Clientology: A Top 10

There are a few clients on my roster that I would like to drop for a small selection of reasons. Not to be rude but as with all public service jobs, the people will make or break it. On a good day, personal training can be great, but on a bad day it can be 12 hours of listening to people complain and argue with you.
Lucky for you, I have made a list of the top ten things that will anger your trainer and you should probably avoid all things on this list at all times. Or find a new trainer.

1. “Oh no, the physics is all wrong”.
Do not pay me to train you and then tell me that I don’t know what is best for you. One of my clients in her 70s refuses to do Lat Pull Downs because “the physics and angles are wrong”. I kindly reminded her that I was there to teach her how to properly use the equipment, followed by a 15 minute scientific explanation and demonstration. She began but then decided half a rep in with a dramatic sigh of disgust that indeed, no, this was not a biomechanically appropriate exercise for any human. Another elderly client rules out step ups because she has stairs in her home and could do them on her own.
Me: “So, do you do step ups on your own?”
Client: “Well, I could.”
And hypothetically, you could be fit, too.

2. “That WAS 12″.
Do not count. Me trainer. You client. You do the exercises and don’t tell me my count is wrong because it isn’t. If our counts are different and you choose yours over mine I am instantly enraged and in return I will no longer laugh at your jokes this session. My job is to count over and over and over again. While you are working out I am involuntarily counting everyone’s reps because I can’t turn it off. I have caught myself counting breaths, counting steps, and counting other people’s reps by accident. I can tell you stories, respond to your questions, and cue you meanwhile I actually cannot lose count if I tried. Nothing makes me angrier than a client finishing three reps short and telling me I can’t count to 12. I am literally standing and counting to 12.

3. “My son can deadlift more than some NHL guys”.
Well it’s too bad you aren’t as strong as your son. How about you start working out and then you can brag about how much you lift.
After being told this exact line every time we did deadlifts I snapped at my client that it was too bad the NHL wasn’t a deadlift competition. I don’t care if you know someone who is strong because it does not make you stronger by association. I spend as much time in the gym as I do in my house, please don’t think I haven’t seen some people lift heavy things.

4. “Can you lift this?”
Do not ask me if I can do your workout. I made your workout.
When clients ask me if I can lift as much as them or if I could do their workouts I want to straight up tell them it is too stupid of a question to answer. Unless we are the same age and gender, with the same background, injuries, and trying to reach the same goals, these questions (and answers) are pointless. These questions always come from the guys that just want a big pat on the back, so don’t make me embarrass you and just ask me how it looks. Yes I see you lifting heavy things, I was the one who taught you.

5. “Sorry I’m late, you can still do a full hour, right?”
No. Don’t show up late and think I won’t make you regret your life choices.
Yesterday a client was running late, then got caught in traffic and showed up 15 minutes before the end of the session. I’m not kidding. No we can’t do an hour now because you paid me to watch TSN for 45 minutes. 15 minutes later he had sweat dripping off his nose and was laying in the corner.
Come on time.

6. “But this is haaaarrrrrrd”.
Yes I know.
I push myself harder than I push most of my clients so it gets hard to listen to someone who spent their life getting fat complain about how hard it is to sit on a bench and stand up again. I love people changing their lifestyles for the better and it is a process, but please don’t cry your way through it.  This is a waste of both our time, but mostly it is beyond boring for me to watch you sit on a bench and whimper. It is extremely painful for me to try to motivate someone who does not want to be motivated. And TSN is on the TV behind you. You do not want to make me choose where to focus my attention.

7. This is not therapy.
When I ask you to move heavy things I don’t mean put your emotional baggage on my back.
I have a degree in Kinesiology and no I don’t know what you should do about your bad decision making and poor life choices. My clipboard is for tracking your sets and reps, not your emotions. Please don’t use your session to tell me every shockingly intimate detail about your life; sometimes exercise can help you de-stress HINT HINT. I’m flattered you want to confide in me but I’ll pass.

8. I did not make you fat but I would like to help you.
Do not blame me when you don’t lose weight instantly because you did one workout then you pounded back beers and wings all weekend. This is a team effort but I am not your babysitter, I am not your mother, and I did not force feed you for the first 40 years of your life. You should consider that I see you 2-3 hours out of the 168 hours in a week. No matter how good a trainer is, they cannot account for the other 165 hours a week you aren’t with them.

9. Accept critique.
Or tell me in advance you have paid me to high five you and tell you that you are perfect the way you are.
I let a client do an entire disaster workout (not to the point he would get hurt) because he came in to train in an aggressively terrible mood, and he took my form cues as a personal attack. One rep in I told him to make a change to which he got mad and said I didn’t even give him a chance to do it right. A second identically terrible rep followed, then a defiant “OKAYYY?!” accompanying more incorrect reps. It is mind blowing how much money people spend to ignore me.

