There are lots of great and obvious reasons why people work with personal trainers. In the future I'll compile advice and tips for when you're looking for your own, 'cause you can't all have mine! I've written before about how I chose Mat, how I finally went from group training to one-on-one sessions. For now, I'll keep him happy and make it all about why I am lucky to have found my Fitness Coach.
Last night was a great example. I emailed him late in the afternoon to say "I'm having a crap day. I need a stress release. I don't know what you have planned ... but can you bring out the boxing gloves?" Here's where I have to confess that I enjoy hitting and punching things, working out aggression through medicine ball slams and other rage-y exercises. It's something I discovered while working with Mat, when he introduced new implements like the sand bag, after taking a workshop at his own professional development conference. At any rate, when I got to the gym, he had an intense and exhausting HIIT-style circuit ready for me. "I designed this for you with an angry heart!" he proudly told me. It worked. I left that place ready to crawl into bed, the stress of the day gone, no longer feeling like I was balancing on a precarious ledge.
When they asked me to write a testimonial about the personal training experience, this story is the one that came to mind, because it so perfectly captured all the elements that work for me:
Near the end of one of my one-hour training sessions with Mat, he asked how I was doing. “I can really feel it in my shoulders,” I told him. So he had me sit on a big stability ball, reaching one arm towards the centre of my back, as he pushed and pulled to get just the right stretch. “Do you feel that?” he asked. Suddenly, I lost my balance, and fell backwards, into him. He caught me, we laughed, and we re-set for the other arm. On that one, I could feel a little extra push from Mat, testing me, and I had to tighten my core and focus, to give more resistance. I called him on it, and he said, “yeah, just seeing if you’re working it. Good job.” This, to me, sums up my personal training experience with Mat, and what a good fitness coach does.
You get focused attention from an expert who knows how to adapt a program to your needs. That stretch wasn’t in his plan, but he knew what I needed and how to show me. I told him what I needed ("stress-release therapy") and with little advance notice, he was able to come up with a plan that worked. He is always learning, developing professionally, and I respect that above everything. (Hello: Librarian and teacher, here!). He also shares the knowledge, wants you to learn it for yourself, and so he explains the what and the why. It's what makes him a coach more than just a trainer putting you through your paces. He expects you to grow.
Motivation and Accountability
He pushes me, challenges me, and forces me out of my comfort zone. He won’t let me tell myself “I can’t.” When I meet those challenges, it doesn’t just give me a better workout or change the shape of my body, it builds confidence. When Mat tells me to do something that seems outrageous or impossible, I give him a look, and he just says "don't look at me like that, I wouldn't ask you if I didn't think you could do it." Most of the time he's right, and that's the reason I've seen progression. It's the reason I've even attempted things that I'd always told myself were off the table (like weight lifting). "Don't underestimate me," he says. "Dude. I'm not. I'm underestimating ME," I tell him. Sometimes you need someone else to believe in you, to show you that you CAN, so that you can start to believe in yourself.
He’s there to catch me when I fall, and he has literally “got my back.” I know I’m always safe, physically and emotionally, especially because he checks in and asks. I don't know if he even realizes the significance the phrase "I'm right here" has for me, but with the trust he's built, I know he really is right there. And when my arm gives out on that last rep because he's done his job and given me just enough weight to press, he knows when he has to actually catch the barbell and when I've got it.
We have fun. We laugh. Because of that, exercise has become something I enjoy, not just something I have to do. It can be as simple as joking during rests, or as complex as coming up with a themed workout. I knew I could work with Mat as a coach when he led a Zombie Apocalypse workout in class just before Dec 21, 2012. Now, that's a sense of humour that works for me!
Ultimately, the strength has to come from within myself. He can’t do the work for me. MY core has to hold me up, keep me in balance. That giant stability ball is like life: throwing you off balance, giving you every excuse to fall off and fail. But Mat is there, standing behind me, coaching, cheering, correcting, watching, instructing, supporting, praising and motivating. It's not an easy profession he's chosen. I'm only one of many clients demanding his time and energy. I've nearly squashed him, taken him down with me a few times, when I have almost fallen off the ball of life. Yet he's helped me get back on each time.
A fitness coach helps you stay on the ball.
I’ve been working with Mat since January 2013. While I have lost 100 lbs and am still working towards weight loss, what has been truly life-changing is my shift in focus towards fitness and strength training. Much of that comes from him and what we focus on. With the increase in my physical strength has come mental strength. It’s not about what I’ve lost, but what I’ve gained. Confidence. Resilience. Pride. Respect. Health. Happiness.
And it’s because I have a great fitness coach in my corner.
"Thank you" just doesn't seem like nearly enough for someone who has changed your life for the better.