“You’re going to yell at me aren’t you.” It is amazing how often I hear this statement when discussing outdoor training and what it is going to be like with a new or prospective client. Everyone has seen the trainer on TV yelling and commanding his/her troops to finish the last rep or else there will be consequences. However this is not my style, nor do I think it is a very effective way of motivating people to work hard. Granted, some people really like a trainer who yells at them and questions their fortitude or calls them “maggot.” However this masochistic bunch aside, the average person might be a little intimidated by starting up a workout program and the last thing they need is more intimidation from the person in whom they are placing their trust to change their body and their life.
I believe that the fear of vengeful trainers screaming their clients to gains stems from the alarming trend in fitness right now where exercise is likened to a war waged on your body. Between online posts along the lines of “I’m really gonna kill myself this workout #notdonetillyoupuke #resultsordie #DOMSforthewin” and the glorification of who can train the most extremely, we are forgetting that the central reason behind training should be to make your body stronger, healthier, and more resilient. This can’t happen if appropriate recovery is not taken, or if the training program is too intense. Don’t get me wrong, training shouldn’t be easy and comfortable. If you aren’t putting enough of a training stimulus on your body to feel slight discomfort than you aren’t stressing your body enough to change. This is where balancing your training intensity and volume with recovery becomes so crucial to seeing optimum results and avoiding injury.
Say I have a client who I yell at and push and motivate vigorously from the onset of the training program and through the duration of every workout. Do you think that the motivation provided from these loud, stress inducing techniques will stay the same through the program? The motivation will likely go down over time as the client gets desensitized to the constantly aggressive motivation scheme. This is a feature of our nervous system where a stimulus at a standard amplitude of intensity will have less of an effect on our motivation over time. It is demonstrated nicely in experiments that look at the motivation of music during exercise that show a greater motivation to work hard with a variety of tempos of music ranging from fast to slow, versus listening to fast tempo music exclusively. This is why I motivate and instruct calmly, focusing only on the most important form cues, and occasionally bust out my outside voice when I see that a client needs an extra push. This allows the more aggressive stimulus to have its full effect when the client needs it most.
Consider the ways you motivate yourself and others and understand how our bodies respond to varying degrees of stimulus and encouragement and you will find success in your own fitness and in helping others. Remember, especially in this Gymuary season, that slow gains are sustainable gains and the primary aims of your training should be to create a habit to last the whole year and to focus on building your body up, not breaking it down.
Keep active everybody!