Because I said so...
Almost every parent, at one time or another has used this phrase. "Do it, because I said so." It's a way to stop the questions, the discussions and often defiance of an adolescent. Here's a typical exchange between my mom and I growing up.
Mom: "Go and brush your teeth before you head to bed."
Mom: "Because brushing prevents cavities."
Mom: "Brushing removes plaque and toothpaste has decay preventing fluoride in it."
Me: "Why should I do it?"
Mom: "Because I said so! Now go!"
That may be acceptable when you're talking to a child, but it's never something you should take from a professional that you're paying for advice.
When I go on vacation, I try to schedule workouts at local health clubs. I get to see how other places are run and try out new equipment. Sometimes I'll even book a session with one of the trainers.
It was during one of those sessions when I asked about a series of movements the trainer wanted me to do. It didn't seem appropriate so I asked why it was part of the routine. The trainer looked at me and said, "It's there because that's the way the program was designed."
I pressed a little more and said, "I understand that's the way it was designed, but I want to know WHY I'm supposed to do it." That's when he said, "Because I said so." I laughed and said, "Very funny, now what's the real reason?" The trainer looked me straight in the eye and said, "That is the real reason, because I said so."
I thanked him for his time, paid for the session and cancelled the remaining ones. If you're in a similar situation, you should do the same. It turns out, the routine he put me through was one he had downloaded from a fitness magazine a month before. Every client got the same workout, regardless of need, goals or ability. Whenever someone asked why, he simply shut them down with a dismissive "Because I said so."
When you hire a personal trainer, part of their job is to explain things so you understand what you're supposed to focus on. Here's my list of the four questions you should ask, if your trainer isn't already telling you.
WHERE did my program come from? One of the most complex parts of training a client is designing a proper series of exercises. Goals and abilities must be carefully considered, along with how much time will pass between workouts. Don't settle for a routine ripped out of the latest muscle magazine or DVD course. Find someone who will design something customized for you.
HOW will my program progress? As your body grows stronger, your trainer should be moving you into more challenging exercises. Pull-ups are an example. You might start out using a thick band to help support your weight. As you grow stronger, that band will be replaced with thinner ones that each provides slightly less support. Then you'll move onto pull-ups with your body weight. As that becomes easier, you'll start wearing weights to continue being challenged. Your trainer should explain what those progressions would be.
WHY do I have to move at a specific speed, breathe at a particular time or keep my body at certain angles? Even small changes in technique can mean major differences. Breathe too shallow and you risk passing out. Angle your body the wrong way or move too fast and you may pull a muscle. Move too slowly and you may not be working your body intensely enough.
WHAT muscles am I working? If you're supposed to work your chest, but feel it in your shoulders, you probably have the form wrong. Make sure your trainer tells you the specific body parts you should be moving and where you'll feel it.
Take control of your workouts and learn the Where, How, Why and What. Don't ever settle for, "Because I said so."
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