I’m awkwardly squatting in front of my personal trainer while trying to lift weights for the first time in years. My involuntary shaking along with my sweat stains seem unavoidable. Also, I totally missed an armpit hair while shaving this morning. He definitely sees that hair. In such a vulnerable state, I realize how important it is to develop trust with your trainer. They’re working with you to improve areas of your life you may feel self-conscious about and you aren’t supposed to look poised while doing it.
Personal trainers quickly transgress boundaries often established between strangers. They are the watchful eyes when attempting a deadlift, semi-scold when you forget to eat breakfast before the session, and push you to do one more rep if they know you have it in you. They linger somewhere between friend, motivator, and dictator.
But the real magic lies in the moments of trust that begin to develop. It is essential to the process. The right trainer is privy to our most personal goals – to feel strong, to fit back into those old jeans, to love the way we look naked. We surrender our control to them when we try something new for the first time and aren’t very good at it.
And then there’s the banter as you wait for your heart rate to settle – moments between repetitions that get filled with talk. That too breeds a certain familiarity and trusted power. Soon enough, they will tell you it’s time for another round, but it’s a welcomed intermediary distraction.
No doubt there is talk of ‘determination,’ and the long (but exciting) road ahead to looking and feeling a certain way. Whatever is inside of you – lodged deep beneath the doubt – they pull that out and add 5 lbs to your deadlift. Every moment is intentional, which is certainly different from the slog that can come when exercising alone.
Your love handles, your thighs, your scrawny arms – fear not. When working with a personal trainer, embrace moving in strange ways without ease or comfort, and don’t worry about how you look. If you show the worst of yourself, they will bring out your best.