As a Personal Trainer, I coach my clients to the best of my ability in the best way to reach their goals. When a client first comes in for an assessment, I always ask the question: "what is your goal?"
For many individuals, the primary goal of hiring me as their Trainer is typically one (or both) of the following:
1) To achieve changes in body composition (lose body fat, gain muscle)
2) To develop strength and increase performance
Once the primary goal is set, I like to go through a little exercise I got from Dan John (My personal favorite Strength Coach and author). In this exercise I give the client a piece of paper with 4 boxes drawn on it. I ask that they write their goal at the top. In each box, I ask that they list four categories:
1) What Pain will I endure if I succeed?
2) What pleasure will I gain if I succeed?
3) What pain will I endure if I fail?
4) What pleasure will I gain if I fail?
Once all of the boxes are filled out and we have analyzed the list, I ask a tough question. "Is this still your goal?"
The thing is, in order for most individuals to reach their fitness goals, 2-3 sessions of strength training and per week is just the beginning of the necessary tasks to reach such goals. I have already gone on a rather long rant about this in a previous blog post titled "168 Hours" if you wish to read. For those of you who may have missed my previous post, there are 168 hours in a week and as a trainer I only have control over the 2-3 hours a client spends with me over the course of a week (if I am lucky!). The bottom line is that my job as a trainer is to coach and guide my client on their quest toward their personal fitness goals. Along the way I (and my team at TrueFN, shout out to my go-to nutritionist Jenn!) end up coaching better nutrition, lifestyle, mindset, and much more.
That is my job... to coach__.
As a client YOU have a job as well. This job includes but is not limited to being honest, asking questions, working hard, and showing up.
Too often I am asked by an individual to help them achieve a goal for which they are unwilling to do what is necessary to achieve success. I do not believe that this self-sabotage is completely conscious, but rather a result of compounding behavioral and psychological issues that create a barrier to such positive change. I hope that this article will be seen as a wake up call to those who have taken the best first step toward their fitness goals by hiring a personal trainer but are not holding up their end of the deal.
Here are what I feel to be the six most important Job Duties of any personal training client:
1) Show up
Congratulations, you have made an excellent life choice in hiring a qualified personal trainer. However, solely hiring a trainer will not shed fat and build muscle, you must show up. 90% of life is just showing up. If you show up to a training session with me you WILL get through your workout. From there just go home and follow the rest of the job duties listed below and I promise, you will be well on your way to achieving your goals!
I can honestly tell you, beyond a doubt, that there is a direct correlation between the clients I train who consistently show up and those who don't. Those who show up GET RESULTS! These individuals show up on time and prepared to work hard. Another thing I have noticed is that these individuals prioritize coming to training so much so that I rarely, if ever, receive a cancellation. I am amazed at their consistency, rain or shine, good days and bad, no matter what life throws at them, these clients continue to show up. Maybe their dedication to this training thing is the reason for their stellar results... Oh and these people are typically the same ones who LOVE training. If you think the idea of "loving" strength training is strange, ask yourself if your fitness is where you would like ti to be. There is a direct correlation.
On the other hand there are individuals who show up 5-15+ min late, no-show, or routinely cancel last minute. I would venture to say that the results of such individuals would be greatly magnified if they showed up consistently. I have noticed that such individuals are generally unhappy with how their progress towards their goals is going but can't seem to put their finger on why. Whether it be going off the deep end with bad diet choices, not sleeping, not hydrating, or dealing with life and work stressors, these individuals make excuses justifying a lack of commitment to their goal. Due to such a lack of progress, these individuals typically see training as a chore and thus reap what they sow. Maybe finding enjoyment in your physical activity is part of the key to showing up and following through with all of these job duties? Just a thought.
2) Work Hard
There is no substitute for HARD WORK. If a client can work hard, I can teach them how to work smart and BOOM, we have a recipe for success. Working hard means coming prepared to train and following through with all that the training session entails. This does not mean doing some insane, gut busting session of endless repetitions, I simply mean applying 100% effort to the task at hand whether it be listening, questioning, and learning the ins and outs of a new exercise or stepping under the bar for a final set of squats at 6:30 AM on a Monday. When you step into a training session this is the time to go to work on your goals. There is no activity that will cause more dramatic changes in how your body looks and performs than resistance training, so give it all you've got. I understand that not everyone can be on their A-game every day. We all have tough times and bad days. What I ask is that you give the most effort possible on that very day whatever that may be.
Do not quit on me. I am far from the type of trainer who attempts to have clients perform boot camp like workouts with endless repetitions. My training sessions most definitely allow for adequate rest and thus I expect serious performance of each exercise when the time comes. If you have just taken a 2-3 minute rest prior to your next set of 12 goblet squats, DO NOT do 5 reps and slump over at the top in an attempt to rest while telling me "this is so hard." Number one, I know its hard, getting results takes hard work, something many individuals have never once experienced. Number two, you just had 2-3 minutes of rest, knock out your set and I'll give you another 2-3 minute of rest, you don't need to rest during the set as well! As Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell said: "Quit once, and I'll never forget"
Don't complain about the progressive difficulty of workouts. In order for the body to change it must undergo activities which disrupt homeostasis. This means doing some tough things. As a trainer, I am hired to design, coach, and carry out progressively overloaded strength training programs. As the client, your job is to complete said program. As my client (or any client of TrueFN) you have my solemn word that I will always work as hard as I can to help you reach your goals. In return, I expect the same devotion to your goals.
