What your personal trainer is thinking..
Well, it's what I'm thinking of in our training sessions.. also a bit on corrective exercise, and I'm back on my squats and lunges train.. yes I know, again.
There’s a reason my rep counting sucks.
It’s not because I can’t physically count from 1 to 12 or whatever. I can do that in about five different languages.
My rep counting sucks because it’s the last thing I’m thinking about when I’m training you.
When you are under a weight loaded bar, or a leg press, or doing a deadlift or any exercise at all, my focus is on your form and how you’re moving - that’s the first thing because if I ignore that, injuries will come long before any gains and that’s on me. It is my job to make sure you are safe.
If you’re moving well or close enough so that you aren’t going to injure yourself, my next focus is on the challenge. Is the exercise you’re doing too easy? Will you leave the gym after a session with me feeling like we had a nice chat and a bit of a laugh but exercise wise there was no value? Because that’s on me too. So I’m checking whether or not the exercise is the right one for you. You might hear me say “you are taking the piss” while I change up the weights but actually, it’s not you at all, it’s me not doing my job properly. Or maybe it’s a new exercise and we’re finding our feet. Either way, it’s my job to make sure you are challenged appropriately for your goals.
The next thing I’m focusing on is your endurance level. This is really important. As you complete your reps I am assessing your facial expressions, and the sounds you make, and your breathing. Are you gritting your teeth? Or are you swearing and laughing at me? This is how I tell if you’re done or not or if I think there are one or two more reps in the tank. It’s these indications which tell me to step in and help you finish a rep or to encourage with words or to have you stop immediately. It’s a fine balance between the point above of it being too easy, and being so difficult that it just sucks.
Getting to failure is good for some types of training, and depending on your goals if getting to failure is not part of the plan, then the failure is on me. It’s my job to make sure you can finish your exercises in a way that helps you achieve your goals. If you are consistently not finishing, that’s on me. Not you or your level of strength or fitness.
And so rep counting is literally the last thing I am thinking about. Rep counting is a useful guide, but the other things listed above matter more. Sometimes if an exercise definitely needs rep counts as a metric of success, I use my fingers to count so it takes up less brain and focus on the other, more important things.
That’s not all. After a set, in that time you are taking a rest or a water break, I’m thinking of how well that set went. Whether we can superset it with something else or whether we need to stop and work another muscle group instead. I’m thinking on my feet when it’s busy in the gym as I don’t want to waste time waiting for a piece of equipment to come free. And so what I’ve written on your sheet might be different to what we end up doing.
If you’re worried about being judged for your ability or how much sweat you leave behind, please know there is zero room in my brain to do all the things listed above that make me a good trainer, and anything else you think I’m thinking about. If there’s no room for rep counting, there is definitely no room for superficial stuff that doesn’t even matter.
It needs to be said, I don’t always get it right. I am a good trainer, not a perfect one. And given the nature of exercise, we can probably agree that breathlessness and muscle soreness is going to occur at some point over a few weeks of exercise. But it shouldn’t happen all the time. It does not define a good workout. I quiz my clients at the start of a workout to set the intensity. If someone says they are fine, I might rephrase my question or ask what they’ve been up to to make sure the workout I have planned won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Please don’t be afraid to tell your trainer how you are feeling. If they forget to ask, and you are feeling all levels of weird or uncomfortable, please speak up. It’s your right as a gym user to feel safe and cared for.
To my clients who were smashed yesterday (there’s at least two of you struggling a wee bit today), please know that my trainer puts me in DOMSville (delayed onset muscle soreness) on a semi regular basis so I do know how you’re feeling. Heat, lots of water, and some gentle movement like walking and stretching and you’ll be grand in no time at all!
Last weekend I went on a course to learn more about corrective exercise. Because some of us sit at a desk all day, using computers or devices, some of our muscles can become stronger or weaker. It’s called a muscle imbalance and it can happen from poor form or technique, a lifetime of bad posture cough cough sitting at a desk - lots of things. The course I did helped me to be able to assess you and how you move so you can avoid injury, increase mobility and range of motion, and in some cases address pain in movement.
There is still so much more to learn about corrective exercise, and I’ve already sorted my next certification in correctives. The thing about it is that selfishly I get immense satisfaction from assessing and fixing broken (muscle imbalance) bodies. And so if you feel a bit off during exercise, I might be able to help you exercise in a slightly different way so you feel better. This doesn’t replace any work you do with a physio or other specialist, but please feel free to message me for a chat anyway. (Reply to this email if you like)
I am in this industry, doing this work, because I firmly believe I have something to offer, a different perspective on movement, help to get people started. And so if I can help you I’d love to try.
Exercise of the week - squats and lunges all day
I’ve done these exercises before, and I’m promoting them again because they are so very good for mobility. From a functional perspective, when I get older I want to be able to move freely around my community, carrying my groceries and generally being as independent as I can. In order to keep this a goal of mine, functional exercises are where it’s at. Squats and lunges are two of a long list of exercises you can do. I like them because you can do them at home, at work, on the bus.. maybe not.. definitely at the bus stop.
Here is a video of an older person using a door frame to practice a squat. I posted a video ages ago of using a sofa armchair to help with balance as well. Scroll through the list of posts to find it, or just get on the google.
Lunges are subjective. This video shows the person dropping quite low. If you’re new to this movement just go as far as you can. That is a win and a consistent practice of lunges will have you extending your depth pretty quickly. Hold on to a wall, or a chair if you’d like to, or if you’re more confident try on your own up and down your hallway.
Thanks for reading through my email - Fitness at any size. I really appreciate the time you give to me for this and I hope you get some value from it. If you have any questions you can reply directly to this email or if you’ve landed here from a link, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Facebook here, Twitter here, or visit my website Sweaty Pals online here. To subscribe to this email please click the orange button at the top of the page. You can also book me to help with your exercise in the gym or online via my app here. I have a few spots left for one on one coaching, and there’s always room on my app if you live outside of North Wellington.
I just found you via Twitter and I’m loving what I’m reading. Your approach sounds like exactly what I’m hoping to find in a PT. What gym(s) do you train out of? Thanks