Category Archives: Random Thoughts

The good, the bad and the ugly…trainer

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There are different types of personal trainers operating at the moment globally. Unless a trainer is working at a gym where hopefully it is required for them to be a holder of some kind of exercise science degree or at least be certified by an appreciable agency, anyone can claim the role solely based on experience and or physical appearance.

While I place a huge importance on the role of experience, it is simply just not enough when working with clients.

The thing is, people tend to gravitate towards the exquisite and built physiques when looking for personal training, thinking that that person can turn them to a copy or close enough of themselves. Falling into that trap is a mistake that could result in disappointment and even injury.

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So someone walks into gym and sees someone wearing a shirt that says trainer. How does that person supposed to know the difference between him and me?

Being a professor for the past 5 years in a very reputable fitness school (A.F. Studies) in Athens Greece, I have the experience to be able to tell you that many trainers wannabe who come to school although built to the hilt don’t know basic science.

Preventing or at least reducing injury to an absolute minimum should be the first and paramount goal of any trainer.

So what separates an educated trainer from a charlatan?

1. Principles of biomechanics

Biomechanics is the study of forces and their effects on living systems. Important highlights:

Torque – Rotation of a joint around an axis due to a force acting on it.
Lever – a beam that rotates around a pivot point (fulcrum).

Learning how to manipulate torque and the 3 different types of levers, you can change the way an exercise is performed to make it easier or harder. You don’t need to always manipulate weight to progress or regress an exercise. Changing angles and the line of pull you can stress various points in the range of motion of an exercise. Finally it will help you perfect technique and minimize injury.

Most uneducated trainers will think torque and levers are some kind of new machine that just hit the market.

2. Basic Kinesiology/functional anatomy

Basically how the body moves. Requires knowledge of anatomy of the kinetic chain (muscular, nervous and skeletal systems).

Knowing how muscles accelerate decelerate and stabilize joint movement will help you with technique, safety, injury prevention and performance enhancement. Realizing that muscles work in synergies and force-couples to create 3d movement makes your program design functional.

Although people who have experience may know the names and locations of certain muscles, they think in isolation or what I call “block” motion and not functional anatomy and certainly have never heard of muscle imbalances.

3. Energy systems

The body needs energy to function. And by function I mean all the metabolic processes. Not just movement. According to how hard and how long you exercise your body taps into the main 3 energy systems to create the energy coin of the body – ATP.

These are the ATP-PC, anaerobic/aerobic glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation (aerobic glycolysis/krebbs cycle/electron transport chain).

Having a knowledge of each you’ll know how hard to push and for how long for cardiovascular and resistance exercise. To give an example: one of the three major factors affecting hypertrophy, called metabolic stress, is the buildup of metabolites (the two primary ones being lactic acid and inorganic phosphate). Moderate to higher reps will have a greater metabolic buildup due to the fact of the specific energy system (anaerobic glycolysis) used. You won’t get the same effect with lower reps and heavier weights (ATP-PC).

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When most trainers that rely on experience prescribe resistance training programs that utilize moderate reps and shorter rest periods, they do so because of the “pump” or high intensity interval training cardiovascular programs without realizing the reason or the adaptations except for that it “works”.

4. CPR

Being CPR certified is not an option. It’s easy to understand that this is not just something that will prevent injury or enhance performance and functionality. We are talking life and death situation.

An experience expert is like a cook. He can replicate/execute a certain recipe often with great success, but he will never be a chef (unless he goes through a guided learning process). A chef creates the recipe according to the wants and needs.

As far as physical appearance goes, it does not always have anything to do with knowledge of exercise science or training principles. Without it no trainer will be able to be efficient and safe.

So experience doesn’t matter? Of course it does. An elite trainer combines extensive knowledge with years of experience.

What about appearance? If you are someone who’s job is to get people in shape you should at least be able to get yourself in shape. I don’t think that you need to exaggerate but a certain level of fitness showcases your ability to turn all that knowledge into something tangible. Do you need to be a bodybuilder? No. But being completely out of shapes reflects your lack of passion for what your supposedly stand for.

Stop assuming your clients are like you and being a crutch for them

People will adhere to a program and continue to train based on 2 things.
Fun and measurable results.
One is subjective and the other is objective.

Don’t make the mistake thinking that just because you could do deadlifts (or any type of exercise for that matter) for a year to get results anyone else would enjoy that too. That mentality could only bring frustration.
There are very few people dedicated enough to go through a training regiment treating it as if it was a doctors prescription to get the appropriate results. Save that for the elite, dedicated athletes (or for yourself).

I always hated lying to clients and I still never do. I just couldn’t do it. I saw many others do it with great success but it wasn’t right for me. I also hate bypassing my own beliefs and training philosophies to get more clients. I never went with marketing. Maybe that’s why I never had as many clients as other trainers did. If a prospective client would tell me: “I wanna look like you, my answer always was “are you willing to put the time effort and discipline that is required” and I would briefly follow that with a short outline of my training and diet routine.

Few people will agree to something like that. And that is ok. Remember that we (fitness freaks) are not the normal. Weighing every meal, eating monotonous food, eliminating sugar to achieve a sub 8% body fat is not only not normal but can border anti social. I still do it sometimes but I know what I am doing now and I try not to impose it on others. I realize how limiting it can be on me and on my close environment. Nevertheless, that was something that upset me in the beginning. When I first started my job as a trainer i was a romantic. I wanted to create athletes and physic models I guess. Wrong way of thinking.

