A Trainer’s Frustration Made Into a Client Victory

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This week I had a real Peter Griffin moment. No, not “Bird is the word,” but “You wanna know what really grinds my gears.” Just like Peter always shares, I’ll tell you what really grinded my gears this week.

As a trainer, I invest my time, effort, and a genuine emotional support into my clients. It really bugged me when I asked one of my clients how her nutrition was and how her workouts were going this week outside of our sessions, and her reply was a shrug. It was a lackluster “Eh” kind of shrug, which translated to, “What workouts? Let’s not talk about fudge, I mean food.” Immediately, it got under my skin as I judged her lack of motivation, but I chose to mull it over for a few days before I addressed it with her.

The next morning I found myself snug in my warm, cozy bed when the alarm clock went off at 4:50 am to wake me up for a 5:30 am class. Snooze. It went off again at 4:52 am – oops, I totally forgot about setting two alarms. Snooze. And so goes my reps on the snooze button until one eye open I glance at the alarm clock to see the time 5:12 am. Then the thought hits me, you were peeved at your client for not being disciplined, and you’re about to do the same thing. At that point I drag myself out of bed, hustle up, get dressed, and get in the car in the garage.

Then the thoughts of skipping the workout return to my head as I watch the thermometer. The temperature drops lower and lower from the temperature in my garage to the true temperature – 23 degrees!

Did I really want to subject myself to 4 rounds of a 400 meter run in 23 degree weather, followed by 30 push-ups, and a one minute L-sit? Not just no, but HECK NO! However, I knew it would be my only opportunity to get a workout in the whole day.

Fast forward about 15 minutes as I run through the cold, huffing and puffing with tears streaming down my face from the cold hitting my eyes. “Just slow down, no one is paying attention to how fast you run,” I mentally tell myself. And I do, for about 10 seconds. Then the more motivated part of my conscience steps in and says, “You’re on round 4, so suck it up or you will regret giving up on your best effort.” And so, I picked up the pace and I did finish. It was tough, especially that early in the day, but I was glad it was done.

On the way home I reflected on my desire to phone it in on three separate occasions, and it was not even 6:45 am yet. The temptation to skip a workout and to give less than a 100% effort is something that everyone struggles with throughout the day – everyday, so who am I to judge my client? Then it dawned on me, I was her. Eight years ago, I was my client. I was 30 pounds overweight, with great effort when someone was watching, but justifying my poor food choices, skipping workouts, and giving a half you know what effort when I did workout alone. Just like her, I was at the beginning of my fitness journey and needed someone to provide extra help to keep me motivated until I had learned to motivate myself.  I knew I needed to create a plan to keep my client accountable.  Together, here is what we came up with:

  • I gave her a few pre written workouts to pull from when she can’t get to the gym. She now has workouts that take as little as 10 minutes or as long as 45 minutes. She can pull a body weight workout to do at home when she is snowed-in or a kettlebell workout when she’s at the gym. We took the “I don’t know what to do” excuse away and replaced it with a plan.
  • I gave her a journal to record her progress. She can now track how heavy of a kettlebell she uses for certain exercises, how fast her mile time is, and her times on previous workouts. When she identifies she is having a low energy day, she now has her own standard to meet. She knows what her 100% effort is and has to match or exceed it.
  • I had her begin journaling why she was eating. We are addressing nutrition one step at a time like cutting out soft drinks one week then addressing portion sizes another. For a daily awareness, I had her begin to write why she is eating. Is it because she is stressed? Is it because she is bored? Is she eating because she is hungry? I told her to not worry about what she ate and instead focus on the why. We can always get more specific in the future as she is ready for that step. Often times, this gradual approach to food feels less like a nutrition program, but still end up with the same weight losing results that clients stick with.
  • I connected her with other gym goers. She now has an accountability group that includes newbies like her and veterans of fitness she goes to classes with. Gone are the days of her answering only to me, but now she answers to them and overtime she’ll find more importantly she answers to herself.

So though the week began with a Peter Griffin moment, it ended with a new discovery of how that “Eh” shrug was actually a good thing. This week I am celebrating making that frustration into a victory.


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About Erin Gray

Erin Gray is Co-Owner and Manager of 865 Fitness. She is a CrossFit L-1 trainer, CrossFit Kids coach, and yoga instructor. She is certified in all nine MOSSA group fitness programs. When she isn't leading CrossFit classes you’ll find her running, or blogging. https://www.facebook.com/erinleighgray865 https://www.instagram.com/e3gray/