Posts Tagged ‘Personal Trainer’

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines an Ivory Tower as “a secluded place that affords the means of treating practical issues with an impractical often escapist attitude; especially a place of learning.” I think there are a lot of trainers out there making statements about fitness from a very similar place!

They read in a book that the back squat is taught one way, or learned a skill from a coach in a particular way, and from that moment on they live and die by the concept that no other way of teaching that movement could possibly be correct! Well, if you’ve ever coached actual humans in an actual gym, you quickly learn that no two people learn things the exact same way. If you only have one way of explaining, you will miss connecting with a variety of athletes.

In my opinion, as long as your athletes are safe, there is no right or wrong way to teach something. I believe it was Matt or Cherie Chan who once said to me, “the best cue to give an athlete is the one that works!” Instead of sitting back and commenting on how other people are teaching things incorrectly, open up your mind and consider that some people just need to hear the same thing explained in a different way for it to click for them!

Check out this episode of Drive Time with Smashby, and let me know whether or not you agree with me…. and why! Happy Thursday!

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When it comes to my personal life, I’m generally a pretty private person. This morning, however, Facebook reminded me a few events that have happened “On this day,” and it made me want to share them with my friends. Reflecting on them filled me with this huge sense of pride, and it made me really happy! Here are the two memories I saw:

On this date in 2010, I received my CrossFit Level 1 Coaching Certificate:

By the time this happened, I had already been doing CrossFit for a year and a half alone in a Bally’s, and a few months prior I attended a Barbell Certification to learn more about Powerlifting. My formal education started, and I had already spent hundreds of hours (literally) reading books and articles, watching videos, and practicing different techniques, but passing the exam meant I was committing to actually try and coach others. 

For the next four years of my life I coached part-time two to three nights per week after my “day job” and then on weekends. That entire time, though, I knew my heart wanted to be coaching full-time. One day, I was given the opportunity to do just that, I took the really scary leap of faith, and I haven’t looked back since! Taking (and passing) my Level 1 was the REAL first step to be able to live that dream.

On this date in 2012, I paid off my final undergraduate student loan:

My mom always told me (no, not “life is like a box of chocolates”) that I’d likely always be paying three things in life: Rent or a mortgage, taxes, and student loans. Well, when the day arrived that I was able to send away that last paycheck and wouldn’t be receiving any more college bills in the mail… I was so excited! It felt like in my own little way, that I achieved a monumental step “only” seven years after graduating. It’s crazy to put it into perspective now, but it’s almost as though that was the moment that I felt I ACTUALLY graduated.

When I decided to pursue Personal Training/Coaching as my career, I knew it wouldn’t always be easy. I mean, for someone who isn’t a morning person, I’m up around 4:00am four days per week. (If you’re wondering, that’s insanely early.) But I’m doing what I love and getting the opportunity to help people every single day in the process. I am so incredibly thankful for that privilege!

When a few friends told me that my post “inspired” them, I didn’t necessarily understand why at first. I mean, I just wanted to #humblebrag for a minute, and remind myself that, even though there were (are?) moments where I wonder if I picked the right career path, I went out on a limb and followed my dream. It was seeing other people follow their own dreams that gave me the confidence to do the same. So if my actions can inspire even one other person to do the same, I totally get it, and I’m flattered.

Too often, we don’t let other people know about things we accomplish that make us proud! We feel like it’s too arrogant to be excited about something. This post today reminded me that there are more people out there in your corner than you realize. Use the internet for good, share positive news, and encourage one another. Teamwork really does make the dream work, and I want each and every one of you to win. Be proud of yourself, and let us be proud of you, too! (Even if you don’t want to share things publicly, feel free to share them with me directly, I’d LOVE to hear!)

Thank you all for the support and love.

Thanks for trusting me to try and help you all get just a little bit better.

And thanks for reading my rants on this silly little blog.

I’m humbled.

And proud!

What a time to be alive!

Self-driving cars, sushi burritos, and billions and billions of armchair coaches (who watched seven Coach Burgener videos and three hundred slow-motion montages from “Hook Grip“) that are chomping at the bit to let you know what you did wrong on your last lift!

