I Am Not A Doctor…


I Was Wrong

I crossed a line with her I had no business crossing.  It was painful – an emotional disembowelment for each.  I didn’t realize how severe my blunder was until she began crying, left the room and got in her car to drive away.  Following her, not wanting her to leave, I dropped to my knees beside her sports car and begged her through the closed window to come back inside and talk things out. Voices escalated.  I began crying, she still crying.  Through the glass for nearly 10 minutes we would exchange strong opinions about what just went wrong.  Outsiders in the area began to look on. 

The relationship seemed to be over and it was over and it was my fault.  I kept asking her to come back inside to discuss how we could fix this.   In a moment of weakness she obliged me, exited the car, and followed me back inside where we would survive a raw discussion.  No, this was not a girlfriend.  This was a client, and a dear one at that.  In one escalated moment, I saw my entire business flash before my eyes.  But it was the friendship I wanted to salvage.

What Went Wrong; Ideals, Opinions, And Ethics

I teach exercise in a very specific way, from a narrow but sturdy value set, with an absolute belief that done properly and consistently, strength training is great medicine for nearly any ailment – even those that might push one away from the idea of strength training.  She had an injury.  I was trying to help.  I recommended a doctor to her.  Our fight began when I disagreed with the lack of diagnosis and lack of remedies prescribed by the very doctor I had recommended.

My client suggested the course of non-action recommended by the doctor might be best.  I disagreed.  I’m not a doctor and I never attempt to act as one with my clients.  That’s not true.  Every week of my life I utter this phrase;

“My non medical opinion is…” 

And though I may feel I’m always right in my rightness, I am always wrong to contradict a doctor because being a doctor is a legitimate profession.  Being a fitness trainer is a novelty career at best.  I mean, trainers are all just gymopotamuses who don’t want to get real jobs, yes…?

I believe there are many doctors who are strangers to the gym.  Those who might be gym savvy, might not be as savvy as they think.  My experience has been that many physicians equate technique in exercises such as squats, lunges, leg extensions and leg presses, to the typical gym rat trying to push too hard, too heavy and do too much.  Because of this mind-set, I have experienced a tendency for physicians to tell patients to avoid such movements with regard to knee injuries.

In somewhat of a renaissance, a new breed of physician and physical therapist tend to embrace the afore mentioned movements more, suggesting that done properly and not pushed they might, if not help the injury,  serve to strengthen the area around the injury and offer it more support to the joint.  That of course is relative to what the injury might be, and its severity.  But even at the highest levels of medicine, there is no shortage of conflicting ideas, opinions, and agenda. 

Brand Loyalty

Ironically, the client in question provided me with a pivotal perspective on my business last year.  We were on the topic of other trainers when she used the term “brand loyalty” in the context of me.  Though I am unique in how I approach and teach strength training, as well in how I conduct relationships with my clients, I had never thought of myself as a brand before.  That meant a great deal to me.  I had come to appreciate her more for appreciating me in that context.  Since that time I have walked a little taller.

In truth, I have always felt infallible in this.  I teach strength training safely and I construct workouts sensibly.  I have often been quick to tell clients that, one-on-one, I’m the best trainer I have ever known.  Not the most knowledgeable. Not the best built trainer.  But I’m the best I’ve seen at teaching form, and the best communicator of how and of why – and I stand with that. 

One Man’s Passion; Doh!

If I see utility in something, I can’t imagine anyone else not seeing it.  But life isn’t like that.  Throughout my fitness career I have always believed I could teach people to see and appreciate the utility of my brand of exercise.  That’s where I have been wrong.  I will learn to accept it – that my passion is my passion.  Even if my passion can be transported, it might not be received.  This will take some humility and learning on my part, but it will be a priority in the future of my business psyche.  Also, I will learn to accept that at the end of the day, I have an ethical responsibility to always say the doctor is right, even when I believe he is not. 

