Category Archives: In The Gym

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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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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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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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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No Squats & No Trots

I can’t lie, it is hard to watch people run by me in shorts and tank tops. They are all rubbing in my face that I can’t run right now. How rude.

This week I saw a doctor who thinks I have damaged the cartilage and meniscus in my left knee. The last time I saw him, I had just been hit by a car. Looking over my file he didn’t seem surprised to see me again. He prodded and poked around then he sent me on my way after requesting an MRI.

So after having every fun exercise eliminated from my temporary repertoire, I nestled in on the stationary bike for a thrilling resistance- free ride. My doctor told me only about a hundred times: no squats.

Maybe he reads my blog.

Cardio equipment at the gym has the same etiquette as using a public washroom. Am I wrong?!

So here I am, biking in slow motion watching the Raptors game on the TV, listening to my iPod, and occasionally texting on my phone. Yes you heard me right; my workout was actually that uninvolved. Calling it a workout is quite generous since it was a sweat free 45 minutes. Anyways, I am in a row of 12 bikes, all of which are available. There are two more rows of cardio equipment behind me and everything is empty.

So a woman comes over and sits down right beside me. Then she doesn’t turn on her TV and watches mine. Then she reads what I text and mimics me every time I move.

Why do people do this?! Am I just crazy about my personal space?? Actually don’t answer that. But really. I bet she is the person who sits beside you on the subway and leans in to read your paper instead of her own. And I bet she would use the bathroom stall right next to you.

On another note, I think I should formally do a study on the (predicted) correlation between how increased physically injury drastically impairs patience and social skills.

My apologies to those how get in my gimpy way.

deadfall

 

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Run To Bust

I feel like I am getting close to race day… Not because I feel ready but because my body is worn out. The race is 14 days away and it feels like a 10 foot tall hurdle screaming towards me.

For a blog with the theme of overcoming obstacles, I sure have a lot of material to write on.

Last Friday my knee buckled during my workout and after standing for at least 12 hours a day this week, it is pushing back. I haven’t run in 8 days, I haven’t done any lower body exercises in 8 days, and at this rate I picture myself ending up jacked up top and soft on the bottom. Like actually with a straight horizontal line where the muscle just stops.

On top of that, my mood has been getting exponentially aggressive as I watch the race date approach while I am at standstill.

This world has a consistency that really never fails. This was my last heavy leg day before I planned to transition out of going crazy in the gym. My last set of my last exercise was when everything came crashing down. Literally. I was on the leg press finishing with one leg at a time and my left knee just passed on its turn. This makes me feel like every other time I said I worked out to failure was a cop out.

I did have another trainer tell me I worked as hard as someone who was going to the Olympics. Minus the injury, that felt good.

New strategy: run on pace for my goal time and risk death by bruised body and bruised pride? Now I just need to find a doctor who will encourage me to keep running… Not happy. Doctor’s report to follow.

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The Way We Were

Time has really flown by and I have missed many posts that I wanted to write. For some reason the less interesting obligations always outweigh the fun commitments.

A few weeks ago, K left for a new job and a much better career opportunity. So of course we happily told him that he was making a great decision (which he was), but when we saw him holding the contents of his locker in a garbage bag we realised this was not in our best interest.

K and I met working at the gym and he has been a great friend since then; we won Supperworks together, we got jacked together (in a relative and debatable way), and he taught me that I know very little of self control. His meals alone require some Googling, a calculator, and a third party approval. The day he casually asked me to get him some salsa was nerve wracking.

We definitely miss his positive energy, his constant curiosity, and his enthusiasm during our team workouts. Shockingly, this gym has very few trainers and members who want to work out until they lay in a pile of heaving sweat on the floor.

Since our gym was bought out, it seems like each day chips away a little more resemblance from the way things were. Unfortunately, my brain still holds on to that old comfort as if it will reappear when things settle. I guess I have only been endorsing change when it is self motivated, and that is hardly change at all.

Over the past few weeks (and months, and years) I have learned that the best way to deal with change is to throw yourself into it. Pretend you don’t want to just dig your heels in and rant about the good old days. Being unhappy wastes too much energy, and you need that energy for your workouts.

I can’t put into words how strongly I believe that things happen for a reason. I have been so determined to stay set in my ways that it scares me to think how crazy I’ll be when I’m elderly. I’ll be wearing a spandex onesie around the gym yelling about the “kids these days” who don’t know anything about exercise. Then I’ll be like my client who absent mindedly hangs her purse and sweater on the closest piece of equipment whether it is in use or not.

