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When a Trainer Becomes a Friend

Sometimes I head to the gym on Monday nights and have a really tough, sweaty workout with Trainer 2.5. Sometimes I head to the gym on Monday nights and have what have come to be known as counseling sessions — just as much mental work as they are physical.

No matter what, it’s always exactly what I need.

Trainer 2.5 and I have been working out together for a long time. When he sees me walk in the gym, he can read me better than I can sometimes read myself. And he knows exactly what I need. He knows when I need to be pushed and when I need to take it easy. He’s seen me at some of my lowest, darkest points — and helped me work through them in a physical way. He’s also seen me at my strongest points. He’s seen me on love’s roller coaster — the valleys and the tippy top of the hills. And he was happier when I found my true love than many of my closest friends.

Honestly, some days T2.5 is even kinder to me than I am to myself. (He and Mr. B would make a very good team if they ever decided to team up against me for my own good.) Frankly, T2.5 is as much a counselor as a trainer. He’s a supporter, encourager, challenger, pusher. He’s a friend.

me and Trainer 2.5

Trainer 2.5 has seen me through a lot of things — emotionally and mentally as well as physically.

While no longer my official “trainer,” T2.5 is a friend I work out with once a week. A fantastic friend. He teaches me things in the gym I don’t know how to do. And he helps me push past my own mental and physical barriers.

Tonight I walked in the gym feeling defeated and exhausted. For many reasons I won’t go into tonight. He saw it right away. And he called me on it. We chatted for a bit, and then we got down to business.

I asked him to go easy on my legs because we may have our timed mile at bootcamp at 5:30 in the morning, and I’m going to need my legs. Needless to say, though, my arms and abs got quite the workout and are going to be quite sore in about 48 hours.

Other things to come out of this workout:

  • A terrible migraine, brought on somewhere in the middle of the bench presses
  • A middle-of-the-gym neck and temple massage from T2.5 in an effort to rid me of the migraine
  • An attempt by T2.5 to pop my shoulder back in after it started making a terrible cracking noise mid-overhead press
  • A serious heart-to-heart with T2.5 (he’s getting married in a month, so he understands some of the things I’m dealing with right now)
  • An assignment to get a deep-tissue massage. Soon.
  • A reading of my blog (at the gym) as a reminder of how far I’ve come, followed by a lecture about being nice to myself and not so hard on myself all the time
  • A reminder that I don’t have to can’t be perfect, so I need to stop trying
  • A realization that I am due for some major reflection. And yoga.

Mondays are always hard days for me. They’re the day I say good-bye to Mr. B for another full week. So, I’m often in dire need of a dose of reality and a hard workout to deal with my emotions — a much healthier way than I used to deal with them. So, Mondays and T2.5 are a pretty perfect fit. Much more than that, though, T2.5 has been such a blessing throughout the entire process of taking control of my life and taking care of myself. And I owe him much more than a blog post full of nice words.

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On Hiring a Trainer

We all know I’ve had some “experiences” in the personal training realm. If it wasn’t the “fitness test” guy treating me like a total idiot because I was overweight, it was my first trainer acting like a total punk and making me never want to step foot in the gym again. But when I found Trainer 2.0, it was like the perfect pairing. He was the right combination of all the things I needed:

  • He pushed me hard
  • He knew my true limits — not just the ones I said existed
  • He helped me learn those limits
  • He laughed with me
  • He cried with me — well, he let me cry and didn’t judge
  • He listened to me
  • He was positive and encouraging
  • He recognized what was important for me and my body
  • He taught me new things
  • He celebrated my weight loss and success and saw me through the plateaus
  • He had this amazing go-for-it, you-can-do-it, no-judgments-passed attitude
  • He became … well … a friend

Why I hired a trainer — I decided when I started this journey that I wanted to hire a personal trainer at some point. But I felt weird about it. Could overweight people even have a personal trainer? I know, it doesn’t make any sense, but this is what 271-pound me thought. So I waited. I started out just walking. And then walking faster. But then I recognized that I was going to have to pick things up. Cardio alone wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be. But those machines. Oh, those machines. First, what the heck were they? Second, how the heck do I even begin to use them? Third, what’s the difference between the machines and the free weights? It was clear to me that I couldn’t do it alone. So, I made myself a promise: Lose 50 pounds and you can have your personal trainer. By January 2010, I had lost the weight and signed the contract with my gym for personal training. There was no looking back. And I was scared but ready for what was coming at me.

