One question I receive from the majority of prospective (female) clients that walk in to my gym is what does a single white dude with a love for lifting all things heavy know about training women?
In fact if they were to step in to the madhouse we have going on around 6 pm on Monday-Wed-Friday, they may consider me an anarchist or a sadist versus a personal trainer. But despite the way things may appear in the heat of battle (aka working out), the most important truth I have learned about working with my female clients is the power of building confidence.
Many have been told for most of their lives that strength training will make you bulky and cardio is the only way to lose bodyfat. So it comes as a bit of a shock when I teach them to lift/throw heavy objects, sprint versus jog and perform a chin up for the very first time.
The real lesson for me has been the inspiration they have given me about being a better trainer (and a better man) by being surrounded by strong women. While my success with the opposite sex does not reach much farther than the walls of my gym (given that most first dates don’t involve push ups), I would like to touch upon a few of the truths strong women have taught me.
1. Friendship first
An annoying habit I’ve been super guilty of in years past is attempting to stress the importance of every exercise and stretch with big words which seem to sound impressive.
Excuse me ma’am but I believe your knee hurts because your lack dorsiflexion in the right ankle…
But instead of heeding my lecture, most clients tend to chug right along without actually ever taking my advice.
Contrast this to the approach taken by my Mom (who spends most of her days with five year olds) of asking questions about their day and offering a gentle hug versus a stern lecture and I am reminded that no one cares how much you know, unless they know how much you care.
This means that instead of lecturing my clients or informing them why they are in pain, I now spend at least 5-10 minutes learning about their day, how their kids are doing in school and who got kicked off Dancing with the Stars (have I gone nuts?!)
What I have learned from these experiences is I must be a friend before I am the trainer to build buy in to anything that I say. Sometimes the best exercise is a warm smile or a stupid joke.
2. Success is where you find it
Since starting my career over ten years ago, I have watched my clients evolve from sixty minute one to one personal training sessions to small groups of 5-7 people. Though we could blame the economy, congress or the weather, what really sold me on this idea stemmed from another suggestion by my Madre in response to the various questions and issues we always receive from members.
For example, how do I motivate a client to keep a weekly nutrition log, what can I do to get my client to work harder during training and is it possible to workout sharing a hotel room with three kids?
The truth is that I often lack good answers in the middle of coaching exercise and spending time talking after a session is not ideal when covered in sweat. Instead, ALL of the answers came to us through regular group activities which bring our client together:
- Each Friday, we host a Friday Throwdown workout in which everyone trains together. Working hard alongside others pushes people harder than they ever could along.
- We group our clients in to partners for nutrition logging and during workouts. Each week, we devote the last 10 minutes of our workout to “center time” where we review one another’s logs and throw out feedback from the group
- After the last workout of the week, we hit Abuelos for not so healthy food
While Caroline will be the first to admit I am no fan of Bodypump, I am all for activities which bring people together.
What we have found with all of these activities is that they build relations and accountability. Whether this means a running club, bootcamp or even (gulp) bodypump my advice is to get your friends involved!
3. I am not alone
For much of my life, I have been guilty of banging out as many freelance articles, client orientations and hair brained schemes as possible in search of the next big thing.
At one point I trained over 65 people completely myself and I wore that was a badge of honor.
But while I made decent money, I did not sleep much, lacked any life outside of the gym and felt like a basket case much of the time.
I also quickly learned that training this many people amounts to “shit soup” (a term stolen from the very wise Michael Boyle) when it comes to coaching. With this in mind, undoubtedly the most important lesson I have learned in terms of being successful is that I am only as good as those that I surround myself with.
Here at Peak, we do so by turning former clients (Like Raechel and Steph) in to coaches. This amounts to an amazing staff who I admire and respect because I have seen them gain strength, confidence and an intimate understanding of our mission.
As a takeaway for my readers, I can also say that the best trainers are those with inspiring stories who have actually walked the path you are following. If you are considering joining a fitness class or hiring a trainer, the best research you can do is take ten minutes of their time and ask them to tell you their story.
And with this same spirit, I want to hear from you.
What inspires you to get in shape? What activity helps you to find your fitness zen?
Hope to hear your stories below!