My Relationship With Fitness
There’s a line in the movie ‘Pain & Gain’ where Tony Shalhoub’s Victor Kershaw character explains his hatred of working out by saying “You know what I don’t like about weights? They’re so heavy”. I remember that line because for a long time, I could totally relate to it. It might come as a surprise to some of you to learn that for many years I have hated going to the gym. Hated it. Why? Well there’s quite a few reasons... the loud annoying dance music, the naked peacocking, the judgement, the alpha males shouting and grunting at you, the show offs, the fact that 30 minutes of running barely burns off a Mars bar and the fact that I have no idea how most of the equipment works. Some (not all) of this has changed recently because I’ve started working with Mack Vaipulu, a personal trainer who has transformed the way that I work out and made me look forward to going to the gym.
I’ve come to realise that the real reason I hated going to the gym was that I was going for all the wrong reasons. I’ve been a gym regular for about the last eight years, usually three or four times a week. My motivation for going was that I felt like I had to go. I felt (and feel) a pressure to look good. We’re all a little self conscious and I wish I could say that I worked out for me and I wanted to look good for me and feel better about myself, but that would be a lie. I worked out to look good for other people. I’m a person that feels ashamed scrolling though my Instagram feed and seeing all the six packs and shredded physiques and while I’ve posted a topless selfie or two in my time, it’s always been in search of approval rather than to make anyone else feel bad.
I’ve made multiple attempts over the years to start my ‘fitness journey’ but that usually lasted for a few weeks before I reverted back to the same few exercises that I’ve been doing since 2014. I’ve worked with half a dozen personal trainers with varying degrees of success and it’s taken years of working with the good, the bad and the narcissistic before finally finding a PT that’s changed the game for me.
I’ve known Mack for years and I’ve been talking about training with him for a long time but as you can probably tell by now, my enthusiasm to start another “fitness journey” with another new personal trainer wasn’t exactly overwhelming. In all honesty, if it wasn’t for the 5kg that I put on after my dad passed away, I’d probably have stayed chugging away in the same repetitive cycle that I’d been doing for the previous eight years. While I wish the circumstances could have been different, I’ve very happy that I’ve started training with Mack because I feel like I’ve finally found a trainer that has made working out something that I look forward to.
In my experience, I’ve come to realise that being a personal trainer – a good personal trainer, that is – is extremely difficult. You need a willingness to work long hours, a multi-disciplinary knowledge of fitness and an ability to read your client so you know how to get the best out of them. It’s not as easy as buying a tracksuit and watching a few Youtube videos.
The thing I’ve noticed that sets Mack apart from the rest is that he’s genuinely invested in my progress. He cares. It’s rare to find someone, in any profession, who genuinely takes pride in their job and cares about the people they work with. The people who demonstrate these qualities are usually the ones that stand out from the crowd. Mack uses the mirrors a lot – and not to check out his reflection or take selfies – rather to check my form from every possible angle and correct it where necessary. My form tends to slip as I get tired so I do need the regular reminders.
The corrections and the reminders are also a very important element for me. I’ve known Mack for years and we’ve always gotten along very well, but when I’m training with him we’re there to work, not to socialise. I’ve had trainers in the past that I didn’t know outside of the gym who wanted to entertain me and become my best friend. This usually stems from a lack of faith in their own ability and a fear of losing clients. You are paying a personal trainer to help you get results, the same as you’d pay an accountant or solicitor. Your friend will come and have the chats with you for free. It’s also worth noting that the only time Mack has put me on a treadmill is for a five minute warm-up at the start of a leg session. I had a trainer that used to book two clients at the same regularly, either through greed or poor scheduling, meaning one of us would be put running on a treadmill for thirty minutes while he worked with the other person before we’d switch places. Since that, my rule of thumb has been that if it’s something I can do myself on my own time, I’m not paying someone to babysit me while I do it.
I’ve never really believed that any of the trainers I’ve worked with in the past actually cared or thought about me outside of the hour where I was with them in the gym. I know one in particular that lost all interest in working with me when he failed to convince me to train and compete as a bodybuilder. Once I made it clear that I only wanted to look good for modelling jobs, he started not showing up for appointments and it was extremely difficult to get him to fulfill all of the sessions for which I had pre-paid. Being a great personal trainer means being invested in your clients’ progress and the lifestyle changes that need to come with it through a mix of support, encouragement, and even a bit of nagging. I missed a few sessions last week due to work commitments, but I was still getting messages from Mack making sure I was sticking to my diet and getting on okay my own. And I know from speaking to his other clients that he devotes the same level of care and attention to everyone he works with, not just me.
This is probably starting to feel like a paid advertisement for Mack (his number is 0838346470 or email him on firstname.lastname@example.org), but I assure you it’s not. It’s more a thank you than anything else because, as I noted at the start of this article, for the first time in eight years I genuinely look forward to going to the gym. I’m working harder than ever before so there’s a little pain involved, but it’s the good kind of pain, the kind that means you’re making progress. And I feel like I’m doing it for me; not to get likes and follows, not to look okay in holiday photos, and not to walk down a catwalk in my undies. I’m going to the gym because it makes me feel good and that’s the way it should be.
The music is still crap though.