Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer: Part 1
At the beginning of each year I like to think about what I learned the previous 12 months. There are usually some take-aways and confirmations of things I previously thought and got more sure of. Occasionally, there are things I realize I was just plain wrong about.
I was about to write my “Things I Learned in 2019” post and my wonderful wife, Kristi, suggested that I take it a little further and write about some things I’ve learned since I started training. Since it’s basically my 10-year anniversary as a trainer I thought that was a great idea!
1 – It doesn’t take much
I remember my very first session with a client. I had a nice program all written out. All the movement patterns accounted for. Warmup stretches for everything head to toe. Set and rep schemes to maximize every outcome. As written, the workout was probably two hours long and my first client let me know half way through the warm up that they had to finish up and get to work. I realized right then that it just doesn’t take much for someone to get started.
Too often I hear stories about how someone was so sore after their first workout that they couldn’t walk for days. What good is that to anyone? It took one session for me to realize that the most valuable thing someone can get out of their first workout is the desire for another one. I’d much rather a new member has a super easy first workout that allows us a good foundation to build on. I want them set up for years of solid and effective workouts not just one crazy one.
2- Food is food
Over my time as a trainer I have seen literally every kind of food demonized. Right now, for example two of the most popular diet crazes are Netflix Documentary-inspired Veganism and the Joe Rogan-inspired Carnivore diet. (I know that being Vegan has been around a lot longer then Netflix. It’s just that Netflix is where a ton of people are hearing about it lately. I also know that many Vegans are doing it for humane reasons, which I completely support.)
Yes, right now in this day-and-age of being able to find out just about every piece of information on the internet in 5 seconds there are people who believe that eating meat is unhealthy and others with access to the exact same information who believe that eating anything but meat is unhealthy.
Healthy or Unhealthy? Pick One!
I’m not joking. This is happening right now.
I’ve even fallen prey to it at times. I tried to figure out “the secret combination” of “good” and “bad” foods and I realized there wasn’t one.
What I’ve come to realize is that food is just food. A cookie is just a cookie. Broccoli is just broccoli. There are perfectly valid reasons and delicious ways to eat and enjoy both. There is no good or bad. As a matter of fact, the stress of trying to figure out and stick to that kind of food regimen is likely more damaging then the occasional cookie.
Think of it like this. The more you demonize and restrict something you like, the more resentful you make yourself and the more powerful you make the food. And then comes the rebound.
The moral of this story? Just figure out what works for you and eat. And what works for you needs to be sustainable. Stop kidding yourself about what is really sustainable for you. I’m looking at you Keto!
3 – Losing weight is a horrible goal
I’ve had literally thousands of conversations with people who are starting some sort of exercise program. The goal of weight loss has been mentioned in at least 95% of them. I’ve heard people of all shapes and sizes tell me they want to lose weight. It’s almost as if people believe that losing weight is the only goal worth attaining. I joked one time that if aliens came to earth just to hear people talk about their fitness goals they’d think the only acceptable weight on earth would be zero pounds.
Jowka the Alien now realizes earthlings all weigh too much
Please know this:
The Whole Weight Loss Industry Is Designed To Make You Feel Bad About Yourself So You Will Buy More Stuff
Do I need to be any clearer about that? It has no interest in helping you lose weight.
The cycle goes like something like this:
Through an oppressive and continuous series of media images and messages, amongst other things, people are told to believe they need to lose weight.
People are sold some kind of diet/workout/supplement to do so.
When person inevitably fails either in the short or long term, due to the fact that the diet/workout/supplement is completely unsustainable or just doesn’t work at all, blame the person and make them feel like a failure.
Sell the person something else.
It’s likely that many of the people reading this have gone through this cycle many times.
What I’ve come to believe over my ten years as a trainer is that people aren’t asking the right questions of themselves.
PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT, THEY WANT WHAT THEY FEEL LOSING WEIGHT WILL GET THEM.
Once you start to figure out what that is, things start to feel different. You feel more empowered, more in touch with your true self and values.
Losing weight itself is incredibly disempowering. You are essentially giving all your power to some inanimate object that will let you know how you should feel about yourself. If it says one number you’re awesome. If it says another you’re an unworthy failure. Even if the numbers are for any practical purpose, the same. That’s not to mention the stress of judging yourself every time you eat literally ANYTHING AT ALL!
I wonder if I’m a failure today?
I had a client tell me that the night before they weighed in they were so stressed out they couldn’t sleep. I’ve had more than one person tell me they get on the scale every day and can’t help but judge themselves based on that number. None of this is OK! It’s not that it just doesn’t help, IT ACTUALLY HURTS!
As a trainer I now know to look for other, more empowering and meaningful ways to measure progress. The important thing about this is to figure out what you really want in the first place. Is it to stay off some medication? Is it to be able to move easier? Whatever it is, working towards THAT goal is much more likely to give you what you want.
I hope this helps clear a few things up for you. I’ll have Part Two next week.