I have been going to the gym for the last 13 years. During that period I have ran for 12 years, only taking it more seriously recently to help with obstacle racing events.
As a commitment to my fitness, I gradually improved my nutrition, which got me some great results and a little bit more attention than the shy, awkward, overweight 18 year old me would ever get.
During this period I have never been asked to share my advice. I was made a karate instructor, but nobody asked for that.
Because of my fitness results it was only time before others in my life wanted me to share my secret. The problem was until I started teaching people I didn’t know what my secret was.
Lunch time running club
Firstly women in my office wanted to go running with me, so I started a running session along the canal.
I took it easy with a short 1 mile jog, where I went at a ridiculously low speed so that my new students would not be intimidated by my ability.
After the first session most of them were walking before we reached the canal, I was stuck with one determined lady, we’ll call her Lisa.
Lisa huffed and puffed out of her lungs, till she was red in the face and looked very uncomfortable. My plan for the first session was actually to do the walk 1 min, run 30 seconds plan, but Lisa insisted running all the way.
This was the first time she had exercised in two years as she had been fighting cancer. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what her body had been through.
We got to the end of the course and it was time to turn round, but Lisa wanted to go a little further, so we went another 50 metres down the canal, then turned around to catch up to the walkers.
I had never built up respect for someone in a short space of time.
On the next running session the other women had quit or made excuses not to go, but Lisa was there eager to go. Her desire to continue was because she wanted to run the race for life.
A free personal trainer
The woman I sit next to, Sarah has been interested in my fitness activities since I started because she goes to bodypump classes and observes a number of fad diets.
Sarah is a lot more hard work because really it is very easy for her to find excuses to skip classes and her diets seem to wobble as I regularly catch her raiding the kitchen looking for cake. She also admits to “liking a drink at the weekend”.
Sarah wants to lose weight, particularly ‘tone up’. But a lifestyle change is needed if she wants to achieve, she also has been pretty lazy skipping her classes.
She asked if she could go to the gym and train with me. I was a bit reluctant as the gym was my space and I didn’t want to waste time on someone who could not commit.
Also the more time I dedicated to these post-menopause protégés, meant I had to find more time to trainer properly. Therefore the least I expect is that hard work is put towards their goals.
I insisted that she start doing her classes again and follow a diet five days a week and then have a “cheat weekend”.
Sarah agreed and I took her through a basic weights session. Bench press, squats, tricep press and calf raises.
Because of all my years of training the exercises I do are instinct and therefore it was really hard to explain the technique and benefit of what we were doing.
The truth is I couldn’t always say what muscle groups they worked – I just knew that it worked for me.
Sarah saw the large men lifting weights. I knew she was intimidated and to be honest I was slightly intimidated by the fact I was presenting myself as an a personal trainer.
So I took her to a quite area and I gave her some pee-wee weights so that she could work on her technique.
It was actually quite fun and satisfying, as it made me think about what I had been doing. At the end of the session I felt a lot more confident and was talking more clearly.
So I brought her into the open area finishing off with a medicine ball press, kettlebell swings and battle ropes.
I just hope that she sticks with it.
The magic formula
An issue of showing these women what I know is that they can only see the current me.
- They didn’t see the years of struggling and the period of stagnation.
- They didn’t see the fat me that started his struggle in the gym.
- They didn’t see the kid who was gasping like an asthmatic during a smog because he’d jogged 50 meters.
- Instead they see low body fat, athletic build, and anecdotes about the Spartan race.
Where they looking for my magic formula?
The only formula that exists is hard work.
I got where I am due to over a decade of hard work. The man they saw before them was not like that as a boy.
I achieved my results because of mindset to achieve my fitness goals – whether that was not to be fat, attract girls, run faster 10k’s or have a perfect body.
The hard work mindset can be developed. I know this being a fat kid who just wanted to watch TV and play video games.
To get the hard working mindset involves lots of hours, effort out of your comfort zone and accepting failure.
My work has been a period of trial and error and this probably is true for others – you copy the best practice, but work out what works best for you, because we all have different bodies.
Whether that is past injuries or that you are susceptible to low willpower for cake, these are all barriers that can impact how you train.
What next? Why not teaching what you know?
If you have been doing an activity for a number of years and feel pretty confident in what your doing, why not have a go at teaching it to someone else?