I’ve been in this game for a long time, and when I review my own lifts I can tell you what I’m doing wrong. I already know! I’m constantly working to get better because it’s a process. If it were easy, everyone would be perfect. That’s why I post so many of my training videos online, because I want advice and (constructive) feedback on how to get better.

Most people are not me, though.

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When you’re scrolling through your phone looking to share your endless wealth of knowledge (especially to people you don’t even know), think twice before hitting “enter” on your post. If you’re actually in a gym but aren’t the coach, be extra careful!

Last month I wrote a post about the risks of giving advice if you’re not qualified to do so. (One wrong cue could lead to someone else getting hurt because of you.) This post isn’t about you being qualified, though. It’s about being aware enough to recognize when no one asked you in the first place! That may sound harsh, but it’s true. If a friend asks you to watch and critique, that’s one thing. But otherwise, let it go.

“Oh man, you missed that snatch. Extend your hips more, scarecrow tall, pull under harder, and punch to the sky next time!”

“Are you sure? I thought I was supposed to pull the bar up to my eyeballs and then fall on my back. Is that not how this lift works? Thanks so much for your help that I didn’t ask for…”

Moral of the Story

Don’t give someone unsolicited lifting advice if:

(A) You’re not qualified to do so.

(B) You weren’t asked for it!

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. But there are far more people giving advice than those asking for it! This is something I’ve had to get better with, myself. My intentions are always so positive in wanting to help others, but I need to remind myself that not everyone wants my opinion. If I’m leading a class, that’s one thing, as I’m literally being paid to help others. But outside of that scenario, I try to only give feedback when I’m asked for it!

Something pretty funny happened last week during a personal training session with one of my clients. They were in the middle of a workout, and like a lot of us do when we’re tired, they miscounted reps of one movement before moving onto the next. Conveniently, it was the movement they enjoy performing the least. “Whoa, nice try. Three more,” I said with a smile on my face. “No way, that was 10!” they replied back to me, obviously unimpressed with my challenge. “We’re in a gym with no one else around. I’m literally watching you work out and counting your reps for you. I’m pretty sure I know how to count to 10,” is the only thing I could think to say. Just waiting for the witty response I knew was coming next, they hit me with, “I guess you’re right. Do trainers even know how to count past 15? I feel like you’re all just glorified counters!” We both laughed, they finished the three reps, and we continued the session.

I’ve been a full-time personal trainer, athletic coach, health and fitness professional (or whatever you want to call what I do) for over half of a decade, and I have been doing some combination of all of those things part time for most of my life. Yet when I’m asked what I do for a living, I still don’t really know how to respond. When I say personal trainer the image of a person texting and sipping on a Big Gulp while standing next to their client who is “warming up” on a treadmill with a 20 minute jog for the first third of their hour-long session is the what pops into my brain, so I don’t love saying that. But, it IS what I am, right?

I remember sitting in my high school Psychology class with Mr. Will, and thinking to myself, “People are awesome!” Every single person we come in contact with in the world is a completely unique individual. With their own beliefs, past, goals, and quirks. And in my line of work, I get to come into contact with people from so many walks of life. I liked the subject so much that I ended up majoring and getting a Psych degree in college. It’s also one of the best parts of my job today! In one class there’ll be a high school sophomore tripping over their own legs as their body goes through some major changes, a stay-at-home dad coming to terms with not having a 9-5 because his wife is the primary bread winner and their kids love having him home, a retired couple that chose to improve their health and reconnect through fitness, and the CEO who has to block out an hour on their calendar in order to find time to work out.

While it may sometimes seem like being a personal trainer is just reading words on a white board and barking orders at paying customers, I’ve always viewed it as much more than that. It’s being given the privilege to help shape the moods and lives of the people I work with. Have a stressful day at work? Want to celebrate fitting into that dress for the first time in years? Need to let off some steam after a fight with a significant other? Earning the beers you’re going to have after work tomorrow? I’m tasked with navigating the “right now” of every person I train, every single time I see them, and understanding that tomorrow that person could be in a completely different head space. The best part is that I absolutely cherish the responsibility. So yeah, I’m “just a personal trainer,” but it’s so much more than that to me, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

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The sentence “Practice makes perfect” is a lie. Yet, humans say it all the time, and usually to children. It’s simply not a fact. There are a number of things I could practice on a daily basis and see only marginal improvements over a long period of time. Today, we’re going to talk about practice.

