Podcast: Episode 128 with Brett Bartholomew

By Mario Fraioli |

“You gotta go do it. Lean into the unknown. We have this term, especially when I work with football players, called contact adaptation. There’s a reason they had training camp prior to the season—it’s not just so they could squeeze in extra games, it’s so they can get used to hitting one another and what have you and that actually can decrease the risk of injury. Well, none of these coaches now have contact adaptation. They don’t expose themselves to anything, which leads to a higher likelihood of breakdown. The dose makes the poison. You’re all leaders in different contexts but you’re not leading if you don’t actually lead anybody and nobody can find you. You don’t have to coach world beaters, you don’t have to coach all day every day for 60 years—that kind of experience can be just as toxic as no experience at all—but you do have to lead somebody, you do have to create something. The core lesson there is you have to do. You can’t just ideate and be like ‘Yeah, man, I’m a leader.’ That doesn’t work.”

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Brett Bartholomew is one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the world. He’s worked with a diverse range of athletes across 23 sports, at all levels ranging from youth to Olympians. He’s the author of the best-selling book Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-In, which, as a disclaimer, I helped edit. Through his company, Art of Coaching, he also works with members of the United States Special Forces, Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and universities to help develop more effective leaders and improve interactions and communication.

This is mostly a conversation about coaching—not the technical aspects of strength and conditioning for runners, though we do touch on that a little at the end—but more about the interpersonal side of the craft: the importance of relationships, building buy-in, developing trust, and communicating well. Brett also told me his story about being hospitalized for disordered eating at the age of 15 and how that experience led him down the path of wanting to learn how to communicate with people more effectively and ultimately become a coach. We also talked about putting pressure on yourself, navigating chaos, managing different personalities and emotions, learning to be adaptable, and a lot more.

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