Understanding personal growth and success, from the eyes of a personal trainer.


This is a community post, untouched by our editors.

I’ve been a Personal Trainer for 10 years now and it’s taught me something about the Human psyche. I’ve learnt when someone is pretending to be ‘feeling nauseous’ and ‘light headed’, and when someone is actually finding it too hard. It’s a skill that develops over years of working closely with people in a strenuous situation. There’s a great book called Blink if you’re interested, in how the subconscious is able to pick up signals before you actually comprehend it consciously.

We all have our mountains to climb flickr / topper_harley

We all have our mountains to climb flickr / topper_harley

The other thing I’ve learnt is how people are much happier spending money on something rather than putting effort in and actually achieving something. Years ago I actually handed a lot of money back to a client because she wasn’t doing as I asked and wasn’t making headway. It wasn’t a refund; I was not willing to let her extend, because I knew that thrashing her around Clapham Common twice a week was not what she needed. I think she was punishing herself more than anything else.

Over the years I’ve had a plethora of clients from very old men and kids, to special forces soldiers and ultra marathon runners. People have asked me what kind of client I most like training and the answer is simple, the most devoted. I get a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction from training people that have decided that “they will succeed!” Every day I tell people that it’s more about ‘the top two inches’ than any other single factor.

I was on a flight a couple of days ago, and I had a women sitting next to me probably in her mid thirties. She seemed keen to enter into conversation with me and sure enough we started chatting about the banal things in life. She mentioned that she suffered with a condition and it was for that reason she only worked part time. She also told me that she spoke fluent French and German having grown up in Switzerland. Wow, trilingual, I’m very impressed, and have a split second fantasy of bringing kids up in Switzerland when the time comes. Anyway, I duly tell her what I do and she seems interested in the nutrition side of it.

I told her a surprising fact about her condition and its link to the digestive system, and the conversation continued on the same tracks as it has many times before with others. I try to keep it short and simple because I’ve glazed a few eyes over in the past! It turns out not everyone is as interested in nutrition as I am. It went a little like this:

“Did you know you can make a huge difference to your condition with a change in diet and lifestyle?”

“Really? I didn’t know that”

“Well, why would you? Have you ever done any research on your condition, ever read a book or looked on line for information?”

“No, my Doctor tells me that I can manage it with drugs but other than that it’s untreatable”

“What if I told you that you can take control of it through diet”

I was pretty knackered and wasn’t going to go down the route of talking to her about specific changes to her nutrition, as she had no understanding of the subject, and the

Hard work required! flickr / funkmania

Hard work required! flickr / funkmania

subject is quite vast. I did however tell her where she could find all the information she would need to start making the changes that would without a doubt make a positive difference.

I used a pen and paper (old school!) and wrote down some websites that would help. Mercola, WDDTY, The Gaps Diet and a few others. I told her where she could find loads of reports and studies about her condition and how it can be treated very effectively with the correct diet lifestyle.

I looked her right in the eyes and said “You can take control of this”

And then I saw it. The look that I have seen so many times before. The look that screams,” I don’t want to know!” She had given up before she’d even started.

I normally see this ‘look’ after someone throws money at me to achieve a goal and then hates what I tell them they have to do to achieve it. Sometimes they vanish completely, preferring to write off the money than to see me again because I represent their failure.

Why do we accept failure so readily? Why is it that someone would rather be naive and struggle with a condition than make some changes to diet and lifestyle that  could potentially make all the difference? I’m not just talking about this woman I’m talking about those inner desires we all harbour about changing our lives; the way we look, becoming fitter and healthier or whatever it may be. What are we scared of? What is making so many of us serial failures?

I called a friend of mine James King, a Sport’s Psychologist, and he told me that it’s all about our individual perception of things and the imagined pain or pleasure that may be derived from something. Initially, all decisions that we make are based on emotions rather than logic, and even that comes second to instinct — the Reptilian brain — he tells me. Logic comes last.

When someone imagines making the necessary changes required to make a difference to their health and fitness, the pain outweighs the pleasure and any action they take lacks conviction and will always fail. There is literally too much pain associated with the change. Pain is and always will be a more powerful motivator than pleasure. See this article by Vlad Dolezal if you want to know more about this.

Thinking positive flickr / wadem

Thinking positive flickr / wadem

People will succeed when the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of actually doing something . Once they have realised this, the decision comes very quickly and the action soon after. I had a phone call from someone yesterday who had clearly made this decision. He asked me if I could see him the same day, because he was keen to start as soon as possible. Did he not exist in December? Ahh, January, my favourite month!

James went on to say:

“The basic question is, what are you getting from not doing it? They might have to search deep within themselves and get emotional and there is always something in the way otherwise they’d do it. Often they’ll ask themselves; “what if I do it and no one loves me for it, or I find I still don’t love myself. Things aren’t sooo bad now so why don’t I just keep things as they are knowing that I have the power to change if I really have to”. Being OK is a dangerous place to be when it comes to goal achievement”. 

So, if you want to succeed with your new year’s resolutions it’s all about good ol’ positive thinking! You can do it, you just have to believe in yourself and go for it!