With 2018 rapidly approaching, this is the time of year people start to think about getting in shape and burning off the calories piled on over Christmas. The reason so many fail is that they don’t really understand what their goals are, which means the hard work and sacrifices don’t yield tangible results.
The term “tone up” is a major culprit in this scenario. This is the most common goal my clients come to me with. In fact, this mythical term is said to describe 90 per cent of people’s aims when they start working out. But what does it mean? I always challenge them to explain, and every answer is totally different.
This is because the term doesn’t really mean anything and is impossible to quantify, so people just go by how they feel. This is a terrible way to measure your workouts: when we look in the mirror, we always want to look better than we do, and when we feel crap, we project that onto our self image, so we believe that we look crap, too. We forget to take note of the achievements; the hours in the gym, the healthy eating, the improved sleep.
The most important part of a relationship with a personal trainer is the initial consultation. This is when you get to understand what the client wants, how they will be measuring their progress and what their motivations are for making these changes in the first place. Without this information, the client is set up to fail.
A lot of trainers will stick you on a treadmill, ask you what your goals are (almost always “tone up and lose weight”) and start training you based on what they think you need. My job is to dig, dig, dig. I ask questions to really understand what “tone up” means to someone, and often it’s far off what I thought when I first met them.
Telling a stranger personal information isn’t easy, of course. When someone says “I want to tone up”, it can really mean, “My dad has just passed away from cancer and it’s hit home that I need to look after myself”, or “I’ve just had a baby and I need to get myself in shape so I’m not that dad who can’t play with his son because he’s so unfit”, or “My wife’s been cheating on me and I want her to notice me”, or “I have a holiday coming up with friends and I don’t want to have the worst body there”, or “I suffer from depression and going to the gym helps to clear my head and lift my mood”.
None of these are easy things to talk about, but they give a trainer far more to work with than “I want to tone up”.
So ask yourself the question again: what does “tone up” mean to you? Think about goals that will specifically help these areas. If you want to tone your arms, for instance, really drill down into what you mean. Some people want to look better in their clothes, some want to be stronger, and others just want to get rid of excess fat.
Then ask yourself when you want to see these results. If you are unsure, think about what you expect to see after three months, or six months, or a year. This will help you plan your journey and keep you focused, allowing you to make changes along the way if you’re not hitting your targets.