When I Was a Client: 10 Tips for Those New to Fitness
This past summer, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to become weightlifting certified with USA Weightlifting. To quickly summarize, weightlifting is the sport you see at the Olympics in which athletes take a barbell and perform a movement quickly to lift the weight overhead. The lifts are very technical and take a lot of practice to get good at.
I’ve always prided myself in trying to learn new things. But as the weekend course grew closer, my nerves started setting in. What if I tried a lift and fell on my face? What if everyone there would be throwing hundreds of pounds around and I struggled to learn the technique with the bare bar? What if the instructor was so embarrassed by my lack of technique he booted me out of class, told me never to come back, and finished me off by telling me that I should never touch a weight again? That last one is a bit extreme, but you get the point: I had become a client.
The roles had been switched. For years I’ve sat across clients and constantly reassured them they had nothing to worry about. That touch of anxiety I felt allowed me to step foot in my clients’ shoes to sense what they’ve been experiencing all these years. Even scientific studies show the anxiety that people feel when it comes to exercise is real. One research study showed that people who are overweight, or feel overweight, are less likely to exercise because of negative feelings of self (1). If that weren’t enough, other people may never exercise in front of others because they fear how others will perceive their lack of exercise ability (2).
I’ve built my training studio around professionalism and privacy: those who seek my services get to work with me on-on-one in my own studio. We’re the only ones there – no distractions or rude people to stare at you. However, I’m not going to be able to work with everyone. So I thought a quick list about what fitness is really about would help anyone new to the game. Working out is all about challenging yourself and overcoming what you thought was a stacked deck. The last thing you want is to create problems in your head then end up ruining your workouts or stopping your progress.
This list is based on my experience working with people as well as my own anxiety I feel when I become the client.
1. Fit Doesn’t Mean Better
We associate being out of shape as a character flaw, which is hardly the case. I’ve come across plenty of fit people who weren’t exactly the greatest human beings in the world. Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t let a fit body intimidate you in the gym. If they did it, so can you.
2. Skinny Doesn’t Mean Fit
I’ve done enough testing on clients to know that skinny doesn’t mean fit. Just because you see skinny people at the gym doesn’t mean they’re strong, powerful, aerobically fit…..the list goes on and on.
3. No One Really Knows What They’re Doing
If you’re working out at a public gym, most people aren’t really sure of what they’re doing. They think they do, but the reality is that most have been misinformed on how to train. This means poor exercise selection, half reps, lack of intensity, and too much rest between sets. If you’re unsure of how to exercise or feel unfit, just about everyone else in the gym feels the same way.
4. You Have to Start Somewhere
No matter how fit you are, everyone has to start somewhere. Yes, some of us just have better genetics than others, but no one is perfect. It sounds cheesy, but it’s a journey not a destination. Just because someone can do more than you in the gym doesn’t mean that they’re not trying to get better as well.
5. Everyone Has Weaknesses
No one is perfect. Every single person has chinks in their armor. Some may have high body fat but be incredibly strong, while others may be able to run forever but have terrible flexibility. Most people train their strengths and ignore their weaknesses. You want to do the opposite.
6. It’s a Skill
Human movement is a skill. We take it for granted because we don’t need to perform manual labor in order to survive. But running, learning technique, and developing foundations in the gym are all skills. Skills take time to learn. Those who have a higher level of skill can do more, plain and simple. Apply yourself and you’ll get there one day too.
7. It’s a Process
The way I trained when I was 27 is much different than the way I train today. I’m sure that five years from now, my training will be different as well. Just like life, things change and as you continue to exercise, you’ll mature as a trainee. More often than not you’ll learn that the stuff you did when you first started was kind of crazy or just plain weird. Trust me on this one.
8. Appreciate the Small Things
You want your dream body – we get it. But appreciate your hard work when you have small successes. I’ve had clients in near tears because they finally had the ability to clean their garage out. Besides, each workout means you’re 1 workout closer to your goal.
9. It Should be Fun
You’re learning something new. This should be a fun process. Take your workouts seriously but don’t take yourself so seriously. Unless you flat out quit, you’ll get to your goal eventually.
10. Who Cares
If you’re worried about what other people will think, stop. What can they really say? You’re devoting a small percentage of your time to trying to better yourself. If someone were to ever say something to you, or make fun of you, then clearly that person has the problem and not you.
1. Trost, S.G., Owen, N., Bauman, A.E., Sallis, J.F. and Brown, W. (2002). Correlates of adults’ participation in physical activity: review and update”. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34(12), 1996-2001.
2. Huberty, J.L., Ransdell, L.B., Sigman, C., Flohr, J.A., Schult, B., Grosshans, O., and Durrant, L. (2008). “Explaining long-term exercise adherence in women who complete a structured exercise program”. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 79(3), 374-384.
Originally written: August 1, 2014