Conversations Over Crunches…

Exercising The Voice

As an exercise in creative dialogue, I have a question I sometimes put to friends or acquaintances as a means of generating intelligent discourse.  I most often use this question at the dinner table, or as an icebreaker at social gatherings.  However, this question generates the best results in dialogue, as something to expand on while running or hiking with others.  The question is this;

“Would you rather lose your vision, or lose your ability to speak and to hear?”

With few exceptions, the answers to this question confirm that most would rather lose their voice and hearing than their vision.  For all the times I have asked the question, I can only recall one person who would rather have their voice and hearing spared than their sight.  I will never understand this.

Though I do find my sight to be useful, I can’t imagine not having another audible conversation.  It is speaking with and hearing others that better connects me to them, and reminds me I’m not emotionally alone in the world.  To miss the inflection or the emotion in the voice of another, or to not be able to offer mine, lost only to sign language or some kind of an electronic medium, I would feel detached from the soul of others.

Nonzero Wisdom

One of the best aspects of being a fitness trainer is that I get to share the human experience via the spoken word.  I’m able to listen and learn from the wisdom and experiences of others.  I can also share my own experiences and perspective on things with people who might benefit from it – and I do throw it out there whether it sticks or not.  This exchange over the years, has been like getting a master’s degree in the subject of life.  These conversations have helped shape my adult conscience and consciousness, and have enhanced my life immeasurably.

Not all conversations are deep, though some are.  Nor are they all superficial, though some are.  In a given week, a majority of conversations in my studio will be roughly in the middle, and might include thoughts on entertainment, sports, current events, and local happenings.  Most often, the exchange will be equal.

Other conversations though, are true discourse.  These can be about politics, government, faith, philosophy, history, or the future.  I relish these because they give my day meaning as they give my brain food.  These conversations can be more intense.  They might include a laugh, a stare, an apology, a tear or two, and on occasion, even a raised voice.  I do not always agree with what my clients have to say.  Though they are foolish for it, they don’t always agree with me either.

On The Lighter Side; Food For Thought

In a twisted irony, food is probably the most discussed topic from week to week.  Not all of the food discussion is driven by fitness, though there is some talk of healthy eating by some clients.  Most often the food conversations center around meals had in restaurants, or what was prepared for the family the night before.  I often find myself shaking my head in disbelief as I watch someone do a lunge, a crunch, or peddle a stationary bike as they discuss which Cabernet they had with their beef bourguignon.   I am not judgmental about this, and often share my own eating indiscretions – such as the Domino’s pizza I had delivered right here to my studio several weeks ago – at 10:30am no less.

Deeper Thoughts; Tom, Bill, And I Save The World

Tom and Bill are 67 and 87 years old respectively.  They are business partners with multiple interests in real-estate.  They are both fit beyond their years – Bill just completed a 100 mile bike ride in the desert, and Tom works out 3 days per week and plays golf every Tuesday.  I’m sure either one of them could kick my ass in a cage match.

Bill is still quite active in business, and an spends a great deal of time studying and contemplating  economics.  I have learned much by listening to him during his workouts.  On issues of economics I mostly just listen since I can’t contribute the conversation on his level.  When we get into politics, government, and especially philosophy, we both tend to get pretty charged up, and on a given day feel strongly that the world would be better off in our hands.  If I want to push Bill harder in the workout, I simply mention the name, Barack Obama, and the weights get thrown.

Tom doesn’t like to talk much but when he does, I LISTEN.  Walking off a landing craft onto the island of Saipan during World War II, his group was ambushed.  The two men on either side of Tom were picked off by Japanese machine guns, as were many others.  We talk about that occasionally.  Tom still can’t reconcile why he wasn’t also hit by the flying bullets.  For my part, I stand humbled by this and similar stories, and make no attempt to hide the tears which form in my eyes whenever he discusses this.  Tom once spent an entire night in a foxhole – with a bleeding wounded “brother” on top of him. 

