Fitness Education – Why Your High School Coaches Might Suck
While I am currently suffering from long lasting shoulder injuries, I cannot stress the importance of exercising with caution. Surely you’ve heard of the phrase, “No pain. No gain”. So often, the goals of working out are simply to lift more weight than the person next to them and for a longer duration. The lack of guidance among teens is dangerous to say the least.
Looking back on high school, I lifted more weight while under the supervision of my coach, even though I’m much bigger and stronger now. I was practicing improper form (swinging weights) and over exertion, while my diet was simply terrible (no breakfast, bread sticks for lunch). As one could imagine, despite exercising many times a week, my results were poor and it’s not just me. Anyone that is exposed to exercise through high school may not be educated well enough to take exercising seriously. Even high school athletes may learn to practice improper diet and exercise technique.
Every coach is different, but what are students learning about fitness?
Gym starts with having all the students jog at their own pace for five minutes. Thumbs up. This is proper warm-up technique. During a warm-up one should be able to have a conversation, otherwise your going too hard and should slow down.
All students must get in line and stretch. Stretching before a workout is okay, but too much can create micro tares in the muscle fibers which become more prone to larger tares or being pulled. Students should be taught to stretch very lightly before exercise or injuries can occur. More intense stretching should generally be done after work out.
Once or twice a week, students may be escorted to the weight room. Often times, they will have a short inadequate demonstration of how to use equipment and an alarming number of students learn to practice improper form. Dangers from lack of proper instruction are also embroidered due to the peer environment. Simply put, students like to “show off” by lifting more weight than they should, sometime twice or three times the weight. The most common mistakes happen with: bicep curl (swinging the shoulder or whole body), leg press (too much weight), and bench press (stressing the shoulders with too much weight while dispersing the elbows or raising the back). Improper form and over exertion can lead to serious injuries. Students should be taught to pace themselves and use proper form before upping the weight. Coaches should closely monitor their class and make sure they practice proper workout techniques, so students do not continue the dangerous habits outside of class.
Nutrition is widely overlooked by gym coaches. Often times, there is no practical nutritional encouragement. Some students may exercise with little or no sustenance and lack a proper post workout meal (they may have an hour and a half of classes right after gym). This could force the body to burn much needed muscle mass (not good). Students and parents should be taught and encouraged to both find sources of nutritional education and implement healthy wholesome lifestyles prior to exercise.
Consult a knowledgeable expert or specialist before starting an exercise program; otherwise research legitimate exercise programs and watch videos that demonstrate proper form. Make sure your coach is teaching correctly. Failure to learn proper diet and exercise guidance may have consequences ranging from not having ideal results to an injury that lasts forever.