Any form of resistance seems to negatively impact all aspects of life since that energy can’t be contained and focused on just one specific pinpoint. And if you’re wasting all that energy then you will never know how much weight you can actually lift!!!

It seems clear that you can’t go anywhere in life if you won’t move your feet. The difficulty that we underestimate lies in deciding to pick up your foot.

 

“To complain is always non-acceptance of what is… Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” -Eckhart Tolle

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Olympic State of Mind

I just read an article about how us average folk are hitting the gym with an extra oomph to our workouts as we watch the Olympics and decide to train like Olympians ourselves. Although it was well written and it justified the author’s opinion, I disagree.

I am not even joking that I was going to blog about my surprise at the lack of energy in the gym during the Olympics. Athletes are displaying phenomenal strengths and skills on screens throughout the gym as members intently watch their own reflections doing bodyweight calf raises.

This article is concerned that people can’t train like Olympians and will get hurt. First of all, where are these people? Secondly, without intending to be rude, let me just say that the average person does not know how Olympians train and Google can only help them so much. Unless you don’t work and have access to an extremely talented (enter sport here) coach then you are out of luck. Unless someone brings their hockey stick to practise their wrist shot, or sings the national anthem before they start, I don’t think we should panic. Safety in the gym is always a concern but enthusiasm translating into intensity sounds good to me.

Let’s talk about something that is much more dangerous: watching the Olympics while doing cardio. I felt good, had new music on my iPod, and after 45 minutes of weights, I headed to the treadmill for a 20 minute run.

Some things you I would like to share about myself: I have a background in dance, a little bit in figure skating, and I’m a spaz when I’m excited.

And I turned on the Olympics just in time to watch the ice dance finals. You know how when you’re talking to someone who is shocked and your face makes a shocked face too? I did the body language version of this. In public. While trying to run. My limbs were completely out of control and I was careening around as much as the treadmill would let me. By the time I was ready to get off, I wasn’t sure if my increased heart rate was from the run or from the nerves of competing in the ice dance against the TV.

If anything, we should be concerned for the people who are training while watching and not those channeling their Olympic state of mind into their workouts. Treadmills should be off limits for the gold medal hockey game …

hurdle

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Buns of Steal

Gym rage. This is like the equivalent of ‘roid rage, but omitting the steroids.

I went to another new gym today. This particular location was surprisingly quiet considering how many plates were amassed on all the machines. Here is a tip: if you can push 8 plates quietly, you are doing it wrong. Although being surrounded by workouts of a minimal range of motion was unimpressive, that was not was made me mad.

Side note: Isn’t it interesting how each gym has its own different atmosphere from every other gym? I would love to study the differences in training efficiency based on the “feel” in the gym. Once I figure out how to measure “feel”…

Anyways, since this was my first time here, I was unsure of where everything was and where to go just to be out of the way. In my gym, I know the popular and unpopular spots so when I need space I know right where to go. How comfortable. After consecutively lunging myself into peoples’ way, I took the last available bench to do Bulgarian split squats. Just to clarify I have my back foot on the bench and drop down into a low lunge. This is not a picture of me, but it is the best picture Google has to offer. If this woman jumped her right foot a little more and dropped down a little lower she could do a Buns of Steel workout video instead of these textbook pictures. Fun fact: try using the seat on a machine instead so you can adjust the height. That booty won’t build itself!

splitsquat2

Sorry I got a little distracted there. Gym etiquette would state that I am equal to that moron curling in the squat rack while you’re waiting to squat so I was keeping an eye out for anyone who actually needed a bench. Sure enough, a girl about my age starts lurking me and comes to hang out uncomfortably close by. As I finish the end of my first set  I say, “Hey do you need to use a bench? I can do this anywhere”. Please note I actually said that these can be done anywhere. She says yes and moves in but as I walk away I see her reflection in the mirror doing exactly what I was doing. I just about choked on my Gatorade. Is there no such thing as gym etiquette anymore?!

So I did what anyone would have done… I sent some aggressively capitalized text messages to all of my friends who work out. I especially emphasized that she wasn’t going low enough for it to be a workout. That is what really made me mad. Once my phone hit low battery I decided to resume my workout and then I noticed she was just following me. Shamelessly; there was awkward eye contact, note taking on her ipad, and just her tagging right along.

I guess this is just a compliment but let me tell you, I would be much more flattered to have someone come up to me and just say: “I like the way you look, could you recommend some exercises”. Or maybe she just didn’t know any exercises and I was picked at random. Regardless, if you copy someone’s workout and you catch up to them, do not kick them off what they are doing.

Actually now that I think about it, it is pretty funny. However, not an effective way to workout.

At least we are all in the gym!!

5years

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