Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Do It Yourself

I'm a big do-it-yourself fan, not just around the house with hammer and nails, but in life generally. You know the old saying “If you want something done, do it yourself”? Well, that is my mantra. Don't rely on your boss, your neighbour, your family or friends – even though some of them may be absolutely trustworthy! Don't burden them with your responsibilities. Rely on yourself.

As a fitness trainer, I believe that same premise is an important foundation for anything and everything you try and achieve. If you want to run a race, in the end it's only you who can do it. You want better health and fitness? You want to feel happier within your own skin, you want more control over who and what you are? Well, the only person who can really make those decisions is you.

Not all training is fun, exhilarating or as instantly gratifying as those temptations in the fridge, on the plate, in that bottle or on the telly. I'm from the real world. I get it. My point is that once you've decided that being fit is what you want for yourself, once you've set the goal to be a better physical version of yourself, the only person who can make that transformation is you.

I am not a fan of gyms. They are factories filled with equipment to artificially move and challenge the body. We created gyms because we no longer rely on activity and mobility to live. We don't need to chase antelope or run from leopards to survive. We used to run and hunt and dig and climb and throw just to put food in the fire pit. In our modern day to day lives most of us hardly need to walk around the block, so we pay to go into a factory and hitch ourselves to machines that will replicate what the human body was designed to do in nature.

There's nothing wrong with joining a gym and engaging a personal trainer. I'd be out of a job if everyone decided to take my advice, but don't believe the person or corporation behind the smiling facade at reception has only your interests at heart. Sure, there is a duty of care and that's because there are penalties for negligence and bonuses for attracting customers. Sure, there are personal trainers who will commit to helping you but they are also running a business and your best interest must compete with their best interest. That's human nature.

So you have to wise up. Do you want to be lean, fit, fast, strong, healthy? Good. Then you have to do the work. If you choose the gym or a trainer to help you, good for you. If you can't afford to do that or there is no opportunity because of where you live or the hours you keep, that shouldn't matter a jot. If you want to do it, take responsibility for yourself before relying on a fitness corporation or a trainer.

There's a thing called the internet where you can find research material, download apps, learn about food, get training information and motivation – it's all there at your fingertips. At a pinch, you and some intelligent research will have you up and running, figuratively and in reality. Promise this though – once you've found what you're looking for, get up out of the chair and switch off the computer. In the end, an app can't do the work for you, just as a personal trainer can't do the work for you. When it comes to fitness, there's only one mantra that is an absolute truth. Do it yourself.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Personal Trainers – Worth the Money? Tricia Duffield

I love being a personal trainer. I believe in what I do, I enjoy the pride my clients feel when they get results, reach personal milestones and overcome hardships or barriers. I enjoy seeing them transform themselves and becoming confident in their abilities. It is an extremely rewarding profession.

The PT industry does have its pitfalls, however. The first is that young people coming into the fitness industry see it as a way to get fast cash. The advertisements on job seeking sites are disgraceful, with gyms promising upwards of 80 to 100 thousand dollars a year. In your dreams, sunshine. The ads send out an often spurious and dishonest message and I suspect attract the wrong sort of person to the industry.

You have to be extremely empathetic, compassionate, patient and mature to be a personal trainer. The relationships you build with your clients are often deeply personal and require a high level of trust and discretion. That relationship in the wrong hands can be destructive for both trainer and client. By promising what cannot realistically be achieved, the industry attracts the wrong type of trainer and sees a lot of them leave the industry, bitter at their lack of success and with a trail of disappointed clients behind them. That process gives the entire industry a bad name.

It is a two way street, however. There are many clients who are as abusive of the relationship with their trainer, who believe that by employing a PT they have relinquished personal responsibility for their health and well-being. I have a tough love approach to clients who fit that profile. If you turn up late or continue to engage in unhealthy lifestyle habits while paying me to clean up after you in your training sessions, we are not going to last very long. I am past thinking this is a business that will make me wealthy. I am in it for the end game – the results in my clients. That's my pay-off and that's what makes me proud of my work. If you mess around and don't keep up your end of the deal, well, it's No Deal, I'm afraid.

Underlying the client/trainer relationship is the uncomfortable notion that it is the money that makes the difference, that without cash changing hands, the client wouldn't take their health and fitness as seriously. I think there is truth in that notion and in a way, it disappoints me. I would love to think that the average person who engages a PT would be just as dedicated to their health and well-being simply on a promise. Isn't it funny that it is money that will most often elicit loyalty, dedication and discipline?

In fact, the fitness industry is built on the guilt of the financial transaction. Part of the motivation for gym members to continue their commitment is because every month, the gym is deducting a sizeable sum from their bank account. But what if it was free? What if I said I will train you three times a week for a year, for absolutely nothing? Would you turn up and bust a gut three times a week for a year? I can almost guarantee you wouldn't. I encourage people to find a training buddy to keep them on the steep and narrow but rarely does that partnership last. There's just not enough at stake.

It seems we are comfortable letting people down, breaking trust, reneging on agreements but not so happy to have to pay upwards of $50 for a missed session. We're more likely to turn up to save the $50 than to uphold a promise.

I am not cynical about people but I am realistic. I make sure my clients know that missed sessions must still be paid for, just in case the bond we have formed through our training doesn't withstand the vagaries of human nature.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I was at a party recently and everyone was having fun, drinking champers, eating little things on crackers, dancing to old Eighties music, getting about as wild as people too old to remember their age can do. One of the guests, an old rock and roll drummer, came up to chat as I took a breather from doing the Bus Stop.
"Great party!"
"Yeah," I said, swallowing another little green thing on a biscuit and washing it down with a mouthful of bubbles. He dragged on his cigarette. "I'm a drummer in a rock band!" he yelled over I Will Survive. "I know!" I yelled back. "I love your band!" "What do you do?" he asked. "I'm a personal trainer!" I hollered back.
And then there was silence. It was like Gloria Gaynor had stopped singing mid-sentence. The guests were frozen in time, mid hip-thrust. My drummer friend let the cigger fall from his lips, the canape toppled to the floor.
Then he went to find someone else to talk to. That's how it felt to me, at least. Being a personal trainer at a party can sometimes feel like being a vegan at an outback beef 'n'barbecue spit roast. I can be anywhere outside of a gym environment and when I mention what I do for a living I can guarantee one of two responses. Either the person looks guilty, caught red-handed with a party platter of fat, sugar and alcohol before running off like he's about to be mugged, or he or she feels compelled to defend their physical condition or explain why they've put on a bit of weight. It's often really awkward.
Listen. None of us is always in peak condition, not even personal trainers and fitness leaders, certainly not athletes. Look at the struggle elite sports people face when they are no longer competing. Their battles are the same as ours, just bigger.
Don't stop having fun at parties, enjoying a drink or indulging in the occasional glorious banquet. The important thing to remember is not to do it all the time and not to waste your health on the rubbish that passes for food on the ordinary days. We do far more damage eating chemicals in packets on a daily basis than we do letting ourselves go every now and then.
Personal trainers are not monks and nuns in Nikes. Most of us struggle for balance too, but if I can help you feel happy in your own skin, be a happier wife or husband, mum or dad, then I've done my job.
And next time you meet a personal trainer at a party, don't  run a mile. Ask her to dance and then book your training session. Happy days!