Occupational Hazard…

I make my living as a fitness trainer. I have worked a small town 17 years, Fallbrook, California.  Because of what I do, the size of the town, and my time in place, many people know me here – know who I am and what I do. Wherever I go, at least a few people always identify me as Roy, the trainer guy.

And then there’s the local market. Because I work from home, I go to the market daily. It’s a reason for me to leave the house – which is important when you work from home. Every day, whether I need something or not, I enter the market, pick up a handheld basket and stroll the isles, to justify leaving my home.

As a fitness trainer, I tend to be a conscientious eater. Still, there are times when I might breach from that, and enjoy a treat or five. I might also pick up something for my mother; Oreos, Betty Crocker frosting, Milano cookies, or Fritos. These are the daily rewards one is entitled to, should they make it into their late 80s.

If at a given time there are 40 people in the market, pushing carts, carrying baskets, and seeking out the best lambchops, strawberries, or baby wipes, at least 5 of those people will know who I am – and what I do for a living.

Without fail, when I run into somebody I know or who knows me, no matter how hard they try not to, their eyes always break contact with mine, immediately peering into my basket – to see what trainers eat. And just as quickly, as though they were a dog caught drinking from the toilet, their eyes break from my basket and rejoin mine, trying to look not guilty for their examination of my stuff.

Yesterday this happened several times. In my basket were Saltine crackers, some Progresso soups, and cough drops – my mom has been in bed sick. One client I ran into saw the cough drops, and I swear I’m not making this up, said to me…

“Oh, cough drops. A candy you can justify…”

Yes, I said. You caught me. Sugar and menthol – the two things I crave most when I’m i bodybuilding mode.

ggg

If I’m going to cheat, I assured her, I would get the wild cherry cough drops, and have them with ice cream – lots of and lots of ice cream…  Jhciacb

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Choose Your Trainer Wisely…

Do As I Do And Also As I Say…

I am proud to have mentored a handful of people into fitness training careers. Another friend and former client completed her initial NASM fitness training certification this week.

On her completion she posted the following question on her Facebook page:

“So now that I got my fitness trainer certification, do you think I should get in shape? I mean like for real?

This is actually a serious question. A friend of mine and I are having this ongoing conversation, in which I claim that a trainer is like a coach and needs to know how to teach fitness and how to motivate but doesn’t have to necessarily be an athlete him/her-self. Just look at the coaches of Olympic gymnasts, for example.

My friend disagrees saying that expectations of fitness professionals are different than those of coaches. There’s probably some truth to that. What do you think?”

The thread of answers to her question were more mindful and insightful than I would have expected. To extract the commonalities from the many answers suggests that being in immaculate shape should not be a requirement or even a consideration for her. However, being in reasonable shape should be attempted if not maintained. Below is my own reply:

“I think it’s important to be in reasonable aesthetic shape, and able to perform movements as well as, if not better than your clients.

You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be ripped, jacked, or shredded. You need to be able, and you need to be mindful.

Since you are both able and mindful, end of discussion.”

What Is In Shape…

Of course what lays at the heart of this question is the definition of in shape. I once defined my own belief on what constitutes in shape or fitness as follows:

“Physical Fitness is the sum of average or above average balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, and confidence. If these can be displayed while maintaining a reasonable aesthetic form, all the better.”

I stand with that definition today. Of course the terms average and reasonable aesthetic form are subjective.

What Does A Fitness Trainer Look Like…

I have been associated with dozens of fitness trainers through the years. They have come in all shapes and sizes, and though my place is not to judge, when I have judged other fitness trainers, I have done so exclusively based on 2 criteria; their knowledge, and their ability to communicate that knowledge. That, THAT is what a fitness trainer should look like!

Through my own career, my shapes and sizes have varied. I have been extremely lean at times when preparing for long distance races, bodybuilding, or living with longer bicycle commutes.

I have been bulkier at times when focusing on strength, relaxing my eating standards, or when I have backed off of (but never away) from my own fitness regimen. Despite what I have looked like, my knowledge base and my ability to communicate that knowledge has only increased. There have even been times when you might have looked at me and thought I might need a fitness trainer, and that’s kind of my point.

When the picture below was taken, I was not proud of my aesthetic shape. Nor was I ashamed of it. At the time this picture was taken, I was actually quite strong, as well as posting very good times on my bicycle and with my trail running, despite that the picture might indicate otherwise. In fact, at the time this picture was taken, I was very competitive within my circle of hardcore fitness friends. I was also working a full schedule as a fitness trainer.

When one friend saw this picture, he sent me an email stating,

“My god Roy, get that under control.”

Maybe I will, I thought, maybe not. That picture did not define, in any way, my client’s experiences with me.

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, and professional fitness trainer.  Circa 2011

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, and professional fitness trainer. Circa 2011

Factual Selection…

I have read many times what to seek when selecting a fitness trainer, and I have also been asked this question regularly. Of course what is written by others, and what I believe are often in contrast with one another.

What a trainer looks like should be among the least of one’s considerations when choosing a fitness trainer. I also believe that education, certifications, and continuing education are not the most important factors in the selection process.

