The Know it All

“A know it all client needs a trainer that knows it all.”
C.S. Shimana

Not too many months ago I walked past a guy I will call “Carpet Guy Chris” (C.G.C.) We didn’t exchange any words, but based on the look he gave me I’m certain that he remembered me.

I originally met C.G.C in late 2012 while working as a commercial trainer and although I was already an experienced trainer I was new to the sales game. Like all new gym members, C.G.C was scheduled for a complimentary 1-on-1 personal training orientation and showed up early for his appointment. I had no appointments following him for more than an hour so I thought I would be able to take my time and improve my sales pitching.

C.G.C and I are nearly the same age with me being only two weeks older. I thought this would favor me as I presupposed he would relate better with me (aka a regular guy) than a 22 year old with 12 pack abs.

I’m not sure how I came to that conclusion, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

C.G.C sat there with his arms protectively crossed above his massive belly telling me about his weightlifting history. 15 years ago he joined the 400 lb bench press club and had been working in carpet installation for 20 years. Recently he laid 100 yards of carpet in a single day.

According to C.G.C there is NO trainer that he could relate to, much less had anything that they could possibly show him or teach him that he didn’t already know.

Putting that information upfront was actually a good thing. I could have easily reacted in an aggressive manner, but instead chose to listen. I believed at the time I had close, if not ZERO chance of influencing this person to sign up for personal training.

Still… If he KNEW there was no chance of him signing a personal training agreement, and that this was a 1-1 personal training session with the intent of selling said training what motivated him to show up in the first place?

I could at least gain some insight and education out of this situation. That way I wouldn’t have considered my time wasted and could hone my sales pitch on a client convinced there is no value in offered services.

C.G.C stated he started gaining weight after the birth of his daughter, (which was 5 years ago at the time.) He guessed he weighed around 285-300 lbs but didn’t know since he hadn’t weighed himself “in awhile.”

I was certain 300 lbs was a gross underestimation (unless he happened to be hollow.) To confirm my suspicion, and as a required part of the free session I asked if he would follow me across the gym to a scale so I could get a current reading.

While we are making the short trek to the gym scale I reminded myself of some of my new client rules.

“Never judge people.”

“Have a degree of sympathy for those in poor physical condition; we’ve all been in a bad place at one time or another.”

“Speaking truthfully is good, shaming is not.”

“Have thick skin.”

The scale reading was telling… 353.8lbs. I remember the number quite vividly. I’ve seen higher numbers, but I’ve yet to see that combination of shock, disbelief and anger all at once.

C.G.C was off by 53 lbs on the high side of his estimated weight. He actually stepped off, took off his shoes and re-weighed himself. I swear looked behind him to see if I was using my foot to push down on the scale to add false pounds. My amateur hour telepathy tells me that he believed the scale was calibrated high to fool the public into believing they are a lot heavier than they really weigh.

One thing for certain, taking off his shoes didn’t drop him to 285 lbs.

I didn’t bother getting a bio-impedance bodyfat reading since I was certain he would have exceeded the maximum reading. In hindsight it was for the best since I believe C.G.C would have figured the device was faulty and calibrated to “run high.”

I noticed that C.G.C was noticeably out of breath and starting to sweat after walking a total of 150 feet, and had difficulty getting in and out of chairs due to the squatting involved.

Based purely on those observations I can reasonably suspect C.G.C had no recent blood tests or medical check-ups.

Enter my not so savvy salesmanship….

C.G.C. “I Don’t need a trainer, I’ve been raising hell in gyms for 20 years, there’s nothing you guys could teach me…O.K…..maybe I might learn something” in a vocal tone that could only be described as condescending and childish.

Slip #1.
Me. “You’ve been a member of gyms for 20 years, and a trainer just taught you that you’re a lot heavier than you thought you were. So whatever you’ve been doing in the gym and the kitchen for 20 years isn’t working when it comes to weight loss.”

I didn’t bother mentioning were a few members on our personal training staff at the time….
A Senior men’s top 5 national bodybuilder.
A Female IFBB physique competitor.

The discipline and dedication an established bodybuilder/physique competitor puts into their diet is only matched by their training dedication.

Two former college athletes, one with a B.S. in Kinesiology and the other with a B.S. in Exercise Science.

A trainer that has helped several clients drop 70+lbs and was a 2 time franchise winning weight loss coach.

A trainer with over 20 years of tactical military fitness coaching and former national level competitive athlete.

I never bothered mentioning any of these trainers since none of them, especially me, could not teach him anything. Not that any of us didn’t have anything worthwhile to offer, he simply wouldn’t listen to any opinion or advice other than his own.

The world of fitness according to C.G.C
“Your job ain’t hard, look…it’s eat less, workout more.”

Slip #2…
” How much?”

Quizzical look from C.G.C

“How much less should you be eating? What is your actual caloric need presently? What are your dietary macros? What energy system and exercises are going to be the most effective in working towards your goal?”

“Honestly, your weight underestimation amounts to one-third of an adult female. I don’t think you know what “less” actually is. “

C.G.C “I’ve lost weight before, I’ll lose it again.”

”I believe you, but it’s obvious you only thought you lost the weight. It managed to find you again and brought some more fat to the party. The fact is you have ideas how to lose weight, but you don’t know crap about keeping it off.”

C.G.C “I laid 100 yards of carpet yesterday; I’d like to see you do that.”

