Sometimes, even smart, talented trainers and fitness pros can get a little out of shape. In this article we’ll discuss why, and how to reclaim your health and rebuild your best body.
If you’re a trainer or coach in the fitness industry, you already know what it takes to get and stay in shape. After all, that’s what you do for a living.
But there are a lot of trainers out there — us included — who’ve occasionally let their own workouts and nutrition slip.
In giving so much attention to their clients and their business, they’ve neglected themselves.
They realize they’re not living the “fitness lifestyle” others think they are. And the body they worked so hard to get? It still looks better than average. But it’s not quite where it used to be.
It happens more than you think. It’s completely normal for caring, talented trainers to get a little out of shape from time to time. Let’s talk about why.
Enter fitness professional Ron Dykstra.
My name is Ron Dykstra. I work in both television and the fitness industry.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with professional and amateur fighters, roller derby teams, and all kinds of regular people who just want to be fit and healthy.
I’ve always been most interested in strength training, and I’ve always wanted to be strong. Really strong. So much that I put nearly all my energy into being strong.
And being strong, to me, meant getting big. I figured extra weight would improve my leverage, and I ate lots of so-so foods to add that weight.
I got big all right. But not the right kind of big.
If you didn’t know me, you might not have guessed that I even trained. As a budding strength coach and trainer, this seemed intrinsically wrong.
Worse yet, even though I worked hard on solid strength training programs and over-ate daily – well past the comfort level – I wasn’t even getting particularly strong.
I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to see in the mirror.
As a trainer, this sucks. It would have been OK if I was crazy strong… but I wasn’t crazy strong, either. What gives?
“Experts” don’t usually tell you that the first time you “bulk up” will likely be the most effective, and trying to go back to this method again may well backfire.
It is, however, one of the most appealing “nutrition plans” available to young men around the world – lots of meat and potatoes, eggs and oatmeal, protein powder and ice cream – yeah! Inner fat kid, get down.
I knew I was getting bigger, because the scale weight kept rising. But the weight on the barbell… didn’t.
I was getting diminishing returns.
I gained 50 lb of body weight to add 50 lb to my bench press, giving me a 280 lb press at a body weight of 250 lb. How heavy would I have to be to bench 300 lbs? Would I have to gain 20 lb more?
The idea was daunting. I already felt bad enough. At 250 lb a flight of stairs winded me.
Running and jumping produced stabbing pain in my ankles. I often awoke with “pins and needles” sensations in my arms and fingers. What would that be like if I were even heavier?
I knew in my heart (and in my training log) that my squat, deadlift, and Olympic lifts were not substantially improved by years of bulking, either.
“And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends stolen forth from holy writ
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.”
—William Shakespeare, from Richard III, Act 1 Scene 3
I was like this quote, clothing my desire for comfort foods with information cobbled together from the internet and magazines. Clothing my bones with muscle, fat and bloat.
And if I needed any justification, all I had to do was quote someone bigger and stronger than me, who’d say things like “Just fuggin’ eat”.
This allowed me carte blanche to eat cookies, cake, and orange soda, which tasted awesome, but left me feeling a bit fraudulent as a fitness pro.
There was just one problem with this plan …
The assumed magic of bulking never happened for me.
I never bulked my way into impressive strength and muscularity, which I genuinely thought was going to happen. I had visions of getting up to a crazy body weight and then “hardening up” at that weight.
I don’t even know why I thought that was possible, because I’ve never seen it happen in reality.
Instead I got older. And fatter. My joints got battered.
And I got tired of assuring myself that cookies were fine within the “anabolic-window-post-workout”, and a guaranteed recipe for muscle growth.
I needed to change.
(Note: this was actually a PN Coaching lesson that helped me a lot – once I’d learned it!)
I’d known about Precision Nutrition for a long time. I’d seen the transformation Dr. John Berardi had done with powerlifter Dave Tate, formerly of Westside Barbell fame (and the source of much strength and bulking information).
I saw some pretty fantastic transformations on the PN site. My girlfriend, an amateur boxer and trainer herself, was interested in PN, and began to work with Coach Krista Scott-Dixon.
All roads seemed to lead to PN.
This was the outside help I needed.
