When I first got into personal training I thought I was just going to hang out in the gym all day and answer questions about being as awesome as I thought I was at the time. I would get to wear comfortable clothes, work out 6 times a day, help people who really only needed a nudge in the right direction to achieve all of their fitness dreams and probably start dating Michele Campi. This is not the gymnast, although I did meet her at a Ben and Jerry’s in Puerto Rico back in 2001. Michele was the 6th hottest woman I have ever met and 23% of the reason I became a personal trainer. It turned out there was a little more to it than that. There was the phone calls and the sales and the helping people who didn’t really want to be helped but they felt better about the crappy 23 hours outside of the gym if they spent one good hour in the gym. And all of that was when I was bad at it. Then I got good at it and there was even more work to do. There was the life coaching, nutrition, business development, program design, assessment, and for many more people. I became a psychologist and the squat rack was my therapy couch. The gym operated as a crisis center, confessional, emotional outlet, a judgment free space in which people could unload everything that weighed them down figuratively so that I could put literal weights on them and somehow this made them feel better. A writer I really dig said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” I do this because I love it. I am a moody bastard at times but I don’t think there is any doubt that I love this job and I love doing it with you guys. About a year ago I started down an interesting journey. One that helped me see what I do in a different light as well as to see what my athletes feel like much of the time. I hired a coach. I stopped writing my own program. It is miserable and amazing at the same time. It was scary to be on the other side of the desk. Why is this guy asking me these questions? That’s personal. We don’t have to talk about that. I couldn’t believe what I was saying. That is what the people who don’t know what they are doing say. Those are the excuses other athletes make. WHY AM I PAYING FOR THIS ABUSE? What can I learn from the fact that I feel abused? Why do the hard lessons not feel like love even though they might be the most loving of all?
It was an interesting experience to have someone take me down the road into some of those dark places. Those rooms that most of us know exist inside us but that we like to hang a “do not disturb” sign on them and act like there isn’t anything behind those doors. You might wonder how this connects to training and the truth is that the connection is deep and important. There is nothing that happens in the gym that isn’t controlled by our minds and if we are not clear in our minds about what we are doing and why then when the road blocks come up, and they will, we will not have a clear path to action that is hardened with the resolve of definitive beliefs and well articulated values.
It might seem like deadlifts and burpees on the surface but if we go down a few layers there might be something about perseverance. Rowing 10k isn’t about butt cramps. It is also about mental toughness and follow through. Sometimes back squats are about tough things going on at home and sometimes pull ups are about stuff that went on in elementary school. We are on an awesome journey together. Lean into the discomfort.