10. “But my friend says this way is best”.
Oh your friend sounds qualified. This isn’t NASA but I did a four year Honors Specialization degree and your friend ripped the workout page out of a Cosmo. This goes back to my point to let me do the job you are paying me to do.

I bet my clients could come up with a good list of their top 10 pet peeves about me… :)

 

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Oh The Places You’ll Go

The most dangerous thing in life is our biases and preconceptions. Living as if our younger selves were fortune tellers means always holding ourselves up to a idealized standard that never really existed. I pictured myself at a very different place at 26, but now that I am here, I am not in that elusive magical cookie cutter life. I also used to think that 26 sounded old, but I still act immature so that can’t be right.

The older I get, the more I wish I had taken Dr. Seuss more seriously. The cartoons in his rhymes always suggested to me that the books were not to impart anything substantial, but looking back, Dr. Seuss was one of the first cheerleaders in most of our homes.

“If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew,
Just go right along, and you’ll start happening too”
-Dr. Seuss

Lately, my head has been overwhelmed with a constant effort to decipher what I think I want from what I actually want. Even that sentence confuses me. There have been a few occasions where the amount of conflicting ideas screaming over top of each other in my head make me think that I will be the next Torontonian sleeping on the subway and talking to imaginary friends. Except I plan to gracefully exit this phase at some point. Fingers crossed that crazy can just be a pit stop.

Moving to Toronto was a situation that I did not think through and was not a part of a plan in any way. It was a good idea at the time and I happily arrived to a new city feeling like I was moving forward but was really chasing my tail. It was an opportunity that the world gave me to grow up real fast but I responded by dragging my heels and wasting as much energy as possible to stay in my comfortable little rut. So, instead, I learned some life skills the hard and tedious way after they came around a few more times. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks though; throw me a treat Universe, I get it.

After reading through some of my posts, I feel like my blog is a motivational speaker that struggles with motivation. There is always a point and often a positive message that gets sidetracked or overtaken by stories or stats of how much I can deadlift (115lbs for 3×10. See how I slipped that in there!) At least I believe I can keep myself from living in a van down by the river. (If you don’t get that joke you should watch this and laugh with me)

So tonight I skipped my food prep for tomorrow and most of studying to write this, and dance around my apartment. It is hard to take life advice from Taylor Swift but she sure can make me dance. And yes, this was my life changing revelation. Just roll with it.

 

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Rash Decisions

This has been a tough week for my body because I am currently in exams and I have been more sedentary than I have been in a long time. Lots of time sitting at a desk experiencing terrible cravings for obscene amounts of Starbucks, popcorn, and pizza. I made some decisions I am not proud of. Followed by strong urges for cardio. Sitting still for long periods of time is not conducive to getting jacked and I have already lost a few pounds of muscle. Two days until I get back to my normal workout schedule!

I feel like my body is a tower of Jenga blocks teetering in an awkwardly balanced state. With a face rash.

Flashback to high school and I’m  standing in a pharmacy with my dad trying to figure out how I got a red rashy face and how to fix it. Turns out my skin doesn’t get along well with salicylic acid. Go figure my face doesn’t like acid. If you need a good scare then read the ingredients in your face wash. And then wonder why you don’t have a face rash.

Under normal circumstances it is good advice to try new things but read the labels first.

On Thursday I went to see a woman who specializes in biomechanics and movement re-patterning desperately trying not to scratch the blatant overuse of makeup off my face. I was, of course, quick to point out the rash. I always seem to do that when I’m uncomfortable about something, as if the fact that I acknowledge it makes it much more acceptable or easier to look at. In a way it must be a good strategy because how can someone hold a flaw against you if you are already laughing about it. Not to say that upon meeting someone you should immediately air your dirty laundry or greet them with a “Hey, ask me about my rash”, but there is some logic in there somewhere. Good decisions, right?

First impressions are overrated.

Anyways, this woman was extremely intelligent and really quick to pick up on all the way that my body likes to move. After her assessment I have realised that my ankles are my pride and joy because those are about all that are functioning in any sort of logical, fluid way. I am really looking forward to seeing what kind of shape she can whip me into! I can hardly imagine operating a body that could squat and run without the inevitable Jenga tower collapse.

