Friday, March 5, 2010

Pride and prejudice...the decision to work with a personal trainer...

I try to be an open minded person, I try to not prejudge people and situations before I experience them, but I have to admit when it came to the idea of working with a personal trainer, I was neither open minded or ready for what I found. Despite Mary Kay's great results with Roland I still didn't feel this was something I wanted, needed or was ready to invest in.

I had always believed what I now see as the three myths that hold a lot of people back from taking advantage of all the benefits a trainer can bring to your life...

Myth #1 - Trainers are dumb muscle bound jocks who just don't want real jobs

If you had asked me three months ago to describe the typical personal trainer I would have pretty much given you the stereotype of "Hanz and Franz" on SNL. Overbuilt workout fanatics who spend their entire day trying to get ripped and forcing others to lift exhorbinant weights over and over. That they had the job they did because they didn't want to grow up and didn't have the intellect to do much else.

I couldn't have been further off the mark on this one. In the last three months of working with Gui and interacting with the other trainers at LTF I have come to realize that a good trainer is as much a medical professional as many of the doctors I have interacted with. While they aren't diagnosing and treating disease their level of understanding of the body, the muscles, the metabolic systems, nutrition and so many other things is beyond anything I could have anticipated. Add to that their understanding of people and emotions and psychology and this is not a job someone can easily be good at, or that comes without a lot of hard work and studying. These are definitely not feeble minded people in any way. They put a lot of time into honing their skills and their knowledge and this is definitely a career not a job.

Myth #2 - The primary job of a trainer is to teach people how to use the machines and lift weights

This one I should have known better on. Every day I teach my clients about the difference between Application Implementations (learning how to press the buttons on their new software) and Process Implementations (truly figuring out how you are going to incorporate a new system into your company) and how the first returns very little "ROI". Yet I couldn't apply that same logic to working out. I anticipated, as do most of my friends who ask what I do with the trainer, that the trainer would show me a "routine" and send me off to workout. That there was some magic one stop set of exercises that they could tell me and then I would be good to go. Just this morning a colleague who is thinking about working with a trainer asked if they could be shown a routine and then just come back every so often for a progress check. While I humored them and didn't get on a soap box (figured they could read it here), I now know that I never would have gotten to where I am had I taken that approach.

Beyond the reality of there being no one size fits all on what exercises one should do, there is also not one straight path that can be predicted as you work out. Every time I work out with my trainer we do something different, even part way through an exercise he may see something going on that sends us in another direction. Not only does this address the way my body is reacting, it also keeps the workout from becoming too easy and ineffective.

BTW...Gui is sitting somewhere laughing as he reads me saying that, since this is something I still struggle with and we talk about regularly. I still keep waiting for the day when it feels easier and he has to keep reminding me it is his job not to let that happen.

In addition to managing the exercises, there is also a lot more that a good trainer is monitoring that goes far beyond the gym - they are the keeper of the big picture.

Since starting with Gui I have learned that I need to not only exercise, but also address my eating, my sleeping, and my stress. We have looked at blood work results from my dr, talked about supplements and he has encouraged me to participate in other health related programs, such as the EAT nutrition class I go to once a week. Every time we meet we check in on all these items and go over the good, the bad and the ugly since the last session. And some days it's REALLY ugly!

There is a third role a good trainer plays and this is much harder to qualify, but for me this has turned out to be so much more critical than the exercise guidance and the other tips. Having a good trainer gives you someone for accountability and support! I have no doubt if I had done this without a trainer, I would have thrown in the towel months ago. Having someone who holds up the mirror and reminds me where I am slipping, who points out my victories when I don't see them and quite honestly who kicks me in the tuckas when I get down in the trough is worth every penny I spend! A significant lifestyle change is an emotional roller coaster, and as much as your friends try to be supportive, most people get tired of hearing about it pretty quickly, so having someone who you know will be there the distance, who will serve as a sounding block, a safety net, a motivator, a judge, a policeman and at times just a friend is in my book the key to success on the journey. I know Gui doesn't quite get it when I thank him over and over for all he does for me, but I see these "soft" items as a big part of why I am where I am now.

Myth #3 - The only people who need to work with a trainer are those looking to run marathons and athletes

I always thought that you had to already be fit to have a trainer. I never considered that at 338 pounds (or 311 by the time I started at LTF) a trainer would make sense or be helpful. I thought trainers were there to get people in shape for a specific event like a marathon. I have come to realize that they truly are a benefit to us "normal people" and that everyone can benefit from a trainer, no matter where you are starting out physically or weight wise.  That instead of being viewed as something one should consider adding later after you get fit, having a trainer is the key to getting fit.

I have mentioned multiple times "the right trainer" or a "good trainer", I don't believe all trainers are the same, and more importantly I don't believe every trainer is a good fit for everyone, but more on that tomorrow. I better end here and go eat before my trainer looks at my food journal *smile*


  1. Pam,

    Thanks for this post ! You said many things I agree with ! If it were not for Justin I know I would have given up a long time ago !

  2. Jen, I wonder all the time if they really get how much they change our lives. We are so luck at Eagan to have the group of trainers we have!!! Tomorrow I am going to get more specific about them.