What I learned from hiring a personal trainer

August 23, 2020

This week, I started working with a personal trainer (a fitness coach).

We started off the other day, discussing what I want: to gain muscle! We talked about what I eat, about me being vegan, about my lifestyle (which these days includes plenty of time sitting at my desk).

He asked me what my lifting routine had looked like before I started working with him. I told him that it was mostly compound lifts, with few sets and repetitions (“reps”) but heavy weights. When I said that, my coach had an interesting look on his face. He made sure he was polite, but I could tell he thought that wasn’t the right thing for me to have done at all:

“Can I tell you what I think about that?”

Sure, I said. He then explained that for my goal—known as hypertrophy, apparently—going with maximum weight at fewer reps is not efficient. Instead, he said, I want to isolate individual muscles or muscle groups, and work those with a high volume of reps.

The funny thing is, I knew this. That knowledge—that a higher volume at a somewhat lower weight is best for hypertrophy—was stored somewhere in my brain, based on my past research. But for some reason, I had settled on a compound lift routine. I showed up at the gym three days a week and I did the big lifts.

Why did I build an inefficient routine and why did I spend so much time on it, when I in fact knew that this wasn’t the right thing to do?

After some reflection, I realized that it was because I didn’t have the mental space to build a better routine. The routine that my newly-hired personal trainer built for me is a lot more complex. More efficient, but also more complex. And I simply did not have the mental bandwidth to evaluate my routine myself. (It’s not that I couldn’t have; it’s that I had already committed myself to too many other things.)

All it took was some outsourcing and now I’m set up with:

  • A more efficient routine
  • A very friendly and fun trainer
  • Nutrition advice
  • Personal help so I execute the lifts correctly and avoid injury
  • Lower cognitive load—I don’t have to think about lifting when I’m not at the gym

Now, is it expensive to work with this personal trainer? It’s certainly not cheap. But I am already finding it valuable after just two sessions.

So, is the same thing going on with your productivity habits? Do you know what the right thing to do is, but do you just not have the mental space to make the changes that you know will work? Then maybe it’s time to get personal support.

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