Years ago, when I was starting out in the fitness industry as a trainer, I considered working at a gym that required that all trainers complete a standardized fitness test every six months. There were many reasons I didn’t end up working there (none of which had to do with me being unable to meet those requirements) but I remember thinking that it was ridiculous that every trainer—both men and women in a wide age range—had to meet the same blanket fitness requirements to be considered qualified to train clients. A person who has achieved a certain level of strength and endurance does not magically become a good trainer. Experience, knowledge, personality and communication skills are what make a good trainer.
Obviously I believe that as a coach and trainer you need to set an example for your clients and take care of yourself. But after thousands of hours training hundreds of clients and athletes, I’m convinced more than ever that gaining and maintaining strength is a very personal and individual goal and achievement. An hour a day in the gym lifting heavy weights rates exactly the same on my scale as doing a ten-minute band program three times a week at home. What matters is that you are doing it and that you will continue to do it.
I’ve trained ten year olds to eighty year olds and everyone in between, from high school baseball athletes who went on to be drafted; to women just looking to lose a few pounds; to golfers of all ages wanting to hit the ball further. The strength goals of a youth athlete hoping to enter a D1 college program are very different from a thirty-something woman who wants to compete in a bodybuilding contest. A seventy year old may just want to feel confident about walking around on a daily basis without worrying about falling down. No one would ever hold each of those clients to some sort of standard level of strength—bench pressing a certain weight or doing a certain number of pull-ups for example. Yet they could all be characterized as “strong.”
I consider moments like these to be among my greatest career achievements. I’ve heard an elderly client say that after just one month he can stand for extended periods of time without his back hurting and walk without his cane. I’ve heard from a parent that his athlete, hopelessly uncoordinated at 11 years old, flew down the ladder at baseball practice to the amazement of his skeptical teammates (and the corresponding boost to his confidence level was something to behold.) A 50-something client who used to have major back issues hasn’t felt anything in years and has put on enough muscle to be noticeable. Little improvements can alter someone’s day, month, year, quality of life, self-esteem. I’m thrilled I can make that kind of a difference in someone’s life.
What all of these clients and athletes shared was the desire and commitment to become stronger. They trained regularly, they did their home exercises faithfully and consistently, they fueled their bodies properly, they allowed for proper rest and recovery and they pushed past self-imposed physical and mental limits. You can’t change age and circumstance, but you can change your strength levels. I don’t care who you are or what your limitations may be. Anything, in that regard, is possible.
Previously published on My Edmonds News