Sunday, October 22, 2006

Client physiology

I resisted getting certified as a personal trainer for many years. I have been coaching and training people virtually from the beginning of my gymnastics training in 1972. It was as natural to me as breathing and I started charging for private weight training lessons back in 1979.

The "personal training" industry started rearing its ugly head back in the late eighties and early nineties and I always said I would get certified when Arnold did. I saw it as an affront to my competitive experience on the "race track" as Dr Hatfield would say. Not to mention my many years of study and research about every and any aspect of training.

In 1998 when I closed my gym and went to work as a full time personal trainer I had to get certified to be able to work in a studio. I chose the ISSA, Dr Hatfields organization, as it was steeped in the real deal training world of Dr Squat and not some fluff of the day babysitting organzition. Even the supposed "gold standard" courses of the ACSM looked at training as some sort of medical intervention and the trainers as some sort of clinician rather than the physical culture expert they should be.

When I was a competitive runner I would read bodybuilding magazines looking for information that could help my running. When I was a bodybuilder I had subscription to Powerliftng USA for the same reason. I was always looking for that "one good idea" that I could use. If I got one good idea out of an article, video or conversation then it was worth it. One good idea could blossom into a training revelation and that was what I was looking for.

I saw no difference between training for the average person who had a physical goal and the competitive athlete who had a goal. The approach was the same, only the levels of intensity, load and committment differed.After all, their bodies were the same, physiologically, their minds were the same, psychologically. Why should their training be vastly different?

If doing real exerises with real weights and a planned, progressive approach worked for Olympic athletes why should joe or jane average have some kind of weirdo, touchy feely voodoo workout prepared for them?

Of course they couldnt (or wouldnt) do the same loads or the insane hours of training that the wannabe Olympian did but why should the essence of the training be so different that it wouldnt even look the same in basic apprearance?

I have always worked with a "top down" approach to clients. I would start with the plan I would do if I had their goal and then scaled it down to what level they were willing to committ to. the same approach as if I were training an athlete for a competition.

That was the jumping off point and we would build from there. I always wanted to start with "program minimum"; the level of committment and regularity that they would absolutely, without question, be able to committ to come hell or high water. In many cases this was just two days a week for an hour. Didn't matter.

What did matter was how many weeks they made those two sessions without missing a workout. These programs that promise people to 'get in shape' in 6 weeks or 12 or whatever are totally missing the boat. Training to get in real shape, the kind that lasts a lifetime, requires a real committment, not just for 12 weeks. Ok, so you did your 12 weeks, now what?

One of my favorite sayings is "win or lose, the next day it's back in the gym'". And so it is with clients as well. One needs to build a base, a real base to step up to the next level from and that takes time; for everyone.Don't tell me how many workouts a week your schedule has. Tell me how many workouts you have missed in the last year. Or two. That shows me if you are going to make real progress or if you are just pretending.

People who say they want to look like an Olympian but only want to committ to train like a librarian need to wake up and smell the coffee. Another one of the best things about training is the pure democraticness( is that a word?) of it. You get what you train for and what you are willing to pay the price for. And the cost of the session is NOT the price. That's just the entrance fee.

You cannot buy your body, you have to earn it. Especially if you are older than 23. Anyone who has a strong, lean and functional body after that age is earning it. Every day.
But trainers who insist on treating their clients as children do they clients and themselves a huge disservice. And no, that does not mean turning your 50 year old female client into a powerlifter or a competitor of any sort.

It means using the same basic, progressive, functional movement and analytic approach to her goals as you would to your own( providing you are one of those rare trainers that actually trains) or to an Olympian in your charge. Her body adapts to overload just as yours or the Olympians does. Just requires a lower level of overload.Not a different course of action or some made up, bullshit exericse selection that no self respecting athlete would use.

The quickest path to a goal is usually a straight line. THis is true for the trainer as well as the trainee. The same level of confrontation is required of grandma when she wants to drop five pounds and can't give up the cake as it is for Mr. Olympia who has to get down to 5 % bodyfat for his meet. If you can't make yourself do something you don't want to then very few things are possible. If you can then very few things are unreachable.At least a semblance of them anyway.

It all starts with willpower, which has everything to do with motivation.This is why it is so critical to keep your goals in front of you all the time and the things and people that motivate you to reach those goals. Without inspiration there is no motivation and without that there is no discipline. No discipline,no willpower, no goal. That simple and I'm not sorry at all if that is 'not fair'. Oh well. Makes it much easier for me to get ahead as I am willing to do the things most are not to achieve my goals. As I wrote early it is very democratic. Everyone can get a lot of their physical goals but they must pay in blood sweat and tears. If you get it you probably earned it. And vice versa. Olympians and grandmas alike.

I believe the real key to motivating your clients is leading from the front. Live the lifestyle you are preaching to them; be an inspiration no matter how basic or simple the goal might be. That matters not at all. For once you achieve that goal you must set another anyway so one shouldt get too caught up in the goal, just that one has one. It IS a lifestyle, not just a short term plan.

Strength is a choice.


The Dymmel said...

Very nice rant, Rif. So many good points.

I stole this, "I do today what others won't, so I can do tomorrow what others can't."

Mark Reifkind said...

thanks dude, writing kind of mini articles trying to get some things organized.

Steven Rice Fitness said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Rice Fitness said...

Excellent. I think trainers who don't take this approach are really in the entertainment industry.

Maribel said...

Very well said Mark. I have to admit I was one of those 6 week program people and at the end it was like "ok, now what?".

RKCJames said...

That's why I chose you as my mentor when you first trained me. You've taught me this already, but I can always be re-educated! Thanks buddy!

jockeRKC said...

An awesome post as always Mr Sisu =)

jockeRKC said...

An awesome post as always Mr Sisu =)

jack said...

"consistency trumps intensity"

every time. You can be consistent every day, but you can't be intense everyday.