Second week- Full steam ahead.
The second week was the start of the 10-week summer program at MBSC. Adult groups start at 5:15a but the athletes start at 6:00. Interns are scheduled to show up at 5:45, I showed up around 5:30 and there were interns that were already there. The first day was a bit chaotic, as we tried to fit ourselves into the flow of the workouts as the staff tried to figure out where they would put us. If you want to be an intern at MBSC be prepared to work. I think I worked for 6 and a half hours each day. I was able to take a 10 min break to get some water and something quick to eat. Then right as I would walk off the floor it was already time to do the workout for the next week as a group. I don’t think I have worked this many hours straight since I was in my 20’s. I currently try and schedule 3-hour blocks with at least a 1-hour break in between when I work for myself. The hours went quickly but by the time I got home at 3p I was worn out, but a good night’s rest and I was ready to go again the next day.
Speaking with some of the interns on one of the Zoom meetings. The internship pretty much went the way I thought it would. The interns got the opportunity to lead parts of the workouts, teach some of the movements and were given more opportunities to coach and given more responsibilities.
“Absorb what is useful.” My take aways
I learned a lot of different things during my short internship at MBSC. So much so that it’s September right now so it’s taken a few months to process all the raw information and piece together a plan to implement changes that fit in my program. The process is still incomplete and will not be finished any time soon. Since I was only in Boston for 2 weeks, I essentially got a backstage pass to see how the intern program is started. I got a deeper dive into the functional training philosophy laid out in Mike’s books and presentations. I learned new cues for teaching and coaching and techniques.
The flow of the facility is impressive. They can start a new group every 15 minutes. This means that the coaches need to stay on task and keep the schedule and provide quality coaching. Whether you are being coached by Mike Boyle or coached by one of the younger coaches the message is clear and consistent. Each coach has their own style of coaching, but the content is the same. The setup is simple and efficient. In other words, it works.
“Knowing is not enough. We must apply”
I’d like to rephrase this, “Apply only what works.” In the end learning is nothing without application. One of the skills that comes with experience is being able to sift through material and decide what to apply and what to let go. Not everything you learn is applicable to your situation. I am now in the reflection and analysis phase of the internship. As much as I love the efficiency of the MBSC facility and program I won’t use what I saw in its entirety. My programmatic needs and limitations are different. I do not have assistants when I teach or when I train privately. So, I don’t have to create an intern program, but it is nice to see an example of a very well-run facility. I deal with one group at a time and will have anywhere from 20-35 students in each of my activity classes and 200 in my lecture course. I don’t have 8 platforms, squat racks, and Keiser machines. I have 2 half racks, some dumbbells, a small selection of kettlebells, one old FreeMotion machine and way too many adjustable benches. But efficiency is important, I must figure out how to efficiently move 18-20 people through it. For sure, some of the chop variations will end up in my weight room classes and I’ll add some slider exercises into the mix because the equipment needed will be easy to store and will be quickly approved. I am also considering dumping the barbell squats from my class. For me the most valuable part of the internship was watching the presentations, because currently the most challenging part of my job is my lecture class.
I’ve been implementing loaded chin-ups into my clients’ workouts and my own workouts. The results have been very good. I’ve more than doubled my body weight chin-ups from the beginning of June (from 2-5) and the clients that have done them have had similar increases. I have also added them into my circuit weight training courses.
“Adding what is uniquely your own”/Applying to your situation.
We do our best when we apply what we know. Many times, a strength coach will use what they have done in the past as the foundation of their program. For example, a power lifter will probably use squat, bench, deadlift as central lifts in their program. This doesn’t mean that they won’t change but we tend to use what we know best. Even though I tried to get away from Olympic Weightlifting I have come full circle and I’m back to teaching it to as many people as possible.
On the private side. My initial thought is that I need to adjust my summer program for next year to try and get my athletes to come in multiple times per week. Maybe create groups with athletes that will work together.
Sometimes trying to add something to your program exactly like you saw it done at the internship is not appropriate. Before I even got the internship, back in 2018, I really liked the idea of timing sprints weekly if not more. At Cal 20+ years ago, we would time sprints with the football team only twice a year. Partially because back in the day, cutting edge digital timers were big clunky things that we lugged around in multiple duffel bags. The one we had could time 40’s with a 20 split and required a 45 yd and 35 yd cable to connect to the sensor at the end of the run.
