I first started weight lifting on a regular and consistent basis exactly 8 years last month. I remember the first training session I had with a personal trainer, the first shaker cup I bought, and the very first time I put a little bit to much weight on the bar during a set of bench press. From the beginning I was hooked. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on that regarded training as well as paid close attention to what everyone else was doing in the gym around me and before I knew it I had a pretty adept understanding of basic exercise technique and well rounded library of exercise I could perform. I love exercise, fitness, and picking up heavy things that is why I choose to make a career out of it. They say if you do something you love you will never work a day in your life and I believe it.
I share this because I want you to understand that I am aware of the fact that I am a bit different from most people. I enjoy being in the heat, sweating, and striving for more. I like feeling discomfort and I enjoy seeing how much I can handle. And I understand that most people do not care for these same things. I understand to some lifting weights and exercising is not exciting or interesting. I mean even some of the greatest athletes to have ever lived didn't like lifting weights or exercise in general. But this isn't an excuse to not perform some kind of daily exercise. Nor is it an excuse to place the care of your body in the hands of another person and not have a second thought about what kind of training you are doing or why you should be doing this type of training.
This is a huge pet peeve of mine and I make a living from telling people how to train, why they are training in a particular manner, and how this can benefit them. But I do not allow them to just check out and become zombiefied in regards to their training. I expect all my clients to take ownership of their training as well as their nutrition. I don't expect this to occur overnight, but I do expect it over time.
I am not saying that they need to become an expert on health and performance training I am only saying that they should understand why they are performing a specific exercise, why they are doing it with 8 reps instead of 10 reps, and what this exercise looks like when performed correctly. Everyone needs to understand and take ownership of their training whether you have a trainer or prefer to coach yourself.
You may be a bit confused. Your probably thinking why would I want people to own their training and understand it? Wouldn't that mean they could just train themselves and would no longer need a trainer, such as yourself? And my answer would be exactly! I want everyone to understand how to perform a deadlift, how to construct a basic program that fits their goals, and how to make nutrition decisions that line up with their goals. I don't want myself, my program, or another trainer for that matter to be a crutch for someone else that can be used as an excuse for why they can not exercise or make healthy decisions.
I am a realist and in reality at some point whether it be due to my situation or my clients situation there will come a time when we will not be able to train together and I do not want my client using this event as an excuse to leave behind the healthy life that they have worked so hard to cultivate. It is through ownership of their training and nutrition that they will be able to hold on to this lifestyle whenever this event occurs.
But Stevan, don't you want to be a trainer? Don't you want to retain clients?
YES! Of course I want to be a trainer and to retain and train clients for a long time to come, but I don't want to be a crutch. I don't want my clients sticking around because they have to have my program and they have to have my constant every second coaching. I want my clients to stick around because they enjoy my programming, they believe that I am a great coach, and that they believe the resources, accountability, and guidance I provide truly makes the difference in the results they achieve training with me.
Now the question is while that all sounds great and you have me throughly convinced how do you go about actually taking ownership of your own training and/or nutrition? I would have to honestly say that there a probably a ton of different ways to go about doing this, but I will just share the number one thing I do with my clients that really has helped them develop a sense of ownership as well as self efficacy in the gym.
I begin with my clients programs. Each client receives 4 weeks of programming at a time with a pre planned training session for each day they have paid to attend for each week. This program is to be used as both a guide for each day's training as well as a log for weight lifted and reps completed on each set. I make it clear to clients that while I do not expect them to understand or remember every exercise and it's technique after a month of training I do expect them to make an effort to learn the exercises and eventually over time catch on to the training lingo.
Placing this expectation makes my clients be actively present and conscious when training. They have to read and interpret the program, select proper loads based on previous performances and my advisement, and try to obtain an understanding of each exercise's technique in order to eventually meet my expectation. This has not only led to a sense of ownership, but also much more productive and efficient training sessions.
But as I said previously this is far from the only way to begin to own your training, but it is the experience that I have had and it seems to be working well.
Remember I am not trying to say that everyone should be a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach. Everyone does't need to know how to program block periodization for an olympic athlete. I am simply just urging you to increase your knowledge and understanding of your own training, even if you do have a trainer, for the purpose of making your training more effective and meaningful.
To finish off this post off I'll end with some words that sum up what I am trying to say much more eloquently than I can.
"No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable."
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training