“Training” – show me, teach me, stick with me

TrainingIn this age of ubiquitous technology, much of the Army’s mandatory training is now accomplished by interactive videos and slides on computer. And the more we learn, the more we learn that we need to know more. Hence, the required training on cyber-security, new email systems, wellness programs, knowledge management, sexual harassment, management principles, fiscal policies and more. I’ve talked to several people whose time is already so limited that they often try to skip the training and go straight to the test. When I’ve had the same annual training umpteen times, I’ve tried myself – sometimes with success, sometimes not. Which goes to one of my points: the goal of any training should be getting trained. The question is what are the most effective ways to get there?

Most of us have had some type of training that really opened our eyes to a better way of doing things and inspired us to go on with greater passion and insight. Think back to one of those experiences in your life. It was probably the person who trained you that made the real difference.

God has blessed me with some amazing people over the years who trained me in ways that changed my life. I still remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Brown. What could possibly have been so significant about someone who taught me the alphabet and basic colors?

After weeks of struggling with every in-class assignment in my first year of school, Mrs. Brown asked my parents to take me to see an eye doctor where I was diagnosed with an under-developed optic nerve. I have a birth defect that renders my vision to about 20-400 without glasses. No wonder I was failing. I couldn’t see anything on the board – even from the front row! But Mrs. Brown never gave up on me or became impatient with me before I started wearing glasses, and she never laughed at me after I started wearing glasses, even though most of the kids did. I must admit – when I look at pictures of me in those coke-bottled lenses, I have to laugh a little myself. But she never did. Andrew Hodges was probably the next major trainer in my life. He was our high school band director in my sophomore year onward. As nice as Mrs. Brown had been, Mr. Hodges was just as disciplined and demanded the same from us. The former director was pretty laid back, and the band reflected his approach. We received mediocre ratings at competitions, had major discipline problems on our bus rides, and no real appeal to draw new members or to keep our juniors and seniors. The change was so radical that the size of our band dropped from over 100 members under the old director to about 30 under Mr. Hodges. We practiced longer and more often, ran laps and did pushups to build our endurance (and to discipline us when we messed up), and had devotionals and prayers at band camp and before games.

But our ranking also went from thirty-third in the state to one of the top ten! I learned self-discipline, perseverance, excellence, and teamwork under Mr. Hodges. I’ll never forget him for what he did in my life.

Don Eiseman also trained me in ways that changed my thinking about life in general. He was a retired Las Vegas trumpet player who helped me untwist my mind, lips, and lungs from 10 years of bad habits that I had learned trying to teach myself how to play the trumpet. Now that might sound a little silly, but you need to know that I was a sophomore in college with only one plan for my life: play the trumpet or teach band. But late in my freshman year, the more difficult the music became the worse I played. My tone went first, then my high notes disappeared, and eventually my body started to reject the trumpet like a bad organ transplant. My neck got tight when I tried to play; I couldn’t relax and breathe; and headaches came more and more frequently. Mr. Eiseman taught me how the lips, tongue and diaphragm can work together with relative ease to play the trumpet. Not only did I learn to play again, I enjoyed playing maybe for the first time.

And in 1996(?), Captain Michael Brandt, my HHB 3-62 ADA Commander introduced me to Fartleks (from a Swedish word that means “speed play‟): a running workout of jog, sprint, jog, sprint. There are lots of variations, but the one in which CPT Brandt trained us was a standard: on a ¼ mile track, warm up with one lap of jogging, then sprint a half lap as hard as you can go and jog the remaining half. Repeat this two more times. Then run a whole lap as hard as you can and jog a whole lap. Repeat this one more time. Then sprint/jog the half laps three more times, and finish with a cool down lap. It pushes your ability to sprint and to endure. Changing up the distances when you get used to one routine keeps your muscles on their toes (again, pun intended) and constantly growing.

It’s a great cardio workout, too. And no matter how old I get, I can use the same principle. For example, walk on the treadmill at an extreme incline for a few minutes and then for a few minutes. I can do the same with levels of resistance and speed on the elliptical.

In the same way, we should choose training routines that we can do for our entire lives.  If the ways we’re currently exercising our spirit can’t realistically be sustained into old age, maybe we’re investing in things that aren’t really important.


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