What I am dying to tell my clients about training…..that’s not about training

Over the past several months, I’ve had the pleasure of communicating and training several clients who went through stressful life changes and events. Often, training took a backseat and talking took a frontseat. I learned to listen better because of what they shared, and saw what they needed beyond just exercise prescriptions, better technique or sets and reps.

There’s much more to getting progress and results than just going to a gym, and doing exercises. But it’s often harder to talk about that “more”, because, well, I’m a trainer. My job is to train you. But it’s also my job to care about what matters to getting results. And what I share below matters very much.

A lovely little article titled “A Neuroscience researcher reveals 4 rituals that will make you happier”  by Eric Barker, popped into my newsfeed and articulated perfectly so many of the concepts I try to  share with them in an often clumsy, yet passionate manner.

It also reminded me why I ask a lot of questions about how we find ourselves fighting the same battles over and over. I often find, that the answer is something along the lines of; focusing on the wrong thing? Maybe, maybe not. You decide.

Our brains and our bodies are what we have to deal with and what we have to “know” with. And while we all “know” that action starts in the mind, how often do we ACT like we know that?

This post was written with a couple of my dear clients in mind.

Its what I want them to know. And maybe it will help you too.

Read the full article here.

Below is my TLDR (too long, did not read) main points and my comments. Don’t cheat yourself out of the article though, it’s well written.

In the words of Ayn Rand, your happiness is your business and your responsibility. Act like it. 

1.) “Believe it or not, guilt and shame activate the brain’s reward centre. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward centre.”
Why doesn’t anyone talk about this in relation to the discussions that “sugar is addictive, food is addictive, obese people never gorge on healthy food, etc” context? I see connections. You can be addicted to shame and guilt because they do offer short-term emotional ease. And those emotions, and the inability to deal with them, drive behaviour, and in fact do “reward” you for it in the short-term, as damaging as it is in the long term. In the moment, you only care about relieving something you perhaps have not identified, and not faced. You cannot change, what you are not aware of. 
The short-term reward overrides anything else, in the moment. People always ask why binge eaters or those who are obese or “addicted to food” don’t binge on “healthy things”. Could it be that it’s not the food itself, but their reason for doing it? How can you feel shame eating bowls of fruit, salad, veggies and protein? Just a thought. 
I also see this in people who purposely beat themselves up in attitude through shameful/guilty attitudes about their behaviours and their bodies. Yet they will continue to do the same things that produce the actions that make them feel that way, and refuse to name the feelings or don’t recognize it as such. They change the story. Shame and guilt are rewarding, for the moment. But they are a weapon turned against yourself.
 
2.) “If you’re feeling anxiety, doing something about it — even worrying — is better than doing nothing.”, but it’s still useless in the long-term. 
Yet, again here is a short-term emotional coping strategy that is very harmful in the long-term yet actually rewarding while in the instant. Hence the resistance we experience to giving it up. Worriers actually LIKE worrying.
I suggest starting to break the worry cycle by adopting my life rule #1: Do not worry about what you cannot control. There are very few things in this life that are truly beyond our control. Some examples are disease, natural disasters and the weather. But if you can control something, you can affect change. If you can’t change it with action, you can reframe it mentally (you can’t handle your coworker getting mad at you, but you can control how you react). Both are things you CAN do that are more productive than worrying. If you can’t act, you can always reframe.
If it’s a zombie apocolypse and you’re fucked, then you could always die with dignity….?
Hopefully you get the point either way. The thing is, these strategies won’t FEEL rewarding until we…..TADA! do them enough. This is conditioning. This is training. It is no different than the repetitions we must do in training physically. Repetition is the law of conditioning. 
Sneaky. We (our brains) are sneaky. 
It’s called conditioning. You are conditioned to be pseudo-happy/rewarded doing shitty things to yourself because they feel good in that instant. It’s fake happiness. The worst. You WILL have to work at getting out of that cycle, but then you will finally WANT to do things that make you better, rather than doing them only because you “should.” Wouldn’t you rather want what’s better for you, than feel forced to do it?
Which leads to the next great point.
3.) “If you go (to the gym) because you feel you have to or you should, well, it’s not really a voluntary decision.”
It’s almost impossible to help someone as well as you could, if they are forcing themselves into something, but won’t admit it. This is why play and pleasure are very important for exercise and training. Because they make you want to do MORE of it. They start the cycle of enjoyment, which in turn feeds motivation.
You see, people often hire a trainer to “make them do what they are supposed to do”. And that’s fine. They also come not really wanting to do it, but knowing they should. That’s fine too. People often don’t actually know what they want. They haven’t defined it. Or they use general “wants”. Healthy. Leaner. Tighter. Those kinds of words.
What they REALLY want isn’t actually a nicer bum, or a flatter stomach, though that is part of it. But a small part. They want more to feel good about themselves. They want to do something to prove to themselves that they can do better. That they are better. They want to “do what they should.” They want to do the right thing.
I’m not in the business of telling you what to want, but I will try to help you discover your real motivations. The one’s that will stick around, and let you get the other “shallow” ones at the same time too. I work out to look good as well, and that’s fine. But doing it only to look good, and go through the motions just leaves you more powerless and less interested in what really produces progress.
I’ll take care of helping you have fun as you work hard…if you will let me.
But you have to let me. And that starts with being ok with letting go of all sorts of internal biases, and expectations about what exercise should be.
 