If you truly cannot bear to work hard, we have a sign on the wall at TrueFN that states: "No one is making you be here, you are here because you choose to be."
Feel free to re-assess your goals and desire to achieve them at any time.
PRO-TIP: In order to be able to work hard, please refrain from talking during the execution of any exercises, taking phone calls and/or texting during a session, talking so much that your trainer cannot use the time in session to adequately teach and coach the planned workout.
I am amazed at the number of individuals I encounter who cannot seem to drink an adequate amount of water. "I forget to drink," is something I frequently hear.
Do you know what happens to an animal in the wild if it "forgets" to drink water? ...SPOILER ALERT: IT DIES.
In fact, animals will literally risk being eaten by a predator in order to drink water. Thankfully, for most lucky humans, all you have to do is turn the faucet and water pours out into your glass without any risk of being eaten alive by a crocodile or scooped up by a large hawk.
At TrueFN we recommend that a client drink at least half of their bodyweight in ounces of water PER DAY with additional hydration surrounding activity such as training sessions. This equates to a daily minimum of 75 oz of water for a 150 lbs individual. Now, I can completely understand a lack of hydration for the first session or two as most individuals are not aware of how much water their body needs to function optimally when making the transition from being inactive to active. The hydration level that likely felt OK while sitting in a chair all day will most likely not work for an active lifestyle with a minimum of 3 strength training sessions per week. But for every session past the first, you know what to expect, do not show up unprepared by coming in dehydrated.
Start your day with 16 oz water (yes you can include the water from coffee or tea). Carry a water bottle with you at all times, keep a spare water bottle in your desk, in your car, and in your purse/briefcase/bag. Drink all day without waiting until you are thirsty to do so.
I understand that life happens and sometimes you will not be able to hydrate optimally in certain situations. If such a situation occurs, plan ahead by hydrating adequately before and after.
Come on people, we are lucky to have access to clean water. A lot of people in the world would kill for the opportunity to drink fresh water on demand. It goes without saying that this should be a non-issue. Act like an adult and take care of your body by hydrating appropriately.
4) Eat for your Goals
The clients who I see make the biggest strides toward their goals treat their nutrition with the same dedication that they treat their workouts. These clients eat protein with every meal, consume healthy fats, limit processed carbohydrates, eat vegetables with most meals, limit or cut out alcohol consumption, among other healthy habits.
Individuals who struggle to reach their goals end up sabotaging themselves. "I cant eat that much protein!," "I am not giving up wine and cheese every night!" "I don't have time to sleep," etc. As a trainer I can only do so much in affecting lifestyle change. It must be upon the client to take ownership of this duty. If a client refuses to change lifestyle factors and habits that directly impede their goal, I do not have any" magic exercise" or "potion" under my sleeve that can save them.
If you are wondering how to eat for your goals, Jenn at TrueFN can get you on track with regular nutrition consultations. And for those of you who think a consultation with a nutrition expert is not necessary for your goals, how is your body composition (lean mass vs body fat)? I bet it's not where you want it to be.
5) Strength train a minimum of three days per week
Regardless of your goal, a regular minimum of three resistance-training sessions per week is necessary to achieve optimal progress. If you want to learn why, take a look at my previous article "Stimulate, Recover, Adapt, Repeat." As most individuals do not have the time or money to train 3+ times per week with a trainer, it becomes important to take on workouts separate from training sessions. That's right, you should be strength training outside of your sessions if you train less than 3x/week.
With that being said, not just any training will get you to your goals. It is important that all training sessions (with and without your trainer) are part of a larger, cohesive plan that is progressive in nature and well designed.
At TrueFN, we offer virtual coaching for just such a reason! With virtual coaching you will receive your training program to complete on your own and will be expected to send video for technique analysis by your coach. This allows the trainers at TrueFN to coach your additional sessions without actually being present.
Whether you take on virtual coaching or decide to regularly attend three sessions per week with your trainer, this point is a MUST to reach your goals!
Take care of your body
Everyone gets injured from time to time. Even individuals who are completely sedentary become injured at some time in their lives. When you are completing regular resistance training sessions it is important to listen to your body and to avoid injury to the best of your abilities. Lucky for you, strength training itself is the best activity you can engage in to reduce your risk of injury. However, as much as we try to prevent it, injuries do occur. When you are experiencing a pain either chronic or sudden, get evaluated by your doctor to determine the cause. Once a diagnosis has been reached, TrueFN can help you on your path to recovery with massage from our amazing Massage Therapist Kyori Otsubo-Heard, and through Therapeutic work with our head of TrueFN Therapeutic, Kim Limon. In addition to taking advantage of the therapeutic services TrueFN offers, there are some things you can do to take care of your own body
-Sleep 7+ hours per night
-If sitting all day at work, get up every 15 min to walk around or stand (Ever try a standing desk?)
-Ice/heat any aches and pains
-Foam roll and stretch as recommended by your trainer
-Get regular massage (1-4x/month)
-Follow the rest of the above job duties
When you hire a trainer, you are hiring an individual to lead you toward your goals. Your job is to follow the path outlined by this individual to the best of your abilities. I cannot achieve your results for you. I will show you the door but you must choose to walk through it.
Do your job, so that I can do mine.