YOUR FREE PERSONAL TRAINER (Written March 2016): 

After I joined my gym I was inundated with requests from personal trainers asking me to avail myself of their expertise and use my one FREE Personal Training session.

I finally succumbed and today was the day.

The free personalised training session was part of my initial membership package: bag, towel, a water bottle, an entrance token and a free session with a Personal Trainer.

I’d never had a personal trainer before so I filled out the ‘PT Intake Form’ with meticulous detail. I tracked my sports history, injuries and fitness goals. I was pretty excited and wanted to get the most out of the experience.

It took me months to feel comfortable enough with the equipment, the facility, the attendees and my own body to finally decide to use the free session.

The Natural Method: A Personal Journey

In 2015, Damien learned that he was going to be a father for the first time! At that time, one thing that was obvious to him was that he needed to get back into shape. In doing this Damien rejected the orthodoxy that fitness = exercise, and that exercise had to be predictable, routine and BORING.

Damien’s journey not only transformed his fitness, but reconnected him to his ‘wild’ side and with what the human body has been capable of for many millennia.

These entries are transcribed from Damien’s journal and track his experience as he rediscovered his own body, developed his Rewilding training method and ultimately founded The Wilding Project.

I gave myself enough time to get to know the facility and to feel comfortable using it. I had used or ventured into almost every section of the gym but there were a bunch of machines I still could not figure out how to use! So I had a ton of questions lined up for the Trainer when we met. If nothing else, if my free session went to shite, I thought at least I’ll get some value from the Trainer’s knowledge of the facility.

My delay in using the session was not just a process of getting to know the equipment but to allow me time to become familiar with the clientele.

On the whole the club is populated by (mostly) friendly individuals. Everyone seems focused on themselves and their workouts, which I is cool, and most are willing to share machines and weights between sets.

I‘ve made a few friends. Which is nice!

But mostly I’ve studied the exercise routines and activities of others. I’ve noticed the kinds of machines they use, the activities they choose and the reps they perform.

I’ve been an exercise-stalker of sorts. One of those slightly annoying persons hovering in your peripherals sussing you out! Only you can’t quite tell if I’m looking at you or not, and so the surveillance dance continues.

But all this ‘stalking’ had a purpose. It helped me try new things and set up a fitness program for myself. So I now have an focus, of sorts, and a bunch of questions for the Trainer.

Next I wanted to feel, at a minimum, some physical confidence and competence.

When I started at the gym I felt sluggish, soft in the middle, a little lost and not very strong. I’m still most of those things now, but with a few months of training I at least I felt as though I would be able to go a few rounds with a Trainer without passing out, feeling stupid or throwing up.

Lastly, I watched the Trainers in action and from this I quickly learned that no two Trainers are alike!

Some are organised, knowledgeable, focused and prepared for their clients. Others clearly look like they’ve just finished their own Pre-Workout only to discover that their client has arrived -on time- and they need to hastily smash together a bunch of random exercises on the fly!

So before I threw my body into the sacrificial pyre of ‘Personal Trainer World’, I wanted to choose my Trainer carefully.

Which I did.

All the Personal Trainers at the club have photos and bios on a board and I carefully made my selection. So when I turned up, super enthused and ready to rock-it! This happened:

“Hey Daniel! Dave is not in today. He’s sick and asked me to cover for him. Let’s get started.”

If I was 4yrs old I might have dropped my gaze towards the floor and looked forlorn.

Perhaps I might also have shuffled imaginary stones with my toes on the floor and swiveled my hips slowly from left to right with my bottom lip hanging out. I might even have whispered a quiet but defiant, “No!”

But I’m 40 something and I didn’t say or do any of those things.

Instead I said, “Sure! And I’m Damien.”

A BIG MISTAKE!

Whenever you’re confronted with a choice it is often VERY GOOD advice to heed the voice of your inner child. It won’t always be right, but the failure to at least consider the message can be disastrous.

My ‘Dave’ replacement was a human sized walnut who looked like he’d mistakenly left his ‘TRAINER’ shirt in the dryer once too often and missed ‘Leg Week’ since birth! He HAD just finished his Pre-Workout and looked as wired as a 2-year old who’d stolen a MOTHER Energy Drink and sculled it!

He calling me “Daniel”. Not a great start and I had corrected him.

He kept called me “Daniel” and I just gave up. Actually, I think that subconsciously I was making an effort to actually BE Daniel. That way whatever bad shit was about to happen to me would NOT actually happen to me. Let Daniel deal with it!

There was no ‘seat-n-greet’ so I assumed my Trainer had received a handover from ‘Dave’. That he was across all of my ‘don’t dos’, ‘must avoids’, ‘watch out fors’ and history of injuries meticulously documented in my ‘PT Intake Form’.

NOPE.

Without a warm-up. Without a plan. With pupils dilated and biceps twitching from all the caffeine, creatine and tyrosine, packed into his Pre-Workout, my Trainer proceed to drill a hole to China with MY body!

For 30mins I was pummeled into the ground with exercises and activities that had no context for my life. They were not ‘add-ons’ to existing capacities, progressions I could emulate or anything I could, or would, attempt to use again in a sustainable way.

It was thirty minutes of a Personal Trainer’s stream of consciousness, a random run around the gym, a potted account of his exploits over the past weekend and a devastating initiation into the horrors of Personal Trainer World.

Me, I managed to do two of the three things I was hoping to avoid: I threw up and looked stupid!

At the end of it all. After I had spatula’d my body off the gym floor and dragged myself into the change room. After I had lurched my zombie body into the sauna to recover my self-worth in the dark. I cleaned up and headed for the door.

And there was Mr Trainer. Looking a little more normal. Slightly less inflated, less twitchy and extremely happy with himself.

“So that was great Daniel! You worked HARD! Awesome. We can do this again. Here are my rates. Here is my number. Let’s get this done!”

I looked at Mr Trainer and said one word. A word inspired by my inner child, “No”.

And with that said I left his business card hanging in his hand, turned and slowly walked out of the building.

It was raining softly as I walked home. Today I have decided that gyms and this potentially lethal world of Personal Trainers might not be the right place for me.

Other Relevant 'The Natural Method: A Personal Journey' Entries:

Damien Norris is the founder and senior whole-body movement and lifestyle coach at The Wilding Project (LINK), Perth Western Australia.

Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move well and live a full life!

Olympic Fun & Fitness and The Wilding Project like Rewilding is dedicated to a movement rich life. Programs like Gymnastics, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Parkour, Workplace Athletes, ActiveAgers and more all follow a simple philosophy, “Learn to move well and then never stop.”

Damien Norris