4.) “Trying not to feel something doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.” – You can’t work from a “negative”. My friend and fellow coach Oliver Vandals drilled this into me. You CANNOT work from a negative. Telling yourself what not to do is a bad strategy. It stunts action. It stunts focus. You will  focus on what cannot be done, as you try to do what needs to be done. You cannot do what you need to do, if you are trying to remember what not to do. It’s inefficient and distracting. This is an important principle in cueing, as well. Stop telling yourself what you will not do. This sounds like most dieting strategies too doesn’t it? Could that be why dieting cycles don’t really work? 
 
5.) “Make a “good enough” decision.”
Perfectionists can be some of the hardest clients to work with. They want to “get it right”, or always add something that will make it “more and better, and best”. But good enough IS GOOD ENOUGH. You cannot get to perfect. You will continually feel out of control and like everything you did was “not enough”. This mindset is just as damaging as someone that does nothing to help themselves. What can you do? How can you do it well? These are the questions to focus on. Not how perfect you can make it.
Who knows perfect? No one.  
 
6.) “Interestingly, if they are forced to exercise, they don’t get the same benefits, because without choice, the exercise itself is a source of stress.” 
This basically describes how most people approach exercise without realizing it. “I have to, I must, I should, I should.” You get all the work, none of the fun, and few of the benefits. This doesn’t mean you can get away with doing nothing, but motivation and interest is built. It doesn’t appear. This is why having fun, building rapport, trust and engagement matter more in a trainer/client relationship than having a perfect program. Proper programming comes from continuing education and healthy dose of giving-a-fuck. 
 
7.) “Hug someone today. And do not accept little, quick hugs. No, no, no. Tell them your neuroscientist recommended long hugs.” 
Enough said. Why does almost anyone love massages? (hint: massage is second to hugs).  Touch is a powerful de-stressor and the lack of touch and affection a powerful stressor. Get hugged. Get massaged. Preferably both. At the same time? Hahahahahaha, I won’t judge! But seriously, do you need a hug? 

Lastly, here is a post I shared on FB today, along with the picture below. For anyone following my personal journey, is something I want you to hear, about me.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 6.48.57 PM

My wingspan beats your wingspan 😉

“I spent a long time training wrong for my body, hoping I could force it into submission.

The truth is I have long delicate limbs, fragile joints, and a small build. I took ages to build any kind of muscle tension. I failed miserably as a power lifter, Crossfitter and dedicated Kettlebell swinger. I thought if I could just “lift the weight!!” I could be as badass as I wanted to feel. It was an illusion.

(fyi, I still lift weights, that’s not the point, carry on…)

I could not force strength to be built. No matter how “right for me” I hoped it was.

What is right for you will be self-evident. What is not will be obvious as well, perhaps to everyone but you. Don’t waste time there by wishing and lying to yourself.

“Be yourself” everyone says. But before you can do that, you have to give up every expectation of “what I want to look like, what I want to feel, what validation I want to get”. As well as hopes and fears.

Hope is not a plan.

You can either feed on fear or let it feed on you.

You can spend as long as you want trying to force the process, but guaranteed, it will not be forced.

There is no prize for unnecessary pain and stupidity. There’s no prize for how hard you work if your work is the wrong kind. The work is the reward.

If you’re not being rewarded, you’re not doing the right work.”

 

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