For the last several years, my trainer has sort of been more like an “advisor” than a hands-on trainer. Our schedules usually make it impossible anyway, but I’m a trainer in my own right, so this is fine. I train other people for a living, and am perfectly capable of training myself. But still in those rare moments when my trainer has agreed to actually train me, I’m thrilled(ish). When it works out, and our friendship is strong enough to survive it, I occasionally train with my trainer– which is challenging, but great. But when I realize he is actually training me as if he would any other client, I know that something different is coming. I know that he wants to teach me something, and as often as not, it’s a lesson– or it at least involves one.
I kind of suspected it would happen. I’ve been doing some major playing around with my nutrition, because I’ve been stuck for two years. We’ve tried just about everything under the sun, but after losing 100lbs my body is having a nice little temper tantrum. It’s flat out refusing to let me drop the last 15-20 pounds, and if you ask me, it’s actually trying to go back to where it was. (Let’s just get this straight right now, body. It ain’t gonna happen.) So, I’ve been trying some things that I wouldn’t tell a client to do, unless we had tried everything else. And my trainer hasn’t exactly been thrilled, but he hasn’t really said no either. I’ve been feeling great and dropping at least water weight (which is still a win, because my body loves to hold on to water weight. Really, I think that’s my body’s super power.) I’ve had great energy and am not craving foods I don’t need. But after having been sick, and limited by surprising snow and ice storms, I’ve not had a chance to go hard in the gym while doing my nutrition experiment. I’ve done a few moderate workouts as I was coming back after being sick, but not an all-in workout. Which is where my trainer felt an obligation to “help”.
I could tell it was going to be rough part way through the first rotation, when my heart rate was already through the roof. He told me the plan was four rotations–which would last approximately an hour. He also told me I wasn’t allowed to say anything, which was fine, because 4 minutes in, I didn’t have the air to talk anyway. Fortunately, my face is…expressive. He’d devised a full body torture routine consisting of push-ups (chest to ground, which was a lot easier when I had more “chest”), inverted rows, crunches, straight-bar deadlifts, and calf work. (But he only included the calf work to let my heart rate come down. It didn’t work.)
I made it 29 minutes. And then it was nearly lights out. (Don’t worry– I know my body, and knew exactly where it was and what it still had left. My trainer was also watching me very closely, and a person’s face will almost always tell you when its time to back down in a way that can’t be faked. I was going hard, but I was completely safe. But it was also very clearly time to stop.) After the first rotation, I checked my heart rate and it was 165– after nearly 2 minutes of rest. 165 is about 85% of my maximum heart rate. I laid on my back with my feet up in the air, recovering, for nearly 10 minutes before I remembered to stop my heart rate monitor. But even with that figured in, it still averaged my heart rate at 143 (which is still 75% of my MHR). It was a great workout. For the 29 minutes it lasted.
Had I had enough carbs in my body, I would have probably made it the whole workout. And that would have been a really great workout.
Even though I got my “pudge” handed to me, I loved it. Here’s what I love, and how it again reminded me of the value of having a trainer.
- There’s always a next level: We teach our clients this, as we start talking to them about intensity. We do beginner workouts for lots of people in the gym and carefully explain to them that that workout will only be effective for 2-3 weeks. We tell them to come back so we can give them a new program. But many will still be doing the same workout using the same weights 6 months later. But even for the ones we train regularly, we have to keep reminding them to step up the intensity. The body is very smart and efficient. It will adapt quickly and thus it’s no longer working as hard as it did. There is always a way to give it a little more, or as my trainer says “Even if it’s only a .2% increase over last time.” One more rep, a slightly shorter rest, moving a little more weight, and jumping a little higher.
- There’s always something new to learn: Someone once said, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, find a better room.” I have a lot of certifications, and am even one shy of being a Master certified trainer. (Though really, these don’t amount to a hill of beans. I’ve gotten my real education from being mentored.) I’ve learned a ton and have a lot of experience for my 4 years because I’ve had a great teacher. But someone who has been doing this 42 years still has things to teach me. I still don’t know all of what he knows. One of my gripes with the fitness industry is that people assume that this stuff is easy, or that it’s just common sense. When I was 250 pounds, I read every fitness and women’s magazine I could. I would have told you I knew more about it than the average person. But really, I didn’t know anything. No– I take that back. I knew enough to be dangerous, which was exactly what was happening. I was creating my own nightmares with my poor nutrition and exercise. Now, looking back, I realize that it was only because I had a really smart trainer that gave me only the information I needed right then that I’ve had the success I’ve had.
- People always go harder when they are answering to someone besides themselves. Let’s be honest here: most of us are suckers for external validation. We want the gold stars and “A for Effort”. So when we’re with other people in the gym, we give it more– whether with a trainer or in a class. We don’t want to be called out for slacking. But when we’re by ourselves, our brain reminds us of how nice it is to stay in our comfort zone. For the record, though, nothing happens in your comfort zone. We have a sign up in the gym that says “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”– and we teach this to all of our clients. Having my trainer train me made me step it up, and reminded me what it feels like to really dig deep– and go when your brain has said it’s ready to quit. I loved that some of my clients were in the gym, and they saw me giving it everything, exactly as I ask them week after week. I was reminded in this workout that the brain is a liar. Last few weeks aside, I would have told you I was going hard and giving it everything in the gym. But the truth is that it’s been a loooong time since I went that hard. I’ve been holding back more than I realized.
- Bodies want to do this, and are capable of amazing things. Truth: bodies were meant to be moved. They were meant to work hard for short periods of time. (And conversely, they were never meant to sit around, or to move only the minimum amount.) When a body has the chance to work hard, it rewards its person in lots of ways: decrease in stress, increase in strength (which translates to functional movement, which translates to being able to do all the things you want to do with your life–without having to worry about your body’s capabilities), increase in self esteem and libido, and a huge increase in your “feel good” hormones. Bodies also reward their people by surprising them with what they can do. When I realize that at 250 lbs, I could barely do “arm bends” on my knees (since full push ups were out of the question), and that now I can do one arm pushups–it still amazes me. I was 34 years old when I did my first chin up– but that’s something I was never ever able to do. There are so many amazing things that happen when you push past your comfort zone, but you never get to experience them if you keep doing exactly what you have been doing.
Today, I’ve got a nice little case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but I love it. It reminds me that I did something. It reminds me of all the things I can do.
If you don’t have a trainer, get one. Even if you can only afford one or two sessions a month, find someone who knows how to appropriately challenge you. It makes all the difference, not only to your body, but to your brain.
Make Your Amazing Happen! But sometimes, we all need someone to help get us there.