“I don’t see you as a trainer...I see you as more of a manager.”
The words were meant to compliment my management abilities, but I did not receive them as a compliment. It had been my plan from the start of my career to launch my own LLC by 30 years old. To be told I wasn't seen as a trainer after all I had been through was devastating.
If he could not see the trainer in me first… then I had failed. I had failed to maintain my professional identity, while I took on the identities of a wife and new mother.
I had lost the ability for others to identify me immediately as a resource for health and fitness. Now it seemed, someone would have to look at my education and work experience for proof of my ability to help them reach their goals. They wouldn't be able to judge the book by its cover. I was still very capable of training, and very good at it. But I was not in “trainer shape” anymore.
I had held myself back while putting my family, friends, and clients first. I had allowed my fear of what others would say or think to stop me from moving forward. I realized this was a major disservice. What people really needed to see was me walking forward boldly and not worrying about what anyone else had to say. I had to give up other people’s ideas of how my body and my life should look.
There were many reasons for me to just keep “managing”...in my personal and professional life. Over the previous 9 years I had been through 2 failed marriages, with current one ending that same month. I had a nursing, 8 month old baby, who now came first in my life. I was managing and training at 2 different gyms. Everything pointed for me to stay happy where I was. But to just “manage” felt like failure.
To “train” until I looked on the outside, how I felt on the inside, would be victory for me.
I told a few of my close friends about how the words hit me. I even told the gym owner. No one really seemed to think that moving away from “trainer shape” was a bad thing. No one seemed to think it was necessary for me to look any different. Most everyone seemed very comfortable with me “looking like a regular person.” It helped them “relate to me better.”
With each statement like that I became more and more convinced I had to make a change. I was no longer satisfied with the maintenance levels of fitness I had settled into since college competition. My outside did not match the inside. My present state did not match my past, and it certainly didn't match the future I wanted for myself. I was finally done with what made everyone else comfortable. If we are honest, we judge a book by its cover everyday.
I expected some resistance from my friends and family. But I did not expect the quantity of comments and suggestions that poured in through the following months. It gave me the opportunity to experience what my clients had always told me happens to them. I had to focus and block out anything people had to say to me, that came from their fear of my change.
Here are some examples of the types of things I had to ignore.
- Comments from friends about my appearance. - “ You skinny b#tch.” , “I hate you”, “Don’t get carried away.” “Sex sells, so I guess I get what you are doing.” “You live at the gym.”
- Comments about what I was eating with a look of disapproval. - “ You drink alcohol?”, “You eat bread (or anything with gluten)”, “You eat beef (butter,cheese, milk, etc.), “You eat potatoes (bananas, corn, peas, or anything high in carbs)?” “You really should eat the organic version instead.” “Why don’t you try (insert fad diet here) so you can be done in just a few weeks?”
- Targeting by colleagues with any pyramid marketing product you could think of (fat burners,supplements, body wraps etc). - The message was and is always the same. “You could really help your clients with this.” “Why not get results faster?” “Why not capitalize on those sales you are losing to supplement companies.” “People don’t have time to workout and eat healthy, they should use this to fill in the gaps.” “All the most successful trainers sell these types of products.”
- Comments by anyone that didn't understand the benefits of strength training. “You better watch out that you don’t look like a man.” “Shouldn’t you just do more cardio or yoga/pilates?” “That is really stressful on your joints.”
People’s unsolicited advice and sales attempts continue to come through on a monthly basis. But as I have held to my own plans, I have watched the feedback change. Those months of transition (when others first noticed I was changing) were the hardest. Since I am no longer affected by another’s opinions, I speak with more authority. If someone does not agree with what I am doing, they can keep moving. They will surely find someone else who sees things the way they do.
I have taken the time limits away. With time limits gone, it gives me the opportunity to live. It gives me the opportunity to walk confidently in the direction of my dreams, without pressure or worry about what others may think. I never seem to do what everyone else thinks is best. But I have been doing what works for me and my life. It has been very freeing.
Now, I am identified (almost daily) as a “trainer”. It still catches me off guard.
People ask frequently (sometimes loudly) in public… “Are you a trainer?” I have had to grow comfortable with being stared at by strangers (without feeling like a zoo animal).
People from my past often see me, and just stand there in shock at the difference. I have started saying, “You’ve never met the ‘trainer Maile’ before.”
I have gotten my current management position (and new clients), heavily based off “looking the part”. I often have to draw peoples attention back to my qualifications and experience...as now some are nervous to train with me. I’ve learned to say, “I have been strength training since I was 14 years old. You shouldn't train like I train. We will start with the basics.”
I know I am not alone in the temptation, to “just manage” in terms of fitness. The last report made by the CDC stated that only 20% of Americans are getting adequate cardiovascular and strength training. Are you part of the 80% that is not training as you should be? I invite you to put yourself first. I understand that managing seems easier. But unless you are training, you will stay stuck where you are.
If you are stuck in a body you want to change, I invite you to -
- Drop the fear.
- Drop the time limits.
- Drop the expectations that others have of you.
- Drop the unhealthy habits taking up the time and energy you could be using to train.
- Drop making other people comfortable, and construct your daily life the way you want it to be.
I do warn you that others may resist your change. Your closest family and friends may be the worst. But in the end most of those close people, (that tried to keep you the same, based out of their own fears) will be shaken awake when the “new you” emerges. You will see the comments change to questions, on how they can start to do what you have been doing.
Since that statement was made to me (in January of 2013) the road has not been easy. I am not “finished” and I do not think I will ever be. Each season of life brings new challenges and I have prepared to meet those challenges. I will never just “manage” again.
I do struggle to reach a “balance” between my personal fitness and the rest of my life. I find I am more than willing to put other's needs first. I've found the term“balance” is often misleading. It is more of an ebb and flow, a give and take. But, I hold myself at the top of the list. I've found that when my training is on the top of the list, managing the rest of my life happens with less effort. When I am strong, I have more strength to tackle the hardships of life.
No one else’s view of you... should determine how you view yourself.
Relationships can fail and “life happens”. Your world can change in an instant.
Will you hold true to your identity and put yourself first? Or will you let other people and life events determine who you are?
Do not just manage… train!