A fellow trainer (name withheld) asks me how I can be so nice to my clients all the time, even when it’s clear they aren’t even trying.
The answer’s simple: To them, they are trying. They don’t know how far they are from fulfilling their potential. In fact, their actual “potential” is as inconceivable to them as beating Deep Blue with a couple of pawns is to me (BTW, I’m horrible at chess).
There are two truisms for novice trainees I’d like to invoke here:
Truism #1: You’re probably not exercising as hard as you think you are.
Truism#2 (the more important one, IMHO): Not only are you not exercising as hard as you think you are, you’re not even working hard enough to produce meaningful results. So there.
But that’s ok, because the initial beginner period isn’t about working hard or “losing 26 1/2 pounds in 2 weeks” or whatever. It’s about obtaining technical proficiency in the exercises you’re doing, and about learning to care.
Daniel Coyle describes a young girl learning a new piece of music. He writes:
It sounds pretty bad. It’s not music; it’s a broken-up, fitful, slow-motion batch of notes riddled with stops and misses. Common sense would lead us to believe that Clarissa is failing. But in this case common sense would be dead wrong.
…experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them…end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.
What this implies for a novice trainee is:
1) Their ability to exercise safely with effort is a skill that needs to be practiced. Over and over and over again, if necessary (and it usually is).
2) Prepare for a long period of “suck” at the beginning.
Most normal people (”normal” meaning not unhealthly obsessed with the intermittent lifting of heavy things) don’t see the value in grinding out an arduous set of say, squats, for a “meager gain” of an extra pound or two (or five). Luckily, this is as trainable as the ability to actually grind out an arduous yet technically proficient set of squats. Whether it’s because you tie the exercise to your goals (”Press that weight up - it’s short-sleeves weather!”) or because you become a fitness savant, familiarity in this case breeds self-motivation. People naturally want to be effective (even if the outcome isn’t necessarily so).
But the rub is that long period of “suck.” Almost always accompanied by much whining, complaining, cajoling, and gnashing and wailing. Change - particularly important change - is hard. And so it’s nice to have a pleasant guide doling out the beatings.
So if you or someone you know is just starting out in their exercise and nutrition odyssey, be patient. Some people just have to wade through more “suck” than others.
(The irony - I’ve been deadlifting for years and am still wading through my deadlift “suck.”)