Saturday, May 05, 2007

Pavel v. Alwyn: Who's Right?

I've been evaluating my own life over the last 18 months or so and had some ideas rolling around in my head. Not the least of which is how "lucky" we are as fitness professionals to even have this industry. One hundred years ago, who would have heard of such a thing? Of course, there were the exceptions, like Sandow, who was a consultant to kings across Europe, but really, a whole industry dedicated to losing fat and getting in shape? In light of what's going on in places like Sudan where people are starving to death, part of me feels deeply embarrassed and ashamed of my "opportunity."

With regards to fat loss it seems that we as Americans need "motivation." Being fat, winded, over-medicated, and chronically sweaty and uncomfortable doesn't seem to be enough. I was interested in Pavel's response on a forum thread when someone asked how to get motivated or what to do to get motivated. Pavel simply answered, "I don't know." At first, I was taken aback. then I thought, that's not his job and perhaps it's not mine--to motivate. We provide solutions to a problem: overweight/overfat people who need positive physical change. Identifying it and wanting to change should be enough motivation for the individual. Pavel is just simply not willing to be a cheerleader. I like that.

Alwyn, posted a thought-provoking blog yesterday on fat loss as project management.
The point he was making is that trainers should be hired for a job, say a 20lbs. fat loss for a flat fee. And however long it takes is however long it takes. The longer it takes the less money the trainer would end up making and vice versa. Alwyn compared it to building a house. On the surface, I agree. But since I just finished rennovating the top two floors of my house, I thought twice. The human being is infinitely more complex than a piece of wood, sheetrock, mud, screws, and countertops. Obviously.

One of the issues we run into with clients is they aren't always motivated. We have to console and conjole them to achieve their goals. We have to motivate them. Phil Kaplan, psychological trainer to the trainers, has figured out a way to do this. He says he has 100% results with his clients. Admittedly, I don't. Who's a better trainer? Pavel, Alwyn, Phil, or me? I don't know. I guess I'm lacking in the psychology department. Sheet rock, unlike a human, doesn't complain that it doesn't like the type of screw holding it in place or the type of mud covering its seams. This is why I like Pavel. "Deal with it," he'd say. I don't know Alwyn personally, so I don't know what he tells his clients. I know what I want to tell some of mine.

I can write a kick-butt fat loss diet and fat loss training plan that will strip the fat off very fast. How do I know? I've used them on self-motivated clients, including myself. But how do you motivate a woman who chronically sabotages her fat loss by eating sugary junk food because she's emotionally distraught or that's the way she deals with stress? All the straight talk in the world can't help that. That's a counseling issue and I don't want to be in that game.

Since I don't know Alwyn personally, perhaps it's not fair to compare and contrast his ideas to Pavel's. But since humans have something that wood and other inanimate objects do not--emotions--I think even the best project managers would fail with many clients and would end up working for peanuts. So, what are we left doing? We are either cheerleading or not cheerleading. Perhaps since cheerleading is such a vital part of what we as trainers do, it explains why Pavel no longer sees individuals on a one-on-one basis. Perhaps Alwyn too has figured it out and it explains why he has clients train in small group settings. Perhaps we as personal trainers expect too much from ourselves when working with clients on an individual basis. Maybe the small group setting is the secret weapon. Maybe he doesn't motivate people either. I understand that he charges a pretty hefty fee. Maybe that's motivation enough.


Blogger Mark Reifkind said...

Dude I am a professional training partner. Thats how I look at myself.The perfect training partner.I am always there, always ready to instruct and coach, count reps, push my 'partner' to the correct level of intensity FOR THAT DAY, just like a real great training partner would.
I am always focused on getting the best workout possible that day because whats really important to me is not just that workout, or the next five pound weightloss or five pound increase on the bar is that they KEEP SHOWING UP AND DOING THE BEST THEY CAN, so that over the long haul they progress as much as possible.

I truly believe training is a lifetime journey and there is no finish line.I'm just the guide so Mr Cogswell can do it his way and I will do mine.Providing motivation, leading by example and from the front, showing just what IS possible IS my job as I see it.

If I am training an athelte for serious competition but for everyday people,who really dont know what real training is need a lot more help and guidance.You just never know when someone is going to have a breakthrough as well and then take off.

AS Matt Wenning wrote about in this months PLUSA the best adaptation to training takes place over YEARS not days week or months.

Having been there, and still visiting regularly, I'm just the guy that knows the way.They can come or not, their choice.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Wow! I think Pavel's right on. I often say that the answer to the question, "What is it that motivates a person?" is worth a million dollars! I wish I had the answer.

Even with my proven success, that all of my friends have been witness to, hasn't been enough to motivate any one of them. Of course there may be a few acceptions of a few pounds here and there. But not one of my friends swings! Even after teaching them for free!

I just now read Mark's comment and I know that his philosophy as well as his expertise is what keeps his clients coming back.

11:19 PM  
Blogger karendenning said...

Hi Goeff! Great post. I do think there is a big difference between motivating and cheerleading. If you have a movitated individual, positive reinforcement (cheerleading) can really keep them on track and give them the social reinforcement to keep going. Let's face it, we ALL love to get positive comments from those around us. Even more powerful in a group setting.

Motivating someone to WANT to do what it takes to get results, however, is another story. Some people just want it bad enough to do what they have to and some just don't -- and never will.

Maybe the key is group settings with the opportunity for one-on-ones with select individuals that you evaluate? Create some cache around earning the chance to work with you indivudually. Sounds good on paper!

