I have a new client who started training with me just a few weeks ago. She's 65-newly retired from a government job where she worked for many years. The transition to retirement has been tough and she confessed that she's felt depressed. Her health has declined, and the first time we spoke over the phone, she shared with me that there are times she doesn't want to leave the house because she feels so ashamed of the weight she's gained.
We meet early in the morning, when it's still dark out and the gym is quiet. She tells me each week that it's a struggle to get there. We started slow, with lots of mobility and core work, but I've added in some more weight training and cardio each week as she's gotten stronger. She's progressing beautifully. She's started smiling more. This week she told me that I make it easier for her to come in and exercise.
Day made. Mission accomplished.
When I started working at my all-women's, group-exercise-focused little gym, I confess I didn't quite get it. I was a “lone wolf” exerciser-more likely to run or lift weights on my own than to shake things out with friends in a Zumba class. My idea of a good workout had more to do with the soreness I felt the next day than it did with the fun I had doing it. And I thought that's how my clients should feel, too.
I was wrong.
Turns out, not everyone loves to feel sore the day after a workout. Or to sweat profusely during a workout. Or to feel like their lungs are about to explode during a workout.
Turns out, a lot of people actually dread going to the gym.
Had I planned a high-intensity interval training workout for my 65-year-old client because it's the “most effective” way to lose weight, she may very well have walked out the door and never come back. “Effectiveness” for her, and many others, is about moving better. Feeling more energetic. Gaining confidence. Making it a little easier to climb the stairs or carry the groceries or walk the dog.
We all know the health benefits of exercise, and there is certainly no shortage of workout options. Home-based workout DVDs, bodybuilding, obstacle-court-themed races, bootcamps, yoga, water aerobics, 5-minute workouts, 2 -hour workouts. It's like the whole world is screaming “WORK OUT!” But so few people actually do it consistently.
To see more people actually stick to an exercise routine, I think we fitness professionals need to start looking differently at effectiveness. Do clients feel better when they leave than when they started? Do they feel listened to? Did they laugh while they worked out? Are we making it easier for them to exercise? Are they actually starting to ENJOY it?
If I can answer yes to any or all of those questions, then I've done my job well.
What a joy and a privilege it is to be part of these women's health and fitness journeys, and to be part of a gym that helps make working out fun and not drudgery. I'm thankful for it every day.
What about you? What, or who, makes it easier for you to exercise? I'd love to hear from you!