Mentors (and Why You Need One) by Mike Parrott

Mentors (and Why You Need One)

Mentors are critical components of tangible growth for training and exercise.  It doesn’t matter if you do Bodybuilding, Physique, Strongman, CrossFit, Powerlifting, or “max interval training” right in your own living room.  Many of us workout at home because our time may be limited or the freedom and flexibility of achieving our fitness goals on our own schedule — or a combination of the two — are extremely important. But staying motivated when you exercise alone at home presents its own set of challenges. For example, even the most dedicated individuals eventually reach a plateau. If this happens, how are home athletes expected to keep the train moving on the path through progression? The answer is mentorship. In fact, we’ve all received guidance, direction, or a general sense of purpose from others since the day we were able to comprehend and digest the world around us

My Path to Finding  A Mentor

Mentors can make the difference for young lifters looking to improve

Mentorship is a critical component of tangible growth for training and exercise.

After I had been powerlifting for a few years I was searching for the solution to propel my powerlifting career to the next level. I was attending a National powerlifting meet in Pennsylvania when I met legendary powerlifter Steve Goggins; the man who is heralded as one of the greatest squatters and powerlifters ever. Steve’s experience culminates over 30 years in the sport. He once held the All-time squat record of 1,032 pounds for seven years prior to becoming the first man to squat 1,100 pounds! Therefore, I was delighted when he agreed to be my coach without any hesitation. I was certainly pleased by his eagerness to help a young powerlifter in need. Since then, I never turn down an opportunity to seek his opinion and guidance before venturing into an uncharted domain. I certainly call on him prior to conducting an Internet search regarding performance optimization as well as coping with setbacks. Additionally, I have direct access to Gene Bell, an 8-time World Powerlifting Champion, who lets me exploit any opportunity to pick his brain in order to drill as far into his expertise as possible; pushing my performance even further.

Barriers to Mentorship

Due to being geographically separated from Steve, effective communication between he and I is vital for efficient mentorship. Even though I brought Steve into my world as my coach. I used this method as my impetus to get raw, unfiltered feedback regarding my performance and acquire expert alignment to my goals. However, you do not need to rush out and find the most available coach to satisfy the need for a mentor. Especially if you enjoy training alone; by your rules. That is the concept which your home gym is based on after all. A coach provides instruction in order to teach or train. Mentors are people with more experience or knowledge who can help to guide a less experienced person toward their goal. A coach can be a mentor. But a mentor is not always a coach.  I certainly make every attempt to use my mentors as often as possible. I avoid endless Internet queries which present results that could cause serious injury or worse — regression.

Legendary powerlifter Steve Goggins is one of my mentors

I never turn down an opportunity to seek Steve Goggins’ opinion and guidance

But I’ve Got The Internet. Isn’t That Enough?

There is an overabundance of information available via the Internet which forces most knowledge seekers to become dizzy from information overload at the trove of conflicting stories and advice from “experts” and opinionated persons around the web. Investing solely in what you read on the Internet could hinder performance and circumvent the invaluable, direct mentorship from someone who has the knowledge and experience to do so — whether in-person or otherwise.
It may seem ridiculous to worry about mentorship when things appear to be working so well for you; not to mention allocating time in your schedule to find this mentor. Identifying a good mentor is not as easy as I am making it out to be. Mentors are not hanging from a mentorship tree waiting to be picked by a lucky passerby. In fact, you may run across a few bad mentors before discovering the one who propels you to the next level. Everyone benefits from good mentoring and sometimes even the not-so-good stuff. A lesson learned the hard way is still a lesson learned. Garage athletes are no exception. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Identifying a mentor that compliments your garage gym lifestyle can be accomplished by joining a group on social media as well as reaching out to your favorite role model. Plenty of reputable websites and blogs exist on the web (including this one) where the owner or head contributor provides that valuable mentorship; all it takes is a simple email message with your question or concern.

Finding A Mentor

The quality of a mentor is dependent on you and you alone. As long as the mentor you identified does not direct you toward things that are illegal, unethical, or anything that would otherwise detract from what would be considered normal behavior, then who you choose should be good to go. How much of an emphasis you place on their qualifications is a personal preference. Should the mentor also train in a garage? Should they maintain the same (or similar) lifestyle as you? Should they hold a certification? All these qualifications and credentials are merely what you hold as being important. There is no hard rule as to how many mentors you should have at once. Just be cognizant of the fact that too many opinions can cause confusion and hinder growth. However, having multiple mentors at your disposal is much better than not having anyone to lean on.

If you happen to find yourself in a position to mentor someone you must do so with objectivity. There’s nothing worse than when an inexperienced person asks a question only to be laughed at instead of given decent advice. This hinders the relationship and the person’s  growth and advancement. Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian lyricist and novelist, once mentioned that “a Warrior is in this world in order to help his fellow man; not to condemn his neighbor.” Do not be so high on egotism that your humility gets lost on your way up your high horse. No one does this alone.

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on