MBSC doesn’t have test days, but they record all the weights that clients use, time them on 10yd fly’s and they use a jump mat to measure vertical jumps. I consider all this testing because you can point at the results and show that people are improving. They just don’t make it a big deal when they test because it is integrated into the workout. Mike uses the Arena Timer (currently $580). It is a wireless laser system that uses tripods and works with a smartphone, but Mike has a large display that shows the times. It’s a solid timer that is a really good value because it is much cheaper than the legacy wireless laser systems like the Brower Timing System (currently $1797 with smartphone connectivity). I work in multiple places, sometimes in a gym, a park, or a tennis court. Often, I need to set up and break down multiple times a day and when I’m outdoors I bring all my equipment with me so small size and light weight are very important to me. After much consideration I chose the FreeLap System ($530). The timer consists of two cones under 6 inches tall and a timing chip and uses Bluetooth signals to trigger the timer. The whole timing system that I carry in my backpack weighs under a pound. It works perfectly for me. It’s super portable. Set up and break down is the time that it takes me to walk the distance for the day and place the cones. We I’m done I just drop them in the front pocket of my backpack.
Here’s why it wouldn’t work for Mike. Each runner needs to wear the small chip that clips into their waistband. I typically only work with 1-2 people at a time, so I only need one, maybe two chips. Mike’s groups can have 10 or more people in them and to move the group through the timer efficiently all the athletes would need a chip. A bundle of 10 chips costs $2200. Not particularly cost efficient for their situation. The Arena Timer is the best option for Mike and the Freelap system is the best for me. The takeaway is you may not be able to directly transplant an idea or method that you like directly into your program there will probably be adjustments that need to be made.
When you learn, it’s not just about accumulating knowledge and adding it to your program. If we continue to add and not subtract, we just end up with a piled-up mess because you end up trying to do too much.
You also will have to discard things that you were using before, as you find a new better way. You will also decide to discard things that other people show you because they are not a good fit for your situation, or they are just plain wrong. Sometimes you must discard perfectly good processes, techniques and/or exercises because they don’t fit what you are doing. I tend to tuck those away and save them for a later time just in case. For example, this article was about 50% longer than the final product that you are reading now. There was a lot that I wanted to write about, but it just didn’t fit with the overall flow, and I was trying to smash the sections in, and it just didn’t work. So, I lopped them off and saved them for another day.
As a coach/teacher that has been in the business for more than 20 years, I really enjoyed my time at MBSC. I appreciate the work that Mike and his staff have put into making the program better every day. I also appreciate the adaptability of the program. It’s simple. That is not a bad thing. Simplicity is great. The fewer moving parts the better, especially for what I consider a high-volume facility, with medium sized groups being charged a very reasonable rate.
My experience at MBSC showed me that they have a top-notch program. It gets solid results and the fact that so many athletes are returning to the program proves that it works long term. The intern program is well thought out and would be an amazing way to learn and gain experience for young coaches just starting out. You will work hard whether you are a paid coach or an intern. It’s an intense 4 days per week of work Monday through Thursday at MBSC but interns only come in for an hour on Fridays and it gives the staff the option to either work or take a long weekend. It is rare that a business creates a schedule that is so considerate of coaches lives outside of work. At my peak, as a graduate assistant, I worked 6-7 days a week 50-65 hours a week, plus going to school to get my master’s degree which was another 20 hours a week. The intern group that I worked with worked hard and were eager to learn and coach.
I learned a lot in 2 weeks. I was able to do this because I prepped before and after I was accepted into the program. I found my experience worth the cost of the trip. I felt appreciated and all my questions were answered when I was there. I did get a different perspective because I’m older compared to the other interns and experienced. I do recommend the program to everyone.
I am impressed by Mike’s willingness to listen to ideas and make changes and admit that the changes are better than what was previously being done. He does it more than many of the coaches that I have worked with in my career. As Covid tore through our industry, shutting down gyms and causing trainers to leave and pursue other careers, MBSC hunkered down and changed their layout to comply with social distancing rules and came out on the other side with a more efficient and organized method to move clients through the facility. The situation forced a review of how things were done and what came out was better. It wasn’t just better to comply with the restrictions, it was better period. So, they kept it.
Is the program perfect? It is not, but Mike and his veteran staff know this and continue to chip away at the inefficiencies. Perfect is a direction not a place. If you get to a point where you think your program is perfect and nothing else can make it better, everyone will catch you eventually no matter how far ahead you are, I greatly appreciate and respect that attitude.
I appreciate the opportunity to learn and contribute as an intern at MBSC and I will cherish the experience for a very long time. Learning wherever you do it, is awesome, so keep at it and keep getting better.
*In case you missed them, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Have more questions? Sign up for our 7-day free trial, leave a question in our forum for 1,000+ other coaches to answer and discuss.