This is a question that came up on the StrengthCoach.com forum last week (well actually it was for sports performance coaches, but the issue is the same for personal trainers). There were some great answers from great coaches. Here was my response:
“Definitely, it is important to practice what you preach. How much and how intensely should relate to your goals – just like it does for our clients. I don’t train as hard or long as I used to when I had on-field performance goals. Now my goals relate to staying at a level of fitness such that I can hit the slopes after not going for a while and still enjoy the whole day without excessive soreness the next day.”
Since providing that response, though, I’ve given it some more thought, and have come to a slightly different conclusion. I now think that it is important that we workout the way our clients do at least some of the time, so that we can empathize with what they are experiencing. Our goals should still direct our training and if our goals differ from those of our clients; then our regular workouts should reflect that. But being better personal trainers should be one of our goals, and I believe that necessitates understanding what our clients go through when they train with us. And thus our workout routine should include experiencing what they experience. This does not mean doing the same weights as they do – our age, health and current strength and fitness level will dictate that. But we should try doing the workout with weights that will be comparably challenging to us.
That is what I did today. I did a 60 minute workout similar to what my clients would do. It’s been a while since I’ve done such a workout, and part way through I remembered how it feels. And can I just say: Holy crap!
Here’s the workout I did today. Total time was approximately 60 minutes.
- Foam roll thoracic spine
- Sidelying rotation with arm sweep (3x15s ea)
- Floor slides (10)
- Open half-kneeling hip and ankle stretch (10x2s ea)
- 3D hamstring rotation stretch (10 ea)
- 3-way band hip activation (10 ea)
- Single leg Romanian Deadlift with quad stretch (8ea)
- World’s greatest stretch (5ea)
- Foot activation series (something I’m experimenting with – video to follow this week)
(most of the warmup exercises can be found in my dynamic warmup playlist on my youtube channel here:
Power and Agility
2 rounds of:
- Low lateral hurdle hops with hold (4 ea)
- Low medial hurdle hops with hold (4 ea)
- Medicine ball chest pass (10 ea)
Circuit A. 3 sets of:
- Goblet squats to 12″ box (10 x 40 pounds – I am experimenting with bilateral squats after a long hiatus)
- Chinups (4 first set, 3 second set, 2.5 third set followed immediately by 8 TRX assisted pullups)
- Rollouts (10 each set – 1st set kneeling stability ball, 2nd set kneeling ab wheel, 3rd set standing stability ball)
Circuit B: 3 sets of:
- Deadlift (6 x 135 lbs 1st set, 5 x 155 lbs 2nd set, 6×155 lbs 3rd set)
- Bench press (4×90 lbs)
- Landmine rotations (10ea)
Airdyne bike intervals: 5 rounds of 30s hard, 30s easy (5 mins total)
This is a typical workout for my clients once they have been with me for a while, although usually there would be some single-leg and/or single-arm exercises in there. Aside from that, it is a fair sample. And I realized that one of my clients is absolutely right when she says:
It has been a while since I did a workout like that, and truthfully, I had forgotten how it feels.
I love, love, love chinups; but starting that 3rd set was hard!
Part way through the second circuit, I will admit that I started trying to negotiate with myself to drop the 3rd set of landmine twists. But then I put myself in the place of one of my clients, and, well, most of my clients know what the answer would have been. So I finished.
Maybe the most surprising part to me was how tiring the bike intervals were. Yowza! I actually almost skipped it, but then I remembered seeing one of my clients busting out some intervals on it last night. He looked like he was about to cry at one point, and he’s no slouch! So I did the conditioning. I should have taken a picture, because I’m pretty sure I had the same expression.
I will now say to all the other trainers and coaches I know: if you haven’t done one of your typical workouts in a while, it’s time. Of course age and health will factor into what you do, and how heavy you go – just like it does for your clients. But I urge you to schedule yourself in for at least periodic training sessions that resemble what you get your clients to do.
Now when my clients ask if they can cut their workout short, I can say “suck it up” with empathy!
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Elsbeth Vaino is a personal trainer in Ottawa.