Do you pay someone money to help you with "fitness" in some way? Let me ask you a personal question: Does he or she suck? Oh it is quite likely, yes.
How is it possible that you—a smart guy or gal, sure—would pay someone $30 or $50 or $75 or even (I am vomiting at the thought of a higher figure) per hour to help "get you in shape," when, all the while, that person in fact sucked at the task of "getting you in shape"? It is because many of the world's shittiest trainers are also the most beloved by their poor misguided "clients," a word that means "a profitable cut of meat." There are two primary ways in which coaches and personal trainers suck.
1. Your coach is too easy. "Hi, I'm Coach Trent. Welcome. We'll be starting you off today with a full-body BMI test, as well as a water test to determine your body fat percentage. Then we'll sit down and fill out a worksheet about your fitness goals. Then I'll have you perform a series of rudimentary movements just to ensure that your spine is unlikely to spontaneously crumble into dust here in the workout area. After that, I will have you lie face down on a stability ball and perform negative curls with an absurdly light dumbbell in order to work the smallest amount of muscle possible on the human body. Then our hour will be up. By the way, I love your leotard! So awesome!"
Does this sound familiar, you bastards? Coach Trent is your friend. Coach Trent is a sympathetic ear. Coach Trent is your quasi-therapist, your support group, your cheerleader in chief, and your greatest fan. What Coach Trent is not is a good fucking trainer. Mine eyes have personally witnessed unfortunate souls who pay outrageous fees to work with a trainer multiple times per week for a period of months or even years, and at the end of that time, guess what? They are exactly the same as they started, but much poorer. Perhaps they have lost five pounds, or increased their 10-rep max on the lat pulldown machine. A WASTE OF TIME, A WASTE OF LIFE. An easy coach is little more than a paid friend. Friends have no place in the gym.
Let me break it to you: Your workout sucks. You work out on Cybex machines and ellipti-glides and by doing little bodyweight workouts like planks at insufficient intensities. Why, pray tell, do you pay a trainer to stand over you and tell you to do the various aspects of this shitty workout? Write it on a piece of paper and do it yourself! It's not even hard! I don't want to reveal too much, but this all ties in to the topic of a future valuable internet fitness column of knowledge, which will be called, "Train Yourself." What are you—a dancing monkey? Dance on your own time and save some cash! Coach Trent is not your friend.
Any trainer you look forward to spending time with because it feels good should probably be fired.
2. Your coach is too hard. "Ugga bugga. Wazza Woo. Watch out there, twinks, it's time for pain. I'm Coach Frank, and I'm here to scientifically push you to the very breaking point of your weak body, using a potent mix of things I learned in my Crossfit Level One Cert class and my own artistic interpretation of a Mountain Dew commercial. Let's start with 100 burpees."
Whoa, Coach Frank sounds intense, right? Coach Frank is telling you to do things you would never do on your own. Coach Frank sounds hardcore. Shouldn't I like that? Aren't I the idiot always saying things should be "hardcore?" Do I even do Tough Mudders, bro?
Excuse me, can I speak? Gee, thanks. (Your bad attitude is showing.) There's hardcore, and then there's stupid. You know what's hardcore? Shooting yourself in the leg just to show that you can take it. Now that is hardcore. That is also stupid. Likewise, designing and following a workout program that promotes progress in all aspects of athleticism using principles of progression and sufficient intensity and proper rest, recovery, and nutrition is hardcore. Just doing the hardest shit you can think of for every workout is stupid.
Motherfuckers love these "hard" coaches because, dang, they sure do give you a workout! God dang bro, Coach Frank made me throw up twice last week! He's worth every penny! Look here, people, you want a workout that makes you tired? Do 50 burpees then run 50 sprints BUT REAL FAST. GO. NO, FASTER. There. Now you are tired. That will be $75, please.
You know who can design a tough workout for you. A monkey. A monkey can wave its arms up and down, and however many times it waves its arms, you do that number of power cleans, and then do handstand pushups until the blood rushing to your head renders you unconscious. GO! What's that? You have a bum shoulder and a tender ankle and high blood pressure? No matter—this monkey trainer is hardcore. Just Do It! That will be $75, please.
What I am getting at here in a colloquial manner designed to appeal to the impressionable youth of America is that any motherfucking idiot can put together a workout so hard that it will drive you past the point of exhaustion and into the realm of pure pain. Hell, just do your normal workout, but twice as fast. That'll do it. This manner of training will also get you injured, demoralized, and, in all likelihood, will drive you back to the couch after your second nasty bout of rhabdomyolysis.
Throwing up is not conducive to muscular growth.
The mere fact that a trainer makes you do things that are hard does not make them a good trainer. A good trainer will take the time to analyze your personal needs and goals and limitations and dreams and, perhaps, sexual fantasies, and then design a workout program for you that is as hardcore as reasonably possible without slipping into the realm of "Stupid Shit That Idiots Who Are About to Get Injured Do to Prove Their Manhood." A real man takes care of his family, folks. And does Super Squats only in the context of reasonable progression. He doesn't just wade in there and show off for the ladies, folks. A real man is a smart man. And a smart man doesn't worship Coach Frank. A real coach is a good coach. A good coach is a smart coach. And a good, smart coach is a good man. And that's hard to find, ladies.
Both of these types of coaches fall into the larger, overarching category of "Coaches Who Don't Know What the Fuck They're Doing." There is a Cult of the Coach in personal fitness just as surely as there is one in sports. Where there are disposable incomes and consumer insecurities and lots and lots of minute specialization ("I used to do Pilates, but now I do Aqua Pilates"), there will be coaches, and they will be wearing stupid T-shirts reading "STAFF," and somehow they will be persuading otherwise sensible people to stand on a turquoise rubber ball. My heart bleeds for the thousands of Americans every day who empty their wallets for the pleasure of failing miserably at the 300 workout, just because they casually mentioned once to their trainer that they thought those Spartan helmets were "cool." Do not fall prey the Cult of the Coach, America. You can work out all by yourself.
But if you want me to stand next to you and tell you to do burpees, I will, for $200 an hour. Email me.
This is an occasional column about fitness, and how you're doing it wrong. Image by Jim Cooke.