What our were sessions like — I’m going to refrain from talking about my first trainer, as I only worked with him for a couple months (scarcely even because of the number of sessions he canceled). Basically, Trainer 2.0 and I met once a week, on Monday nights for 45 minutes. We did a full range of things, from the weight machines to free weights to jumping rope to plyometrics to stair running to boxing. You name it, we did it. They’re always excellent sessions, and every workout was better than the last. And, every six weeks, Trainer 2.0 wrote me a new strength program to do during the week when we weren’t working out together. He’d walk me through the program and make sure I knew what I was doing. Then, he’d patiently wait and watch until I asked all the questions I needed to and until I got it right.

What it cost me — Sessions for personal training cost $40 per session. Since I met with him once a week, it was $160 a month, paid on the 20th of each month automatically from my checking account. So, no excuses — I was paid up and couldn’t skip out. Though, not that I’d ever want to. I really looked forward to Monday nights with T2. It was fun. It was hard. It was sweaty. It was an excellent way to spend an evening.

How Trainer 2.0 make a difference in my journey — Trainer 2.0 has made all the difference in my journey. And I know full well that if I had been stuck with my first trainer, I’d be nowhere near the place I am right now. Trainer 2.0 may have taught me how to feel comfortable in the weight room. And he may have taught me how to do certain exercises. But, really, the biggest thing he taught me? To be confident in my own abilities and realize that I am stronger than I think. One of my bad habits is questioning my strength and thinking I can’t do something. Through him I learned to trust my body — it will tell me when something’s too much. So much of this journey is mind over matter.

In the last year, with Trainer 2.0’s help, I have found:

  • Strength — in body and mind
  • Confidence — of self
  • Faith — in my own abilities
  • Joy — in conquering new experiences
  • Patience — for real change (hard work always pays off)
  • Pride — in personal victories
  • Respect — for my body and the amazing things it can do

Oh yeah, and:

  • Muscles — in my everywhere (!)

So, was the money worth it? Yeah. Best investment I’ve ever made.

End note: Do I recommend it? Yes — if you can afford it and you can find the right trainer. Meet with potential trainers first. Ask them questions — remember, you’re hiring them, not the other way around. Share your story — and be honest about your abilities and your past. Don’t be scared to say what’s on your mind. Be upfront about your goals. If your trainer doesn’t know what you want, he/she can’t help you. Make sure you two click because you’re going to be experiencing a lot together. My personal training sessions were as much therapy as they were workouts. It was mental and physical. And Trainer 2.0’s personality was just as important to me as his experience and background.

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My Trainer is a Tool

No, not that kind of tool. The good kind. The helpful kind. In fact, I’ve got quite the little health/fitness toolbox I’m working on.

To be successful at anything, I strongly believe that you have to have the proper tools. They can be physical tools that you carry with you or mental tools that you carry within you. Regardless, they are the things that will get you through your journey.

On my health/fitness journey, I’ve got a number of physical tools:

