My Personal Trainer

My God, she is trying to kill me.

I was somewhere in the middle of racing between minute-long shuttle runs and weighted lunges, separated by just enough rest to start feeling nauseous before sprinting again. I felt cold. I really thought this was the end. Five rounds? Six? When would the hour end?

I would never make an athlete do this…

I’ve been designing, testing, and analyzing training programs for more than twenty years. I’ve made my living as a trainer for more than half that time. And although I spend a lot of time messing around with training, my own training often isn’t that great. In fact, this spring I was finding myself doing all the things I hate seeing my clients do: skipping workouts, shortening workouts, using too-light weights, eating after dinner, and generally dumbing-down every facet of my fitness. I was beginning to pay for it, too. My strength was waning, my weight was going up.

What the hell is she thinking?

I’ve designed my own workouts forever. I usually don’t have a hard time training; I like it and I like the  results. But this spring, the balance in my life tilted too far to one side. My wife, Ellen, and I welcomed a new baby in April, and things at our business are busier than ever. Even though there is a gym really close to my office, I wasn’t using it. On top of that, I wasn’t sleeping as well and energy to make good nutritional choices was strained. My first inclination was to let it slide, to get back in shape in the fall. But then I remembered an article written for personal trainers where the author asked four basic questions:

  • Do you think a good fitness professional is a valuable investment?
  • Do you think a good fitness professional can get someone to their goals faster than they can get there on their own?
  • Are you personally in the greatest physical condition of your life right now?
  • Are you ecstatic with your own strength levels and conditioning?

He followed these questions with this:

“I bet that 80-90% of those who answered will say – yes, yes, no, no.

So – extrapolating from that – what is YOUR trainer’s name? Why did you hire him or her? I bet most trainers don’t even have training partners – never mind a coach to help them with programming and getting to the next level.”

I needed help. I needed someone who would not listen to my whining, someone who would not listen to my analysis of how hard the work was.

This isn’t training. This is crazy.

I hired Jagoe Reid. Spending 45 minutes “working out” is not the same as training, and I knew it. I asked Jagoe for two things: accountability and intensity. I can work hard sometimes, but not all the time. As I get older and busier and (honestly) lazier, I need quality training more than ever.

Our first session was harder than I had expected, but I stayed upright. I remember thinking that she must be trying to prove something. I remember thinking that she was diabolically insane. I gave Jagoe her first job as a strength coach and this is the thanks I get? I thought back to the scene at the end of Star Wars with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader:

Darth Vader: I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.
Obi-Wan: Only a master of evil, Darth.

It wasn’t clear to me during the session whether this was going to be a good arrangement or not. In my mind, I started into all the rationalizations that usually crop up when the going gets tough. But, as tough times do, the session finally did come to an end. I was drenched with sweat, exhausted, and not looking forward to the long flight of stairs back up to my office. I was relieved and proud…just the way we should feel after a hard effort.

As the weeks passed, the training progressed and so did I. A month or more into it now, I am stronger, lighter, and feeling positive about things again. She makes me do all the things I should do. She looks for the weak links. She makes me explain why the scale isn’t budging.

I used to think I was the last person in the world that would need a coach. Now, I can’t see myself without one.