Since I was told to take a break from running, I seem to have boycotted all forms of cardio just to make my displeasure clear. It is about time that I get some cardio in after all this sitting and studying. I will get back to cardio tomorrow, 5 days until movement re-patterning again, and 10 days until the knee surgeon!

treerash

 

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Lattés and Timbits

Last week during a training session I asked my client what he had eaten that day. Specifically, I wanted to know what he had for protein. He immediately responds with “I had a Starbucks latté…” then seems to shrug off everything else as incomparable.

Honestly, I tell myself that these responses are attempts to delay the impending workout because they require me to rant about food. That also helps to convince me I am not terrible at my job.

I actually laughed off the conversation a little because that client is a huge success story of mine. Yes there is milk in a latté, and yes there is protein in milk. I will acknowledge that and move on.

However, I may have to rethink my self- consolation now, because it seems another one of my clients follows the same dietary plan.

My client, M, comes strolling in almost 10 minutes late for a session with a big smile on his face and one hand rubbing his Buddha belly. I asked him why he was late and he said “Oh sorry, the line at Tim Hortons was really long”.

Not another one.

M is still wiping his face as he starts warming up and of course I have to ask him what he ate. With a big smile he tells me he “crushed” a chicken sandwich, a ten pack of Timbits (for all you non-Canadians, these are heavenly little bite sized cakes) followed by TWO extra large coffees with two creams and four sugars each. Let me put my disgusted facial expression into facts. These two extra large coffees alone contain 48 oz of coffee which is about 480 mg of caffeine. Health Canada recommends no more than 400 mg in one day and any more than this can result in insomnia, nervousness, elevated heart rate, muscle tremors, and irritability. He pretty much maxed out how much his liquid bladder can hold and how much stress his heart can take then came to workout.

timhortons

I spent the whole hour expecting to see this whole meal again. I would have been happier if it had come up, really. I am a good Tim Horton- loving Canadian and I have also been guilty of overindulging, except my version doesn’t make a dent in this “light, pre- workout meal”.

The first exercise we did, M says “watch this” and with each rep he would yell “one Timbit, two Timbits, three Timbits” until he had “burned off” all ten. He followed up with “this set brought to you by Tim Hortons”. As we go on to the next exercise, he informs me that we will be burning off the chicken sandwich next. This was all scientifically based on the order the food was eaten, of course.

I spent the rest of our workout trying to convince him that he hadn’t burned off that meal, while he tried to convince me that he effectively covered all the food groups. Let me add the disclaimer that M has lost about 60 pounds so far and has about 60 to go.

A few hours later I receive this text: “I just saw a fitness ad that says would have to do 20,000 sit-ups to lose 1 pound of belly fat. Thanks a lot Tim Hortons”.

Lessons to be learned: There is indeed too much of a good thing. Size matters. Listen to your trainer. In the end, you can’t out train a bad diet.

timhortons2

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Back For More

It has been way too long since I have posted anything. Full time work, part time work, and full time school do that I guess. Sorry to admit that I would rather be known for being a hard worker than for my blogging consistency. I’m back on track now I swear.

I have another MRI on my knee tonight, however my limited (non- existent) background in medicine makes me think my knee is almost good to go. If you are going to tear a ligament, it looks like this is the one to go for. My theory is that it was on the verge of tearing since the car accident, so my body is used to functioning without much support from it. There is a knee surgeon who works out in my gym and yesterday I picked his brain a little. I asked if he would recommend operating on a torn MPFL and after seeing my leg day he thought I was crazy to consider surgery. He told me that he does full knee replacements and so would not be the surgeon for me, to which I replied that I probably should get a spot on the waiting list now. By age 26, I have worn my knees out to Bambi status, and I am banking on robotic body parts being available soon. This is not a complaint because I’d rather use my body up than be laying on my death bed commenting on my joint fluidity.

I hope the afterlife has squat racks.

On that glorious note, I took off my knee brace for Monday’s workout. It was terrifying, exciting, and significantly reduced the smell of my workout. Someone should invent braces that come with built in fans like they have for those mascot costumes. When I instructed a running group at my previous job, my “smelly knee brace” had a more wide- spread reputation than I did. I think it made people run faster so they wouldn’t get caught downwind. Whatever it takes to make them run.

When I was working out, I kept looking in the mirror trying to figure out how far I am from my body about four months ago before my kneecap dislocated and my hopes, dreams, and body weight came crashing down. I temporarily felt disheartened to realise I am in a permanent state of re-building, until I realised that everyone in the gym is there for the same reason. Sure, some of us do it with a sickness of going until we cramp up into a sweat-soaked mess but everyone has the goal of change.