  • Trainer 2.0 — He has been, perhaps, one of the best investments I’ve made. He’s a positive force in my training routine. He offers the right mix of positive encouragement and good ol’ fashioned pushing. He knows me enough to know when to push and when to back off just a smidge. When he saw I was on the verge of tears one day due to Amor No More, he altered what he had planned and put me on the heavy bag — punching its lights out.
  • Shoes — I never imagined that spending $100 on running shoes would ever be something I’d work into my budget. But I’ve learned that running shoes are an investment that I’m happy to make. I’ve tried several different brands, including Brooks, Mizuno, Nike, Adidas and Saucony. And, so far, the Saucony shoes are my faves. And I have a “running store” where I will always buy my shoes and running gear — they are so helpful and know just what my feet need in a good shoe.
  • Heart Rate Monitor — I love my heart rate monitor (HRM). The one I use is a Polar F6. It’s been a great addition to my toolbox and has really helped me evaluate my workouts and really get to understand my body and how it works. Plus, it’s much more accurate than the machines. For example, the other day, I was on the elliptical. At one point I glanced down at the machine and it said I’d burned 491 calories. My HRM, on the other hand, said I’d burned 322. Quite the difference, no?
  • GPS/iPhone — I love having MapMyRun on my iPhone. It’s nice to be able to accurately track how far I’ve run, especially since most of my outdoor runs are done on a path where I couldn’t drive my car to track distances. It easily tracks my distance and pace. I also can log my workouts on it and track my improvement (or lack thereof). Plus, I can run with my music and track my run on one device.
  • iPod Shuffle — I decided to get an iPod Shuffle when it got darker out in the mornings and I had to move some of my morning runs indoors. Really, I only used my iTunes on shuffle mode, anyway when running. And, there’s no need for a big, bulky iPhone attached to my upper arm when running on a treadmill. Besides, it’s so cute and tiny and green.
  • Fit Book — This is the best of the tracking books I’ve found. It’s small enough that I can carry it around the gym but big enough that I have room to write in it. One the left side page, you track your workouts. On the right, you track your food. I sporadically use the food pages, as I also track with MyFitnessPal. But it’s handy and convenient. There’s also lots of room for tracking goals and motivation, which is really important in my journey. And, honestly, I really love the tiny pen that comes with it.
  • Gym Membership — I think this goes without saying why this is beneficial, but in addition to my outdoor runs, I love the group spin classes and the flexibility that a gym membership gives me with my exercise. Lots of cardio equipment to choose from. Plus, the gym is where I fell in love with strength training.
  • A Pretty Water Bottle — Really, this just makes getting in all my water more fun. Plus, I like pretty things.
  • This Blog — “I Am Losing It” has been so much more than the outlet I planned it to be. It’s become about accountability, celebration, therapy, community, support, inspiration, success, sharing, growth, friendship, honesty, faith, strength and so many other things. I can truthfully say that without this blog I wouldn’t be where I am today in this journey.
  • Food Scale, Measuring Cups and the Like — Portion control is super key for me. And having a food scale has helped me immensely. I have the Weight Watchers scale (only because I had a coupon for it), but really any decent digital food scale would do the trick. And I actually have two sets of measuring cups because I couldn’t keep up with the dishes in the beginning. I can eyeball certain portions these days so don’t have such a hard time keeping the measuring cups clean. But every now and then it’s good to go back and just double check and make sure your “cup” hasn’t become a cup and a half.
  • Weight Watchers — In all honesty, this tool was much more important to me in the very beginning of my journey when I was needing support, encouragement and proof that I can do this. I’m stronger now. More sure of myself and of what I’m doing. These days I’m more focused on paying attention to what my body needs and how much (from food to exercise to rest) rather than making sure I follow the WW program to a “T.” Plus, there are some parts of the program I agree with and some that I don’t. But, it was key in the beginning. It gave me the initial push I needed to get to where I am today.

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‘Calm Down. Enjoy Your Life.’

This was said to me in response to my report to Trainer 2.0 about my disappointing two-pound gain this week. I know it’s true — truer words have never been spoken, in fact. This is one of my main reasons for success so far: I make this work for me, for my life. And I leave room for fun and treats and enjoyment. He also reminded me that I’m recovering from an injury and shouldn’t be so hard on myself. But it’s still annoying to see a gain on the scale when I’m “this close” to my goal.

He reminded me that if I turn this into a job and lose sight of the long-term goal (instead focusing only on a weekly weigh-in) that I won’t make it in the long-run — that I’ll fall back into my old habits. It’s true. I know these things. I try to practice these things. I tell others these things. Why is it so hard for me to believe them today?

And, finally, he also helped me remember that this should be fun. And we went on to have one of our funnest training sessions to date. So fun that I almost didn’t notice my muscles shaking and the butt kicking he was handing down. Almost.

I feel truly blessed to have found a trainer who really gets me and understands what motivates me and how I need to work.

