Staying the course

Hi Guys,

I think it is time for another blog, which is short for “piece of writing where I say what I have been thinking recently”. I normally try to have factually based and scientifically founded musings so that what I am saying doesn’t end up being an opinionated shout out. This time however I am going to do less of the former and more of the latter.

I have seen enough in my industry to be able to call a spade a spade and these days. We tend to get by treading on eggshells when it comes to calling it as it is, but sometimes we need to hear it just like that. It’s never nice hearing something that makes us take a long look in the mirror. It can be very confronting and we can come out of it feeling that we are ‘less than’. Less than who you could be, less than what you should be. Less than your potential.

I have noticed in recent times with the climatic changes things seem to be getting hard for people in general to keep doing what is necessary and while this blog might easily be considered cathartic for me to be able to just write about the trend I am seeing, the main purpose is to hopefully provide perspective or inspiration to someone who might derive real benefit from my words.

As a personal trainer, and I have said this many times, I have a multifaceted job. It is expected that I have excellent knowledge of the industry I am in. It is also expected that I have a reasonable ability to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Nobody wants to be told what to do by someone who can’t follow their own advice. I don’t have to be a fitness model or powerlifting champ but I have to look after myself and have a degree of physical competency to be as good at my job as I should be. What tends to then separate good trainers from adequate or poor trainers is the ability to develop meaningful relationships with clients (talking purely from a client to trainer point of view, nothing about business skills here, which is a whole other kettle of fish). I don’t have to be a psychologist or run a therapy program but I need to be able to read physical and emotive cues from clients and respond to them and display empathy towards their life.

Exercise and nutrition is hard to get right when you are used to getting it wrong so we have to be able to adapt our style to resonate with the different personalities and needs of the people that come through the door. Even with all of these things going perfectly, trainers still fail to help clients achieve results with varying degrees of frequency. I’m not talking about celebrity trainers who handpick clients and have a waiting list out the door and round the corner but everyday trainers who take on clients as they come. We all will have clients that come to us and leave exactly the same or worse than when they started. That’s reality. I hate it. I feel like a total failure every time this happens and I have to tell a client who’s sitting there waiting for the results of their weigh in and measurement that there is no change or that they have gone backwards. Most of the time they know the answer already, if not the details. I still feel like I’ve let them down.

To me, it feels like a barter arrangement. I will be given money for the purposes of helping a client lose weight or get fit or do a chin up or compete in a fun run or whatever it is. The promise of all trainers is that we will exchange your money for that result that you want. I am still having to remind myself that these are not the terms of the deal agreed upon when taking on clients. The agreement is that together we set goals that we both agree to be achievable in a certain amount of time. I provide you the framework, support and accountability to the degree you choose to employ my services. I give you the map, I walk the path with you and I help when it gets rocky to see the other side but I cannot take a single step along that path for you. That is not my job and it is something no other person is capable of.

There are plenty of ways I can be a bad trainer and fail you and contribute to your lack of success. Personally I do everything I can to avoid that and be the best trainer I can be and my focus when I see my clients is purely on doing what I can to set them up for success. At the end of the day, even if I were a self-absorbed moron, if my clients look good, I look good so there is no incentive for me to not give my best effort. But no matter how much money or time a client may give me, I cannot give them back the result they want. That’s not the deal.

The client has to do the work to get the result. The human body is massively resistant to change though and will not adapt overnight. In fact, when a new client signs on and has their initial burst of motivation and are training the house down, they probably won’t notice a huge amount of difference in the way they feel, other than soreness after workout days as they adjust to exercise. In a lot of cases, the motivation may be waning or even completely gone before things start to happen. This is a difficult time. We are very good at having bursts of passion and enthusiasm to make things happen but not very good at keeping that passion going without much overt fuel to the fire. We can all get to a stage where the motivation tends to dip and we don’t bring the intensity and effort to workouts that we need, or be as conscientious with our food choices as our goals require. This delays results and their burst of motivation even further, to the point that it becomes easy to plateau and start treading water

Whenever a client comes to me (or any trainer for that matter), it is because they have something they want to achieve. Whether it be weight loss, muscle gain, a specific fitness goal or simply improved mobility, the key here is that they have realised they cannot get what they want by themselves.

