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Personal training… Lessons for managers

Personal Trainer, with his back facing the camera, looking at a gym

I have been working out with a personal trainer for almost ten years. When I worked in the United States, I first came across the phenomenon and, as my prior US adventure had me gain 10kg, I was determined to prevent that from happening, so I got some help…

Nowadays, my weekly personal training session is one thing I cannot live without. Not just for my shape and overall condition, it is also a great way to get your mind of things, release stress, anger (l贸贸贸ve boxing), and to be honest, my poor trainers were often half shrink as well. Thanks guys, for sticking with me 馃槈

Today I was training with my current Italian trainer, who worked me very hard, and said, “Yes I know, I’m a son of a b*tch, sorry” . I responded: ” Well, I need you to be. So no apologies.” He told me about this client of his, whos former trainer was really nice. He drank coffee with him, asked him about his wellbeing, explained everything twice, didn’t give him a sweat… and no results.

That made me think about my job as a manager. And the comparison of that to a trainer. It actually has some nice similarities…

Brings you to the next level

A PT is someone you need, because if you workout on your own, you’re certain you’ll cut corners. Maybe not at first, but it is quite difficult to continue motivating yourself. A PT allows you to work hard, stay focussed, aim higher, do that extra push up, where you for yourself would probably not be that intense…

Just like a good manager should. You know your people cut corners. They always do. And if they don’t, they’ll probably stick to the stuff they know and like. As a manager, you can influence your people to try new things. Take risks, become better. Do things they never knew they had in them.

…But they don’t make you cry
They know when to stop. Which is a good quality. If a PT asks too much of his client, they either end up with a very sore person, or with someone that thinks they really cannot do it. The trick there is to observe. When my trainer sees I really have no more energy (or triceps…) left, he allows me to continue with less weight. Or do les reps.

A good manager should also have that quality. Know when you push people over their limits. See it coming, and allow them to keep their posture – don’t overdo it. Have them reach their goals, before creating new ones.

You work toward results

Admitting, some of my collection of trainers were better in this than others. Several did do an intake, and wrote down my goals. Most just took it day by day, and adjusted the training to my wellbeing. I think both approaches are okay. But you must keep in mind: What is this training for? Do I pay a trainer just because I feel guilty not going to the gym, or do I actually work towards losing pounds, getting a sixpack, or feel better overall? The best trainers understood that they needed to be strict to me to get my money’s worth, not the other way around.

As a manager, ofcourse it is the other way around. You pay your people. You don’t get hired by them to work towards their goal. But that doesn’t matter in case of goal-orientation: both you and your staff should be focussed of what it is you are there for. If the only reason is that you get paid, you’re not getting the most of it. You should consider quitting, because why the heck would you torture yourself in not doing something that makes you grow as a person, or work towards something you can be proud of?

Allow variety

The same routine, every day… Not only is that killing for your results (your body just gets used to it) , it is also killing for motivation. 聽My current Italian trainer gives me a track of exercises, different ones each day. That brings the element of surprise, which keeps it fun. I don’t fear the next exercise because I know I am not good at it, an I also don’t fear hard exercises, because I know once I’ve managed to survive, I won’t have to do it again. :)

Ofcourse, that is not always possible for managers if you have people that are hired to just.do.the.job. But you’d be surprised about the options you actually have, to break the habits. Have people work in different teams, rotate schedules, make a chore a competition, or just simply ask th茅m how they think their work could have more variety. It allows the mind to stay fit.

The reason to work(out)

Yeah yeah, I also tried explaining that I could very well cope without one, but the actual truth is: I go to the gym that hour, 聽because I have agreed this with my trainer. If I would agree to with myself, chances are that I’d go for a shorter period, start later, skip today, or whatever.

As a manager, I still notice that when I am abroad for business or on holidays, people tend to arrive later, leave earlier, perform less. So, just being there and agreeing on our arrangement, brings better performance.

An addition to ones own schedule

And this is a very important one. At the top of my training days, I worked out every day and had a boot camp for two full time weeks with a trainer. This was an intense time, and really more of a ‘quick start to change’ than something I would want daily for the rest of my life. You also need some rest eh, and to make it your own.

So, I had some feedback that I was a real bitch from some people at the office. Well, correct. I think I need to be sometimes, in order to work towards results and achieve all mentioned above. But yes, if I’d be there and doing that 谩ll the time. I know people would go crazy. So, boot camp style management (intense guidance, checking every exercise and correcting everything) should be used sparcely, and only for enabling change. Then, the coaching is definitely useful if you do that once or twice a week. Bring it up a notch. Help to raise the bar, to increase performance. But allow people to make it their own, and let it stay fun.

Thanks Mark, Karlijn, Roberto, Ralph, Ria, Esra, Richard and Caitlin, for keeping me fit, slim and motivated through the years. I will try to use your lessons well!

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