I have found that over the years my training has been greatly influenced by the type of gym I have gone too, the culture within that gym and the people I have met there.
For better or worse, it’s meant that I have tried many different styles of training, learned about myself, the way people view training and the positives and negatives of different styles.
I can definitely say that it has shaped me as a trainer and allowed me to understand my clients better.
“Fitness is for everyone”
That is one of my strongest beliefs, however the environment needs to be correct. I have unfortunately seen people put off by the gym due to a mismatch in gym choice, poor choice of trainer or a misunderstanding of what training should be for a particular individual.
I think one of the major problems we see today is one particular style of training broadcast by “influencers” as the one and only way to train.
How many times do you hear:
- “I’m a bodybuilder”
- “I’m a powerlifter”
- “I’m a crossfitter”
The average gym goer does not have enough experience to allow themselves to specialise down one way of thinking and rather would benefit a lot more from exposure to various training styles and protocols.
Speaking from experience, I started lifting from a young age, before the times of social media, the only influence I had was the people in the gym, an old Arnold Schwartznegger book a friend had lent me and some now questionable training tips from my school coaches.
I used my University gym and for those first few years, I was doing basic bodybuilding.
8 reps for 3 sets, never once questioned the rep range or the fact that I did a chest, back, arm and a leg day.
This is how everyone trained in the gym and I was happy to accept that.
This is also the time I started getting injured on the rugby pitch, tearing my hamstrings a number of times and dislocating my shoulder twice.
Outside of a few visits at the physio, I basically went back to the gym, not addressing these points and went back training as normal only to get injured again.
It wasn’t until I left this gym and moved to a more sports focused gym that the first change in attitude towards training occurred. A friend of mine described the gym as:
“if you stand around too long, someone will probably pick you up and try to squat you”
Here bodybuilding was properly named as hypertrophy, and was used as a tool to improve sports performance when needed, instead of the focus of every training session.
There was also no posing in front of mirrors,but the biggest difference was in the attitude of the staff and members.
The community energy was much better, with people rather looking to help each other out, offering advice when asked for and overall positive attitude.
In this gym was the first time anyone had talked to me about form, about the small difference in movement and the impacts they can have on your body and how simply having a body that looked good, shouldn’t be enough. A body that performed as well was optimal.
The couple years I spent in this gym shaped me the most as a personal trainer, here my attitude shifted from low level personal training too coaching my clients.
Addressing shortcomings, and developing strengths, making sessions fun but not at the expense of intensity.
My next move was to commercial gym, this was my first experience of a large scale gym and a completely different attitude towards training.
The focus here was all aesthetic.
The biggest changes I saw in the way training sessions were put together and the type of advice given out to clients came from the type of team we had at the time.
The attitudes of individuals shifted the trail of thought drastically in the team.
Training focus was always aesthetic and what was deemed ok and not ok to say or ask of clients changed a lot.
I will definitely admit I was swayed at times to conform although I didn’t always truly believe in what I was doing.
My focused changed with clients, hypertrophy became the focus, I designed sessions that the clients wanted, instead of needed.
I dropped my own standards to conform with popular belief within the small environment that was that gym. My own training changed to fit in with the “gyms” expectations.
I have never enjoyed Bodybuilding style training and yet I found myself training this way more and more.
The short term effect was that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, my results dropped off and my motions was at an all time low.
When I first started training myself and others, I had an idea of the impact I wanted to have, and the long term effect my training style should have.
I was looking to help people, shape lives for the better, not just helping with physical change but when needed, mental attitude.
The idea was always to use the gym to show others what is achievable and what potential they have.
The different gyms I have worked in, have thought me alot, about the kind of trainer I thought I was, the kind of trainer I am, and the kind of trainer I still thrive to be.
Each new environment has taught me a lot about the industry and the potential it still has.
Most Importantly, it has shown me that exercise is for everyone, you might just not have found your environment.
The traditional ways of doing things are not always the best. Anything that gets you involved is the right way for you.
More importantly, the people you meet along the way will have the biggest impact on how you experience your training, so don’t be discouraged if you have had a bad experience once.
I’m glad to say, I now operate from a small studio space with a great team. Older and wiser now, I don’t get as easily influenced by others, I have returned to my old ways of training, sticking to my beliefs and ethics.
You are always a student in this trade, and I am back to studying, delivering sessions that clients need not want, training myself for long term health and performance and enjoying the industry once again.