Once again, a couple timely blog posts got me thinking. This blog post could have been entitled: A Tale of Two Gyms. If you are like me, your definition of “gym” may have changed over the years. From a class in elementary school where everybody did the same thing, got all sweaty and then continued on with their day; to an elective you may have tried to get out of in high school, also known as PE, to a required Physical Activity elective in college for which you could get independent study credit by signing up for a belly dancing class instead of what was offered. (Yes, I really did that.)
As a young mom, I joined local rec department dance classes, step classes, basketball pickup games, you name it. I called it “going to the gym.” What I really meant was, I am going to a place to do something fun with other people and get some exercise.
Then I joined the local health club and made an appointment to have somebody show me what to do at their gym. For awhile I would go, circle the parking lot looking for a space, go into the lavish locker room, and then spend an hour on a treadmill or going through my prescribed program on some machines, and then leave. Eventually, I became a health club donor-donating a portion of my monthly salary so they could stay in business for awhile, even though I stopped using my “membership.”
Then I got serious and joined another health club and started working with a “Personal Trainer.” It was a great idea, and the scheduled appointments made me accountable. I got stronger, learned some stuff and spent a ton of money to get fit and look and feel good. I followed the Personal Trainer from gym to gym, and what started out as a healthy choice that fit my life, my schedule and my goals over time became a very expensive habit I paid for. The gym I belonged to fit my schedule, my needs, and my temperament, but I stopped using the space because I was literally often the only person there. I liked it, but it got old. The “Personal Trainer” model can be a good short term option or a good option if you are independently wealthy, or an elite athlete. People who hire personal trainers should have awesome garage gyms and have the trainer come to their house. That is not for me.
So we have gyms for school, basketball pickup games; we have health clubs with fancy equipment and spa like locker rooms, we have treadmill factories (I have never been to one of those places so I cannot judge), and then there are massive spaces open 24 hours, filled with equipment, free weights and cardio machines that hardly anybody ever goes to. They all require “Membership” unless you want to pay a ridiculous drop in fee. But what are you getting for your membership?
It means nothing to me to pay money to join a gym. A gym is a space to do your thing. If you know what you are doing and you know how to plan and workout to achieve your goals then by all means you should not spend much money to walk in the door and be able to do your own thing. Most cities have recreation centers with open gym time or classes.
A health club is a different kind of gym, usually with a gazillion activities, classes, even social events; kind of like a country club where you get sweaty if you want to. There are family health clubs and grownup health clubs. You join and pay a membership fee and you and your family can go whenever they are open and do all kinds of fun stuff. There are even personal trainers available leaning on machines trying to look busy. There are occasionally personal trainers available that know a thing or two but the average member has no way of knowing who is who.
As I began thinking about all this I realized I always found it awkward to talk about “training.” A Personal Trainer is someone who “trains” you. In my professional life I work with educators who need to further their education. Some companies call this “training.” They do not see the difference between professional learning and growth and training. To me it is simple-when you need to learn how to use a product or a piece of software or equipment, that is training. Training is a functional, relatively low level way to share expertise from start to finish in a relatively short amount of time. Training may mean something different if you are trying to train your mind or body-but that does not require another person to do it. That requires practice and technique. In order to practice with proper technique and form it is helpful to have a coach.
And there is a huge difference between training and coaching. That is for another blog post.
So where does one find a place where coaches hang out? At the gym. It’s sometimes hard to find gyms with actual coaches, and maybe it is in the semantics, but I am really glad I don’t have to use the words “personal trainer” anymore. Coaches stick together and have a common goal and that is to provide a supportive atmosphere that is all about growth and personal development. Maybe “joining the gym” gives the wrong idea; it is more like paying for a share of expertise with a place to practice and learn; it is more like a school that happens to have space and equipment to do what you need to do-but with coaches-good coaches. My gym has reading, and video tutorials, and is accessible. The facility may not be open 24/7 but the learning and resources are.
So I am still going to the gym, because that is where the coaches are. It doesn’t matter what I call it, it’s not about the space, it’s about what happens in that space and after.