The Power Of Exercise

Day 4 of the "ProBlogger Blogging Groove Challenge" theme is a story post.

I wanted to share with you the story of a client of mine from a few years ago.

I had been working at a corporate gym in Melbourne for a few years when I received some information regarding a guy who wanted to start personal training.

At the time I had just completed a boxing for fitness educational course and was looking to start including basic boxing fitness as an extra service I could offer clients.

His name was Paul and he'd indicated when he enquired that he would like a trainer that was able to conduct boxing sessions.  

It All Starts With A Phone Call

I contacted Paul to get an idea of when he would like to start and go through some preliminary screening and find out in more detail about his goals.

Paul was in his early 40's and worked in a senior corporate management role.  He was typical of the kind of members who used the gym.

His responsibilities meant he was quite stressed and worked long hours.  He was a smoker and liked a glass of wine with dinner to wind down after a long day at the office.  He felt that he was slightly overweight and lacking a decent level of fitness.

Paul also revealed that as a kid, he and his brother used to box with their father as a coach.  His dad had been a boxer growing up and had passed it down to his sons.

One of his big goals was to get his fitness back to be able to get back in the ring for some sparring and maybe a fight or two down the track.

At first I was quite excited with the prospect of getting my first serious boxing client then I thought my experience with anyone who had a boxing background was a zero.  

I was starting to feel a little intimidated because I was not a boxer and had never thrown a punch in anger.  And my overall experience as a coach was only a couple of years.

Luckily though the more I spoke to Paul and started to get to know him a little better he made me feel at ease.  He was very easy-going and like myself was a father, his daughter being a couple of years older than my son.

At the conclusion of the phone call we set up a time to meet for the initial session.

Time To Get To Work

I was one part excited to have a new client but at the same time two parts worried that I was not going to be able to deliver the kind of quality session that I prided myself on.

So I got to work to design a training session that would be of great value and a high standard.

I went back over my notes, looked around on the internet and watched a few videos to be fully prepared.

Failing To Prepare is Preparing To Fail

This cliche is thrown around a lot in self help and coaching circles and I didn't want to fail.

When the day arrived I felt that I'd done all I could to be ready for our first session.

I had my own gear, gloves and mits and an outline of what we would do in my head.

Paul arrived 5 mins early and he was not as I expected.  He was slightly shorter than myself I'm around 5'10"(178cm) and about 10kg lighter, I'm 87kg(190lbs).  But I could tell by the way he walked that he was athletic and coordinated.

He had his own gloves which were well used and a set of hand wraps.  As I watched he expertly wrapped his hands that would support his wrists and protect the knuckles.

My anxiety had started to elevate a little as I helped him to his gloves and tightened the velcro wrist straps.  While he may not have been that fit at the moment it was obvious that he knew how to box.

Fake It Till You Make It

I was nervous and as much as I tried to hide it I did forget some of the stuff I had planned to do.

As I mentioned earlier my experience was only with boxing for fitness.  Paul had been in the ring and had punched and been on the receiving end as well so he moved with a practiced skill that I lacked.

We started with an easy warm up that went well and then we moved onto the main part of the session.

After a couple of minutes of the stuff I had planned Paul politely asked if we change it up a little.

He suggested we change the structure and work on punching combinations and so on.  I was relieved to hand over the reigns to a more experienced guy.  The rest of the session was pretty much me being schooled in the arts of a real boxing session, learning about holding the mits, setting up punch combinations, defence and offence.

To be honest I learnt more in that 30 mins than I did at the half day boxing course I'd just done.

The Start Of Something Great

At the conclusion of the session Paul and I spent some time afterwards just chatting.

I got to know him a little better and I think I made an impression because I was willing to listen to the advice he was giving me about boxing.  

While he may been an expert on the boxing front he was looking for more guidance and advice on getting back into shape, stopping smoking and eating better.

This situation was a very interesting one because my experience had been the traditional coach and client dynamic but this was more of a shared position with me feeling like a student.

But I felt that we were both getting benefit from our sessions together, Paul was working towards his goals and I was being schooled in the "Sweet Science" of boxing.

Even after one session I felt that I understood boxing a little better and was more confident in creating and delivering sessions.

A Startling Revelation

After a couple of months of us training together we were chatting after a session when Paul revealed a very personal detail.

In the context of a conversation about his father being a pretty hard task master when it came to training, Paul confessed that 6 months previous to our training that his brother had taken his own life.  His brother had struggled with depression for a very long time.

I was gobsmacked and really didn't know what to say.  

He then went on to say that our sessions had been a saviour through some pretty dark times.

As a health and fitness coach it's very easy to get caught up in the details of body weight, body fat levels, workouts, nutrition and all the other stuff.

All that pales into comparison when you have a man standing in front of you saying that he didn't know where he would have been right now if not for the time we were spending together.

Even as I sit here now writing about it it still gives me goose bumps to think I could've had such a profound effect on an individuals life by throwing a few punches a couple of days a week.

Exercise As Therapy

You read about research that shows the positive effects of exercise on the brain and how it helps with conditions like depression but when you see it for yourself it really drives the message home.

Paul and I spent over 7 years training together, and I would argue that I should've been paying him as well.  He gave up smoking, got his weight to a healthier level and maintained it.  

I got much better at conducting sessions and got to a point where we were pretty much sparring and exchanging punches.  

Paul also got back into the ring and had a couple of fights and really impressed with his speed and fitness.

Eventually our partnership concluded when I moved on to another facility and it was a sad day when we had our final session.  

When I think back to when it all started it makes me smile that I was able to help and support a guy through one of the toughest points in his life and have him come out the other side healthier and fitter both physically and mentally.

I got into health and fitness at first because I loved working out and exercising but pretty quickly I realised that my passion was more about being able to help as many people as possible.  

Thank you for taking the time to read this very personal story and it's positive outcome.

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