My Teachers Are Sometimes My Clients!

Every now and again, I will have the privilege of training people that inadvertently teach me a lesson or two about my own training, about myself, really...
As a personal fitness trainer, I spend my days teaching. I teach my clients how to train with proper form, I teach them an assortment of exercises, I teach them different combinations to keep their workouts viable, and I teach them the fundamental principles of sound nutrition.

Sometimes, I feel like the proverbial broken record perfunctorily churning out information by rote. But every now and again, I will have the privilege of training people that inadvertently teach me a lesson or two about my own training, about myself, really.

When I Meet Bonnie

I was sitting at the gym waiting for Bonnie, one of my clients to arrive. At the time, I was training for a local bodybuilding contest so my training regimen was rapidly becoming increasingly demanding, mentally draining and physically exhausting. I considered my workouts a mundane chore, rather than another magnificent opportunity to build my physique. I spent that particular day complaining to anyone that would listen or even pretend to listen.

I lamented that after completing my morning cardio session and my afternoon weight training session, I had yet to train all of my clients and then run for thirty additional minutes on the treadmill. Indeed, just the mere thought of running on the treadmill or peddling a bike for thirty seconds, let alone thirty minutes, seemed impossible given my paltry mental attitude.

Certainly, my body could perform the task without any difficulty save for pitiful mental focus and drive. However, just when I was in the throes of self-pity and really enjoying every minute of it, Bonnie arrived at the gym for her training session.

About Bonnie

A little bit of background is in order here. Bonnie is one of my favorite clients. Actually, she is one of my favorite people. Today, Bonnie is 61 years old and suffers from relentless rheumatoid arthritis combined with unforgiving osteoporosis. Rheumatoid struck Bonnie in March 1979 when she was merely 37 years old and in the prime of her life. According to Bonnie, the disease did not waste any time striking "hard, fast and furious."

In the years that followed, Rheumatoid systematically hijacked her life. Within one year, her hands became twisted and mangled and after eight years, Bonnie needed a cane to help her walk. Eventually, she had to retire from a job that she loved, she could no longer dance, and never again wanted to wear clothing that displayed her once perfectly sculpted legs. The angry disease raged through her body, caused horrendous physical deformity and rendered her joints all but entirely useless.

When Bonnie arrived at the gym, I advised that I would be right with her and watched her proceed to the waiting area. When I finished all of my tasks, I walked over to where Bonnie stood staring through the large glass windows that separate the waiting area from the cardio room. She watched various members peddling bikes, walking on treadmills, stepping on Stairmasters and running on elliptical trainers.

My Viewpoint

When I approached her, I looked to see what commanded such great attention out on the workout floor. From my viewpoint, nothing appeared very intriguing or otherwise extraordinary. As I struggled to discern the spectacle that stole her gaze, Bonnie interrupted my thoughts; without taking her eyes off of the workout floor, she confided, "I wish that I could do that, just for five minutes."

Then, without even a glance, cane in the lead, she turned away and with terrific effort moved toward the separate little room in the back that we commandeered for her personal training sessions.

I was speechless. I stood motionless. Never in my entire existence had I felt so small. There I stood, perfectly able-bodied, with absolutely no physical impediments of any kind, and I had the unadulterated audacity to complain that I had to put my fully-functional, disease-free body on a piece of cardio equipment and grind out thirty more minutes of cardio at the end of my chaotic day. From that very moment forward, my workouts have never been quite the same.

When my mental intensity wanes and my body wilts under the strain of my workouts, I think about Bonnie and all of the other people that I know whom, despite mammoth physical barriers, manage to consistently walk through the gym doors and in every training session, conquer their own physical limitations without complaint.

It is these people to whom I owe special thanks for a renewed appreciation, indeed a renewed respect for my own body and impediment-free workout sessions. People that have the courage to stare down disease and proceed with impunity onto the workout floor are my teachers. Their lessons are astonishingly elementary but nevertheless taken for granted by most.

Privileges In Life

  • First, it is a privilege, not a right, to have a healthy and fully functioning body. There are no guarantees or warranties of any sort distributed at birth.
  • Second, it is a privilege, not a right, to get up every morning without relying on a cane or walker.
  • Third, it is a privilege, not a right, to go into a gym and run on the treadmill and know, without any doubt, that your body can physically meet the demand.
  • Fourth, it is a privilege, not a right, to lift weights without limitation or restriction.
  • Fifth, it is a privilege, not a right, to begin a quest toward physical fitness without having to first overcome your own body.
  • Finally, it is a privilege, not a right, to train without disease delaying or otherwise completely denying progress.

Real Life Heroes

Bonnie and all of similar circumstance are my real-life heroes. Unwittingly, these people give me a healthy shot of perspective. I have it easy. However, I cannot and do not apologize for my health. Indeed, my teachers would strenuously disapprove.

Rather, I pay tribute and give thanks each and every day by checking all pessimism, cynicism, self-pity and general negativity at the gym door and remind myself that indeed, I am one of the fortunate ones.