Conversations Over Crunches: The Continuation…

I get to do conversation for a living. Though primary to my business is the designing of, and the implementation of the workout, exercise sessions are laced with discussion.
 
The two topics which get discussed most in my studio are food, and cancer.
 
On Food…
 
Conversations aren’t always about healthy foods, though sometimes they are. Ideas, recipes, and concepts with food are exchanged freely between my clients and me, all day long, and with ZERO judgment from either side. Some ideas can be inspiring and useful, while others are just sinful.
 
Most often though, the healthy and the sinful are intermingled within the very same frame of moment. A discussion of how protein can be used as an efficient appetite suppressant, might seamlessly segue into which liqueurs are best to use as ice cream toppings.
 
My takeaway from this duality is that despite the best intentions behind talk of pious eating, thoughts of culinary sin are ever-present, both with the client and the trainer.
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On Cancer…
 
A half-dozen times per day the word cancer comes up in the studio. Probably 1/4th of my current clients have survived some kind of cancer, or had a spouse or child survive it. A smaller percentage have actually lost a spouse or child to cancer. This haunts me, ongoing…
 
Occasionally, a client might need a biopsy, as one client did yesterday. Details to follow, but hopefully no bad news there. Others might have coworkers, neighbors, or even the family pet receiving chemo or radiation.
 
Occasionally a client will miss a workout session to attend a memorial service for someone lost to cancer. This happened twice last month.
 
That these conversations are so matter of fact, is a reminder that cancer is not just a disease, but has become part of daily life for everyone.
 
People die of other causes, but cancer is the one we discuss the most.
 
Talking about cancer while helping someone exercise, gives more meaning to the cause, though there is little evidence to suggest exercise stifles cancer. At best, it might make one stronger for the fight.
 
And of these daily conversations over crunches – of the good, the bad, and the ugly, I simply wonder about it all — all day long… Jhciacb

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Peter Wolf.  Enjoy…

Service With A Smile…

This week I sat down with the intention of writing a manifesto of sorts, on how new fitness trainers should conduct themselves.  Seems I got offtrack and ended up writing this.  Perhaps some of these can be superimposed on other career paths -or life paths…

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Pride And Circumstance…

I take pride in a handful of things in my life. Of them, I am most proud that as a trainer – as a businessman, I have kept a full schedule since the first week I opened here in Fallbrook in 2000. In 16 years, I have done almost no marketing or advertising. I drove into a small town, looked around, decided I wanted to stay, set up shop, and within days my business course was primarily set

A good part of that is accidentally landing in a great demographic. A fair portion of the population here have discretionary time and money. That doesn’t represent all of my clients though, as I have a more than few working people who have become puzzle masters to fit me into their budgets and schedules.

Social Circles And Demographics…

I say often of doing business in a small town, that if you do a good job for 1 person, 5 more people will know about in a week. If you do a bad job for someone, 10 more will know about in a day. That ideal is as much responsible for my consistent schedule as any.

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Gonna die in a small town, and that’s probably where they’ll bury me…

Though we don’t all live in small towns, most of us do live in small circles.  In the information and social media era, where business reviews can be published online in seconds, treating the customer right matters more than ever.  It may sound a bit simplistic, but doing a good job for the client is the most important part of my job.

Meet & Greet…

I do my best to greet every client at the door. This isn’t always possible on days when I have back-to-back sessions, or when sessions run late. I do though, attempt to greet every client before they enter the studio. Meeting a client at the door gives them a feeling of immediate security in what is too often an intimidating environment – the gym.

Meeting someone at the door shows them you are there for them, as much as you want them to be there for you.

Dings, Pings, And Echo Location…

Clients come with inherent aches and pains, some more severe than others. Through a written medical evaluation, I take inventory of any medical or physical issues prior to my first session with all client, and then I am sure to remember them.

Each time I meet a client at the door I ask them for a quick rundown of how they came off of our last workout in the form of soreness, stiffness, or aching. If I have done my job well, the answer should not influence the workout ahead. If they speak of any dings or pings, I adjust the workout accordingly.

