Fun fact: I’m not just a super-cool fitness professional. I have degrees in both religion and philosophy. You might ask “why does this super-cool fitness professional have a degree in religion?” Simple really, I love to learn what makes us, as people, tick.
Why are we here? Is there anything else to our existence? Why do we humans think the way we do? It’s always intrigued me how so many cultures adopt similarities across faiths and philosophies, even though in today’s world most of us tend to focus on our differences and not our similarities.
Even when I changed course and realized that I was meant to be a fitness professional, I was still intrigued by the “philosophies.” I supplemented my university studies, weight room experience and detailed physiology coursework with topics such as yoga instruction and holistic nutrition. (Hey, I like to be thorough)
In other words, I tend to read a LOT of different types of literature around the disciplines of fitness, strength and conditioning, and body transformation. Logically, these topics should have a great deal in common, right? However, reading articles and social media posts inevitably reminds me that once again, as a species, we tend to be too focused on our differences and not our similarities.
I’m often surprised at what I see online. Petty arguments. Insults. Ill-informed responses. And worst of all, close-minded adherence to a single, one-size-fits-all mentality that can be not just useless, but even dangerous in some circumstances.
Specifically, I’m thinking of some of the “experts” who are unbending in their use of a singular exercise mode or tool with EVERYONE. (Don’t get me started on the nutrition zealots that are beholden to a single diet or plan.) These dogmas, just as much as any religious dogma I’ve studied, will seal off someone’s mind from learning and growth, leading to stagnation and isolation.
In my opinion, that makes these dogmas short-sighted…restrictive…isolationist…and even harmful. So while I can appreciate the “simplicity” of a prescribed workout routine as much as the next guy, my experience working with real people has taught me that we are all unique and that what works for one may be the exact opposite of what will work for another.
As a trainer who has worked with many other trainers, I understand that each of us may have a fondness for a particular exercise or piece of equipment. But I also understand that my likes and dislikes should have no bearing on the type of training I prescribe to a client. A big mistake I see with some young coaches and trainers is assuming that the workouts they do themselves should be done by everyone.
I don’t know any better way to say it than this: fitness professionals should be aggressively objective when working with clients. At the end of the day, only one thing should be driving our recommendations, plans and instruction, and that is the health and well-being of our clients.
This can be a hard position for a fitness professional who might encounter someone who asks for the wrong kind of help. For example, I’ve worked with a dangerously lean person who was continually driven to lose even more weight. What’s my ethical responsibility in such a situation? To help the client achieve their goal? Or to help the client pursue a healthful lifestyle?
Similarly, I must be able to distance my own likes/dislikes from the experiences and needs of my clients. I must be open to the range of possibilities and training methods that can work for a person. I must work to find the most appropriate program for an individual, no matter what their health.
Let’s talk about one of my past clients. We’ll call her Monica (not her real name).
Monica was a young woman with a condition that leaves her joints vulnerable to pain, instability, and dislocation. Her goal was to stabilize her joints, reduce her pain, and minimize the risk of dislocation. I was shocked as her parents told me that other trainers they had visited talked about stretching and remarked about her impressive flexibility.
Think about that for a minute…Monica’s joints were already impaired and vulnerable to injury. And someone had recommended she add additional stressors to her joints through a focused stretching routine.
Does that make sense? Absolutely not. In fact, a simple google search and about 30 minutes of research would lead someone to the conclusion that stretching is the exact WRONG thing to do for Monica. Is this a case of gross professional negligence? A lack of training and understanding? A lazy approach to training? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. In any case, it is clearly a trainer who has not considered what is best for his client.
Trust The Training, Not The Tools
How do we do it at the Bodysmith? That’s simple really.
- We use sound principles rooted in human movement.
- We consider an individual’s abilities, goals and injury history to guide them on their path.
- We practice aggressive objectivity.
- And we minimize our reliance on any exercise “dogmas” that we bring to the table.
In other words, we are fitness agnostics.