When I first moved to the San Diego area in 2006, a 3-year old and a 6-month old in tow, I would never have imagined that I’d be someday working with a personal trainer. A big part of that is just the stereotypes I have (wait, had!) about people who work with personal trainers: they’re superficial, they’re rich, they’re self-important and/or self-absorbed, and they probably already look fantastic and are insanely fit. Worse, it’s such a SoCal cliche to have a personal trainer. Having worked with Brian and Anthony for over a year and half now, though, I realize how wrong I was.
Why I hired a personal trainer
So, how did I end up ever calling a personal trainer in the first place? Pain. I’m a professor at SDSU, which is a job I absolutely love. But the job is sedentary, and in my zeal to keep my job (get tenure), I sat for hours upon hours in front of my computer, analyzing data and writing manuscripts. Or I sat for hours upon hours, driving from one research site to another, only to sit in meetings while my participants were filling out surveys. I could go on, but let’s just say that whatever time I didn’t spend chasing my kids around, I spent sitting. And we all know now that sitting is the new smoking.
I’m happy to say that I got tenure, which means I get to keep the job that I love. But between sitting all the time and carrying my cute, chubby babies on my left hip for several years, I was left with some chronic pain in my low back and hips. I worked with a bodywork/alignment/strength specialist for a while, and he taught me that my pain was likely due to misalignment and/or weakness in under-utilized muscles. When he moved to the Bay Area, I worked out on my own for a bit. But because I have poor kinesthetic awareness (i.e., I don’t really have a good sense of where I am in space), I used poor form and ended up with a mild hernia. After getting that surgically repaired, I sought out a personal trainer who would help keep me strong and balanced but would also keep me from having bad form and injuring myself again.
My biggest worries
I was still really nervous about working with a personal trainer at a gym, especially one filled with young, healthy, strong college students. I knew I wouldn’t do well with a drill sergeant style trainer. I also didn’t want a trainer who would harp on my lifestyle choices, pushing me to be “bikini-ready” by telling me that donuts are the devil. I was nervous about working out around the young and strong - would these kids wonder, “What’s up with the old lady in here?” when I was at the gym? Would my trainer think, “Man, I can’t believe she’s so weak!” while I was trying my best? And then, there was the lurking question of, “What happens if I run into one of my students at the gym?”
Well, I’m happy to say that, in looking back on my initial fears/worries, I was worried for no good reason. Brian and Anthony push me, to be sure, but I’ve learned to trust that they push when they know I can do more, and they pull back when they see that I’m at my limits. But there’s no drill sergeant yelling (unless I start it), and no shaming about the occasional donut. Instead, there is genuine concern for my health and wellbeing, and shared pride when I make progress. It doesn’t matter whether I can’t do as many (band-assisted) chin-ups as the next person. What matters is whether I’m able to do more now than I was 3 months ago.
Gaining confidence, Building friendships
Another huge benefit that I never imagined was that I’ve come to include Brian, Anthony, and many of their clients as friends of mine. Going to the gym now means that I get to see my friends. That is additional motivation to me when that part of my brain is screaming, “Don’t go! You’re tired! You have a lot to do. Just rest.” The social part of my brain says, “But you will let your friends down if you’re not there. They’re expecting you.” And then I suck it up and go to the gym, which is huge for me, because I’m just not one of those people who likes to exercise. Sure, I’m pleased that I did it when I’m done, but I’d almost always rather be reading a good book.
One unexpected benefit that I have to mention for any busy professionals out there: this is one hour of your day where you don’t have to make any decisions. As a professor and a parent, I make what feels like 1000 decisions each day. To have one hour where I am bossed around and can mindlessly follow direction is actually pretty blissful. My workouts are physically taxing but mentally refreshing.
Strong, Capable, Role Model
So the big question is whether going to the gym regularly has helped me - and the answer to that is a resounding yes. But it’s maybe not for the reasons I was expecting in the first place. Am I 100% pain-free? No, I’m not, but I’m learning what I need to do to get the pain to stop once it starts. Am I gallivanting around area beaches in a bikini? No, I’m not (you’re welcome), but I’ve gained unmistakable confidence in the strength and capability of my body. That confidence is important not just to me personally, but also to my kids. I want them to see that it’s well within reach to feel strong and healthy in your mid-40s, because, although I can’t imagine it, they’ll be in their mid-40s at some point too.
That additional confidence also addressed another concern of mine: what if I run into one of my students at the gym? Well, now I think: so what? If they think, “Ew, my professor was working out and was sweaty,” then isn’t that their problem? I’m at a gym, for goodness’ sake, and I get credit for showing up and doing the work, thank you very much. If they think, “Good for her, she’s taking care of herself,” then aren’t they actually quite correct? In that case, I’m being a good role model for them, too… life, health, and strength don’t die with your 20’s.
Being Apart of the Strong Made Simple Community
In closing, what does it mean to be part of the Strong Made Simple group? You’re in a community of people who are actively working toward being healthier, supported by two very knowledgeable, personable, caring, and fun trainers. I’m impressed by how supportive Brian and Anthony are - they are genuinely interested in helping their clients, whatever their level of fitness is, whatever their goals are, and however long they’re able to commit.