The thing people tend to forget about narcissism, is that it’s part self-absorption, and part insecurity. That drastically changes the lens through which we may watch people who relentlessly crave the spotlight. Or, at least, it should.
The 2010’s presented multiple platforms and sounding boards for people to use, to hide behind those same insecurities without confronting them – while often simultaneously displaying another version of themselves online. Identities started getting much more attached to the amount of “likes” a post received, or how many comments of affirmation followed a selfie.
To use a euphemism, this phenomenon has leaked its way into gym culture.
For a minute, I’m sure you thought this would be a diatribe telling people to get over themselves and put the “for the gram” life to bed in favor of actually getting something done in the gym. But the “you’re not important” mantra is tired, and probably won’t change people’s minds if they’re set in their ways. Plus it can be discouraging.
I’m going in a different direction here; one that should warm someone up to the positives of their fitness journey. The imposter syndrome we see rampant in mainstream fitness can have its fair share in giving many people a false impression of what the fitness industry is all about. We see this evident from the angry mean-mugging dispositions of lifters who somehow think this attitude is attached to their gains and rate of change, to legislation shaking their jowls at the prospect of keeping gyms open during COVID-19. Both examples demonstrate very different versions of a similarly skewed idea of what actual gym life is like. And to people who are on the outside and considering a step into the culture, it could be a dangerous deterrent. And that brings me to my point.
If you’re a beginner, you may be on the brink of signing up for a gym membership – or maybe you’ve been a gym member a while, but are considering hiring a coach for the first time. In each case, it’s a fairly large undertaking and something very “new” – which can be daunting at first. In a world so aggressively moving forward with its inclusivity, there seems to also be a heightened vulnerability, insecurity and testiness among people, rather than a sense of comfort and togetherness for those very reasons. People seem more easily triggered, offended, and ready to call each other out for less and less substantive causes. The end result can be a feeling of inadequacy for not fitting into a certain subculture of fitness zealots when belonging to the gym. There’s none of that togetherness.
“I’d like to start training with a coach, but I’d like to spend a month or so getting into shape first”.
This, and other quotes like it are things many trainers have probably heard a million times over. We all think it’s a silly method of procrastination amongst people who aren’t yet serious about their fitness journey, but between the lines I’d like to wager that there’s some real validity behind this thinking pattern. There’s gotta be a reason many clients say this, aside from having a closeted lazy syndrome.
Usually, it’s because they’re afraid of being judged.
What if my trainer gets frustrated by how out of shape I am? I may become the laughing stock of the gym staff.
What if all the mean-mugging, muscle bound members who are way stronger and more experienced than I am see me lifting paltry numbers on the gym floor?
As dysfunctional as I may have painted much of gym culture to be in the paragraphs above, I’ll share this truth: Nobody Cares.
The person on Instagram whose entire online existence revolves around naked selfies to chase clout, is only as good as his or her last upload. The short (and thirsty) attention span of the general public is fickly waiting for the next post – about as reliably as that content creator is looking for the next dopamine hit that comes from likes and comments. People have a short memory, and often have insecurities of their own to manage, protect, or disguise before being able to spend too much time on anyone else’s.
As trainers, we’re taught to avoid superlatives like “never” and “always” when making fitness-related claims. In this case, however, it’s pretty appropriate: A legit coach will never think less of one client compared to another, based on what their personal abilities are in the gym. Nor for their body composition or body type.
Any trainer who does, in my opinion, is not a legit coach.
The ONLY thing that can take away from a trainer’s positive impression of a client is their levels of seriousness or commitment to the goals they set out for. The strongest, most muscular, leanest, fittest, best looking client in the world who’s horribly inconsistent and insists on running the show rather than deferring to his trainer’s expertise and professional guidance is easily much, much worse than the complete ground – zero beginner who’s willing to put in a hundred and ten percent while fostering mutual respect. That’s something every person shouldn’t forget, regardless of what side of the exchange you fall on. An out of shape beginner will earn more “gym culture street cred” getting help to do things right and take gains seriously to see change, compared to doing nothing.
Every. Single. Time.
This concept also extends its reach to other areas, however. It’s great to be proud of your progress and gains once you’ve made some. But it’s certainly comparably admirable to be able to know when to turn that off and enjoy the rest of your day. An unhealthy attachment to lift numbers, physique, or progress, is, well… unhealthy. And hiding within the bastion of some kind of competitive season or sport doesn’t make it any healthier. It just makes that state of being a bit less of a choice than before.
Balance needs to be the name of the game, and again, it’s important to remember that for the most part, no one’s going to care about your body fat percentage, or your current PR’s.
All of this should be liberating. Not triggering.
The notion of being able to run your own race, so to speak, without the sidetrack of what other people think about your progress to determine its level of validity, is the best thing that could possibly happen to your pursuit of fitness.
You don’t have to start eating well before taking the plunge to start training.
You don’t have to work out more before committing to eating well.
You don’t need to “get fit” before hiring a coach.
No one is keeping track of what you weighed on June 9, 2022. Or how much you bench pressed. No one will remember that selfie you posted this week – no matter how little you put on to take it. Your coach won’t laugh at you for being skinny, fat, or weak. And those lifters with attitude are likely far too absorbed with themselves to even notice your existence. Fitness needs to be a personal game. If it truly is, the rest will take care of itself. I think it’s fair to say that literally everyone on the planet can benefit from pursuing fitness using this vantage point, rather than being preoccupied with others.
Like I said before, good trainers don’t care about your starting point. They care about your dedication and effort. As long as that’s consistently and reliably there, you’ll probably be one of their best clients. The genuine feeling of joy I can personally report after helping a client achieve their first clean chin-up, helping them understand the hinge pattern for the first time, or achieve their first full range squat after being plagued with years of chronic pain can easily rival the joy of coaching a high level athlete to a successful competition.
This is your game. Not someone else’s. Play to win.
If nobody else cares about your training, I sure hope you do.