Throughout the course of the workout I will ask frequently how they are feeling – if I am pushing too hard or not hard enough. Most often I don’t even listen to their answers. I learn all I need by looking into their eyes as they hear the question. This is like echolocation with dolphins; I send I signal to them, they send one back to me, and I know where we are in the course of a workout.

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When echolocation goes bad…

Before starting a session, I also ask them the last food they ate and how long ago they ate it. This information can also influence the direction and the result of a workout.

Don’t Eat In Front Of Clients…

If one’s job is to instruct and motivate, it’s hard to accept that this can be done with a mouthful of cold oatmeal or sipping from a shaker cup as many trainers do. Eating and talking lacks professionalism.

I can’t say I have been perfect here. There are those days when sessions run back-to-back and I have said excuse me to the client, and then asked permission to grab a bite as we begin the session. I can honestly say that in 16 years in Fallbrook, I have done this less than 16 times.

I also keep my phoned turned off during sessions. That hour belongs to my clients, not to me.
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Business Cards…

Former Levis Strauss executive and Bit-by-Bit Computer Rentals founder, Tim Cling once told me,

“Business cards aren’t what you give to people, they are what you take from people! You take the card, you call the number on the card, you introduce yourself, and explain concisely how and why you can help them.”

That is the best business advice ever extended to me. Too many fitness trainers put enormous stock on designing and handing out business cards – cards which get tucked away, thrown away, or otherwise used to stabilize the lose air conditioning vent in their car.

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Great for helping balance uneven table legs.  As a form of marketing…?  Not so much…

In the year 2000 I had 1,000 business cards printed up. In 2015 I still had 950 of them. What few I handed out were used as appointment reminders, or scratch paper for my personal notes.

On Form, Focus, And Conversation…

Overstating the obvious; a trainer should never turn his back on their client. A trainer’s eyes should always be fixed to the client’s exercise form – period.

Only when I am sure a client’s form is correct, does any conversation take place. I have no issues with a client talking during the course of their exercise, so long as they are moving and breathing properly.image76-e1422567572804

One of the better aspects of life as a fitness trainer is the conversations which have taken place in my studio through the years. In a sense, those conversations have given me a master’s degree in life. My older clients offer me wisdom. My younger ones offer me context from which I can better appreciate that wisdom.

There is much to learn from listening to the experiences of others. I get to do this all day long. I won’t hear the wisdom though, if I’m not listening, so my ears and my mind remain open at all times.

Relationships And Progress…

Making my living as a fitness trainer is about progress, of course, but it is also about relationships. It took me far too long to learn this. Cultivating and nurturing those relationships is paramount to any level of progress a client might experience, progress being a relative term.  Only if there is trust with the client, can I add a little more, push a little harder, and ask a little more of them over time – always in small doses. That is where progress comes from. They progress as the student. I progress as the teacher.

From this I am also reminded, living on this earth is also about relationships. Cultivating and nurturing those relationships is paramount to any level of progress we might experience as a species. If there is trust with one another, only then can we ask a little more of each other, and push a little more over time – always in small doses. Be well…

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Enjoy…

As Priorities Change…

Please enjoy Part III of my ongoing series on Life As  Fitness Trainer.  Check back next week for my thoughts on what to look for, and what NOT to look for in a fitness trainer.

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“Show me a man who has the same values at 50 that he had at 25, and I’ll show you a man who wasted 25 years of his life.”  Muhammad Ali.

Change; Often It Comes Seamlessly

It’s not that I got lazy; it’s just that I just quit caring…

.. .or that I quit caring so much.

I no longer look like an action-figure in sleeveless shirts as I did 5 years ago.  Still, I’m way ahead of the game for 49 years of age, and one can tell at a glance that I invest a good deal of time in exercise.  I had always thought though, that if I worked in, or owned a gym, I would remain in supreme shape for all my days – and that has always mattered to me.

