My Fitness Training – Then and Now

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A good personal trainer should look the part. Sure – it’s unfair to ask every coach to look like a Greek God, but looking like you’ve been in a gym before shows client that you walk the walk. So they’ll listen when you talk the talk.

Or so we think. Sometimes being in good shape can work against the trainer. From the client’s perspective, this can create a barrier as they often de-humanize the trainer as a spinach eating cyborg that’s never seen what a pizza looks like.

Let me explain what I mean through an example conversation:

Trainer: Hey client – think you can eat a cup of broccoli with dinner this weekend?

Client: I can try (but in the client’s head they’re thinking ‘broccoli? Are you kidding me? The only thing green in my fridge is that huge bottle of Mountain Dew I plan on finishing off tonight! I bet you were born with a stalk of celery in your hand, you fitness freak)

Sounds extreme, but it’s true. A good strength coach is like everyone else – they have doubts, worries, and insecurities. They just tend spend more time picking heavy things up off the floor. Client’s can dismiss their trainer’s advice under the guise of “you don’t get it/you look like a superhero/you’ve never walked in my shoes.” But this isn’t true.

Maybe it’s a defense mechanism against making changes, but the client tends to view the trainer as this robot that was engineered to never miss a workout and live off of kale salads. It’s not fair, but clients do it and I’d like to try and change that.

Speaking for myself, I can show you several different ways that I’ve grown as a trainee myself. While my wife likes to tell me just how unique and awesome I am, I know that I’m the same as everyone else out there. If I can step up my game in the fitness world, then no one else has any valid excuses not to do the same.

-At one point, all I ever did in the gym was curl and press (I know, I know – that same guy who makes his clients squat all the time exclusively use to just hit the beach muscles).

I even use to blow off workouts to watch my favorite TV show (Smallville anyone?)

I graduated high school the youngest in my class. And the skinniest. By the time I was 17 and had my diploma, I was lucky to tip the scales at 140 pounds. You could say I’ve had my fair share of bullies growing up and I spent plenty of time wishing there was an alternate- and more muscular- version of myself somewhere out there.

Even when I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, I wasn’t exactly on my A game. Sure, I could write a decent program but I was no where near where I am now. Here’s a few more examples:

  1. Sweetening my carbs. I know, I know. Today’s carb phobic society doesn’t even want me to mention the “C” word, but I tend to thrive on carbs. So there. Anyway, when I started working out the goal was to get bigger and that meant pounding oats and sweet potatoes. While these are good sources, I also tended to douse my carbs with some natural sweeteners. So it wasn’t uncommon to see a mountain of brown sugar with a sweet potato buried somewhere underneath it. I would justify it with “brown sugar is natural,” but sugar is sugar and I learned over time to curb the sweet stuff.
  2. Workout Nutrition. In my first year of training I thought I was superhuman. I honestly didn’t think the foods I ate during and after a workout really mattered all that much….and if it did, my superior genetics would compensate. Then reality slapped me in the face and I realized that I wasn’t getting any bigger or stronger. This made the case for peri-workout nutrition and I now have my cabinets stacked with creatine, maltodextrin, protein powder, and BCAA’s.
  3. Marathon Sessions. It wasn’t even that long ago that a lot of my workouts were marathon sessions. My goal was to be the biggest, strongest, and most powerful trainer ever….all at the same time. My own sessions started with an Olympic lift, followed by a powerlift and then some bodybuilding work. Cue burn out followed by a broken down body. I learned the hard way that you can’t be good at everything at once and now divide my training up into some more sensible blocks. After that, I started to see results (shocking, I know)
  4. Cheat meals. I use to spend my weekends as a full time cheater. Cheating on my diet that is. Burgers, donuts, pizza – you name it. Cheating isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the idea of eating out multiple times on a Saturday depletes your wallet…..and adds to your waistline. Again, I thought my awesome workouts would have my back through all the ice cream I ate. I still cheat but I’ll make the food myself. It helps reign the calories in while helping me appreciate my food that much more. And I save money.

When I fixed all these things, stuff started to happen. I deadlifted 315, then 365, and eventually passed 400 pounds. I learned how to snatch and the scale crept up….165…175….190.

They key theme here is that change takes time. You’re not going to become a fitness model overnight. As clichéd as it sounds, life’s a journey and if you want to be in this training game long term, you’ll grow over time. No one grabbed my hand and taught me these things- it took a decade to get to this point.

I’m not so superhero after all. My goal is to always focus on self-improvement, so I hope to be even better a few years from now. Do the same, and you’ll always keep your fitness. And maybe people will think you’re a superhero too.

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