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GP: Please introduce yourself and give our readers some information on your professional, educational, and athletic background and achievements.
To all the readers out there, my name is Ryan Gallagher and I’m the Head Performance Coach at Gallagher Performance. Along with that I’m a licensed massage therapist, corrective exercise specialist, and nutritional consultant. My undergrad education was in Sports Management with a concentration in Wellness and Fitness and was completed at California University of Pennsylvania. I attended Hocking College in Ohio for massage.
Most of my childhood was spent participating in almost every sport imaginable. Around my mid-teen years, I decided to fully commit to ice-hockey. I was fortunate enough to play at the junior level, but through high school and after, I had a number of different injuries that derailed my playing career. Once I was done with hockey, I committed myself to strength athletics and I have since been competitive in powerlifting, strongman and bodybuilding. While I have competed with success, my eyes are on bigger goals that I have set for myself. My plans are to continue to compete for as long as I can. As far as competing goes, I have some plans but will keep that quiet for now.
GP: When and how did you become interested in sports performance, fitness, and nutrition? What have you found to be the most rewarding?
It all started with the influence of my parents and older brothers. Growing up, hockey was an expensive sport to play. My parents were willing to sacrifice a lot of their time and money in order to let me play a sport I deeply loved (and still do). I can clearly recall hearing both of them say, “If you want to play normal, club hockey you can. You can just have fun and take it easy. But, if you want to play juniors, if you want to travel and get exposure, then you need to meet us half way. You will need to work for it.” Essentially what I was committing myself to was a part-time job of training for hockey. Three-a-day training sessions in the summer were the norm and hitting the gym throughout the season was standard. My parents were willing to support me, so I wanted to push myself to say thank you. Once the training and sports performance aspect began, training became more than just a “thank you”. For me, it became an immediate love. Having brothers that came before me and were highly successful didn’t hurt at all either. They provided a great influence and had years of know-how under their belts to help direct me from the get-go.
The most rewarding part of it all is the process. Everyone wants the outcomes, and they want them immediately. But, the process of working towards your specific goal will tell you more about yourself than anything. Those who can grind and stick with something for an extended period of time will often realize far more significant results than others. Notice I said significant, not necessarily successful. There is a major difference.
GP: As a trainer and performance coach, you have had the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients. You have worked extensively with youth athletes, as well as high school, collegiate, and professional athletes. You have worked with competitive strength athletes in powerlifting and Strongman, and physique athletes (bodybuilding, figure, and bikini). And you have done so with tremendous success. It’s uncommon to meet a trainer who is competent in handling such a diverse client base while providing them with the guidance needed for successful outcomes. What allows you to handle such a diverse client base with success?
This answer could be long winded and boring, so I will try to keep it short and sweet (kind of like me!). The obvious component is the understanding and education on how to properly address each individual and their specific needs. Despite all the accolades, degrees, or certifications one may have, it is my opinion that an incredibly invaluable skill set is the ability to read your client. To know when to push them, when to back off and how various external and internal stressors may be at play. These are lessons that no textbook can teach you. You either have that x-factor or you don’t.
GP: With the extensive amount of information available today, nutrition and nutritional advice can become extremely frustrating and confusing. What is your philosophy when it comes to nutrition?
Perhaps it’s because I’m only familiar with the fitness industry, but there is a strong correlation with confusion and the fitness industry. I don’t think there’s an industry out there that is more confusing and frustrating. People love to create confusion because confusion creates dependency. So he or she that yells the loudest will more than likely make the most money. Especially if it goes against the grain of what is traditionally applied.
When it comes to nutrition and my “philosophy”, I guess you could say I don’t really have one. My end goal with clients is to establish a plan that is sustainable for them. If any one client can’t stick with a plan that is set forth, the success rate of that plan is drastically reduced. The approach is similar to the quote, “The person who goes 90% for years will go much further than the person who goes 110%, burns out, and quits.” That essentially sums up the approach I take with my clients.
Most clients just need direction. Whether that is a set plan to give them absolute direction or whether it is step-by-step process of educating them on healthy habits for long-term success. At the end of the day it comes back to knowing your client and how you need to tailor their program(s) to their needs at any given moment.
GP: As a massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist, you have integrated recovery and corrective strategies for your clients and athletes. What are your thoughts on the importance of movement quality and recovery strategies in client progress?
Pushing the limits of the human body and sport performance doesn’t necessarily come without paying a price. Our goal is to keep our athletes and general clients healthy through the process, but aches and pains inevitably settle in. Some people may be baffled by that, but take your squat from 500 lbs to 600 lbs or your 40-yard dash time from 4.50 down to 4.40 and, trust me, your body is going to be feeling it. Wanting to minimize the effects of hard training, most of our athletes partake in an in-season care plan that is set forth to include weekly treatments to injured areas or general recovery work to help them stay fresh. These guys and girls are getting the snot kicked out of them sometimes during their athletic events. Once they feel the difference in how taking care of their body helps their performance and overall well-being, they’re hooked. Some of them come in anticipating an hour massage on their low back because their low back is sore, but we may do an hour of extensive hip and abdominal exercises instead. That is a judgement call. That client will end up leaving with no low back pain and in a much better place both physically and mentally. Some will need more focused soft tissue work, others there may be other factors at play. Again, it comes back to knowing what your client needs and what will truly benefit them.
Establishing proper movement is critical and the foundational element in determining long-term development of the client you’re working with. If they don’t move well for them, then really, it’s all for not. I emphasize moving well for them because it’s different for everyone based on individual physical traits and characteristics. There is not a textbook way of performing any movement. Yes, there are obvious technicalities to each movement, but how it’s applied to everyone is different, and often not textbook.
I could go on about how the whole fitness industry can be it’s own worst enemy, but that would be more of a rant than anything. People need to get off their high horses and realize that because a movement isn’t done to their personal specifics, it is not necessarily wrong for that individual and the goals that they have.
So proper movement for the individual has to be established first. Once that is established you would be surprised at how many issues are removed. Especially once that client becomes stronger. Strength never hurt anybody.
GP: You have become sought after by both athletes and coaches for your ability to develop speed. If anyone would doubt it, your results speak for themselves. You have had the ability to further develop athletes who have either plateaued or failed to achieve results in other training programs. What do you attribute this ability to?
You won’t get anywhere without a substantial amount of knowledge and experience backing up your intentions. I was fortunate enough to start training and working with athletes at a very young age. So even at my age, I’ve been able to put in close to 10 years of professional experience working with clients from various demographics with an array of end-goals. The good trainers eventually make it to the top while, unfortunately, some really poor trainers are there too. The education, and arguably experience, only take you so far. It goes back to my earlier answers. Understanding your client, knowing them almost better than they know themselves, and being aware of how to direct them will set the framework for continual development.
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