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Inside the Trainer’s Brain, Part 1: My Training Philosophy

August 7, 2012
The Brain Behind the Blog

The Brain Behind the Blog

Over a series of posts in the coming months, I want to provide you with a look into what’s going on in my brain (scary!) when I’m creating training programs for my clients.  Because if you can learn and  understand the basic tenets of creating effective workouts and exercise routines, the more empowered you will be to stay active, healthy and most importantly, injury-free!

Today’s post is focused on my general training philosophy.  While this post is a bit more directed towards trainers, I hope it rings a bell with all fitness enthusiasts.

Training Philosophy Thought #1: Maximize Results while Minimizing Injury Risk

Inspired by Mike Boyle’s quote and my own experiences with clients, my philosophy of training is: Maximize performance or results while minimizing injury risk.  Sounds simple, but it’s not so easy to do.  Because the terms “maximizing” and “minimizing” means doing the absolute best we can for someone.  And the only way we can be our best is if we always strive to get better.  As a trainer that means continuing education workshops, reading books, watching DVD’s and practice!  If you train yourself, that means doing much of the same, striving to learn as much as you can about your own body and training regimen.  Or you can hire a trainer who has a similar philosophy to you.

Training Philosophy Thought #2: First Do No Harm

I feel that, just like any other healthcare practitioner, personal trainers (and dietitians) need to abide by the Hippocratic oath: “First do no harm.”  In other words trainers, myself included, should only train someone to the limits of our own abilities, and if we cannot help someone (or if we do not know how to), we need to either learn more and become able, or refer to another trainer, physical therapist or doctor who does.  It’s not about us, it’s about the client.

Training Philosophy Thought #3: Striving to Understand Our Clients, Or Ourselves

We must always strive to become better at understanding our clients, their daily movement patterns (i.e. sitting all day), their injury/medical history, baseline (and re-assessed) fitness levels and most importantly, their goals and motivations to change and improve.  We can only help someone if we meet them where they are at both mentally, and physically.  For example, there’s no point in having someone do box jumps if they can’t squat correctly.  Or doing kettlebell swings with a client who can’t deadlift or move through their hips.  Or asking them to train five days per week if they just got off the couch.  It’s like giving a brand new car to a baby. Great tool, just not right now.  We need to find what drives someone, and then equip them with the tools they need to get themselves there.

Training Philosophy Thought #4: Understanding Clients Change and Getting Feedback

We must be aware that our clients change, so even if we understand them initially, things can happen.  Jobs/schedules change, people get stronger (or weaker), family life can become more stressful, new deadlines can lead to poor sleep patterns (and less recovery), or any combination thereof.  And all of them can have a real impact on someone’s ability to train on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis.  Dealing with all of the things going on in my clients’ lives is a challenge for even the best of trainers.  Why?  Because we’re not mindreaders.  So we shouldn’t act like it.  Instead, we should get feedback from our clients to make our jobs easier and get them better results.

The only way I truly know I’m doing a good job for my clients is if I ask them!  So every couple of weeks I usually ask my clients how hard their most recent workout(s) felt to them, on a scale of 1 to 10.  My goal is to usually hear around an 8, particularly for clients that I train once or twice per week.  Too little means that they aren’t being challenged.  But too high means that we might be overdoing it.  Pushing to a 10, while rewarding on occasion, often has more pitfalls than benefits.  There’s no point in kicking the crap out of yourself if you can’t workout for the next four days (since you can’t move).  I’d rather see someone workout to an 8, but feel good the next day and be ready to do their next workout or cardio a day or two later.  Also, pushing to a 10 usually comes with an increased risk for injury due to loss of form and fatigue.  And being injured for a few weeks or months is the last thing we want when we’re trying to become more active.

A pseudo-summary for the non-trainers:

  • Maximize Performance while Minimizing Injury Risk by gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts.  If you’re completely new, push yourself to a 5 or 6 and build to a 7 or 8.  If you choose to push yourself to a 9 or 10, do it when you know you’ll have adequate opportunity to recover and if you feel any joint pain during the workout, dial back the intensity or stop.  It sure as heck beats getting injured.
  • Become aware of yourself, your schedule, your abilities and your tendencies.  What are your goals?  Are you happy with your current results?  If not, do you need to increase the number of days you’re active?    If so, how and when will you do it?  Do you need to learn any new exercises?  Remember, you can be active without going to the gym (i.e. sports).  Do you foresee a change coming in your schedule that may make it easier or harder for you to stay active?  Can you prepare for it?

Since I’m going to be creating a series of these posts I need to know whether this one was too random and ramble-y, or was it ok?  Did you learn something new about yourself or your training style?  What would you like to learn about?  My next couple of “Trainer’s Brain” posts will be focused on creating “balanced” workouts and understanding training intensity.

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment!  As I said earlier, I love feedback!

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One Comment
  1. Ronnie permalink

    I found the post helpful…both in understanding a training philosophy that really includes the client’s life and body, and not just the trainer’s idea of what a training regime should include for everyone. Also, the psuedo-summary seems practical advice for the non-trainer to help a non-injurious routine when not working with a professional.

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