What you hold aesthetically pleasing is highly subjective. You are not a sculptor dealing with clay or marble trying to recreate over and over your masterpiece. Your vision maybe inches to light years away from your clients.

The only thing you can be firm about in your training is health and functionality. You don’t cut corners there. In everything else the client is always right. Use your knowledge to deliver their dreams and expectations rather than justifying your own ego.

I was anal, would get frustrated when the program wouldn’t go exactly as planned (effort wise from the client, adherence, exercise selection etc) and that had a negative impact in the whole training relationship. I would be unhappy because of high expectations and so would the client.

The other end of the spectrum is trainers that adhere to the concept “give them 10% of what they need and 90% of what they want”. I call them the babysitters. A few other names come to mind but it would be Inappropriate to put them in writing. A few examples.

When I see trainers placing their clients on the treadmill for a warmup on their paying time it makes me wanna crawl out of my skin. I try not to even take my clients through stretching or mobility after a while. I have them do it on their own. I try to be there only when I am needed. Resistance training part that is.

I see trainers that chat more than they train, talk on their cell phones, talk to others, unmotivated, trainers that look away when the client is performing an exercise in terrible form. The list can go on and on. And we wonder why personal training has gotten a bad rep. Why prices are falling like dead dry leaves….

Which takes me to the next point. Don’t hold your clients back. Have them spread their wings after a while. Go on their own. Let me explain. Some clients eventually become so proficient, so good at what they do and what they have learned that they could be better than many trainers that I know (In program design!). When you reach a client at that level he/she should be confident to go on his/her own (don’t cry). These clients who really don’t need me. They just want me (dirty minds). At least they KNOW that. If they still want to train with me after that point, it’s THEIR choice. They may still want to the push, the motivation, the extra knowledge.

My belief is that you should be showing, explaining, mentoring, sharing the knowledge so the client can eventually feel INDEPENDENT. You want to help someone cross the bridge of knowledge from point A to point B. In the process try to give them all you can and then some! If not, you will act like a crutch and the person will never be CONFIDENT enough to stand on their own. I don’t want to be a handicap for my clients. I want to be proud of them. Better than me. Reach the point where they surpass their teacher. That is in my eyes the true success of a trainer.

Train your clients as close to how they want to be trained making sure they get measurable results and the necessary “tools” along the way. Earn their honest trust. Then you can pretty much do anything and they will follow. Be truthful and objective. Shoot for aggressive but attainable goals. At the end of the day you will feel great with your own self too.

RANDOM (welcome I suppose) THOUGHTS

Defective, the model is.image1

Ok I have a character flaw. Actually I have many.

The one pertaining to this little intro though is that I am a perfectionist. There is a saying (at least in Greece) that goes: “perfection is the enemy of greatness”. Since I can remember I have lost valuable time because of that specific flaw.

When you are young you don’t really care about that stuff really. You have an attitude that screams I’m invincible. I got all the time in the world. You don’t now how wrong you are until one day you realize that time is the most valuable commodity (I know I sound cliché but bear with me).

2 reasons:

1. Quality

I was never satisfied with my work. Even if it was perfect in my peers/friends eyes, there was always room for improvement.  A little of this, and a little bit of that. You get the point.  So I ended up loosing time.  And for what? For something a little extra that didn’t justify the time loss which of course was disproportionate.

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2.  Judgment (day)

What a dreaded word. Fear that others are going to be as harsh as yourself on you. I remember stalling on class projects that involved presentations. I never felt ready. It happened every time even though I always received excellent feedback and praise. And the result was lost time, stress and anxiety. I remember a colleague once asked me: “are you afraid of success?” If I had kept the same mindset as before, this blog would have never come to life.

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What’s in store for the future?

My answer: Who knows. I worry about the future, my future (as do my folks).  Being a personal trainer while being a health profession it is looked down upon. And with good reason.  Many personal trainers don’t have enough skill and knowledge to deliver quality results. Many of them don’t even do it safely. Some decided to do it for the wrong reasons (if you know what I mean).  Even worse, all of the above!image4

There are plenty of good coaches out there. Just have to look a little hard.

Movement Machine

Training is one the most important gifts you can give you yourself. Think about what you are for a sec. As an entity (exclude your soul for a sec). Be a little realistic. Ok here it goes (and I’m sure many people are not going to like what I’m about to say):

You are a bunch of bones and muscle. A machine. A machine made to move. To perfection. Your muscles act on your bones (levers) to produce movements.  And all this is made possible through the nervous system that together with the cardiovascular gives all the orders. Made to move. Not to sit and eat all day.  Problem is that most of us nowadays do just that. On top of that it seems there is a conspiracy going on to make that even easier. Automations everywhere.

I’m going on a runt here and that was supposed to be an intro article. A short easy to read intro.

So why do I say all this? You probably already knew most of it but you don’t do anything about it. So I worry about you. Friend, relative, random viewer. I worry that you take your health lightly. I don’t want to be harsh. Its hard sometimes to care about something that doesn’t warn you about the negative possibilities. Even though you know them. Take smoking for example. There is no external sign saying you are rotting from the inside out or that you are a moving time bomb. It would be nice if your large waistline could scream metabolic syndrome. Not until it is too late.

Get In or Get Out

I tend to be opinionated as a person but I don’t have blinders on. On the contrary. Main reason I created this blog is because for one I want to share whatever I know, and second so I can learn through the interaction with others, trainers and anyone interested in the subject (fitness).  I am also known to change my mind (as I learn more). So bear with me!

Hope you (the reader) enjoy this; feel free to contact me with any comments or suggestions.