Teaching physical fitness; the sum of balance, flexibility, strength, and stamina is not rocket science. Though a basic education and some experience is needed to teach these qualities, it is the ability to communicate them and to effectively demonstrate them which matter most.

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, professional fitness trainer.  Circa last month...

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, professional fitness trainer. Circa last month…

If you are looking for a fitness trainer I will suggest that communication skills and ability to demonstrate proper exercise matter much more than the shape of their arms, the size of their waist, or the titles they have won. Look past the electric tan and the hairstyle. Before selecting a fitness trainer, ask to watch them at work. Be well… rc

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Lemmings, Fitness Trainers, Bosses And Me…

It’s like gym class, only it pays…

A disproportionately large number of fitness trainers choose their profession because, from the perspective of a fitness enthusiast, it appears to be a fun job that looks easier and more rewarding than a typical office job.  To a young and active person, I can see why fitness training might appear to be a great career path.  Helping people change their lives has got to be better than moving papers from pile A to pile B, while all the while a boss is staring over one’s shoulder.

Douchesaurus Rex...

The boss, aka, Douchesaurus Rex…

I have often said that I feel like I’m on summer vacation year round.  I make my living in shorts and bare feet, my commute involves stepping over my dog as I carry my coffee into my studio, and I’m never far from what I love most in life; my pretty little weights.  I have a good gig and I try hard never to forget that.  Because I have always lived for the gym, I have built my life so that I now live in the gym – literally.

Shining Light On The Career Path…

I may refer to myself as self-employed, but I actually have 26 bosses – 26 people who trust me with their time and their money, and who have the expectation that they receive equal value from those investments.  I work very hard every day to try to give them value in my product.  My product is not my equipment, my knowledge, nor my planned workouts.  My product is the sum of all of those things, communicated well.

The reality is fitness training takes a great deal of work.  It’s a job like any other job, and a business like any other business.  Days can often be long.  Some sessions will go better than others.   At the end of the workweek it always feels good to be done.  At the end of the weekend though, it always feels good to get back to work – for me anyway.

That said, there are a lot of lemming fitness trainers out there – mindless and bored, and going through the motions as so many office lemmings also go through the motions of their jobs; moving papers about their cubicles, avoiding their bosses, sending and returning emails, and doing scarcely enough to keep a paycheck coming.

"And to think, I could be holding a clipboard and counting to 10..."

“And to think, I could be holding a clipboard and counting to 10…”

What to seek from a fitness trainer…

Most people I speak with in search of a fitness trainer look primarily for knowledge and education.  Clearly these are important components of a trainer’s skill-set.  I often think though, they are overemphasized.  Knowledge and education are only part of what is needed to be a quality fitness trainer.  Being a good trainer requires impeccable speaking and listening skills.

One can possess all the knowledge in the world, but if he can’t communicate that knowledge effectively, it will go unused.   Conversely, a strong communicator can thoroughly teach the fundamentals of exercise, which in many cases, is all a trainee will require.  Basic fitness skills, taught completely, can go a long way in helping someone take ownership of their body.

Would-be trainers take not:  To succeed, you'll need a whole bunch of these...

Would-be trainers take note: To succeed, you’ll need a whole bunch of these…

A trainer who possesses good listening skills will have a much better understanding of the trainee’s needs, limitations, mindset, and personal values.  Of all the qualities a good trainer must possess, in my opinion, being a good listener should be near or at the tip of the list.  With that, the trainer should seek most of all, to understand the trainee’s personal values, and gradually influence those values to include more mindful decisions with regard to personal wellness.

How he wrangles…

The number one priority a fitness trainer should have is to establish the threshold and capacity of his trainee in all aspects of fitness including; balance, strength, endurance, and flexibility as immediately as possible.  Only after these are established, can a trainer engage in his second priority; to slowly, and in small increments, increase those thresholds, while promoting safe but challenging exercise.

Cultivate.  Another primary responsibility of the trainer is to cultivate progress, not to force it.  Cultivating an increased fitness level is a process which requires planning, patience, consistency, and teamwork.  There’s no “I” in teamwork, but there’s meat work if you rearrange the letters.  To get the meat to work, both trainer and trainee must be on the same page and committed.

It requires teamwork for this meat to work...

It requires teamwork for this meat to work…

A few things to keep in mind when selecting a fitness trainer…

If the trainer is still wearing his diamond encrusted high school football number on a sliver chain around his neck, be leery of him. He is his first priority.

Uhm...., most every male trainer I have ever met...

Uhm…., most every male trainer I have ever met…

If on meeting a trainer, there is a cell phone in one of his hands, and a protein drink in the other, he may not be your guy.

If the trainer looks like he needs a trainer more than you do, run!

Sincerely, there is much to consider when selecting a trainer, far beyond the size of his arms, the shape of her ass, or the number of “certifications” they might hold.

What I encourage everyone to do who might be in search a fitness trainer is to remember first and foremost, you are going to be that trainer’s boss!  He or she will be your employee.  Don’t just look for a trainer, interview many.  Interview them as you would interview any potential employee in the workplace, always with the perspective that you won’t want to interview a replacement anytime soon.  Interview well…  rc

Have you seen my stapler...?

“Have you seen my stapler…?”  Having Milton in the office is harmless.  Having him as your trainer…