Still being warped is frustrating because I have been struggling to increase weights and still maintain good form in my workouts. My hips are out of alignment, and my spine is curved so my back is still imbalanced. I guess I just got a little too comfortable and when I feel comfortable, I am not aligned, and every other body part dominoes along into my personal take on anatomical structure. Doing high volume and low weight workouts is working well for me though and I love the change of stimulation. I would absolutely recommend adding this phase into your workouts (depending what your goals are) because 4 sets of 30 reps isn’t easy on anyone.

If your workout isn’t mentally hard, it probably isn’t physically hard enough.

Getting motivated and back at it.

I think this is Abraham's greatest quote.

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Get Smart

The more things you read,
The more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
The more places you’ll go.
              -Dr. Seuss

My life (and therefore blog) currently seems in a constant state of loading. The knees always bent and arms back, ready to propel forward. Cue the setback and then start to reload the pattern. Well today I’m Air Jordan.

No one really appreciates deadlines. They push us towards a median and force us to choose a route. Just the way your instincts take over when you are driving and don’t know where you are going but you will always pick one direction or another. No matter which way you choose, it always is a better option than crashing into the median.

You can do anything but you can’t do everything.

I have been weighing my options and thinking about going back to school. My confidence in this decision has been as unsteady as my left knee. However, based on the theory that no one ever feels comfortable when they upset their life plans, I have decided this is my best route to pull a last minute swerve towards.

What solidifies a decision more than making it non-refundable?

My fellow squatters and trotters I am going back to school. I will still be training at the gym and hopefully adding more to my schedule without sacrificing too much. That is of course very flawed logic but I won’t really admit it until the scheduling Gods crush me.

My confidence in this decision is now really strong because I am more excited than a first grader at the thought of buying lined paper and a binder. I am completely old school and I don’t plan to change anytime soon. A good old pen and paper never just crashes and erases what you wrote, and the distraction of doodling hardly compares to the vast timewasters built into the internet. I just need my neighbour to take my picture with a big toothy smile and my thumbs wrenched into my backpack straps.

airjordan

Knowledge is a work in progress… just like my abs of steel. Because I have time to take on more…

That’s coming up next!

 

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Born to be Mild

“There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
              -Leonard Cohen

My body has days that make me feel like I was made for a desk job and upper body hobbies. Followed by many rum and cokes.

When a homeless man stops you to say “you are beautiful just the way you are”, it really implies you look terrible and nobody loves you. I had already taken out my rage on all my clients so (luckily for him) I just gimped on by. It was awkward like when you have cruise control on and you pass a car going 1km an hour faster than them and it takes an uncomfortably long eye contact to get by. Just your casual social discomfort being a happy Torontonian.

Despite my body telling me to slow down sometimes, I resist the urge to feel like I was destined for early entry into the inevitable world of grunting sounds every time you stand up. It is a slippery slope from the time you make your own involuntary sound effects.

On the plus side, I had someone tell me in the gym that I should go to a vet now because I work out like an animal. I won’t lie, that made me immediately feel better. I have no problems in the world when someone compliments my workouts. It may as well be a big high five from Arnold Schwarzenegger. I am redefining blood, sweat, and tears, baby- tear referring to my torn body parts of course and not tears in my eyes.

I have been working away on upper body now and I feel like a wannabe bodybuilder who builds their biceps, ignores their legs, and ends up with a weirdly disproportionate body. I have been struggling with my post-surgery shoulder however I’ll chalk that up to pressure changes and I absolutely won’t complain about the heat. I spent so much time preparing my clients for a beach season that I was starting to think wasn’t coming.

So what is next? … defying the mild and embracing the wild hopefully.

progress

 

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It Is What It Isn’t

On Monday I was missing a ligament in my knee, but depending who you ask, it is there today.

I’m not a doctor.

Friday afternoon, just hours after my MRI, I felt something tear in my knee. It was so weird, like being flicked against the inside of your skin instead of the outside. Complete with a snap, crackle, and pop.

So on Monday the doctor told me that I dislocated my kneecap and tore the ligament that primarily stabilizes the kneecap in its tracking. The solution could be rehab or surgery and that was to be determined after seeing the MRI. I thought the imaging would have been deemed useless since the tear conveniently occurred after it, however I was assured it was still relevant. So I figured they would see a ligament on the verge of tearing.

I’m not a doctor.

So I get the phone call that the ligament in question is indeed attached. So naturally I was confused how it reattached itself in a few short days. I am always impressed with the human body but this would be a whole new level of science. When the doctor was holding my knee in his hands and testing it, he said there was no ligament so I took this opportunity to casually remind the doctor that the popping happened after the MRI. In return, I was told “I highly doubt it was torn”.