After the war, Tom parlayed a Christmas tree lot in Long Beach into a furniture store – which became many furniture stores, which became one large furniture store, which became a boat dealership, which became a development company, which still provides him dividends each month.  This, I learned from our conversations.  Tom’s capacity for recall is off the charts.  He can name nearly everyone on his high school football team, as well as the soldiers he served with in the war.

I make no decisions with my own business prior to consulting with Tom – none.

Silence Equals Success In The Gym

I once had a rule that no words be spoken in my gym unless they related to the workout itself; that if one is speaking, one can’t give supreme effort in an exercise, and I was all about supreme effort by my clients.  I also had a rule about friendship with clients, or a lack thereof.  As my client base has changed through the years, those rules have also changed, and conversation has become central to the experience.   

I am blessed and wiser for these conversations over crunches.  Since I still like to see strong effort by my clients, if the talking ever does get out of hand, I just increase the weights they are using and render them unable to speak.  It’s good to be king  🙂 .  Be well.  rc


Please check back next week for Part III of my ongoing series on life as a fitness trainer.  Next week’s topic; Why Owning A Gym Does Not Guarantee Fitness For The Owner.  Please check back. 

Oh, and there is this by X; See How We Are.  Enjoy…

9 responses

  1. My workout partner and I were just discussing the success of a new PT were are working with and what we see as the reason behind his success. She feels that it’s his insistence on little or no talking during the workout. While he’s very personable outside of our sessions, he is completely focused on giving you what you are paying for, his time and knowledge. I have to agree with her on this one. I’ve noticed more change in my body since working with him than I did in 10 months with my last trainer who LOVED to talk!

  2. At first, I chose vision to not live without. But with further reading, it is clear how it would be very isolating to live without hearing and speech.

    And it has become painfully clear of late that (self-inflicted) isolation only breeds loneliness. Craving the human connection, bonds of sharing, that only come with conversation, keeps us all intertwined, a necessity for survival in optimum.

    I do prefer workouts alone and tend to push harder when solely focused on this fete. However, this is not the time where I find my human interaction; it’s a time for me, self-reflection, focus. Then I go forth into the world of connections.

  3. I don’t think I could live without any of those. At least I don’t want even to have to make such a choice.

    Now I wish your gym was within driving range. Talking politics would certainly make me work harder. 🙂

    You are lucky to know Tom and Bill. They seem to be amazing characters. Talk about inspiration.

  4. It’s good to have rules when you first start something up – and it’s also good to adjust them as we change and how we conduct ourselves changes!

    I think that we can still get something from every type of conversation we have, whether it’s something deep and meaningful or if it’s superficial. We can get something out of the ACT of communicating itself, if not the meaning within the words we speak (sorry, that’s the rhetorician in me :D).

    Funny about the food conversations. I once made plans with a friend to go out for cake that afternoon… while I was walking on the treadmill. It felt weird.

  5. Pingback: Stairway to Heaven « Big Girl Bombshell

  6. “One of the best aspects of being a fitness trainer is that I get to share the human experience via the spoken word.”
    That’s what sucks about being on the computer all day. The job feels meaningless, though I do produce a product that gets used by real people. I just never meet those people.

    I think I’d be very good at the human interaction part of training. And I’m interested that you had a rule about talking about only fitness but changed that. I always wondered how trainers handle the ramblings of their clients. I think your approach is perfect! Up the weights! I’m enjoying your trainer posts!

    • Thanks Suzanne. Mostly this is determined by me, sizing up the client. If I believe the client is serious, or if they demonstrate they are serious, conversation usually goes out the window.

      I once trained a fitness model for nearly a year before I learned she had kids. I like those workouts a great deal — to offer intensity at that level.

      But there are times when it’s good to shoot the shit with an 80 year old man — so long as he uses good form during the workout, and the check clears 🙂

  7. Pingback: A Room Full Of Words… « Contemplative Fitness

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