Lee Boyce - The Brutul Truth About Training

I Don't train often.... but when I do, I Train Gangnam Style

You are a motivator.

A coach.

An instructor.

A friend.

And sometimes a role model.

But not a damn magician.

It’s about time that we have a reality check.  See, there are good trainers, and there are bad trainers.  To people of the same industry, a good trainer is the guy or girl who provides quality, knowledge-based service – keeps the client safe and is a reliable source for current information. Someone who knows how to cue errors and someone who can simplify even the most complex of movements. Good trainers have to know their stuff to be good.  A bad trainer is, well, the opposite. Poor customer service, complacent attitude towards current information and learning new stuff, and lacking crucial industry-specific experience that can make them develop new skill sets (or improve current ones).

Unfortunately, for the most part, the clients who buy personal training sessions and hire a trainer don’t have quite the same belief system.  For those clients who aren’t as versed in the fitness world (and believe me – that’s most of them), they gauge how “good” a trainer is by two things: the shape they’re in, and the results of their clients.  Now, I never knew that being able to do a handstand in a TRX suspension system would be the key mark for a breakthrough year in business. But the truth is the truth.  

All these things aside, it’s not easy to break a client out of a “mould” like this when they base your prowess on the results your clients get. On a sad note, it also shirks an important responsibility of theirs as clients.  Clients need to realize that the world today is geared towards making someone unhealthier in some capacity. There are the postural nightmares like desk work, driving, and baby-carrying, and then there are the foods that should include “death points” as part of the nutritional info on the back.  My point is, it takes work from all angles to get results. The most dedicated of clients will commit to working with their trainers 3 or 4 days every week.  That’s 4 hours, give or take, out of the week where they’re sure to be working on promoting their health and wellness.  Sounds like a lot. However, what they do with the other 164 hours that are left is up to them, and that will likely have a greater effect on what they look like and how they feel. It’s common sense.

When a training client gets upset or demands a refund due to “poor results”, it makes me upset.  Sure, one out of every ten times the actual process of training was terrible. But the other nine times, you can’t tell me that they’re blaming their now fatter self on the act of going to the gym and increasing their current levels of physical activity. That’s also common sense.  There’s a disconnect somewhere.  Whether the trainer is complacent, a bad technical coach, green to the industry, or even has the client doing the “Gangnam Style” dance for 55 minute sessions, he’s not as directly responsible as the client may think he is for the results they end up attaining.  In my personal opinion, good training sessions should involve a lot of learning. Specifically, the trainer should learn a lot about the client, his or her lifestyle, and his or her commitments. The trainer should learn and know what excites the client and whether or not something like training is high on that client’s priority list.  And, believe me - the initial gung-ho does wear off.  Training involves work, and it’s quite easy for a client to lose the “vigor” he or she started out with. It’s like trying to go steady with someone who likes the idea of being in a relationship, until they’re actually in one. They get unhappy and negative because the reality hits that it’s not all bells and whistles.  

In the case of training, that “reality” is that it typically took clients years to decondition themselves to the level they’re at when they’re asking to hire you for your expertise. That said, that physical state is not going to do a 180 degree change in just a few months, and it’s definitely not going to change by simply “adding a personal trainer to the mix”.  See, if you were a top athlete in high school, and then you hit the work force and spent the next 8 years doing office work, going to client dinners, and generally being unfit, you went through a lifestyle change, decidedly or undecidedly.  To get back to the shape you were in as a student will take another lifestyle change. Adding a personal trainer to work out with you 3 or even 4 days a week, sorry to say, is not a lifestyle change.  Not in my books.

See where I’m going with this?

A lifestyle change would mean a change to most things in it. You know – the other 164 hours we were talking about above.  Getting out and walking or biking instead of driving. Taking up a sport recreationally instead of vegging out at home. Eating clean meals instead of going for the fast food.  Watching your sleep habits.  Less nights of drunken debauchery at the club or bar. Just plain de-stressing.  Do all these things to complement good training with a trainer, and you’ve got a lifestyle change that can accelerate the rate of change you see physically.  

It's only a matter of time...

Remember, it takes a few years to get to the point of “out of shape-ness” that makes most clients want to finally take action. So a lifestyle change for a client’s health and fitness’ sake can yield some awesome results in, say, a year’s time if all the above things are in place. Sounds like a long time, but that’s a pretty sweet ratio if you ask me.   Clients often look at the money they’re investing as a marker for who to place the blame on when the crap hits the fan. But the arrow should go right back to themselves.  It’s important to teach new clients (especially the ones who really need help) to know their accountability. The money they invest in training sessions is a commitment to themselves that they want to start that lifestyle change. If they don’t take care of themselves outside the gym, they shouldn’t be too quick to blame the trainer, who sees them the least amount in the grand scheme of things, for their lack of results.  The results depend on the training sessions, it’s true, and the trainer had better do a damn good job at what he does.  But even more of the results depend on the client, and what they put in to the rest of their life outside the gym.

So please, don’t feel bad, grasshopper. We’re doing the best we can. 

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