An Ego Thing With Phil Learney!

The egotistical destruction of potential is something throughout my life in gyms and across sporting arenas I’ve seen again and again.

We live from a very early age with an inept need to act like a peacock and impress others in whatever capacity we see fit, be it to physically dominant over others or to outwit or outsmart people. In closed and controlled environments don’t get me wrong I think without this we’d lead a pretty boring existence but when ego is involved it can often lead to premature destructive tendencies.

I understand as a male what we are like as a gender typically and to some degree I feel I have some understanding of how females act typically but hey we’re talking human beings here and we can’t just stereotype. I do however know this article is more based on men I’ve encountered. The basic and albeit primitive premise is we do these things to attract a mate (if we look at the bodies natural instincts most revolve around reproduction and survival).

So the ego thing in a nutshell. I’ve see it destroy HUGELY talented athletes. I’ve been in many respects very lucky to play a pretty high level of team sports in a couple of different disciplines. I have also beared witness to a large amount of ‘naturally’ talented and hugely skilled athletes fall by the wayside because of this thing called an ‘ego’. When you’re the one with a small % of that natural talent that works your arse off at every practice or at every skill to wring out that tiny little bit of natural talent you have. Its a sad sad thing to see someone who thinks it better to comfortably parade around with all the  (despite not being religious) god given talent they have and be a big fish in a small pond without even thinking about what ‘potential’ they have.

A large part of the excitement of my job and what I do now is that when I get someone with that talent or potential and they either know it and want to improve it or they have NO idea its incredible and you’ll see my eyes light up. I like BAD cases as it gives me a LOT to work with.

This is in my case is the physiological potential I’m talking about. How lean, muscular, strong, powerful, agile, mentally strong someone can be, essential how much can I potentiate what is already there into something incredible.

EVERYone has potential for something physically its just understanding what it is. I’ve had people who’ve trained their entire life who just followed the wrong rep parameters for them, something SO SO simple made incredible physical changes. I for example have VERY little potential for distance running as do most of the western population but it’s a ‘nice’ achievement to say you ran a marathon right. I never will as I don’t want that mild ego stroking that my ‘marathon finishers’ medal will give me as the results will be short lived and the damage I will inflict to my body training for it WILL be long term.

One of the topics I briefly touched upon is why as a culture here in the UK we will always struggle to develop a quantifiable amount of good strength and power athletes. The term ‘you are born a sprinter’ is correct and it relates to your muscle fibre type. Fibre types briefly are either fast or slow and will be genetically determined from birth alongside many other things. Obesity NOT being one of them (People love a good excuse and why government plough millions into researching a FAT gene is besides me. The reason people are obese is there to be seen. If people can be told they have a FAT gene though I guess the powers that be can continue saying its ok for the food industry to do what it does right). The thing is, fast twitch fibres can be adapted to slow twitch fibres but cannot be changed back. Generations and generations of children with these super genetic fibre types convert a large part of it doing copious amounts of endurance exercise whilst at school. It’s easy right to shuttle 35 kids around a field for an hour every week right……?

Guess which fibres are better for fat loss and the control of obesity?

This is all part and parcel of the education we lack. If there was more money in athletics perhaps it would be different?

Now another point we discussed was Prehab and Mobility work for not only athletes but the general population. Why? Prehab is a relatively new concept but it involves doing movements and training in a way that you minimize the risk of injury in the future. Mobility plays a large part in this.

This has been embraced massively by the large earning sports in the US for quite some time now. It serves several purposes. It means players careers last longer, they remain on the field which pleases fans, it gets the team results and players don’t get the stupidly enormous salaries they get for sitting in a Rehab room.

Sports can in many respects can be determined by how SKILL orientated they are compared to other physical traits that may be required. If we assess an athlete we need to know what their requirement are based on sport, position etc. Golf for example is a heavily skilled based sport whereas endurance running has a low level of skill.  Now our national sport in the UK football (soccer) is a heavily talent and skill based sport. The issue and culture we sadly have behind it as a sport is one in which kids are picked up for displaying this skill and talent at an early age, given a hefty amount of cash and fall into a culture that has VERY little emphasis on career longevity or anything to do with player conditioning both mentally or physically. The idea that a PROFESSIONAL athlete even considers drinking large amounts of alcohol regularly or is happy to eat junk food is besides me….but they do.

Just as an example.

According to what stats I could find the largest salary of a fitness coach in football is at Chelsea FC. Their fitness coach receives an annual salary of £600,000, this is HUGE compared to almost all other fitness coaches in other clubs. In contrast though their players receive £67,000 on average….per WEEK! This isn’t me trying to get us guys paid more its simply the ‘VALUE’ that teams put on parts of their ‘TEAMS’ and the culture these players go into. Sadly EGO and MONEY seem to roll pretty much hand in hand in most cases and many people will base respect on salary sadly.

From a gym goers perspective one of the biggest errors I see is that most men are looking at getting big and lean, most women to get lean and toned. In the pursuit of this most men revolve around the ‘GOT to lift more weight’ approach so they use large loads and low reps which is a way to get strong and toned with a byproduct of size. Most woman lift light weights with high reps and is the perfect way to build size with a by-product of strength and tone. Something inherently wrong here no? Who, out of those are driven by ego and who are driven by the media and gym culture expectancies I will let you decide but we lack GOOD education once again both at a level of professional sport right down to grassroots.


Not everyone has the same kind of motivation and people need to be clear of not only the type of motivation but WHAT motivates them and their definition of success.

Ego orientation: Doing something because you want to be the winner or achieve a level of notable success that will be acknowledged by your peers.

This then comes down to the definition of winning, in the case of footballers:

Is winning being paid a lot doing something?

Is winning doing something that you love?

Is winning getting paid well doing something you love?

Task orientation: Doing something because you enjoy being the best by improving your own personal best and/or the performance of those around you.

You can have both kinds of motivation – but it’s best to be high in both ego and task orientation or low in ego and high in task orientation.

People with these types of motivation work hard and do not give up when things are not working out.

People who are high in ego orientation and low in task orientation do not always succeed and may quit when they are no longer winning. This is the percentage of people that go to gyms and fail again and again. They like the prospect of looking good and in many cases telling people they train but lack the task orientation that will actually get them there.

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