by Alessandra Ahlmen
I started training at Athlete’s Warehouse (AW) when it first opened in June 2014. Over three years later, I am still learning something new every time I have a session. Like most learning cycles, there came a time to put all of this knowledge to the test. For me, that test was moving to Sweden to play for Älta IF, a division 1 team in Stockholm. Upon arrival, I faced the challenge of training on my own without the guidance from a coach of motivation from my peers. Luckily, Coach Cassie was able to give me a training program to follow every day. However, having just a program of exercises is not enough, I had to learn to be my own coach. I would not have been able to take this step had it not been for everything I learned at AW and training with Alpha*.
*Alpha is a group of driven female athletes that were grouped into a strength and conditioning program over the summer.
There are four main lessons that I took from training at AW that have made me a more self-motivated and aware athlete today.
1. Challenging yourself
At Alpha, I was always challenged: someone I was working out with always ran a faster sprint, lifted a heavier weight, or had a more explosive first step. Everyone was striving to be the best at whatever we were doing regardless of sport, position, or talent level. On my own, I have to constantly monitor and remember to challenge myself: trying for a heavier weight, demanding a better sprint, or pushing to be more powerful than my last rep even when I begin to fatigue. Alpha’s competitive environment helped me hone a focused and driven edge that I can now use to challenge myself in all aspects of my life.
AW coaches and athletes (specifically Marina Kern) taught me to take short breaks—to push my limits and body in order to truly find out what I was capable of achieving. Marina probably wouldn’t even take any breaks if a coach didn’t make her. Now in Sweden, I have to be extra aware that I continue to do that even when I am by myself because there is not anyone here telling me to get a move on. It is really easy to slack off and take an extra minute, but AW helped me realize that a champion is made up of the minutes they trained, not the ones they rested.
I am sure most athletes at AW have had a coach preach their motto “leave your ego at the door” at them. Upon arrival, there’s a giant sign with the saying “Starve the Ego”– this theme at AW is hard to miss.
Being told to remove a plate, or lower a box jump is not fun to hear, and as a matter of fact, is sometimes annoying. However, as far as lessons go, this is an important one. Ego does not improve your 40 time or increase your max back squat, a smart approach to training does. On my own, I have to make the decisions to change something if my form is slipping. At times like that, I need to take a step back, ignore my ego, and remind myself that it is more important to do something properly rather than doing something with a big weight. It’s not about how much weight you move but how you move the weight!
Speaking of quality technique, at AW, I always had a coach eyeing my every movement and making sure my form was no less than perfect. I learned each technique like the back of my hand before I added weight. I learned what “right” felt like. Having the coach’s corrections and tips during lifting was important because it taught me to identify technical mistakes as they were happening and correct them.
I am happy I learned all of this awareness because in Sweden I don’t have the luxury of someone keeping an eye on my form at all times. I know what it feels like to be doing something right and how to fix it if something feels wrong.
AW also taught me to take critiques and suggestions about my form openly; which has proved to be only a big help when alone. For example, just last Thursday I was doing hex-bar deadlifts, and one of the workers at the gym walked by and told me I wasn’t locking my back enough. Thanks to AW I had the proper growth mindset that let me take this in while also having the competence to put their advice to use.
Athletes should make it their mission to learn something new every time they train at AW. It’s actually pretty easy to do this even without trying. All of the coaches are full of knowledge and are just waiting to teach and help their athletes grow (I should know, I’ve asked more than my fair share of questions). I have yet to hear an answer or explanation that was not clearly backed up by extensive background knowledge and experience. Athlete’s Warehouse is like the world’s greatest library for fitness and biomechanics, and everyone should take advantage of it. I can’t wait to be back training and learning this December.