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Let’s start by discussing just two of the many factors that could impede reaching perfection. Age can play a role in one’s ability to find success in a particular area. While I’m not saying it’s impossible, I do feel confident saying that very few humans in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s could train and compete at an Olympic level in most sports. No matter how often grandpa hits the track, I don’t see him beating Usain Bolt in the 100m Sprint, I’m sorry. Genetics can also play a major role in one’s athletic development and potential. If a person isn’t over six feet tall or incredibly explosive, the odds of being able to dunk a basketball on a full-sized hoop are not very good. (I still think that’s a bucket list goal of mine, by the way!)

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Actual footage of me currently trying to dunk

Aside from age, genetics, and a long list of other things, that logic doesn’t even address what “perfection” even means. In nearly every discipline, sport, task, or skill, perfection is often a subjective term. What looks, sounds, or tastes perfect to you, may taste far from it to me. So why work to attain this a title or status they may very well be simply unreachable?

Instead, let’s change that first sentence (Practice makes perfect) just a little bit. What if it read, “Effective practice will almost always help you improve at a given task.” In that case, I think a lot more of us would nod our heads in agreement. While we typically associate the word practicing with activities and skills like sports, music, and languages, there are so many other things in our lives that can also be improved through dedicated time and focus.

Want to be a better weightlifter? Find a decent coach and get on a proven strength program. Then lift. Often. Want to feel and show more gratitude? Start each morning and end each night by writing a list of three things you’re grateful for in your life. Keep that journal close-by to remind yourself on days where you struggle. Want to read more? Instead of surfing on your phone before you go to bed, read 10 pages. Not only is it better for your eyes and your brain (to actually allow them to wind down after the day), but after only a few weeks, it will become part of your routine. You will likely get better at whatever activity you chose because you devoted time to practicing in order to get better at it.

I’ve been trying to read more, and even with the book on my nightstand, it hasn’t become high enough of a priority for me. That’s one thing I’m going to practice more! To help yourself be more accountable, what’s one thing you want to practice more often? Let’s continue to hold each other accountable and support one another in our quest to be better than we were yesterday!

When I saw the video below, it really made me stop and think. We’re each already REALLY GOOD at certain things. Choosing to practice and develop those things that make us happy drastically increases our chances of becoming really good at being happy. Similarly, choosing to practice things that make us sad, angry, or resentful, will likely make us really good at being sad, angry, or resentful. It’s so powerful to realize that it’s fully in our control to intentionally choose what we nurture in and for ourselves. Think about that for a second… Practice doesn’t make perfect. But devoting practice towards things that improve our lives can make a profound impact on who we are as people!

Before I coach a class, I usually ask a question of the day to the people in attendance. In the past, I thought that was kind of a cheesy thing to do (which maybe it is), but as I get to work with the same athletes more over time, it really helps to paint a more complete picture of who they are as people. For example, if someone is always working on the weekends, maybe they’re in a field like medicine or law enforcement. That’s a fun detail for me to know about them. If they’re proud of a particular PR they had, or are interested in improving a certain movement, I can congratulate them or offer to help them get better. If I ask if anyone has seen a good movie lately, there might be four of five great suggestions tossed out. Plus, in a world where a CrossFit gym can feel more like an assembly line at times (get in, warm up, work out, … NEXT!), it’s nice to take 3-4 minutes to interact on a more human level with each other!

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There are fun things that can be learned by asking silly questions before a class, but it also opens the door to something potentially more meaningful. Last week I asked the class to share something that they are grateful for with one another. Some answers were fairly simple, such as being “thankful for not needing to set an alarm on the weekend.” Others got a bit more personal with people being thankful for “the health of my family and close friends.” Everywhere we look, “experts,” psychologists, and gurus are telling us that showing gratitude is one of the most important things you can do in order to move towards living your best life. And while there are a lot of “advice fads” out there, when time passes and the same strategies keep proving to be effective, maybe they’re not a fad after all… maybe they just work. (Sound familiar? What up, CrossFit!)

