A guy walked into my gym the other day and asked me if I offered memberships. “No,” I told him. “This is a personal training and private yoga studio.”
“Oh, because I don’t need a personal trainer,” he said. “Do you offer any quick bootcamp style classes? I just want to get rid of my belly. I already know what I’m doing.”
“Well,” I replied, “your belly is probably more about what you’re eating than anything else. A bootcamp isn’t necessarily the answer.”
“I’m a vegetarian,” he said, “and I already eat clean.”
At that point I just wanted him to get out of the gym as quickly as possible.
I like when neighbors pop in and ask questions. I like to give as much information away for free as I can. And I especially love the idea of people in Dayton seeing my place as a resource. Personal training is expensive, but I’m confident that there are enough people who see the value in my services that I can give away information as a sort of good neighbor policy. I do it all the time.
But nothing annoys me more than when people ask me questions to which they already pretend to know the answer.
Especially when they’re so, so, so wrong. I just don’t understand walking into someone else’s place of work with that level of arrogance.
Believe it or not, there are people who spend a lot of time figuring out how to get specific body compositions.
Here’s where my rude visitor went wrong. There are a few issues tangled up into his presumptive line of questioning.
1.) “Abs,” or body composition: One can be weak and have visible abs. One can be strong and have visible abs. One can be healthy and have visible abs. One can be unhealthy and have visible abs. One can eat vegan and have visible abs. One can eat Paleo and have visible abs. If your goal is abs–you can tell it’s not my favorite goal in the world–then telling me that you’re a vegetarian doesn’t do much to help me get you there.
2.) “Eating clean”: I’ve written before that people often tell me they’re eating clean when what they’re really doing is not eating enough to sustain their activity level. These people often have trouble achieving their body composition goals because they’re constantly catabolizing muscle just to stay alive.
3.) “Bootcamps” are the answer: Think about the logic of a bootcamp for a second, and think about where the terminology comes from. When a military recruit goes to bootcamp, they’re reporting to a purposefully challenging entry point to a career in which they will be asked to fight and possibly die with their brothers and sisters. Meeting at the park for abs exercises and calling it a bootcamp sort of misses the point.
Aside from the nomenclature, the real issue with a bootcamp style class is that you’re throwing twenty people into a group of varying skill levels, fitness, and injury histories and asking them all to do essentially the same thing. Sure, a good teacher will suggest modifications, but it’s difficult to ensure that five people are on point with their form, let alone twenty.
I’m not against all classes. We live in an area rich with them led by really good coaches. I’m against the idea of a class built upon the false and potentially dangerous notion that hard work alone–not programming, not form, not nutrition, not sleep, and not recovery–is the pathway for an unfit person to achieve abs or a “summer ready” body.
Use Your Eyes and Ears, Not Your Mouth
I’ve said before in this space that you don’t need a personal trainer or a coach. That’s true, but only if you’re willing to admit that you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re willing to put the time in researching, asking questions, and listening.
I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and I continue to research, ask questions, and listen. I can’t imagine training people now the way I did even five years ago, which means I’ve learned a lot in that time, discarded some techniques I once thought were sound, and added new ones. If you’re a lawyer or an architect with only a passing interest in fitness, why would you think it would be any different for you? So just shush for a moment and listen to the strong man or woman wearing the shorts. They might just know a little more about you when it comes to fitness.