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I’m Not Stupid

Dear Yelling Fitness Evaluator Guy at the Gym,

I appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to evaluate my fitness — or apparent lack thereof — so I can sign up with a personal trainer. It was great hearing your stories and having you see where my fitness level is so we know where to start my training. I appreciate your positive feedback with the exercises, and I also liked hearing that you also had lost a lot of weight.

However, please don’t make the assumption that just because I’m overweight I’m an idiot. In fact, I’m a pretty intelligent person with a master’s degree. I’m a fairly successful person for being only 28 years old. And, I work in an industry that keeps me well informed of the latest health research and dietary guidelines. So, just because I need to lose a significant amount of weight, it doesn’t not mean that I “eat McDonald’s for breakfast, Culver’s for lunch and Arby’s for dinner” as you so aptly pointed out during my evaluation. Yes, I know this is a bad thing. And I have never in my life eaten like that — even at my very heaviest. Please don’t lecture me on the importance of eating fruits and vegetable.

I also have lost 56 pounds on my own figuring how my body works and the kinds of foods it needs — and those it doesn’t. For the first time in my life, I’ve figured out a healthy routine of diet and exercise that is working (and working well) for me. The reason I’m going to a trainer is because I know I have to start strength training — and I know that I don’t know where to start. If I did, I would have dived right in. Instead, I choose to approach it the same way I do everything in my life: with research and by asking people who specialize in that area for some help (and paying for it).

So, you can take this request and do with it what you like. But, realize that all overweight people are not created the same. We’re not all ignorant about what goes into our bodies. And we’re not all going to lose weight the same or eat the same while doing it. I need you to help me find what works for me. And if you’re going to treat like I’m an idiot, all you’re really showing me is that you’re a person who has to try to look smart by making others look dumb. Thank you very much, but I’ll just go find an authentically intelligent person to help me with my personal training goals.

Thank you,

Me

P.S. When you asked me my goals for losing weight, I do not appreciate you insisting that one of my goals is to improve my self-confidence. How dare you assume that there’s anything wrong with my self-confidence just cuz I’m not thin and fit (yet). And, even more amazing is that you wrote that goal down in permanent marker, making it a permanent part of my training plan. Same goes for you telling me I need to improve my shoulders. I thought these were supposed to be my goals.

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Adventures in Strength Training

I met for the second time with Trainer early this a.m. Took some measurements, fat percentage, photos — all that fun, favorite stuff that slaps you in the face and says, “What have you done to yourself!?” But, having all the information lets you approach the battle fully armed (and dangerous).

We had already talked about some nutrition info during our first meeting. Trainer pointed out that I need to increase my protein intake. And I totally agree. I fully admit that this is my weak area. My fat intake is right on target, but it’s those blasted carbs that keep throwing me off just a bit. The last couple of days I’ve been a bit more aware of the food I’m making and ensuring I’m preparing (or eating) some good, healthy lean proteins with every meal and adding in some nuts or healthy oils to my snacks. It’ll take some time to make it a true part of my routine, but I’m getting there. Small steps make this journey much more doable.

I feel great about the head start Weight Watchers has given me. It has given me some great information and helped me change a lot of my views of food. WW has also given me an easy way to track my intake — and output, actually. It’s a great tool that has helped me shed 56-plus pounds and allowed me (encouraged me) to get my butt up and move. I’ve only missed a few days of cardio the past six months, and now it’s time to take the next step: strength training. Enter Trainer. We worked quickly on proper form for squats and lunges today (ouch) and talked about some of Trainer’s basics. Next Monday we’ll jump into the actual training sessions with our first one bright and early at 5:30 a.m. (I say “bright and early,” but here in the north it’s still awfully dark at that time.)

I’m very excited to see the new ways I can push myself and the ways my body will change while I do that. Admittedly, I’m a bit nervous because I’ve never done any “real” strength training before, and I have no idea what I’m doing (and I hate admitting I don’t know what I’m doing). But with the help of Trainer, I’m sure this Adventure in Strength Training will teach me things about myself that I don’t yet know.

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