“So, what are your goals?” This ranks right up there with “What’s your name, are you currently exercising and will you be paying by cash or check?” on the list of questions trainers ask new or potential clients upon first meeting them.
And I’m here to tell you that, like initial movement assessment protocols, this million-dollar, I-care-about-what’s-important-to-you, lets-build-a-roadmap-to-your-fitness-finish-line question is total bullshit.
Let’s get the outliers out of the way first. If your goal is to raw squat 900 pounds in competition or make the Olympics in downhill skiing or step on a bodybuilding stage in 12 weeks then, yes, your goals are tremendously important. But if you want to accomplish those things you either sought me out because I am an expert in training people for those events or you’ve blurted those goals out before I even had to ask.
But those fitness overachievers aside, most people seek out training for three reasons. The first is they want to get healthy. They’ve either had a health scare or hit a certain age and have decided to prioritize their health with an improved diet and exercise. The second is they want to get stronger and/or build work capacity. They are struggling to pick up their toddler or they can’t move the sofa from one end of the living room to the other like they used to or they heard that getting stronger might help them improve their time in the 5K corporate challenge that’s sneaking up in 3 months. And when you bet Rudy in accounting a case of PBR on who is going to cross the finish line first you damn well better do everything in your power to improve your 5K time. Lastly is to look better with and without clothes on.
And while maybe 50% of people are willing to admit that it is that final reason that has them sitting across from you at a small table in the corner of the gym upon their first visit, the actual number of people who train at least partially for aesthetics, is probably closer to 95%.
And because I am already aware of all this,I don’t need you to tell me what your goals are. As you can see, I already know what they are.
But there is a question that would actually help me. That would give me the ultimate insight into whether we can turn you into a healthier, stronger, more physically capable and aesthetically pleasing version of yourself that has you here in the first place.
And that question is, what are you willing to endure?
How hard are you willing to be pushed? Will you be consistent? Will you keep coming back even when you are sore? Pushed beyond your preconceived limits? Asked to do things that you don’t really want to do?
Because while I take a ton of pride and care and consideration in my programming, laying out progressions, varying strength qualities and seamlessly stringing together microcycles, the truth is that the exercises, the sets, the reps, the rest times, the tempos, the pauses and any other variation you want to throw in the mix is nearly irrelevant when compared to the effort you put in over a consistent period of time.
And while you sit across that small table you want to tell me that, while you have some fear, that you are willing to do whatever I say. Whatever it takes. I mean, I showed up, didn’t I? I’ve taken the first step. And that first step is the hardest step.
That’s great. Until you get uncomfortable. It’s only then will we really find out the answer to the question upon which your entire fitness success hinges - what you are willing to endure?
As a pleasant surprise, I find that most people are willing to endure more than I think they will. Maybe we’ve really hit that sweet spot of brining them along at the proper pace. Or maybe the environment we’ve created here encourages people to go beyond their perceived limits. Or maybe clients don’t want to let us down or be seen as mentally weak.
I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist or sociologist. I’m just a meathead who loves teaching the squat.
But if you are out there thinking about starting up with a trainer or signing up for a gym membership or planning on walking through our doors I’m here to tell you that you should stop worrying about your finish line. Don’t start by thinking “if I do X program for Y months I’m certainly going to look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model (but not that plus-sized one cause God-forbid my bikini is bigger than a size 4 when I’m done with this) or Mark Wahlberg after an 8-week pre-movie training cycle where he works out three times a week and simply ups his “protein”, consider how committed you are to the process as opposed to the goal. The process is everything.
Listen, I honestly can’t promise you Ryan Gossling’s abs or a butt like Beyonce, but I can promise you that your entire training experience and, ironically enough, result will hinge on how you approach your training, not what you want to get out of it.
Now get to the gym. There's no fucking way we are going to let that son-of-a-bitch Rudy beat you.