What is Training People?

Posted on 30 Jun 2009 21:57

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I was perusing "fitness" blogs today and the funniest thing happened. I saw a blog post in which the post itself didn't interest me. It was more of the same old same old simplistic reaction to a complex "human" problem. What got me wanting to blog about the page, on this, my first post on my blog here, was the TITLE.

The title was about how so-called fitness professionals train people. I got confused. You see, for a minute I thought the stress was on the word train. But instead, it was on the word people. Changes the subject of the post a little, doesn't it?

I'll try not to get started again on the idea of a fitness professional, whatever the heck that is, except to say that I suspect people create 'fitness' blogs and go on and on about 'fitness' because it is a good keyword…although a highly competitive one.

But yeah, yeah, the human element is important. The idea that you are training individuals. The fact that so-called fitness pros need to be reminded of that is what is sad. But we TRAIN people. What does that mean? It's different than to teach people.

Training and Teaching are Two Different Things

In fact, if you really consider the subtle difference between the words train, or teach, or even mentor, you may begin to wonder what the heck gym trainers are.

You see, training in the strictest sense is much more narrow than teaching. You train people for a specific purpose. A specific skill or set of skills. For a specific TASK. It is a short-term process.

If you have an athlete that must drop weight then that is about either fitting into a specific weight class or about optimizing body composition and therefore efficiency. But either way, you are preparing for something. Your training is still training bent on the same goal, again, optimizing performance.1

And yet the average Jane looking to lose fat finds him or herself being deluged by "training" methods. There is even a video game for Nintendo DS called "My Weightloss Coach".

People hire trainers to help them lose weight, for instance. Weight loss is not a specific "event". You don't train for it. It is a long-term process of lifestyle adjustment. A learning process.

I am not suggesting, even for a second, that hiring a good weight loss expert is a bad idea. What I am suggesting is that if said expert hands you a magic weight loss program with a bunch of "magic" exercises; get a new one. Training to lose weight is training to lose. Training complements weight loss. Can facilitate it. But a good training plan should be centered around improving performance. Conveniently, improved performance tends to coincide with a more efficient body. And a more efficient body does not carry around gobs of excess fat.

So there is a big mistake people make when hiring trainers. They fail to define very specific and concrete goals. They give trainers a "blank-check" so to speak, therefore leaving the trainer the option to place them in whatever box they are comfortable with.

And they do the same thing when they are their own trainer.

When it comes to exercise, fat-loss is a side benefit. Especially since diet is the most important aspect of it. In fact, if I hear one more damned argument about whether steady state or HIIT or even vibrational platforms (the new thing for weight loss..that's right!) are better, I'll scream. No, I'll tear off my own arm, fling it at the person talking, and then scream.

There is NOTHING worse than focusing ONLY on a far-off, ill-defined and nebulous goal to demotivate you in the gym.

It may surprise you that I said that since so much fitness advice is about having long-term goals. A common fallacy in fitness is when people talk about short-term VERSUS long-term goals. This is an example of a "false dichotomy" and specifically the "excluded middle"

Well, think about it like this. You are weighing in at about 285 at 5 foot 8 and you have been very overweight for quite a few years. Now, you want to improve so you begin an exercise program. You set as your long-term goal: FAT LOSS.

Problem is you have a hard time visualizing yourself at the end of this process. You have a very tough time figuring out how you will ever navigate it. There are so many choices you are overwhelmed. So you are overwhelmed with choices on how to reach a far away goal that you really can't even imagine. Recipe for failure.

I talked about the problem with choice in these posts at GUStrength's blog in my posts The Paradox of Choice by Dr. Barry Shwartz (be sure to watch Dr. Shwartz's great video) and Fitness: All Encompassing Means Paralyzing?

Short-term and Long-term Fitness Goals

But that is not the point. Steady State Cardio, HIIT, swimming. Do you want to know what the big problem is with all the cardio types that get lined up on the treadmills every new year only to drop out?

What do you think? It's because they picked the wrong program? They should have done HIIT (high-intensity interval training)? They got bored? These all may be a small part of it. I'll tell you the bigger one.

Lack of gratification. All long-term and nebulous goals combined with a lack of short-term goals means you are very likely to drop out.

Very long-term goals are not as important as people make them out to be. Every new year along with the new year resolutions crowd there is a fitness writer crowd writing articles about goal setting and resolution. Most of them far off the mark and just not "getting it".

Very long-term and sorta kinda long-term goals…they tend to change and evolve over time as you learn more about yourself. And you learn more about yourself, in large part, THROUGH your training and the choices you make. You learn what's important to you and what is not. You make mistakes. You learn some more. What is important to you changes. And changes again. Because you are a dynamic and ever-changing machine. Not a static one.

You want to be in control of your results but there is a dark side to control. When you are busy trying to hold on to everything you fail to let things happen.

The very long-term goals are something you keep in the back of your mind, subject to rumination and even ruination. To be successful you must have what I guess I'll call short-term and longish term goals.

For your immediate goals, the best type to focus on are PERFORMANCE RELATED GOALS.

For those of you who like to call yourself fitness trainers, by the way, if I've offended you, instead of chewing me out maybe ask yourself if you can give a concrete definition of the word fitness without any specific context. Because to me, it is about as meaningless as the word holistic. And if you're still pissed I will live with the fact that your endorsement is not forthcoming!

This page created 30 Jun 2009 21:57
Last updated 18 Mar 2018 23:56

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