What I Learned Playing Personal Trainer for a Day at X-Sport Fitness

Personal Trainer

This past weekend, I got to live a day in the life of a personal trainer at X-Sport Fitness. I didn’t plan to write about it either.

But it turns out that the experience highlighted some useful lessons that can be applied to everyday learning and development. It also shed some light on some other insights about perception and progress.

First, let me say that I’m not at all qualified to be a personal trainer, nor should you let me coach you on health or wellness matters.

Seriously, don’t.

I’ve done my share of reading and experimenting on the subject, though. I’m testing a workout routine I’ve developed for myself. I’ll let you know how it turns out by October 28, 2015. (Yes, there will be pictures, too).

bgtrotter_instagram_medium
Me taking gym selfies at X-Sport ~4 weeks ago; Instagram: @bgtrotter

Given my lack of experience, my test subject was my lovely, trusting wife, Martha. She was nice (or foolish) enough to join me for “Core Day” of my routine. One of my biggest concerns was that I would teach her bad habits or unknowingly give poor instructions. I imagine real personal trainers have to deal with that on some level all the time.

Usually when we visit our local X-Sport, we’re off doing our own things. But this time, she followed me along the routine.

Here are few things I learned:

Teaching others can help clarify the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’

We started with my stretch routine.

She followed along as we moved from neck rolls to shoulder shrugs to big arm circles. When we got to arm circles, I noticed that she was rotating both arms at the same time, while I rotated each one individually.

For an easy visual reference, imagine we’re swimming. You could say that I was simulating a Freestyle Stroke and she was using a Butterfly Stroke.

She asked why I did that (likely because I looked like a flailing YMCA dancer) and it made me pause to recall why I started doing one arm rotations to begin with.

I quickly remembered that I did one arm at a time because it allowed for a wider range of motion when stretching which I preferred.

As diminutive as this example is, it illustrates how teaching someone else a process can highlight the why behind an otherwise mechanized behavior.

When you have to explain your reasoning, it allows you to step outside of yourself and ask the right questions.

Motivating others encourages you to push yourself harder too

As we reached the end of the routine, we were feeling the burn.

We got on the inverted bench to do three sets of 20 crunches. Two sets in, we were both feeling more than a little spent.

As the trainer for the day, I felt compelled to conceal my pain and push Martha through hers. On the final set, she resigned to doing just half of the 20, plus “whatever else she could muster”.

As she started to fade at 15, I urged, “one more”, then “one more”, and “c’mon, one more”…

Each time, she pushed through her predisposed limits and knocked out another rep.

After I finished my set, feeling energized by her success, I decided to add another workout to our routine. We each completed three sets of another exercise and then two sets of another that she suggested — none of which were part of the plan.

As it turns out, we got an endorphin rush and a boost of encouragement from pushing each other past our own limits, too.

Daily incremental progress quickly turns into big gains

My brother wrote yesterday about the importance of dedicating yourself to things in order to make improvements, even if you won’t see any returns right away.

He led off the post with a poignant bit of wisdom from Will Smith:

You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”

Recently, I started an incremental push-ups program with Martha to get us to the goal of 50 push ups per day. On March25, we started with just 5 push ups per day. About two weeks from the there, we’ll increase to 7 per day. Two weeks later, we’ll move to 10 per day — and so forth.

Push Ups bgtrotterNow 50 push ups per day might seem like a mountain to some people and a speed bump to others.

But for us, two weeks ago, we were doing zero push ups per day. (Maybe that was just me =P) That’s like a 500% increase in one day. Once we get to 7 per day, that’s another 40% increase.

By the time we reach our goal of 50 push ups, we’ll have made 900% gains from our starting point of 5.

I’ll take those gains any day.

In order to make big gains, you just need to make small gains, everyday. So the sooner you start, the better.

And based on my experience, you don’t need to have some grandiose experience to come away with useful tools that will help you accomplish your goals for tomorrow.


Thanks for reading! If you got any value from this, it would mean a lot to me if you shared it with someone else. Pay it forward. That’s how we all got here after all!

Looking to get in touch? Here’s how:

 Ph: 773.329.1739
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