We've all been there. We're leaving the date, the meeting, the job interview, whatever, and we think of something we wish we would have said. Something that is so obvious now that you're thinking of it, but just didn't cross your mind. It happens all the time, at least to me, and often all I can do is to hope for a chance to mention it the next time.
Of course we all know someone who has no issue with it, but many people find talking about themselves to be difficult. When you're in a consultation with a new or potential personal trainer, that's exactly what you've been asked to do, in detail, about a topic you may not exactly love discussing. There were times in my life when french fries were a part of most meals, and when carrying my guitar amp ALL THE WAY to the car was considered exercise. I don't always enjoy talking about that stuff, and as a result it tends to make me leave out the details of some of my other, more important obstacles.
During a consultation, and even after that, a good trainer is asking you questions to get a picture of who you are, where you are now, and where you want to be. They aren't judging you, but they do need to know certain details so that they can help you be the version of yourself that you want to be.
With that in mind, here are a few things that you absolutely must tell your personal trainer. Some of these will seem obvious, but they are all examples of things that have been left out by clients in the past.
This is first on the list because there is a reason you decided to hire a trainer in the first place. Whether you want to lose weight, get stronger, be better at playing softball on the weekend with your buds, you need to let your trainer know. While this seems like a no-brainer, clients often leave out specifics which could be crucial in developing a truly personalized workout plan. Also, keep in mind that your goals will change over time. Have you recently became engaged and are thinking about fitting into a dress? Did your friend sign you up for a 10km run, and its only 3 months away? They can't help you achieve your goals if they don't know what they are.
Almost all of us have dealt with some sort of injury in the past. A sprained ankle, a broken collarbone, whatever it is, these are things your trainer needs to know about. Even if it's an old injury that doesn't cause you pain now, starting a new exercise regimen can cause things to flare up again, and your trainer needs to be prepared for this. It's also common for clients to have chronic, nagging pain that they've become used to, and therefore neglect bring up in a consultation. It is important to mention this as well, since a good trainer can help you work with your pain and may be able to help you work past it.
We don't all like the same type of exercise, and there may be exercises you really don't want to do. Ever. This is the type of thing you have to tell your trainer. Maybe you saw an interesting thing on TV and want to try it. Maybe you find that pushups put too much strain on your wrists. Maybe you absolutely LOVE doing burpees. That's all fine, but if you keep it to yourself you can't expect your trainer to know about it! One thing bears mentioning though; it is important to know why you want to avoid a certain exercise. If you don't like holding plank because it's hard, then it's time to suck it up. However, if it hurts your back, you have a case for modifying the exercise or doing a different move that targets the same muscles.
For many of us, the path towards a healthier lifestyle is uncharted territory. With so much information out there about health and wellness, there are concerns that will arise when we are considering working with a personal trainer. People frequently worry that weight training will make them look bulky (it won't), that they'll have to quit smoking (ideally they would), or that they won't be able to enjoy eating their favourite foods anymore (in moderation, of course they will). Your concerns might be related to finances, to chronic pain as mentioned above, to time constraints, or to anything else. Just ask! It likely won't be the first time the trainer has been asked that question, and even if it is, your concerns are important and deserve to be addressed.
Your trainer is not just there to make you sweat, or to tell you to do one more rep, they are there to be your cheerleader as you work towards your goals. If you decided to skip the muffin at breakfast, or you went to check out a spin class with a friend, or your pants from a few years ago fit for the first time since, well, a few years ago, I promise you that your trainer wants to hear about it! Nothing is more rewarding than a client who is seeing results, so share them as much as you want, no matter how small you think they are.
The most important thing to remember is that your trainer is there for you. They are dedicated to helping you reach your goals, and a good trainer relies on the information you provide in order to make your workouts safe, fun, and as effective as possible. Your feedback is extremely important to a good trainer, so be sure to speak up early and often.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with...”
Even if it's been a while since you've heard it (which I doubt), I bet you finished that sentence without even thinking about it.
If it's such a universal truth, or well-known saying, or cliché, or whatever, then why is the concept so difficult for some of us? Why do so many of us have these things that we want to do, but that end up in the Should-Pile?
I bet you thought I had an answer to that question. Some sort of evolutionary explanation for why some people end up stuck at the beginning while others seem to be well on their way. Well, I don't. But I do have some tips for taking that single first step we've all heard so much about.
