8 Years, 8 Lessons

I am a little late on this one but 8 years ago in May, I got my first training certification and started working as personal trainer. These are 8 random lessons that I have learned over that time.

1. Listen

This is probably the most important thing I have learned. Back in the day, I was fresh off of Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding and every magazine I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, I went in with minimal “real” plans and everything was body part for the sake of body parts. It didn’t matter who the person was or what they were wanting as long as they were feeling like they had a good workout. The one positive I had going was that each time somebody came I began by asking how they were feeling. It let me make some minor adjustments to the plans.

These days, there is a lot more listening and we are still working on ways to improve client/trainer communication in the gym. Everybody gets assessed, we take notes on the performance, notes on adjustments and ask how they are feeling each time they come in.

2. Simplify Nutrition.

Nutrition is scary to most people.

We have socially ingrained fears, constant body judgments (almost exclusively for women), hopes for easy elimination fixes and bounce from “magic” diet to “magic” diet. Precision Nutrition was one of the best things for the gym in terms of coaching. Nutrition is very individual but following basic principles and not shoving massive numbers, schemes and fluctuations to the everyday person wins more often than not. Focus on proteins and fruits and vegetables. Eat some carbs sometimes. Watch portions either by measuring or estimating with your hands. Recognize and work on fears and triggers with food. You don’t earn food with exercise and you don’t restrict for being “Bad”. Finally, realize it is the big picture and rarely the small details that matter in the long haul.

3. Have Fun and Enjoy Fitness

From kids to adults, we are far too rigid in our definition of exercise. The goals should be to improve performance at all times but it can be done without being glued to a plan and with more than just the big 3 lifts (bench, squat, deadlift), 3 sets of ten and 30 minutes on an elliptical. Training should include some play, some jokes, some enjoyment and levity…its just exercise after all.

One of the trainer’s inside Trilogy recently told us that, “This is the first gym that I have really enjoyed and felt comfortable in”. This is more important than benching a ton, when people enjoy themselves and feel comfortable, they will work harder and keep coming back.

4. Learn Something New.

Expanding your horizons and expanding your physical capabilities is important for your growth in physical culture but also for you development as a person. When you take on a new skill and challenge, you develop some grit and remember what it is like to learn and struggle.  A couple years ago, I picked up jiu-jitsu and I am most certainly a slow learner with it. I get to be coached. I get to be beat (a lot and badly at times). I get to struggle. I get to improve.

It helps me be a better coach and person, I am positive of this.

5. Variety is Important.

Varying the exercises, the bars, the reps, the sets, the speeds, the range of motion – all of these factors can and should be adjusted depending on the person and goal. People will feel better and improve with plenty of sensible variety. Variety also keeps people interested.

6. WODs are Stupid but a Good Challenge at Times are GREAT.

WODs(workout of the day) are lazy programing and don’t put the best interest of the individual at the center. Sensible planning is important for the gym, health and safety but every now and then doing something pretty hard and challenging is important. Pushing yourself is a must in training and finding a safe but at times brutal challenge is good way to see where you stand both mentally and physically.

(I am pretty sure that I stole this one from the legendary Dan John somewhere along the line.)

7. The Basics Work.

Squat, hinge, carry, push, pull and move quickly — training should incorporate all of these. You also don’t need to do much more than these basics: master and progress a squat, a deadlift, the push up, inverted rows and a single arm carry. There will always be a new video of some complicated, insane exercise balanced on a ball on top of a dumbbell in a torrential downpour…it isn’t needed. Squat well and do some pull-ups. Get strong and good with the foundational movements and you will get lean and strong.

8. People First.

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” – Eeyore

Helping people should always be your focus. Pay attention to little details to make somebody learn more, have a better time and make their experience more fun and accepting. Getting into the habit of helping and doing more for others is easy. Small gestures and small details go a long way.



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