Suntan or Sunburn?

Sometimes this is up to opinion, but there is a pervasive attitude in the fitness world that a workout needs to be something that leaves you on the ground gasping for air or unable to walk for days.  More often than not I hear other trainers’ clients come in and say things like “I’m so sore!” or “This hurts today”.  Through my experience and education I learned a long time ago that a workout is something entirely different.  There is a big difference between what somebody thinks is good for him or her and what is actually good for him or her.  In my RTS courses the instructor gave us an analogy that really rung true with me.

Imagine you decide it is a beautiful sunny day and you want to lie out in the sun to get a tan.  Depending on how hot it is, whether or not you have sunscreen on and what type (and how it is applied), what you are wearing and even something as simple as what time of day it is, there is a magic window.  At some point lying out you will walk over an imaginary line from tanning and get a sunburn.  You have no idea when, or why – it just happens.  And it can completely vary from one day to another.  You might get some subtle warning signs but for the most part it is very hard to tell exactly how long it will take before this happens.  So a nice pleasant experience can suddenly leave you suffering and cause damage to your body for no reason other than you went just a bit too far.

In the exercise world it is very similar.  I can manipulate sets, reps, load, and even finer points like angle, momentum and tempo in order to either give you a suntan – or take one of these things just a little bit too far and give you a sunburn.  What makes for a really skilled trainer is someone who can manipulate things with precision so that hopefully this doesn’t happen.  Your body will recover from one burn.  However, if you keep burning it over and over again eventually you might cause some permanent damage.  One of my missions as a trainer is to make sure that this never happens to my clients over the long term.  It requires a lot of thought, careful preparation and also simply making sure that if the client isn’t in the condition they normally are that you are mindful and can take that into account during their workout on that day at that time.  What is good for someone on one day is definitely not the same as the next.  If my client hasn’t slept, eaten well or is simply stressed out due to work or family, it all has to be taken into consideration.  This high level of care is something you should expect from the person responsible for improving your body.

Anyone can kick somebody’s butt and get them gasping for air and collapsing.  When I run into a client that wants that I can certainly do it.  That’s the easy part.  But what makes a really skilled trainer and an excellent workout is being able to control the workout to the point where the person is getting what they want without potentially sacrificing their performance the next day.  It’s like what Michael Jordan’s trainer used to say: “All I have to do is NOT HURT HIM.”  What I want for my people is not only to make progress, but for there to be absolutely no risk of not being able to do the things they need or want to do that day or in the days after.  My job is to make you better, not make you worse.  And with a high level of attention and guidance it’s actually easier than you think.

If you’re interested in finding out more, I welcome you to contact me and find out what the Exercise Experience is all about!


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