To the client in question; I thank you for giving me a chance to earn back your trust.  I will open my ears as well as my mind a little wider, and consider myself better for the lesson learned.  Be well.  rc

Oh, and there is this from the short-lived Chicago based band, Piglet.  Enjoy…

21 responses

  1. Yes! A gymopotamus – that’s exactly what we are :). Thanks for sharing this… I like that you chose to open your mind, even though you may not agree. Our clients trust us SO much. It might even be unexpected when they disagree with us. What a responsibility we have!

  2. I’m reading this in light of my own recent knee problem. I’m not going to run anymore. However, I’m not giving up lunges & squats though my Dr. said I shouldn’t do them either. I’ve given up so many things that weren’t healthy for me. Exercise is healthy…I can’t give up everything.

    • It’s funny Deb, I remember you posting about not giving these up a few weeks back. I think, in part, that’s when I began chewing on all of this a little more. I still think running may be in your future….

  3. Loved reading this, Roy. Even though I’m a non-fitness professional (for now), I understand how frustrating these docs can be in their diagnonses…or lack thereof. Keep your brand excellent like I know it is.

  4. Thx for sharing Roy! Always tough – this type of situation when a doc says one thing but you think another even though you are not a doc. Not all docs are right BUT they are the “expert” so we do have to be careful when we want to disagree. I tend to tell a person to get a 2nd or 3rd opinion if they are unhappy. Some docs are better at the sports medicine and/or working with fitness fanatics! 😉

    • Thanks Jody. It’s tuff. I’m not a huge fan of Western medicine — unless its practiced by doctors who have an Eastern way of thinking. Wink. Yes, Dr. J, that was intended for you….

  5. Again, another spot on post. Anyone, no matter what they have a passion for, can fall into the same situation as you describe. The passion allows the adaptation of things that you discover that work well. Those doctors may be passionate about their profession but they can never match the passion of someone who has devoted their life to the mechanics of weights and a body……

    No, you are not a doctor but that just means you can’t write prescriptions for medicine LOL

  6. Not every Doctor was FIRST in his class….I have experienced many wrong diagnosis’…I’ve tried your suggestions that you sent to me a few weeks ago. THEY are working…not the advice from my docs (although I think I have good ones…finally),,, and I always get more than one opinion….You know the old joke: “Doctor: “You have two months to live” Patient: “Can I get a second opinion?” Doctor: “Yeah…you’re ugly, too!”…..One of your advices was the “stretching in the shower”…helps a bunch…thanx

    • I’ve always liked the one that goes, “What do you call the person that graduates first in their class in medical school? DOCTOR!” (Or maybe a lawyer’s Christmas present 🙂

    • Thanks BJ. Even the doctor who was first in his class might be wrong. But who am I to suggest that,,,,? Mostly I get stuck in the professionalism and decorum of it all. I’m glad your stretching is helping. My 10 minutes of shower stretching is the best time I spend each day.

  7. I feel we all are trying to do our best for people who are under our care. From my experience, the type of training we receive, and if we have the interest in advancing our knowledge beyond that training has a lot to do with the treatment we provide and the success we achieve.

    Ain’t no doctor who is never wrong, aim’t no trainer who is always strong!

  8. Dr. J,

    I tend to get down on western medicine a lot these days. But it’s really not western medicine I am down on — it’s man trying to out think himself. This applies to religion, politics, economics, and many other areas of life — even trainers. It’s the one thing I try not to be guilty of — of out thinking myself. In this case I got it wrong….

  9. Having practiced massage therapy, often considered a fluff career, I can relate to the feeling that you always need to defer to the doctor. I can’t tell you how many times I would ask a client complaining of joint pain about their exercise/stretching habits only to hear that they were advised to rest. Sometimes I think these clients were happy to have their doctor’s advice to give them an out. (Sorry if that sounds harsh to anyone reading this.)

    • It’s a great comment Karen. Biting down, being quiet, and moving on are not my strong suits. But comng from the land of fluff, I best hone my skills… 🙂 Always delighted that you comment here. Thank you.

  10. Roy – thanks for sharing this because it is so important for all of us who try to help people. No, we are not doctors in this area, and should always refer people back to one for medical advice. However, we have walked in our clients/friends footsteps and that experience can shape our opinions of what will work for them. Good for you on being able to step back and heal the relationship and good for you on being open minded.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s