Updated: Apr 10, 2019
Most people who start a personal training program go through a predictable process. The person starting the program has rather vague goals that they want to achieve. They express to their trainer how they “need” to lose some weight, get stronger, and feel better about themselves. They have somewhat of an expectation of what they’ve just signed up for. They know that there will be challenging exercises they’ll be subjected to, as well as psychological challenges outside of the gym.
But there’s something else, perhaps the most important benefit, that a person will get from a quality personal training program: self-awareness.
Contrary to what most people might think, a personal trainer’s main goal is not to run people through a bunch of exercises with the intention of getting some sort of adaptation. A trainer’s initial goal is to help his or her client learn more about themselves. Like many meditation techniques, it begins with the body and physical sensations. There’s a reason the client is seeking professional help—they’ve neglected their body in some form for months or years. So the first step is to get the client acquainted with their own body.
Can this person move their spine through a variety of planes? Do they have the balance to stand on one leg? Can they spread their toes? Do they know how to activate their glutes? Are they taking full, deep breaths? Do they ever take their joints, like the shoulders and hips, through a full range of motion? How do they pick up objects off the ground?
Most people don’t think about these things. They go about their lives without being mindful of how they move throughout each day. Once the trainer shows the client how to bring attention to their body, this process has a rippling effect to the client’s daily patterns. They start becoming aware of how they sit at work or in their car. They notice whether or not they’re hinging at their hip when picking their child up off the floor. They take note of the little signs their bodies give them after a night of poor sleep or consecutive bouts of vigorous exercise.
This is the point where the magic happens. The beauty of truly helping someone become healthier, move more efficiently, and have a better quality of life lies in helping them become more self-aware. The more self-aware someone is, the more mindful they will be about giving their body the movement it desperately needs throughout each day. The more in tune with themselves, the more they’ll listen when the body warns them that they need sleep and not another hard workout. The more conscious, the less likely they’ll be to consume food that they know will hinder their progress.
A good trainer understands that the key to solving any problem is bringing attention to it. In a sense, a trainer is like an interventionist who helps others self-manage their problems by shifting their perspectives. Self-awareness is the key that unlocks the body’s potential and opens the door for sustainable results.