They have experienced roadblocks trying it by themselves: Time, knowledge, accessibility, fear, motivation, family and the list goes on. By signing up to PT sessions they are acknowledging this and have made a conscious and positive decision to enlist the professional services of a trainer to help manage these blocks. We do this. We make efficient workouts at convenient times, impart knowledge and confidence and support and try to motivate as much as we can.

Despite all best intentions, desires and efforts to achieve the goals set, success can seem a long way off and the passion and drive to get there can fade or even die off before the end of the journey.

We are all busy in our lives and priorities change either because other events shape what we need to do or we simply have demotivated period that creep into our psyche. So when this happens, it’s up to us to jolt ourselves back into gear with the help of those we have sought out to get us where we wanted to be!

It’s not rocket science to work out that if motivation takes a dive, so do results and progress towards the end goal. Many is the case where this seeming lack of progress / results leads to a downward spiral of demotivation. No matter how perfectly crafted the training programs are, if you are not sufficiently motived and give your best efforts results will suffer!

Achieving the goals set in many instances relies not just on the effort and motivation in the gym or at training, but also in the determination to make changes to what we eat. Trainers cannot be in a client’s kitchen (generally) and if the client is already demotivated, their food choices may take a turn for the worse, setting back or reversing progress towards their goal. Once again this engages the downward spiral.

So the key here is that success is a mind game. Your success or lack thereof will boil down to your mindset. Your trainer will (should) give you the right programs and nutritional advice. They will help you with technique, push you when they think there’s more you can give and do their best to keep you honest with your nutrition.

If you steel yourself mentally and stay the course, you will lap it up and get awesome results. If, on the other hand you aren’t on top of it, or cannot stay on top of it for the journey (with its ups and downs) you will fall into that downward spiral and without taking action against the spiralling, fall short of achieving your goal…and maybe not even get close.

Reading this you could be asking yourself, so where am I at right now? Well you could be in either position and you could be happy or frustrated with where you are at, nevertheless it worth revisiting what motivated you to seek out a trainer or seek to make a change in the first place.

Did you want to improve your health to be a more involved and active parent? Did you get sick of feeling down about your body? Did you really want to run the whole way in a fun run? What lit the fire under you, stoked that passion to go and do something. What gave you the impetus to take action?

Once you have refreshed yourself on what got you in front of your trainer, the next step if you have fallen into the demotivated category is to figure out where and when you lost your mojo. When did the passion and motivation start to dip and your progress start to stagnate? Once you know when this happened, together with your trainer you can figure out why. To be truthful, if you lost it, you’re still losing it probably and this is something you need to arrest – Newton tells you so. An object in motion will stay in motion until acted upon by another force. In other words, if you’re going backwards you’re going to keep going backwards until you take action to stop the spiral.

The next phase once you know what motivated you and the when and why of losing it, is figuring out how to get it back. This might not be a simple answer, however you signed on to go through the journey with the assistance of your trainer so together you can identify when it was good, when it stopped being good and what needs to change to come back to the light side of the force.

This is a different kettle of fish for every individual and there are no universal strategies that are guaranteed to work. However this is something we all need to do from time to time. We need to sit back and take good, honest stock of what we’re doing and figure out whether we are headed in the right direction or not. If you are going well, you’ll find a way; if you’re going backwards you’ll find an excuse.

I can guarantee you great results. If you take care of the mental game and do the work, make the right choices and give yourself the opportunity to have success, you’ll get what you want. If you struggle with the mental game you will struggle to get results. I know this first hand and I have seen it play out time and again.

It gets harder in winter, we Tasmanians tend to hibernate and lose our fighting spirit. It’s a phenomenon but it doesn’t have to be your curse and destiny. It’s probably a good time to sit back and look at everything again. Why did you start training? Have you gotten the results you wanted when you started? Have you made progress? Are you still making progress? If you’re answering no to these last couple of questions you might need to have good long look at what’s going on with your mental game because it may not be as sharp as it needs to be. If you’ve lost your way remember you walked through the door to get something. Let’s find a way to get excited about the journey towards it again.

If you think you might be struggling with your mental game, or with anything, please don’t sit there and stew and continue to tread water. Reach out, have a chat and let’s get you back on the righteous path. I don’t care if you are a client or a stranger; you’re welcome to hit me with whatever is bugging you.

Yours in training,

Dan