There is no good time for disruptions, but sometimes it seems as if an evil fairy arranges for them to occur at the worst possible moments. It’s been a week full of disruptions (and it’s only Thursday!), so tonight the last thing I felt like doing was commuting and having to interact with other people in the gym in order to get my strength and conditioning training done.
Fortunately, I’ve been working on a program which emphasises body-weight exercises, and I’m now able to chin and pull my own body-weight (albeit not very many times.) So I really needed very little in the way of equipment – just some bars for pull-ups and dips, and a bench for back extensions and box jumps.
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“I’d really like to get back to boxing,” she said. “It was my favourite form of cardio. I think if I could do that, then I’d really feel like I’d made some progress.”
I have a strained relationship with what passes as “boxing” in the fitness industry. I almost feel visceral pain when I see inept personal trainers having their clients spaz out on pads or on the bag with horrific technique. When I see them getting their clients to soccer-kick the bottom of the bag, or kick the pads when they’re being held on the wrong side of their body I feel like I die a little inside.
I’ve deliberately moved away from the “fitness boxing” or “women’s kickboxing” scene. While at first I saw it as my “point of difference” and marketed myself as a PT who could hold pads, I quickly became disillusioned by the clientele it attracted. Once upon a time, Muay Thai meant everything to me, and it pained me to whore it out and see it reduced to a calorie burner for people who only saw technical instruction as an impediment to the flailing of limbs that was making their “fat cry” in their quest for the perfect “bikini body.”
But I’ve gotten to the point where I may no longer be able to contain myself. Today, an intelligent, educated, driven, successful client with balanced, healthy, realistic goals asked me to start holding pads for her again because it was something that made her feel strong, healthy and powerful. If I say no to that, I’ve really missed the point.
I learned long ago that I need one day out of the week that is all mine, during which I don’t have to work, train, or be accountable to anyone else. In a society that is all about hyper-productivity and consumerism, and which sees busy-ness as a virtue and stress as a badge of honour, it’s not always easy to say “no.” But it is infinitely rewarding. Challenges appear much more manageable when you’ve had time to rest; training, work and study look like the privileges they are rather than burdens when you take some time away from them; and a day out of the normal routine provides an opportunity to devise solutions to your problems by considering them in a new light.
Sundays are for waking up without an alarm, making love, spending hours over coffee, reading things you won’t be assessed on, and being a tourist in your own town.
Spending my Sundays well means I can look forward to Monday morning, and give the week’s tasks everything I’ve got.
Nothing makes me happier as a personal trainer than seeing a client make progress. The most meaningful progress can’t be neatly summed up with a before-and-after pic on social media. The most meaningful progress from my perspective is an improvement in quality of life. Today I was privileged to witness a long-term client able to push herself to near-failure on the lat pull-down machine. This is significant because, in the space of a few months, she has gone from being in constant pain due to muscular dysfunction in her upper traps and exercising purely to rehabilitate this dysfunction, to being able to explore the limits of her strength with functional, integrated muscle recruitment. In simple terms, it means no more sleepless nights with headaches and back pain, not needing to see a physio multiple times a week, and being able to consider exercise goals beyond pain management.
Moments like these are the reason I do my job.
Something that I have had trouble with in the past has been staying hydrated when my training load has been heavy. Sometimes it can literally feel like if you’re not training, you’re showering, sleeping or trying to fit enough food in your stomach to fuel your next session, and amidst all of this is can be surprisingly easy to neglect to drink enough. Couple this with a failure to replenish the electrolytes that allow your body to actually retain the water that you drink and fairly soon you’re dealing with dry skin and eyes, muscle cramps, headaches and reduced performance.
My training load today was quite heavy, but I managed to avoid these side-effects of dehydration by:
For the last month and a half, I have been doing a lot of yoga. I’ve found yoga valuable in the past. For instance, when I was just beginning to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, yoga was one of the first forms of exercise that I was able to attempt. I could do it at home, stop any time, didn’t need any assistance, and there was no risk of becoming stranded as a result of fatigue – which could have happened at that stage had a gone for a walk on my own and become too tired to make it back.
It’s quite amazing to think of how weak I had become as a result of being debilitated by CFS. Things like chair pose, high lunges or cobras which I now perform easily as part of an active recovery really tested my muscular strength and endurance back then.