Five Things I Learned as a Trainer

By the way, this is not a picture of me. I don’t wear tights that show off my package and then loom over clients. That’s teabagging. And one thing I learned is you better be careful not to drool when you spot someone on the bench press, it's post-workout supplements. Don’t ask me how I know that. I doubt I ever would have guessed I’d grow up to be a personal trainer and have a fitness(ish) blog since I was a total late bloomer on the exercise front. 

But since I’ve been training and torturing people for a “living”, I have learned a few things I did not know beforehand, and I’m not just talking about, “Tabata squats hurt the next day like a motherfucker,” though I definitely learned that one as well. Now I will lay on you five things I learned. Only five, because I am unable to effectively count beyond that number. Also, I am a slow learner. And this way I can use my fingers to tally it up. And if you go past five, something bad happens. 

Something with snakes and axe murderers and deviant celebrity trainers. Totally does.

1. It takes a while for your body to get used to any new activity.

 This is a stupidly obvious one, right? That’s why we moan, “I’m so out of shape,” meaning, “Physical activity is hard right now because I rarely do any.” But I think it’s easy to assume that the initial agony discomfort we feel after doing something novel is a sign that it was a really bad idea. 

And when that discomfort persists, it translates to, “I hate running/swimming/weightlifting/squats/jabbing this fork in my eye.” People often tell me how much they hate running, this is a big one, and I usually just say, “Nobody likes running—what are you, nuts?” Well, okay, I say “It’s hard to tell at first if you will eventually like it because it feels like death would be a sweet relief by comparison, but sometimes when you do it for a while you find you do kinda like it because it gets easier.” 

Five Things I Learned as a Trainer  1

@twinsterphoto via Twenty20

I say that because it was certainly my experience, and now I suppose I do sort of like running, and I can absolutely say I like it a hell of a lot more than I did at first, when I plodded around the track and prayed my legs would spontaneously fall off and provide me with an excuse to stop. I think it took maybe 6 months of regular running to find out I sort of like it. I’m a stubborn individual, and this is maybe the only time that has ever served me well. Oh, and the initial soreness of any activity isn’t a good indication, because when I do stuff for the first time, I think I’m going to die two days later because everything hurts. Only now I’ve come to get used to soreness and I even like it because it makes me feel like I accomplished something. God, we exercisers are weirdos. Next up: I practice jabbing a fork in my eye to find out if I like it.

2. Thirty seconds is a hell of a long time. 

I used to think it was a time blip, but try holding something heavy or jumping around, and all of the sudden time becomes very slow and precious. I could turn this into some zen commentary on how we should live in every moment and make them all count, but really, I’m just half-asleep and trying to flesh out a list here. Fuck if I want to be in the moment for 30 seconds of burpees.

3. Everyone gets scared before they try something new. 

By everyone I mean me, and I’m certain you are all exactly like me. But I do hear this from other people: They are scared to come to a class, scared to try a new activity, scared of me and my crazy talk, but odds are only one of those is really going to do lasting damage. Scared is a feeling, not a mandate. Be scared, try it anyway, yeah yeah. No one wants to look like a fool or take a risk, but odds are, most people are so absorbed in what they are doing, they won’t even see you, and besides, they probably feel the same way, so let’s all get huggy and be done with it.

4. Intention and action are not the same things.

 One can lead to the other, but only one gets you in better shape. You wouldn’t believe the giant list of things I intended to do today. Hey, at least I get to cross off, “write FF post” even if “pay parking tickets” and “pay bills” and “fix life” and “be a good person” sort of fell by the wayside.

5. Not everyone knows what they are talking about. 

Um, okay, I totally knew this before I became a trainer, but boy does it get hammered home sometimes. I tend to look for people who have actually, you know, done whatever activity they would like me to do, and beyond that, are good at it. I’ll be obvious with you too: I’m often better at teaching things I’ve at least semi-mastered than shit I’m still avoiding. I don’t really want advice from someone who is kinda half-crispy at whatever they are trying to get me to do. And yet so often these are the very people who have just loads of tips, aren’t they? Which is why I won’t tell you how to live without cupcakes (blasphemy!!!) but instead just gently sympathize about your sugar woes and gently ask if you happen to have any cupcakes on you right now and can I hold them for you for safekeeping.

My verdict

But here’s the happy-thought positive for that one: I never take for granted good coaching or a skilled teacher.

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