By Lori Rede
It happened to me this morning. Somewhere between tree pose and downward dog. Distracted.
Okay, I confess. I lost my focus in yoga class as I saw in the reflection of the mirror a young personal trainer assisting someone with an exercise. “She represents a new generation of trainers,” I thought to myself.
It was then and there that the span of my career flashed before me. The topic of this essay unveiled itself to me smack in the middle of yoga class. This was my the moment of inspiration I had needed for the piece I didn’t think possible to write this year.
I believe there is a “mystique” and a few myths about the personal trainer. No, we are not proficient at all sports and all things physical. No, we are not always among the fittest in the room. No, we do not always eat “clean.” Yes, we are particularly hard on ourselves and our body image. Yes, if we want success, we do arise before dawn to work with clients. And, yes, we often have another job when we launch our careers.
In the last 25 years I have had the privilege of working with the human body as a personal trainer. Ah, yes, the great motivator, fascinated on the kinetics of how the body moves.
Five to six days a week clients arrive to my gym, sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m. They turn their bodies, sometimes their minds and often their hearts, over to me. I treat all of those elements with a great deal of respect, frequently humbled by their ability to let go and lend themselves over to me – even those who border on OCD.
My clients have ranged in age from 11 to 87 years in age and have come in all shapes and sizes. In my mind, all are athletes. They are willing to learn about how their bodies work and how to challenge that body so that they can be successful in the gym and enjoy a better quality of life. In other words, they share the common goal to be the best they can be. I awaken each day around 4:30 a.m. to prepare to reach and embrace that goal with them.
From business owners and construction workers to attorneys; nurses aides, doctors, professors to real estate brokers, all leave their jobs at the door to my gym. They arrive dressed down to sweat with the common goal of better health and a willingness to learn how to safely exercise their bodies. It’s far from the “one size fits all” approach in this profession. And I am particularly enamored with the fact that this is and always will be a people-oriented job, not a digital one.
Over this span of a quarter-century it has been a privilege to be intertwined in their lives in more ways than I had ever dreamed. I have seen babies born, children grow, some marry, others divorce. I have witnessed career changes, relationship changes, aging parents and death. I have trained a few through moves to assisted living and onto that big gym in the sky.
Especially fond are the memories of those in their 80s – always ready for the workout wearing athletic outfits and proudly displaying their charts, completing their assignments for the week. It is their spirit and their tenacity that will forever continue to inspire me.
Some I have seen through darker days of AIDS, multiple sclerosis,-cerebral palsy, Crones disease, fibromyalgia and some into the age of knee and hip replacements. You get the picture. We have all aged together.
Having trained some of these loyal clients for 20 years, I often comment that I know more about my client’s lives than I do my own family’s. I hold those many stories in the strictest of confidence, once again humbled by their trust and candidness.
My career in the this field began during the ’80s — the Jane Fonda days, donning a mitered-striped leotard, (Okay, another confession. It was sometimes a thong.) leg warmers and red, high-top Reeboks. I chose it because I loved to exercise, had a background in dance and it was a great part-time job while I raised three kids.
As a bodybuilder in the ‘90s, a distance bicyclist and marathon runner at the turn of the century, all these activities helped to build my career and to put myself into the shoes of the athlete.
As I grew to love working one-on-one with people, I advanced my studies toward personal training, keenly getting to know their bodies, their capabilities and the challenges it takes for them to reach their goals.
So, as I saw this reflection of the young trainer in the mirror today I had hopes that the new generation of trainers in this beloved profession enter it for the right reasons.
There must be a passion. There must be compassion. There must be a real understanding of what it takes to work with people of all types and in all conditions to help them feel successful, re-energized and empowered. On some days, in that one hour, that is a lot to ask of them. But it’s not impossible. It’s a beautiful thing to witness the transformation.
Then it’s my greatest desire that my clients then take it into their lives and into the world. The philosophy: when things get tough, power through it.
So even as I admit to distraction during my morning’s workout, I left inspired as well as rejuvenated.
Nice tradeoff for 60 minutes.
Other than exercise and dance (confesses to dancing alone in the kitchen), Lori Rede enjoys gardening in the neighborhood community garden and her volunteer work with children at The Dougy Center. She loves cooking and schmoozing in the neighborhood with her canine pal, Otto, and relishes the company of her family and her friends.
Editor’s note: Lucky me. I’ve been married to this remarkable woman for 39 years next month. We met on the student newspaper in college. So happy, so grateful to have raised three children with her and brought her into the Voices of August community.
Tomorrow: “Comfort zone” by Starr Flavin