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The answers I heard last week made me think that the gratitude question may become a staple in my Friday classes. Here’s part of the reason why. It’s so easy to get caught up in how busy life is these days. When someone asks how you are, the standard “Fine, and you?” is the path of least resistance for most of us! If for 20 seconds on one day, I can have people stop and think about A SINGLE THING that they’re grateful for… that moment has the potential to reshape the course of their day… maybe their week! If I’m having a pity party for myself and stop to think about how lucky I am to have a roof over my head and food on the table, maybe missing a stupid lift in a workout won’t seem so bad. If I remember that I was able to help someone do their first rope climb, maybe I’ll stop being such a baby about the fact that I forgot to pack a breakfast burrito with me that morning. Yes, I can be petty and dramatic over stupid things, but stopping to smell the roses every once in a while can be powerful. If you’re reading this blog, odds are your life is SO good compared to (literally) millions of people in the world. My hope, is that by offering a few seconds to reflect on something that we’re appreciative to have, we can all be just a little bit happier.
Today, I’m thankful that I got to see so many faces light up in the gym when people exceeded their own expectations! That’s definitely one of the best parts of my job! So, I appreciate all of you!

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I’ve been a full-time personal trainer and coach for over half of a decade. My reason for remaining in this profession all this time is that working with someone and having them improve is the most rewarding feeling in the world to me. When I lead a class, I convince myself that every single person in that group is putting their trust in me to help them get better. Sounds dramatic when I see it written down, but it’s true.

At gyms like the ones where I work, all around the world most athletes show up, do what’s on the board, then leave. Fitness isn’t much more than that to them. But on either end of the spectrum from those athletes lie two groups that I lose sleep over sometimes! These three groups have led me to create “Smashby’s Athlete Bell Curve“:

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Middle of the Bell Curve: MOST”

Most people live here. These athletes are in the gym for fitness and fun. They try their best to make it in 3-5 days per week, love seeing friends, blowing off some steam, and hope to see incremental improvements (see also: Gainz) over time.

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Right side of the Bell Curve: HELP

Typically these are newer members at the gym, or just shy people in general. They want to get better, want coaching, and would love for you to check out their technique and give them feedback. They just don’t feel comfortable asking! Asking “which one is a hang power clean again” for the 10th time embarrasses them, but maybe it was never explained to them in terms they were able to understand in the first place. Making breakthroughs with this group is my favorite. As athletes become more confident asking for help, they usually start to improve faster, and quickly join their friends in the middle of the curve.

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Left side of the Bell Curve: NOPE”

Thankfully, this is the group work with least of all, but it can still be frustrating to think about. These athletes just don’t like you.  Maybe you made them feel stupid one time a few months ago, maybe you have an annoying laugh, or maybe they don’t like going to your classes because you have horrible taste in music. Maybe your coaching style doesn’t work for them, or maybe they just don’t like who you are as a human being. They are simply not impressed. Sometimes, you’ll never be able to create a meaningful relationship with these individuals. I still try, though!

When all three types of athletes are shown together, “Smashby’s Athlete Bell Curve” is the result!

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There’s nothing wrong with being in any of these groups. While I wish I was able to connect with and help 100% of the athletes I come in contact with, that’s not how the world works. Just know that my goal is to live in that middle space where:

  • People enjoy working with me
  • Athletes feel like I’m there to help them
  • No one ever feels attacked, picked on, or criticized
  • I’m equipped with tools to actually add value in a meaningful way

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As a coach, it’s important to know your audience and to tailor your approach to each person individually. In a class of twenty athletes, you may need to exercise twenty different coaching styles. Effective communication should be the primary goal in order to strive for success; both in the gym, and everywhere else.

Don’t spend years coaching the same way. Learn new cues, try new approaches, and check to see if what you’re saying actually registers with people. Saying the same thing in a slightly different way can create a major breakthrough for someone. Keeping the lines of communication open and regularly checking in with your athletes not only gives you a current update of who you’re working with, it can also show people that you actually care. While we’re personal trainers, we’re also a special kind of therapist! Sometimes, just showing someone that you care about them is enough to make their day.

Our most important job is keeping our athletes as safe as possible. If we’re able to create meaningful relationships and help foster positive change in their lives, that’s icing on the cake!

(HUGE shout-out to Heather for helping making Photoshop magic out of my silly idea!)