How Personal Training is Like Buddhism.

Note: Let me preface this post – I am an elitist snob who believes in giving detailed explanations and having an intimidating grasp of one’s craft. This post is in no way meant to denigrate the teachings of Buddhism, nor is it meant to poke fun at the Buddhist method of asking seemlingly random questions to elicit deeper understanding. It is, however, meant to poke fun at typical trainer-client discourse.

From the T’ang Dynasty comes this chestnut from the “Zen Master of Great Quietude (ta chi)”, Ma Tzu.

“What is Zen?” asked a monk.
Master: “Brick and stone.”
Monk: “What is the Tao?”
Master: “A block of wood.”

Understand? Good.

Of course, from a purely logical standpoint, this particular discourse makes absolutely no sense. There is no context to the statments, and they are purposely random and vague. The responses might make sense if you were a practicing monk studying Buddhist sutras 17 hours a day, but to an average individual, they are meaningless.

This parallels exchanges I hear all the time between trainers and their clients. Quite often, in the midst of a lactic acid-induced stupor, the client will ask their trainer “What am I working?” or “What’s this exercise for?”, to which that client gets some truly detailed answer – “Legs.” or “Good for cardio.” Even better is this common response: “Five more reps.”

Doesn’t get much more esoteric than that.

I give that it is sometimes futile to explain things on the fly, in the midst of a hard set. However, I fully ascribe to the idea that a large part of personal training lies in consumer education – teach the client why, not just how or how many. I believe in imparting a working understanding of the human body (a blueprint, if you will) so that exercise becomes more than how many sets and reps, 52 variations of biceps curls and needlessly “hitting the muscles from all angles.” That lofty goal requires more than just saying, “Lats. Big Lats.”

Ok, so I’m ranting a bit here, and I promised I wouldn’t. I’ll stop now…

..but I’ll give you, the reader, a chance. Feel free to type in or send Buddhist-style discourses you’ve heard or participated in at the gym, and I’ll show you the path to Enlightenment.

A monk asked: “What is the meaning of the First Patriarch’s coming from the West?”
Master: “Ask the post over there.”
Monk: “I do not understand you.”
Master: “I do not either, any more than you.”


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