Personal training is a weird job. Imagine going to a restaurant, ordering your food and then refusing to eat it when it was served and the waiters and chef standing around urging you to eat it? That’s personal training.
But that’s how PT often is. People pay their money, get out of bed early, meaning they went to bed early too, show up often while it’s still dark outside so they can train, and then…something goes wrong and instead of pushing hard, they turn it into a “client vs trainer” thing. To me, if you go to bed early, get up early, pay your money, and drive to training you clearly display to me that you want to be there. If you didn’t none of that would have happened. It’s not like I turn up to people’s houses early each day, hold a gun against their heads and threaten them with harm if they don’t come to training. Their behavior is clearly all voluntary.
But just like the decision to attend training is voluntary so is the decision to actually train once there. One of the reasons I think so few people really ever get anywhere with their own training is they just won’t push themselves. When the going gets hard they’ll find a way to slow down rather than keep pushing. And that’s where it gets tough as a trainer. There’s a big difference between being a cheer leader, yelling at people for the sake of yelling, and exhorting them to push just a little harder than they currently are. It’s not always an easy line to walk.
Motivation is an incredibly individual thing. Some people respond well to competitive styles of training and the mere thought of a workout that is timed sees them salivating, ready to turn themselves inside out to beat others. Other people respond well to timed workouts not because of competition with others, but as a means of testing themselves – an effort to try to better a previous effort. I’m in this category – I don’t need anyone around me as I love to time trial and test myself against a clock. But competition doesn’t bring out the best in everyone. For some it turns them to water and they crumble.
But everyone at some point is going to need a push. The push can come in a variety of ways. It may be an increase in weight for a particular exercise. It may be a new time goal for a row or run. Often these new suggestions are met with cries of protest. But why did you come train today if your goal isn’t to take a step beyond where you were yesterday?
I often get accused of being elitist in my approach to training. As if having high expectations for people is elitist. The problem seems to be that most people are so accepting of mediocrity and “good enough” that it permeates into the rest of their lives. So when we stand firm on our expectations at RPT – that our sole goal is to make you better than you were when you walked in the door – it probably seems harsh and an impossible standard for many. The thing is that at this point in my career I’m not looking to be a hand-holder, cheer leader or time wasting trainer. If you want to come and work hard then you’ll be welcome. If you come in each day eager to work to make yourself better tomorrow than you are today then you’ll be welcome. But if you’re the kind of person who thinks that training hard is elitist then you’re probably better off going to Fernwood. (And yeah, that’s a diss on Fernwood because I’m yet to meet anyone from that gym chain who has ever gotten into good shape – all because they’re made too comfortable and not pushed).
The most recent comment about elitism came after posting pics of our new signage on Facebook. The sign is me. I’m a forty-two year old with no great athletic achievements. I’m not especially fast, strong, flexible or talented. I’ve never been able to train full time and I haven’t had access to much coaching other than myself. So when someone suggests that a picture of my back is intimidating or elitist it just makes me feel sorry for them, because I’m nothing special. Because they’ve clearly never been pushed. They’ve never willingly gone outside their comfort zone much. And they find seeing someone else do it discomforting. But don’t ever let someone’s opinion like that get to you – wolves don’t worry about the opinion of sheep.
And that’s what will happen if you really push yourself. People will try to bring you down. they’ll make fun of your food choices. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told that my diet is extreme – because fresh fruit and vegetables and good quality meat is extreme apparently. They’ll make fun of you for training so often – because they’re jealous of the changes you’re making in your body and wish they had the same discipline that you do. They’ll tell you that training so hard is dangerous – as opposed to sitting on the couch eating crap? I’ll take my chances with deadlifts and running thanks versus McDonalds and watching TV.
But it all starts with you. Accept that training will be hard. Every time you come in I’m going to try to get a little more out of you than the time before. I’m always going to expect more. Because when I push more, you’ll change more. And that’s why you’re paying me. But don’t turn this into a battle of wills where I urge for more and you resist, thinking you got the better of me. Because you didn’t. It’s you who loses when you won’t push. It’s you who doesn’t lose the weight. It’s you who finishes the week in the same shape you were in at the start of the week. It’s you who wasted all that effort of going to bed early and getting up early. So come train, allow yourself to be pushed and make the most of it. Resistance is futile.