I have reasoned that so long as some decent equipment was at hand; by way of proximity, availability, and my discipline, this would ensure my great physical conditioning – ongoing.  I never counted on “great physical conditioning” no longer mattering to me – or not as much.  It’s alright, dry your eyes – priorities change, that’s just the way it is. 

I still like to workout; weights, riding my bike, running, trail hiking, and I do all of these weekly, and often daily.  The intensity, however, and the effort I apply to my daily action is waning, as is the frequency and duration of such activities.  I’ve just become estranged from my go big or go home mentality.

Living In A Gym; Do What You Love For A Living And…

…Quit Loving It

I once reasoned that if I stick to what I love and what I know for my livelihood, I would live a blissful life and earn a good keep.  The truth is, I built my little gym for me, not for my clients.  It would soon become my sanctuary; a place where time stood still and where, by way of my very intense workouts done in private, I felt at peace with the world, if not always on top of it.  My gym and my workouts were literally my religion.  The problem is; I never left.

My sanctuary, my temple of me, for me, has also been my workplace.   Though I was not always exercising, I was in my sanctuary up to 12 hours per day.  What I once loved, would become constant and to begin to grow stale. 

Many can relate to how hard it is spending all day in the workplace, leave tired at the end of the day, and head to the gym for an evening workout.  It’s not always easy.  Now imagine, that you have spent all day working in your gym, surrounded by gym stuff, and at the end of the day, you don’t even get the privilege of leaving to go workout – I would be stuck at work to enjoy my play.  Motivation might be hard to conjure.  Within a few years the need to get away from work, which also meant getting out of my gym, meant… buying a gym membership, so I did.

And for several years I would leave my gym at the end of the day to workout in a fresh environment, and this worked – to a point.

You Are Who You Roll With

In the beginning of this incarnation of my business, many of my clients were serious adult athletes, want-to-be fitness models, young bodybuilders, and a few competitive prep-athletes.  Having always reasoned that I need to be in better shape than my clients, I took care of business and ensured that I was in better shape – always.

Slowly, my client-base changed, and that was for the better.  I began working with people who better appreciated the value of functional fitness; seniors, men and women who wish to be more active, weight-loss candidates, and weekend warrior athletes who who would rather not limp into work on Monday mornings.  As the collective condition of my clients lessened, so too did the overall condition of me – and I never saw it coming.  On a very subconscious level, I must have reasoned that I could get away with less.  On a very subconscious level, this would become my path.  This is not to say I quit exercising, I just felt less pressure to push hard – to go big or go home in every workout.

The Tao Of A Furious Heart-Rate And Burning Quads; Oh, There Isn’t One

So here I am, still in good physical shape, but not where I have been and where I know I could still be.  I work less at it, and it has become a lesser priority in my life.  I attempt daily to reconcile that disparity.

 I’m okay these days with having a small roll on my waist versus the tight abs of a couple years ago. I’m okay with using a bit of salad dressing and ketchup these days when for years I would never touch the stuff.  I’m okay with 30 minutes of strength training versus 60.  I’m ok with shorter, slower runs and bike rides.  I’m okay with all of that, and then really I’m not.   

I contemplate a promise I made to myself years ago, that in no area of my life would I ever allow myself to take a step backward; that time’s arrow points only ahead.  I know that I still have what it takes to get in the best shape of my life.  I know that I always feel better for having pushed workouts harder than the week before.  I know I can look and function better at 50 than I did at 40, and better at 60 than at 50, I know I know I know I know. 

I also know that we have been designed to get old, to breakdown, and to slowdown, and to have our priorities change.  I  know that the car with the most miles on it will likely go to the junk yard first.  I know I think way too much about all of this.  I know I know I know I know.  Be well.  rc

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Please check beck next week for Part IV of this series; Fitness Trainer, Be Better Than That.
 
Oh, and there is this from Cold Chisel; Bow River.  Enjoy…

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

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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…