Just want to say thanks again for the great instruction at the RKC. I really perfected my hip snap and have been concentrating on keeping it up. Did a couple clean and front squats with the 53lb kb on Saturday. That powerful hip snap got the 53 to the rack with no problem!

7:07 AM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

Rif--I agree. Who cares about a 20lbs weight loss if it can't be maintained. More oftent than not, that's the outcome of many of the short term fat loss plans. So then we should measure success not on what comes off, but what stays off. Most of my clients realize the importance of exercise for a healthy lifestyle and have hired me because they understand this importance. Most, if not all, would not exercise if I they didn't pay me. Bottom line, it's in their best interest to visit me regularly and not only do they know and understand that, but they appreciate the service I provide for them. I too, then, am of the belief that training is a lifetime journey filled with ups and downs including strength gains and weight loss.

Tracy, you're right. Motivation cannot be external first--it must be internal. There must be a heartfelt need to change, do something different, be better. In my experience, it cannot be completely from the outside. Sure, the initial spark, or catalyst, can be external, but the desire must be fully internalized to sustain progress.

Karen--nice job with the hip snap and the 53! And you're right, some people will never want to change. We will just bang our heads against the wall and waste our time working with these individuals.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

That is an interesting concept about being charged for achieving a goal. I am on the fence with this topic because I have worked with clients that pay handsomely for the services, but lack the motivation to attend sessions and put forth maximum effort. In that regard, I believe that the root of the problem for the person being out of shape is deeper than a fitness coach can fix. I agree with Alwyn that we have to continually screen the clients that we allow into our programs. I believe that there are many good programs out there, but not many motivated individuals in many instances. While the industry does have many flaws the clients must first make a decision that they want to change their lives.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Mike T Nelson said...

Great info as always!

I keep going back and forth on this one and don't have much experience yet to say either way.

On one hand, I hate being paid by the hour and try to minimize that in the info I send clients as they sign up for a set fee per month that includes so many sessions, nutrition, etc. I feel they should pay for a result, since if I can get them that result sooner, the value of my service should be higher. I think it was Cosgrove that said "Which is more expensive, a bus ride to CA or a plane ride to CA? A plane ride since you get there sooner" So I am tossing around some ideas for that, and will keep you updated if I go ahead with it. The wildcard I keep coming back to is the client/athlete's motivation.

The flip side is that fitness is a life long habit and that won't be built in a few weeks. I think I read a study once that said it takes 5 YEARS of consistent exercise to be considered a life long exerciser. There is too much crap already on how to drop 30 lbs in 3 days.

Not to poke another stick in the hornets nest, but let's say for example that you are a therapist working on a shoulder and you saw the client for 3 sessions a week for 3 weeks and you charge 50 clams a session, but the shoulder was still not better at the end of the 3 weeks. Total cost was 9 X 50=$450. Now if Geoff comes in and sees the same patient and charges them 100 clams for a sessions and realizes it is actually an issue in the ankle, give some rehab Z drills and patient feels fine, does the rehab drills on their own, issue solved and never comes back. Geoff made $350 LESS, but yet had a solution. Shouldn't Geoff at least make the same, if not MORE? Again, this is all hypothetical, but just some food for thought. I think (don't quote me on it) I read in Brett Jone's interview with Gray Cook recently that Gray charges per issue for a similar reason. Thoughts?

Mike N

2:50 PM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

Mike--I fully understand Alwyn's point of view and Pavel's. My point is, bus/plane rides compared to training is comparing apples and oranges. I can give you all the best info in the world to lose fat, heal your shoulder, etc., but YOU still have to do some work on your own (eat 6 metabolically correct meals a day, perform Z, etc). Getting on a plane or a bus is a one shot deal--it's another if you have to fly the plane or drive the bus yourself based on somebody else's technical instructions...

5:04 PM  
Blogger Franz Snideman said...

This is tough one Geoff,

I agree with Pavel.......and I also agree with Alwyn. In my experience the trainer has alot to do with getting the client results, but...getting results is a partnership that the trainer and client embark on together. There is no doubt that certain trainers have personalities that gel well with most people and tend to have persuasive powers over people. The average trainer out there does not have those Powers.

Internal change is the long term solution.....and finding out how to help them make that internal change is challenging. The solution is finding the root cause..whether it be a mental, physical or spiritual problem in nature. If the trainer can't solve the problem, get others involved.... or at least something lke that!

7:49 PM  
Blogger Mark Reifkind said...

ok guys, who trains alone?Or better said, what athlete trains alone? when I was a gymnast I had teammates,and of course a coach, when I was a bodybuilder I had a training partner who I could count on 100% of the time.Same thing when I was a powerlifter but I had two to three training partners.

Paying someone to BE THERE and be ready to help you at whatever level you are at that day is not a negative thing.

there seems to be this attitude that the client should achieve the goal as fast as possible then shed you like snakes skin,proving, to the world, that they do not need you, need ANYBODY to train. when the truth is we all do.

of course one could and should be able to train alone. but damn a good training partner is worth their weight in gold and the energy that is produced when both people are working on the same plane is exponentially greater than doing it alone, imo and experience.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Mike T Nelson said...

Good discussion and very wise words from all.

I agree that a great training partner is worth their weight in gold and many times this is under appreciated.

I always used to lift alone for years and recently I am lifting with one guy now every MWF for the past 3 months. It has already made a HUGE difference. Having an objective person watch my form is great (esp when I still can't feel my neck pop up in a deadlift).

Great stuff and the discussion will go on for some time I am sure.

Keep up the great work.
Mike N

8:50 AM  

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