I think the problem with a lot of trainers these days is that they want to define success for the people they are working with. While we want to help them with goals, we want the goals to mean something more. The good ones, the trainers who truly understand their position of influence, know that it is not their job to simply assist with goal setting, but rather to help their clients discover their personal true measures of success. While most people come to trainers looking for weight loss, what they really desire is usually buried beneath the generic “lose 10lbs, be more tone, fit into my jeans” goals. While it is not our place to define what success for them looks like, it is our job to ensure that they are successful in their own eyes. You have to ask yourself- will losing 10lbs actually be a “success” for this person, or is there some more deeply rooted problem that must be faced first.
Success is subjective. It means something different to every person. It is not your right or privilege to define success for anyone but yourself. The worst thing you can do as a friend, supporter, motivator, etc is to not recognize success. Maybe someone walking on a treadmill at 1.6 miles per hours is not success in your eyes, but when every step they take is riddled with unimaginable pain, that 1.6 miles per hour is a victory. It is an accomplishment and a success to them.
Working with a clinical population has been a rewarding challenge for me. A challenge because they are simply not capable of the same level of exercise performance as people I’ve worked with before. I’ve had to adjust my mindset a lot and find new measures of success for these people. So I talk to them. I learn who they are and why they are here with me. And what I’ve discovered is that their measure of success is almost always rooted in overcoming a mental fear of being incapable. They thought they couldn’t, so now they “can’t” even though they technically can. My goal with them isn’t to push them until they can’t go anymore. My goal is for them to push themselves, because their true definition of success is actually being successful themselves without me.
Yesterday was rewarding. I increased the walking speed of one of our subjects by a tenth of a mile per hour. For him, it was a lot. We had 8 minutes to go, and I hoped he could make it. With six minutes to go, he bumped it up another tenth and laughed as he saw my shocked face. “I’m feeling good. This is for me,” he said. When he finished the session he high-fived our team and had the biggest smile I’ve seen in the 13 sessions we’ve had so far.
That, my friends, is success. And it was incredible to be a part of.