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  • Writer's pictureJulian Molteno

THE COVENANT — Julian has a rant . . .

I have a client that I train five times a week — clearly a motivated and dedicated person — who has trained with me for over two years. He has a background in competitive sport, and although now too old to compete in his mid-thirties, he is still very much involved as an administrator in his sport. We do plenty of hard cardio and some challenging weights circuits. I spend a fair bit of “out of office hours” time texting him, some of which is just chatting, as we have become friends, and some of it is business — What have you eaten today? How much sleep did you get last night?, etc. Despite some setbacks and slip-ups, we have made some really good progress. When things go awry, we discuss what went wrong, how we can fix it, and how to move forward and avoid a repeat of the same patterns. Recently, much to my pleasure, he has been looking more muscular, leaner, and is a lot fitter. He has been doing some really excellent runs, and shifting some impressive weights in the gym. I feel proud of him, and proud of me too. Although he has to do all the graft, I feel I am an integral part of the process, and I am super pleased and happy for him. Then he went on holiday for three weeks. And ate and drank whatever he pleased. And came back to gym fatter, softer, weaker and much less fit. He had gained 5 kilograms — pretty much back to square one. I felt upset about it. To be honest I felt quite aggrieved — we had worked so hard, we had had our mini-failures and our mini-successes, and through it all, we had shared all the frustrations and pleasures of the whole struggle. I felt we had a bond and an understanding. It is silly to say so, but I felt slightly betrayed. But did I have a right to feel that way? A PT and a client have a contract. The client pays the money, and the PT must give the best advice and help that he can. That’s all there is to it. By paying, the client has fulfilled his or her side of the bargain, there is no obligation to actually do what the trainer advises. And yet, I was annoyed and upset. Was my input and energy and desire for him to succeed, worthless? Worthless to him? What right did he have to discard and reject my efforts? Our efforts! We were a team. I spoke to Ollie, one of my PT colleagues, about it. He said something very interesting — he said it does not matter what you look like on the outside, on the inside you are either a fat person or a thin person — and when you get the opportunity, you will always revert to that inner person. So though my client was making progress, looking more muscular and much leaner, as soon as his circumstances changed, he reverted to type — to a fat person. It’s not that I don’t have any sympathy, or understanding, of his behaviour. When going on holiday we like to leave all our workaday frustrations behind us — no work emails or deadlines, no getting up early, no commuting — and no dieting. And that is the crux of the problem!  If you see the way you eat (with control and moderation) as a chore, just like commuting and those work emails, then of course you will want to let go and eat without your usual constraints. And I think this is what upset me the most. I love everything about the fitness and bodybuilding life — eating healthily, training until you feel sick!, the look and feel of being lean and muscular, the camaraderie of the gym — everthing about it. I try to instil in my clients that same love of the gym-life, because once you feel that love, it all becomes so easy and pleasurable and achievable — and joyous!! And I thought I had succeeded in doing exactly that with my wayward client. I know this sounds pompous, but I felt I had given him the “gift of eternal fitness”. I was sure I had achieved a sea-change in his attitude to the health and fitness lifestyle, and that gave me a deep satisfaction. Any life-long endeavour has its periods of achievement and its times of frustration, and we embrace both, because ultimately our love for what we do, becomes who we are. Our steadfastness does not rely on our circumstances, we do not fall by the wayside because we change job, or start a family, or suffer a loss . . . or go on holiday. No, our fitness lifestyle is our rock, it is our guiding light through thick and thin, it is our pleasure, it is our bliss. I wrote this a few days after my client returned from his Christmas holiday (as I really needed to get my frustrations written down on “paper”) and now here we are at the beginning of April. To be fair, he has worked hard and regained his fitness and his muscular look. I am sending the post now because he is just about to leave on a two-week holiday! We have discussed a dietary and training strategy. I am expecting a daily Food Diary. Fingers crossed . . .  

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