Know Thyself

Note: I’ve just finished a five-day training course as a pre-requisite for starting as a trainer at Fitness First. All that’s left is to take the exam on Monday (and re-take on Wednesday if I should fail), and boom.

This is yesterday’s reflection.

I don’t like group exercise.

I don’t like having to crowd into a room with people I don’t know while trying to follow shouted instructions that no one can perfectly follow.

I especially dislike classes with music, particularly loud, booming beats that add to the difficulty in listening to the instructor.

But most of all, I dislike group classes because I know from experience that they are at best of limited efficiency in developing high levels of physical capability.

Now this is obviously subjective. I know many people who are perfectly happy with group exercise and the results. Positive is positive, after all. Many are also there not for the exercise, but for the sense of community. They don’t need to watch their numbers improve week after week, or feel their physical capacity growing, so long as they have fun.

These are the points made by my classmates when I said I disliked teaching group classes.

The main difference I see, then, is what kind of trainer you want to be. Or more accurately, what kind of trainer you can be.

I am an introvert by nature. I dislike crowds, am tired by long interactions with people unless I get along with them very well, and am quite happy to be alone at home or in the gym on a Friday night. I don’t look for a sense of belonging from a community when I think about what kind of training or work I want.

When I look at fitness, I think of it as a personal journey of progression. I couldn’t care less how many people are with me, and I won’t be put off by doing the work alone. What I want is not a trainer who gives basic instruction and cursory corrections, but one who will stand over me and fix every little issue. I want a customized plan made by someone whose attention is, at least for that session, entirely on me. I want improvement, not new friends.

I’m not saying people who prefer to teach group classes are necessarily worse than those who prefer conducting personal training sessions. A sharp eye and excellent communication skills are important to both, and certainly either way there will be clients. An excellent point in favor of group classes is that it’s much easier to earn off them; unless you’re Dan John, you’d have to take on five or six clients a day to maintain a decent income stream.

I am, however, a personal trainer. I do my best work in intimate, controlled sessions with people who trust me enough to place their personal development in my hands, just as I did in the summer of 2010. I prefer seeing a single incredible transformation to multiple decent improvements mixed with disappointment. Maybe it’s because I have high expectations, and group classes simply prevent the level of control necessary to meet those. Maybe it’s because I don’t like being in big groups and just don’t get how people can prefer it.

Whatever the reason, it’s useful to know what you’re good at. It’s not a question of skill or even comfort, but one of efficiency and effectiveness. Yes, you can improve by working on your weak points – but if the challenge is contribution, then you meet it best by throwing yourself into situations where your strengths are in play.


30x 4-way Jumping Jacks


5 rounds

5x Pull-up

5x Divebomber Push-up

5x Jump Squat

5x Roll-up


15-1x Burpee

5x Pull-up per rung

Plank Series

30s each / 3s transition

2 total blocks / 2min rest between blocks


Side Plank


Side Plank

Notes: It’s been just over a year since I returned from France. There was a gym in town, but it had weird operating hours and was closed on weekends. Thus, I did a fair bit of training in my room or out and about – a nearby playground had some nice monkey bars. This particular workout was done on a cool Saturday morning when I was feeling twitchy but wanted an excuse to gorge on a kebab platter.



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