How to Teach People Who Don't Listen About Physical Living and Fitness: Reader Q+A

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boredThis question was posed in response to this article – Your Personal Trainer Behaves Like a Doctor.

QUESTION: John, how do you transfer that information (teach people about how to become true physical living enthusiasts rather than prescribe cookie-cutter programs – read the article above if you want a more clear description) when, 1. Your ‘job’ as a trainer is to ‘tell them what to do,’ and 2. Most people have little interest or care regarding the workings of their inner selves? Any thoughts on that?

ANSWER: Josh, I don’t know if I’ve found the perfect way to do this in a client/trainer relationship yet. I don’t know if it’s possible with the current model set in the fitness industry. It may require a completely new method of approach, which is what I’m exploring via these articles. There must be another way!

When I was a personal trainer in a popular local health club, I had clients paying me for sessions. Essentially, what would happen is they would pay me money to help them achieve their goals, and then many would tell me how they wanted to do it. They would say, “I want to lift weights like this,” or “use those machines over there.” So, they hired a professional and didn’t want to take his professional advice – dumb, I know, but it happens to many personal trainers all the time.

I quickly learned that I couldn’t truly help these people in the way a personal trainer is really meant to. Sure, I could offer a workout program that would help them achieve their goals, and teach them exercises, and check in with them for accountability, but I couldn’t transfer my joy for physical living to them – which is my ultimate secret and the most valuable knowledge I could ever offer someone about physical living.

In that position, the customer was looking for something specific – usually a vaguely “good workout program.” Sure, they want to achieve their goals, just like everyone wants a million dollars. The problem is that many don’t TRULY want to do what it takes to get there, and OWN their results. They just want the results without the effort, and they want to believe that what they are doing will work for them – even if a professional tells them it won’t.

It’s a much bigger problem than we initially realize because the entire fitness industry is sending mixed messages and signals…

lose 20 lbs in 10 days
take this pill and you’ll get skinny forever
cleanse your colon and your entire life will get better!

None of those are a stretch at all, and the problem is that people have been fooled into believing them. So, what needs to happen is an entire RE-EDUCATION. If the knowledge of how to live a lifestyle of vibrant health and abundant vitality does not continue to be taught, then people will never climb out of the hole we have dug as a society. Literally, the fate of our health is in the hands of physical educators – not doctors.

On one hand, as a fitness professional your job is to offer your clients what they’re paying you for – to help them achieve their specific goals. Whatever needs to be done to do this should be your main priority. At the same time, you job is to educate them about what is best for them, with the intention of making them less dependent on you. I think this is a good selling point for some people, because they want to feel empowered and know that they can take care of themselves without professional assistance long-term. Nobody wants to pay a personal trainer for the rest of their life, and in a perfect world nobody should have to.

If a client has no interest in truly bettering themself and taking responsibility for their own health and fitness long-term, then you probably can’t help them to become independent of you. That’s fine, it’s just the way it is. Perhaps they’ll open up more as they experience people who are truly happy and free. For now, they’ll just be a great customer. It’s not your job to change them – they need to do that themselves. You’re a guide, a coach – not a dictator.

Naturally, the only solution that seems to present itself is to seek those people whom are deeply concerned about their physical health. They are out there, even if few and far between. These are the people who will question convention, test theories on themselves, and play an ACTIVE role in the pursuit of better physical education for themselves, their families, and their communities. Some people are already doing this without even knowing it. What we really need are less trainers, and more activists. I talk about becoming an activist for physical living in this post: What the Fitness Industry Needs Most.

I think each personal trainer will find his own way to solve our dilemma, and I won’t pretend to know them all. I’m mostly using this blog and the personal relationships I develop locally to build a love in people for physical living. I’m the guy who usually suggests a trip up Mt. Washington, or a day at the lake, or some fun and games over the weekend. I show people through my lifestyle that active physical living is AWESOME!

Other professionals have alternative solutions as well:

  • Frank Forencich is applying the art of play and games to get people to fall in love with movement.
  • Mick Dodge is currently walking barefoot across Washington State, delivering the Antidote to the modern human dilemma.
  • Erwan Le Corre is deliberately challenging the status quo with his MovNat (Natural Movement) coaching system that will be coming to the States as early as next month (he just received his O-1 visa to teach MovNat for 3 years – congrats Erwan!).
  • The Circular Strength Training faculty, coaches, and instructors are also challenging the conventional model of fitness, while at the same time trying to bridge the gap between conventional and revolutionary. What they’ve come up with is one of the most comprehensive do-it-yourself fitness systems I’ve ever experienced.
  • There is a quickly growing Primal Lifestyle community.
  • CrossFit has their community.

Parkour and freerunner athletes, Martial artists, barefooters, Underground Strength trainees, outdoorsmen, and even bodybuilders all have a common theme of being intimately connected and passionate about physical living.

Progress is being made, albeit slowly. People are figuring out that the conventional model of health and fitness is severely lacking. One common theme that I’ve noticed is always present in those people who actively seek a change is a community aspect – even a tribal aspect. People want to BELONG to something they believe in, and part of my job is to help people feel like they belong to something bigger than us.

I see my role as being to: inform, educate, connect, inspire, empower, and lead you to a more fulfilling lifestyle through the active pursuit of naturally physical living.

So, those are my thoughts. Now, I want to know:

What do you think is the solution to our modern predicament? And what advice would you offer Josh about how to reach out more to his clients?

To your health and success,

Fitness Professional and Physical Living Activist

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for the response John!

  2. Hi John, I’ve been weight training ever since I was 18. I’m 32 now. I had a hernia surgery about a year and a half ago. I am beginning to increase my weight in the gym again. But before it gets out of hand again I’d like to ask you what age should a person stop lifting heavy weights at? Or should a person ever lift heavy weight to begin with? Although I love the pump and results, I would rather be healthy and not have to go through another surgery. But maybe the hernia wasn’t from working out at all, but rather an improper movement. Do you have any advice for me?

  3. Shane, I’ll write up a Q+A on this sometime this week.

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