Over the course of a year, Precision Nutrition Coaching prepared me not only physically but psychologically for body transformation.
That sounds kind of like they opened up my head with a can opener and took out the fat kid I once was. It’s not quite like that.
Instead they gave me a series of challenges that were only partly physical. And counted on my full cooperation daily, be it a food choice, exercise, or written assignment.
Then my coaches followed up with me to make sure it was sinking in, and to keep me accountable to my choices.
Some aspects of PN Coaching were natural for me. For a guy who likes exercise, being asked to do regular exercise was no problem.
But many lessons asked me to challenge myself in ways that were new to me. One day, I glibly answered the daily assignment question, but was left with a sinking feeling.
I knew I’d BSed myself. I had to go back and redo that assignment after wrestling with it for several days.
That was hard. But I was rewarded by understanding myself a little better.
In fact, many lessons made me mad at myself or at the PN team, but these were the same lessons that I learned the most from.
PN Coaching kept me accountable.
My coach emphasized making real lasting changes, and creating lifelong habits that increase health and longevity.
PN never talked about a “6 Week Fat Blast”, or whatever is littering the internet and selling copy on the newsstands. Changes happen gradually. You end up thinking new thoughts about food, fitness, and yourself.
The cool part: New behaviors follow new thoughts.
But it’s very hard to break out of our existing behavioral loops or think new thoughts without some compassionate guidance.
If you think and do the same thing again and again, you arrive at the same outcome – obvious, right?
It became painfully evident that I was doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome: Bulking up, then deflating a little bit, always winding up at roughly the same place.
It’s easy to pretend you know something. As health professionals we want our clients to trust our knowledge and experience.
It’s really hard to admit you don’t know everything. To ask for help.
But is it better to remain in the dark, proudly ignorant, and not change? And who among us can possibly know everything? We all benefit from sharing information.
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
–Sir Isaac Newton
PN Coaching is a profoundly compassionate approach.
Everyone needs help sometimes. That doesn’t make you weak or a fraud.
It makes you normal.
In our current Information Age, we have the sum of all human learning at our fingertips, available at any time of day. Yet most people can’t filter fitness information enough to achieve their ideal body.
Sure, we know potato chips are bad for us and spinach is good for us. But most of us don’t know how to apply that information to ourselves in a caring and reasonable way.
I certainly didn’t. My “way” was Bacchanalian over-indulgence followed by Puritanical self-recrimination, which made my brain feel grotty and my body look puffy.
With the guidance and support of my PN coach, I was able to make a change I once thought impossible.
And guess what: Strength followed. In June 2013, one week after my end-of-PN photo shoot, where I weighed in at 185 lb — 65 lb less than I had started out over a year before — I took home gold from the men’s Raw Masters CPF Powerlifting Nationals.
I was leaner. I was stronger. I was a new man. And a better trainer because of it all.
Let someone help you.
If you’re reading this and you work in the fitness industry, consider getting coaching from a source outside of you. The additional perspective alone is incredible.
Everyone can benefit from this kind of help and support, and people in the fitness business might even need it more than the “civilian” population.
Most trainers are working on someone else’s schedule. Getting up early to meet clients before work. Staying at the gym late to complete their own training. (Or maybe skipping their own training completely, because they’re so dang tired.) In between, walking the fine line of being caregivers to other people’s needs.
We prioritize other people’s training, and sometimes skimp on our own. We love to help people meet their goals, but don’t always meet our own goals along the way. We know there are people who could help us, but don’t want to look ignorant by asking for help.
Sound familiar? If so, that’s OK. You are not less of a trainer for it. Let someone help you.
There might be some tough lessons along the way, but I know my fitness tribe loves a challenge.
The reward is a healthy, mindful way of life, and an awesome way to practice what you preach.
For part 1 of this series, featuring Toni Bauer, click here.
Want some help?
If you’d like some help in reclaiming your health and building an awesome body, that’s what we’re here for. In fact, we’ll soon be taking new clients in Precision Nutrition Coaching.
You see, we accept new clients every 6 months, and the spots typically sell out in hours. However, those motivated enough to put themselves on the presale list get to register 24 hours before everyone else. Plus, they receive a big discount at registration.
So put your name on the list below — because, as always, spots are first come, first served, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.