Have a Goal
Maybe this seems like the easy one, but as I've mentioned elsewhere, it's important to talk to yourself in the right way. “I wish I could sing” is not the same as “I'd like to sing a song for my Grandparents at their 40th anniversary party.” “I want to be in better shape” is not the same as “I want to lose 10lbs” or “I want to be able to run a 10k charity race this fall.” One of the reasons we get stuck is that the goal seems too big or too far away. Breaking it down into pieces that are smaller or more clear makes getting started look less daunting.
Don't be Afraid to Fail
When you really get down to it, we fear the unknown. Instead of being afraid of what might happen if you fail, go ahead and accept the fact that you will fail so that you can stop being afraid of it and get started.
That sounds crazy, but check it out: Did you get the first job you applied for? Did you marry the first person you ever dated? Does every recipe you try work out the first time you make it? We fail all the time, and we're fine. In fact, we're usually better for it.
If you can remember to fail without feeling defeated, you can learn from whatever happened and get started again.
Don't Put it Off
I once heard a story of a woman who needed a career change, and was interested in Real Estate. She was discussing this with a friend, and said “I want to get my license, but by the time I do I'll be 44.” Her friend's wise response was “Yeah, but you'll be 44 whether you get your license or not.”
There are things in our lives that can actually prevent us from getting started, and there are things that we use as excuses. Know the difference and be honest with yourself. Starting now doesn't have to mean that your life changes overnight. If there is truly something preventing you from starting in earnest, ask yourself if there are little things you can be doing in the meantime. Laying the groundwork in this way, even it it seems trivial at the time, can make the act of starting seem less scary.
I started this off with a cliché, so let's try another one: “You miss ___% of the shots you don't take.” I bet you've heard that one at least as often, but that doesn't make it any less true. While I can't predict what will happen if you get started towards reaching your goals, I can tell you for sure what will happen if you don't.
The words we use have a lot of power. Not only do they allow us to convey ideas and opinions to other people, they can also influence the way we think.
Now I'm no expert in psychology, or linguistics, or the psychology of linguistics (if that even exists), but I'll tell you, you can test this idea out on your own. Here's what I mean:
A couple of years ago I decided to eradicate the word “like” from my vocabulary. I used it, like, way too much. I used it as a filler, or when I wasn't sure of what I was saying, and I just didn't like the way it sounded. I searched online for ideas that would help me, and I read that if I wanted to, like, stop saying like so much, then I had to stop using the word in all of its forms. For example, I didn't like a movie, I enjoyed it. I didn't think that one band sounded like another, I thought they sounded similar to them, or as though they were influenced by them. It was tough at first, and I often caught myself using “like” when I didn't want to, but eventually I got a lot better. The reason it worked was that I had to become aware of what I was saying, which had the side-effect of making the things I said more thoughtful overall.
Around the same time I had decided to do something about my issues with procrastination. Thinking about these two things at the same time lead me to a fairly major revelation; how often I used the word “should.” Whether talking about major things such as “I should start saving for my retirement” or “I should start eating more fresh vegetables” or “I should really do the laundry,” I came to realize that when I used the word “should” I hadn't really said anything useful. Of course I should save for retirement, we all should. Saying it does exactly nothing.
Well, that's not true. Saying it makes me feel as though I've done something wrong by putting it off. It gives me a feeling of guilt that does nothing to help me reach my goals.
In fact, you can think of that kind of sentence as being half-done, with an implicit “...but” that isn't often said. “I should start eating more fresh vegetables (...but pizza tastes so damn good).” “I should really do the laundry (...but then I'd have to get off the couch).” That's where the problem is. You can say that you should do something with absolutely no commitment, and with no intention of actually doing anything about it.
So what would be better?
Instead of saying what you should do, say what you will do, and be realistic. In this way, you can turn this:
“I should start working out (...but the next two weeks are crazy and I don't know how to get started).”
“I'm going to start working out. The next two weeks are crazy, but I can contact Real Trainers and renew my gym membership. I'll be ready to start February 1st.”
Huge difference. The first statement is empty. The person saying it sounds lost, and the person hearing it can't offer anything in the way of support or accountability. The second statement shows intent, and the person saying it is being firm but fair with themselves.
Talking about your goals is a great way to get started on the path to achieving them, but it's important to make sure that when you talk about them that you are doing so in a helpful and meaningful way. Be clear, be realistic, and say what you will do, rather than what you should do.
Ryan Casselman is a personal trainer, musician, and the founder of Real Trainers. Stay tuned as he finds out what he's going to write about each week or so!