I’ve spent the last year working to develop a retention program for members at the Boulder YMCA. Interesting stuff, but here’s the thing. What is interesting to me is I have learned that what I already believed, what I already knew really works. I’ve learned that what I knew, what a lot of us knew as kids was true. I don’t mean the stuff our parents told us, but the stuff we knew for ourselves, the things we discovered often by ourselves or with friends.
We knew magic. I didn’t really know it was magic. This passage from Boy’s Life by Robert Macammon made me realize it was magic.
We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside of us. We are all born able to sing to birds and read the educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that. Because the people doing the telling are afraid of our youth and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad about what they had allowed to whither in themselves.
After you go so far away from it though, you can’t really get it back, just seconds of knowing and remembering. When people get weepy at movies it’s because in that dark theatre the golden pool of magic is touched just briefly. Then they come out into the hard sun of logic and reason again and it dries up, and they’re left feeling a little heartsad and they don’t know why. When a song stirs a memory, when motes of dust turning in a shaft of light takes your attention from the world, when you listen to a train passing on a track at night in the distance and wonder where it might be going, you step beyond who you are and where you are. For the briefest of instants, you have stepped into the magic realm.
That’s what I believe.
The truth of life is that each year we get a little further from the essence that is born with us. We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good. Things happen to us. Life itself does its best to take that memory of magic away from us. You don’t know it’s happening until one day you feel like you’ve lost something-and you’re not sure what it is. It’s like smiling at a pretty girl and she calls you “sir” – it just happens.
What’s that got to do with personal training and member retention at the Y?
What if it turns out that most of what we are offered or even taught as adults is wrong? Or misses the point, muting the magic?
So let me make some distinctions, distinctions I have had to understand to fulfill my own promise, distinctions I ignored the last fifteen years in sharing my work with people who sought to use it or teach it without using it themselves.
Don’t misunderstand what I just said. I am very good at helping people one on one use my work. But I have been bombarded by people who want to use my work to help others, to teach it, without understanding it, without doing it themselves.
Unfortunately we live in a world of “experts,” often people with little or no expertise. And they have become the people who tell us to be responsible, to do what they tell us to do, not because it is the good or right thing to do, but because they know better than we do. In the physical fitness world, these people often get certified by taking an online test that takes a few hours. Then they are qualified to put together a “personal training” program based on what they know, what the test says they know. Too often, they simply want to make money or make a living.
This is not personal training. It is “expert” training, the label of expert defined by this test. Maybe they teach you what they know or help define your program for you based on this test working one on one with you. That turns it into “private training,” not personal training.
What we have developed based on twenty years of experience and research is simple and easy to do if someone can get past needing an expert because they doubt what’s inside themselves.
I am not bragging here or promoting my work. What I am doing is reminding myself and others that the magic is inside each of us. We are born with magic in us and fulfilling the promise means becoming magical, someone who makes magic happen by allowing the magic inside us to live outside us.
I am also forced to make these distinctions because I watch and am impacted everyday by these “expert, personal trainers.” People who take a program and simply get everyone they work with to adhere to the program. No magic, but lots of judgment, and inevitably, a very low compliance rate.
Here is what I believe.
We are born with magic inside us, but before we learn how to use it, too many forces around us try to steal it, to make us doubt it, to reject what we believe. We question ourselves and worry instead of asking questions and wondering.
Wonder is the lifeblood of the magic we are born with. Without wonder, we will never become magical, someone able to make magic.
Private, expert training is about what someone else knows that they share with you one on one. It is not personal because it is rarely about you. If your personal trainer tells you more than they ask you, then what they are doing is not personal because it is not about you. Sadly, it is not magic.
Personal training begins and ends with wonder because it is about the magic inside you. I have no idea what magic is inside you and if you come to me for help, I doubt you know your own magic. But I do wonder what’s there, how you can touch it and use it.
What personal training is not is someone taking my work and using it to “help” others when they do not believe in magic. Too many people have used my work to become experts who do private training. They write books and give lectures, even doing research. But they never touch, they never believe in the magic. They just want to be seen as experts.
Personal training is about using the wonder you’re born with to become wonderful. It is about knowing the magic inside you well enough to know how to make it dance and play and sing, to do your work.
Personal training is about helping you touch and know your magic well enough, long enough, to become magical.