By Jonathan Aluzas
I am a horrible trainer.? And, as a guy who has done somewhere between tens of thousands of training sessions and classes over the years, that’s a hard thing to admit.
Oh, I can give YOU a great training session, that’s no problem! ?I’m not the world’s greatest trainer, but I’m good at my job, I’m a professional, so those people who suffered through those many thousands of training sessions and classes got their money’s worth.? But when I’m operating as MY OWN personal trainer I absolutely suck, and unless you are one of those rare, almost nonexistent people in the world who can effectively design, implement and maintain a systematic and progressive training protocol for yourself, you’re not so good either.
If you’re that guy who shows up at the gym and works out five days a week you deserve credit. ?Your intentions are good, your effort is admirable and your resolve is to be commended.? But, believe me, if you’re operating as your own personal trainer, your training program is in trouble. ?Don’t get bent out of shape, it has nothing to do with experience.? If it did, I’d be awesome at training myself (I, however, am not).? It has nothing to do with knowledge, either, because even the trainer with the most encyclopedic archive of training wisdom flails when he trains himself.? It has to do with human nature, with behavior, and most of our behavior does not lend itself to being the best choice for overseeing our own training program.
First of all, we’re hard-wired to seek out comfort and avoid pain and misery.? Effective training, and by “effective,” I mean progressive, challenging, Holy Shit
training, seeks out and embraces the things that will be most stressful and difficult for us so that we are forced, physiologically, to adapt, get stronger and more fit.? Anything less than that does not honor the inarguable laws of physiology and progressive overload, and is….well…pretty much a waste of time.? We don’t dive into the most difficult stuff, we avoid it.? We do the pec-deck instead of ballistic push ups and burpees, seated bicep curls instead of squats and box jumps, and crunches instead of planks.? We do what we LIKE, what we’re comfortable and familiar with, not what he hate but know will best serve us. ?We do the useless stuff because it’s easy, focuses on the body parts we want to emphasize, and lulls us into thinking we’re actually working out. (Note to reader: There is a difference between “training” and “working out,” but that’s a conversation for another time). ?This sort of weak-ass “training” leads to Chicken Legs, guys who are “all-show-and-no-go” (they look good, but can’t run up a flight of stairs without having to take a standing eight-count), and the use of the “inner and outer thigh machine” (perhaps the most egregious fraud ever perpetrated upon the female gym population).
Second, we will sell ourselves out in a New York minute if no one else is watching.? We go into the gym planning on doing four circuits of exercises and do
two.? We? start hitting the heavy bag, all pumped up and swearing to do 12 rounds, but kind of slink away after 6 and do crunches and curls instead.? We stroll on the treadmill for 8 minutes, do a set of push ups and, because no one is watching, we LEAVE.? Admit it. ?You’ve done it! ?There have been a million times that we have?cut our workouts short because we could.? If there had been a personal trainer or no-nonsense training partner present during our workout, we would have stepped it up and pushed ourselves much harder, because we don’t like to look bad! ?But there wasn’t anyone there, and because no one was watching, we sold ourselves out. ?We can deal with self-loathing as long as it’s in private.
Third, we’ll do the same things over and over because we like the familiarity.? Sure, that may include a variety of exercises, but no TRUE variation.? If someone else was calling the shots, we’d be running up hills, carrying sandbags on the treadmill, doing cleans until we literally couldn’t hold the bar anymore and we’d keep hitting that heavy bag until the bile rose up in our throats because someone else was in charge of the word “STOP.” ?But, left to our own devices, we will loiter, then disappear. ?And we won’t even feel that bad about it because no one was there to witness our shamelessness!
Before you say, “Look, man, I don’t have a thousand extra dollars a month to pay for a personal trainer,” stop. ?That’s not what this is about. ?Most of us don’t have a thousand dollars a month for a trainer. ?This isn’t about money, this isn’t even about personal training per se. ?This is about finding a way to put someone else in charge of at least part of your training program.? You need to NOT be the one calling the shots all the time, or your training program will suck. ?Let’s think creatively.
If you can hire a private trainer, great, go for it.? Even if you only do it once a week or once every few weeks, just to remain honest and make sure you’re exposing yourself to someone else’s perspective once in a while. ?That’s a great and obvious (and costly) option, but if you have the wherewithal to do it, do it. ?Or, try semi-private training or small group personal training, it’s more cost-effective and equal in benefit to private training.
Jump into a group training class.? Group exercise is great because it’s structured, rigorous, and the group dynamic pushes you to push yourself.? Try a bootcamp class, mat Pilates, yoga, Spartan Training Camp, some sort of Total Body Conditioning circuit or kickboxing. ?Most boutique studios have options for a single class or a small package of classes. ?You can throw this into the mix sometimes.
Check out YouTube for exercise videos and work out in your living room.? You don’t need to spend money to get a great workout, the magic of the internet can bring awesome workouts right to your front door. ?Look at pictures on Pinterest that outline people’s workouts, or fitness pages on Facebook. ?You can look up popular fitness blogs through Google, follow Twitter feeds, sign up for MyFitnessPal with some friends and hold each other accountable to healthy eating! ?Fitness networking through social media is really simple and effective these days.
Cut a workout out of Shape or Men’s Fitness magazine and do it.
Sign up for www.meetup.com and find out when groups of people in your area are getting together to run, hike, cycle, whatever.
Find a friend who likes to train and train with him or her.? You design the workouts one week, he or she designs them the next.? Or, even if you don’t train WITH them, just exchange workouts and do them on your own.
The point is, you are not your best option as a personal trainer.? Just own it.? But you don’t have to be.? You just have to be willing to seek out better options, and your training options are limited only by your creativity and commitment.
Every trainer I know has a trainer, or takes other people’s group fitness classes.? And they know what it takes to progress in training. ?If they are willing to do it, and they’re the experts, why wouldn’t you be?
There are exceptions to every rule. ?Every once in a while I’ll come across someone who is so driven and so dedicated, they train themselves as intensely as they would if they were being trained. ?Those people, though rare, do exist. ?But you’re not one of them. ?Neither am I. ?And that’s okay.
Jonathan Aluzas is the owner of Arena Fitness, a personal training, semi private training and group fitness training facility in Encino, California.