I always knew that becoming a personal trainer would teach me new exercises and the function of major muscle groups. I’ve learned about the body, for sure and have been able to successfully share that knowledge with some amazing people. I’m grateful that, through my work, people end a session happier than they started.
But I never could have guessed how much my profession would teach me about people—their minds, their motivations, their differences, and their similarities. I’ve seen every form of body, complaint, and excuse. And while I recognize and remind everyone that every body is unique, there are a few things that are appropriate to most (if not all) people with whom I come into contact. Here are the seven things I share with ALL of my personal training clients, no matter what their circumstances:
1. The more specific your goal, the better.
Lots of people want to lose weight or tone up. But the more specific the goal, the better chance you have of success. I have a client who, when we first starting working together, said that her son was having his bar mitzvah and she wanted to look amazing. We worked together twice a week, she ate well, and supplemented our sessions with her own exercise, and she looked unbelievable. The more specific your goal, the easier it is to measure success.
2. Step away from the scale.
If you are already trying to get fit or lose weight, please don’t weigh yourself. And if you have to weigh yourself, for God’s sake don’t do it every day. We’re not boxers or wrestlers trying to fit into a weight class. Instead of standing on a scale, look in the mirror. Do you (generally) like what you see? Do you feel healthy? Do those skinny jeans fit you better than they did before? Maybe your sex life has improved or you are sleeping better. Use a more personal scale to judge your progress.
I have a very good friend who weighs herself every five minutes. I’ll get a phone call from her and she’ll say she gained 2 pounds. Sometimes I think those 2 pounds will disappear after one good trip to the bathroom! It’s really about not sweating the small stuff. And 2 pounds is small stuff.
3. Eat real food.
A shake from a mix is not real food, nor is it a meal. If you increase your exercise, do not decrease your calories. You need fuel to power your body. After all, it’s a machine. If you don’t feed it, it will feed itself by storing fat to power your demands on it. You don’t want to store fat.
4. See the whole you.
Don’t pick yourself apart. You are more than a collection of parts. You are not the swinging skin under your arm or the little bit of fat that pokes out of the side of your bra. You are not the cellulite on your thighs. You are all of these things and more. And trying to fix one thing you think is “wrong” through exercise is only going to cause imbalances and more problems. You are a whole person with a whole body. Train your whole body.
5. Strength is power.
Feeling stronger is not only physically powerful but emotionally powerful. As I improved my fitness and strength, I found myself feeling more empowered and independent. It’s a great feeling when your body responds the way you want it to, whether that’s having a more powerful tennis backhand, getting ALL the grocery bags out of the car AT ONCE, or finally doing that fifth push-up.
6. Find your own path, and accept that it will change.
What works for others might not work for you. I need to eat food before I go for a run or to the gym or the pool. Other people can’t even fathom that idea. My body doesn’t like to run more than two to three times a week. (And it’s usually twice.) Even when I’m training for a longer-distance race, I know that I can’t add days, so I have to figure out how to get ready by listening to my own mind and my own body. Use a diet or a training plan as a guide, not as a contract.
7. Know that you CAN.
Your mind is a terrible thing to waste. While we all have thoughts of insecurity or fear, it’s important that we don’t stay there or act from that place. If you want your body to do something—get stronger, run farther, swing harder—you have to want it and KNOW you can do it. Let doubt enter your mind, but also show it the door. Don’t linger on the less productive emotions.