy because you’re probably friends with them and more than likely have been to their BBQs and lunches. They’re the social center of the gym and generally quite well liked. The only drawback is that they don’t do all their sets, they don’t load the prescribed weight or put in any effort during conditioning. And they have a strange inability to distinguish a food journal from a takeaway menu.

What you can learn from The Lazy: They’re the best antidote to The Crazed and are a shining example of getting a life. They treat the gym as part of their routine, rather than being the central focus of their existence. Go out for that meal, sit on the couch, make some new friends and sometimes tell your coach to shove their sprint intervals. We can all do with a little chilling out.

What you should avoid: Being lazy. There’s a direct correlation between effort and reward in the gym and your body reflects that. If you’re not getting stronger, losing bodyfat or improving your fitness, you have only yourself to blame. Get your ass in gear sometimes.

Did I miss any other athlete types? If you have anything to add or just general slander, drop a comment or send an email.

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