Slip #3…
“That doesn’t sound hard, it’s just drop it and unroll it right.”

I’ll admit, I was a little pissed he dismissed my career so quickly along with his condescending manner and reacted poorly by flinging poo back at him.

In fairness to C.G.C, I’ve seen numerous trainers I too would categorize as “clown shoes” but also known plenty of dedicated trainers that get results. For him to judge an entire field by the actions of a few is narrow minded.

Truthfully I’m certain laying 100 yards of carpet it isn’t easy. But bio- mechanically speaking what is happening is a slow crawl and some pushing with ample amounts of pausing in between.

C.G.C has had 20 years to physically adapt to meet a given task. This would have required explanation of the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands.) The demands on his body are therefore far less than a similar sized person that has never done it before, or someone that hasn’t done it for very long.

SAID in a nutshell
If you pressed a 45 lb weight overhead for 3 sets of 8 repetitions with a 60 second breaks in-between the sets you would eventually get good at doing 45 lb overhead presses, and eventually cease seeing any results. You’ll be able to move the weight faster or with better form, but not make any gains unless you make a change to your pressing.

For a more scientific answer…

Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (SAID) principle

“When designing a program for enhancing sports performance, one of the most important acute variables Sport Performance Professionals must consider is exercise selection. All exercises chosen should follow the Principle of Specificity also known as the SAID Principle. The SAID Principle essentially means the body will adapt to the type of demands placed on it. For example, if an athlete continuously lifts heavy loads, the adaptation will be maximal strength. Conversely, if the athlete continuously lifts light loads with high repetitions, the outcome will be muscular endurance. This is a fairly simple concept to understand. In essence, you get what you train for.” (Thank you NSCA!)

The continued lifting of the same load would no longer produce levels of central nervous system activity, muscle growth, skeletal loading or conditioning that it did when it was still new. Progression is key.

Simple fixes
1. Increase the load (add weight)
2. Increase the volume (+reps/sets)
3. Increase the density (cut break time)
4. Alter the lifting tempo
5. Progress the exercise to a more sophisticated variation.

6. Change from seated to standing

7. Change from using both hands to one hand

8. Press a variable loaded object (like a 45lb sandbag) etc etc etc

I didn’t bother with trying to explain the three human body energy systems, or the fact that the main system being tapped during his carpet laying was likely his glycolytic system, which supplies the primary source of energy for activities for activities that that between (roughly) 15 seconds to two minutes and is not oxygen dependent, it is however carbohydrate dependent.

I didn’t bother explaining that the oxidative system (aka aerobic energy system) is the one that is oxygen dependent and that both fats and carbs are required for fuel.

His activity is being fueled largely by carbs, which I can all but guarantee his intake of is (1) Excessive (2) Nutrient poor (3) Calorically dense and (4) Processed beyond belief.

The bodybuilder trainers, either of our two nutritionist trainers or our exercise science trainers could have explained the same thing.

Fact: There are benefits in moving slow,fast and still. (Eccentric,Concentric and Isometric, or in Chris talk “Grind,Explode and Endure.”

Trying to recover from my previous slips…

“100 yards sounds tough though, let me ask you, can you climb up 100 yards of stairs without getting out of breath? Can you Farmers Walk half-body weight for 100 yards?”

C.G.C Didn’t have an answer for that question, but did re-mention his 15 year old 400 lb bench press PR and the fact that he knew I couldn’t bench 400.

He had me dead to rights; my bench never came close to 400 lbs. That’s a pretty easy statement to get behind when you’re looking at a person that only weighs 170’ish.

1. His epic lift was 15 years ago, that isn’t now. Quite frankly it may never have actually happened or it may be overestimation.

2. 400 lb bench presses are impressive and I certainly dig watching people lift monster weights, but strength is often considered more impressive relative to the lifters size and there are high school kids in America benching far higher numbers without 20 years experience of raising hell in gyms.

3. How does benching a huge number work towards getting you to your weight loss goal?

4. The bench press is an indicator of upper body strength. It is also a heavy-slow lift that can be assisted in numerous ways:

– Bench Press Shirts
– Spotters that turn your bench into their trapezius exercise
– Partial range lifts

Save for wrist straps, a farmers walk cannot really be assisted.

I would be interested to see how many push-ups he could complete in two-minutes.

5. The bench press is not considered an indicator of health. A person could smoke 2 packs of cigarettes per day, eat a diet of nothing but junk food and be a high functioning alcoholic and still bench press 400 lbs.

C.G.C was a client in total denial. He needed help and wouldn’t, or couldn’t admit it. His condescending attitude was a self-defense mechanism and he is clearly living in the past.

He is a heart attack or major joint injury waiting to happen. His ego and confrontational nature would eventually result in a gym mishap or in negative results.

I believed he would continue doing whatever exercises he’d been doing all along.

His attitude would drive a number of trainers away from him and the best suited trainer for the job would be an exceptionally thick skinned individual able to influence another’s outlook, attitude and lifestyle….and able to bench press 405 lbs.

When C.G.C and I saw each other I noted that he was on the recumbent bike pedaling slowly and drinking a huge Gatorade and was situated nowhere near the sightline of the bench press area.

He didn’t look any different than before. C.G.C can change when he is ready and willing to change.

I believe than anyone that has the mental toughness to lay underneath a 400 lb iron object with the intent of pressing it or completing a football field length of carpeting in a day can accomplish other difficult tasks….if they open and set their mind to it.

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