Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You Look Normal!

Do people ever say to you, "You look normal"?

Let me explain...

Ever since I first started actively working on this personal training thing, I've had my doubts. Not necessarily about my ability to learn and apply the information but in my looks.

Whether or not we want to believe it, the fitness industry and fitness world can be incredibly superficial. It can also be a place that fosters learning, support and encouragement. I was 19 and at least 40 pounds lighter than I am now when I first thought about becoming a personal trainer and even then I didn't think I was fit/pretty/fast enough to do it. So I didn't. I settled for my degree in Communication which has gotten me...um... well what it didn't (or at least hasn't yet) get me was satisfaction or a sense of purpose.

Years later I finally decided to jump into this new career despite my doubts because I did have a support system who encouraged me it was possible. Who encouraged me that I did have knowledge and that I was good enough to train, teach, support and inspire others. Most days I do alright believing them but other days I let my dear friend Facebook (or the internet in general) plant little seeds of doubt. For example, this morning I saw this post on the Personal Trainer Development Center's Facebook page.

The post made sense to me and spoke to me. It made me feel good! When I look for trainers and coaches (which I'm currently doing very actively) I want them to look "normal" right? And if I'm searching for someone "normal" then other people surely are looking for the same thing!

What did other trainers have to say about this post?

Oh...maybe not so much?

"Fit does not mean 18% body fat either for a trainer." Well ACE, here's my certificate back and while you're at it here's my pride, ego, self respect and any amount of confidence I had left.

Ouch right?

Precision Nutrition recently posted an article I absolutely love that so clearly explains the "cost of getting lean" in an easy to understand way. I highly recommend this read if you're interested in body fat percentages, what they mean, what they look like and how to achieve them.

I think our friend's comment was talking about men since percentages are different for women, but still, that's awfully specific. Does it not matter if a trainer himself still has work to do? Do we ignore that even though he's 18% body fat now, he was once over 50%? Do trainers already have to be their perfect selves before they can train others? If that's the case, how are there even trainers at all? Do all people fall into either "fat slob", "stick men" or "trainer"? Is there no value in book knowledge?

There are a lot of words floating around in my head right now and none of them have concrete definitions.

Fit. Normal. Fat.

Once I became certified and started telling people (those things did not happen simultaneously) I pretty much got and still get the same reaction every time. "Good! Great! I'd like a trainer like you because you look normal!"

I know people mean well and I know I shouldn't take that as a slightly backhanded compliments, but sometimes I do.

Normal. Normal. Normal.

What the F is normal? I consulted ACE Fit's Facebook page and decided to pose a little quiz to you.

Which photo is of a normal runner?



Trick question, duh. 

I'm pretty sure all of those people actually run and every single photo has at least one imperfection. Should I aspire to look like Number 1's chiseled physique but mega heel strike? I don't want to be old like Number 2 right? Although she's running another half marathon... At least the people in Number 3 have each other right? Even if they are wearing cotton. But Number 4 is surely the worst. I mean she's got a roll for goodness sake! Forget the relaxed face and upper body, appropriate clothing and that she's finishing a half marathon 3 weeks after a full. 

My point is one that people continuously make yet continuously contradict. There is no normal. There are no normal looking trainers or coaches. Just like there are no normal looking clients. 

Our friend who commented on the PTDC post had a point when he said "A trainer should be able to do the things he tells a client to do." I want to become TRX certified but I know in order to do that, I should probably be able to do TRX. If I can't show you the move correctly, how can I expect you to do it correctly? On the other hand, if you want to run a sub-2 half marathon, does the knowledge and expertise from a trained running coach who can run and has run not count if their best time is 2:01?

Appearances certainly matter in this world but let's try to remain mindful of actions as well. I can look at that picture above and absolutely tear my appearance to shreds. I can tell you every single flaw from top to bottom, front to back, left to right and internally. I can also tell you that regardless of how normal I look, what I do (training, racing, eating well) is quite abnormal in our society as it is. 

My goal is not to be a normal looking trainer or a ripped and polished one. 

My goal is simply to do. To train. And to help other people do the same.


  1. Wow. This is very powerful. I imagine the pressure you feel is huge. I have told you this before, and I'll tell you again: You inspire me. You've lost a large amount of weight and kept it off. You've struggled with food issues. You've overcome these things and to me, as a client, that means so much more than looking like washboard abs with extreme IG filter. To me, it has nothing to do with how you look. It's what you've been through.

    To me, I want a trainer that has an idea of what I'm dealing with and can help. We don't have to be on the same level (actually I'd hope we aren't...) but who doesn't just say "Well eat less"

    I used to have a zumba instructor, who by visual standards was overweight. She was in good shape, but chubby, I guess you could say. The first time I went to her class, as a fat person, I thought "Good! Someone who gets me!" But let me tell you, she was tough. She was in stellar shape and could kick everyone's butt. She'd lost 50lbs with zumba and had more she wanted to loose. She was a testament to her hard work and results she could get.

    I don't' know if any of this makes sense. You're right there is no 'normal' there's an image people have in their head of 'average' or 'athletic' that has nothing to do with skill or hard work or ability. What I'm saying is, I'm proud of you and I know you get results.

  2. I so get this. I always feel judged when i tell people i run because i know i dont fit the body of a runner.