Later that afternoon at work, someone who treated me many times after the car accident was in the gym working out. He kindly let me interrupt his workout to casually ask him if he could find my medial patellofemoral ligament. He concluded the left knee didn’t have one.

I slunk back to the first doctor to request another MRI. He doesn’t even seem phased when he sees me in his waiting room anymore. I have to have set a new record for MRI requests in a ten day span.

Part of me hopes that it is torn so that I can save myself the embarrassment of getting a second MRI for no reason. But at the same time, I realise how ridiculous that is. What is one more blow to my ego, anyways.

I do know something is wrong, but that is all I know.

I’m not a doctor.

mpfl

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The Knee Bone’s Connected to the…?

On Friday I cried and I can’t even convince myself it was more pain than frustration. It was the type of day that made me want to stamp my feet and then curl up in the fetal position. Nothing that a rum and coke and then laying face down for hours can’t fix.

My MRI was at 1am in the morning. Luckily riding the subway in the wee hours of the morning on a weekday keeps you awake and alert. I arrived to the maze of empty halls and dragged my bum leg to the imaging department. I was really early because I was plagued with the fear of having to pay the $100 late fee. That is a lot of money that could be put towards my recovery (rum and cokes). But if my mom is reading, I meant to say, paying you back!

After blissfully enjoying my half hour laying completely still listening to loud banging and rattling I went to change out of my size extra large robe. I started talking to a man who would have been a little older than my dad. His wife has dementia and was there getting an MRI on her brain.

I wish it was easier to keep things in perspective without having to see someone else in a bad situation.

So after a few hours of sleep I headed to work and rolled in nice and late after the subway broke down and who knew that another hundred people would need a cab at 8:30am on a weekday.

Once my break rolled around I decided to do an upper body workout. I warmed up, got ready to go and headed off to find a bench. I went to sit down and heard a loud pop as I felt a snap in my knee. Awesome. 12 hours after my MRI. So close.

flamingoknee

My weekend was extremely sloth like and I ventured out once for a few groceries. Seeing the doctor tomorrow and hoping for a miraculous sleep induced recovery!

Tomorrow also starts a week of upper body workouts! Let’s get half jacked!!!

kneebone

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday Shoulder

“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”
           -William Shakespeare

I spent my one year surgery anniversary knocking back rum and cokes, plowing through chocolate eggs, and not exercising. So far off the rails it pains me to put it into print.

All these comebacks sure are tiring. I won’t let health go unappreciated again.

This has been a week of resetting, refocusing, and pushing back. I should be prepping for a 5k race that is four days away and somehow I have ended up exhausting the exercise database in my brain for ways to avoid getting fat. Today a trainer smacked my leg to tell me to activate the muscles to which I stopped and screamed, “Stop jiggling my fat!!!”

Each workout since the infamous doctor-says-no-lower-body-exercise fiasco of three weeks ago increases in creativity. I’ve said this before, but I think it needs to be restated: my clients do not get hurt, I give great advice but I don’t take it. The other trainers just laugh when I walk by carrying a 10lb body bar saying, “This counts as body weight, right?”… People pay me to push them, and this gets difficult to turn off, I guess.

Today I did the Stair Master, single leg Romanian dead lifts (10lbs what up!), single leg hip bridges, and modified knee extensions. My knee felt tired but not painful, so I did some Peterson step ups but three later, I had to stop. It felt like I had just pogo-sticked up Kilimanjaro on one leg. The best part of it all was that a celebrity’s bodyguard was beside me bench pressing about twice his body weight and I was working substantially harder. I tried to play it cool but the sweat stains and muffled crying sounds probably blew my cover.

As with all situations, there is a silver lining. Each time your feet are taken out from under you, the world is opening a door of opportunity to rebuild your physical and mental strength, and develop consistency, resilience, and pride. In my case it was technically only one leg that went out from under me, but my point remains. I would rather be hurt from exercise than develop issues from being sedentary, a hundred times over. Injuries allow us to learn so much about ourselves, and offer us the chance to improve in much more than just a physical way. We can all admit that starting anything is easier with a kick in the butt.

Sure, some things haven’t gone the way I had them playing out in my head. I did, however, spend my one year surgery anniversary surrounded by friends and family, laughing loud and eating well. Compared to a year ago, my shoulder is significantly better, my overall health is definitely better, and I have lots of zig-zagged footsteps behind me. Maybe I need to think less about how I thought things would be and focus on all the greatness that is now.

I can hardly wait to work up a sweat again tomorrow.

(Throwback to my shoulder a year ago…)

shoulder

 

 

 

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