Personal training has rocked my world and had an irrefutable effect on my business – which is why I think it should be a business expense. Once you get up off the floor from laughing, hear me out!

Any type of one-to-one coaching or training is a privilege – it accelerates your progress and helps you overcome hurdles that may be insurmountable, or certainly far more difficult, alone. As a business coach, I intimately understand the benefits of one-to-one coaching.

But while I knew that exercise was good for fitness and mental health, I had overlooked the effect that personal training would have on my business.

The problem with identity

Our identity – or the stories about ourselves that we tell ourselves as well as others – has a massive influence on our lives. Our identity influences our thoughts, behaviors, what we do and don’t do. We all wear our identity as a unique pair of glasses through which we see the world. Most people are unaware of how these glasses colour their beliefs and views about everything.

My story, or identity, of fitness was that I wasn’t athletic. I was a bookworm who was banned from the school library at age eight and I read under the desk through every single lesson. I was an obsessive reader.

As a confirmed ‘non-sporty person’, I only partook in mandatory games, daydreaming in the outer fields, avoiding all balls.

When I found yoga at age 18, it suited my introspective nature. While yoga can be very athletic, it’s solitary and encourages reflection. It also doesn’t push: if you can do a full backbend (wheel pose) but you’re not in the mood that day, you can happily abstain, while reaffirming how in touch with your feelings you are.

For my clients, I regularly hear people say:

  • “I’m not good with money”
  • “I hate marketing”
  • “I’m not much of a planner”
  • “I’m not doing this for the money”

When these stories are repeated enough times, they form our identity which, over time, reinforces itself.

When what you say and what you do don’t add up

Sooner or later, my vanity got the better of me. So I decide I want to get fit and strong. And I join a gym. And I get intimidated by the machines and the jogging people, and I don’t go. A few years later, I join another gym and, you guessed it!, I don’t go.

When there’s a disconnection between what is said and what is done, then coaching can really weave magic.

We all know that we should eat more vegetables and drink less wine, go to bed early and avoid looking at our phones. But what we actually do? This is a culmination of our habits, circumstances, emotions, identity, socialisation, and values. When your core values are in opposition to each other, self-loathing tends to result. And self-loathing can be a great motivation to start.

Many of my business coaching clients start because of negative reasons: they’re stressed out; their accountant has inferred they’re not earning enough; their partner is putting pressure on them to earn more; their working career has become untenable.

The same with personal training: when my self-loathing and frustration was deep enough, I joined my local Willoughby Vision Personal Training (hi Nick!) and took up personal training. (The below video was filmed at Vision Willoughby by one of my daughters during the school holidays. Yes, I think dancing is an act of community service.)

Commitment to consistency

One of the benefits of coaching is having the commitment with someone external to yourself. Our extrinsic motivation tends to be far stronger than our intrinsic motivation. In other words, we will break a commitment with ourselves far more easily than we will break a commitment with someone else.

I’m someone who values integrity – which means if I tell someone I’m going to do something, I’m far more likely to follow through because I want that person to know I’m a person of my word.

The commitment with my personal trainer Kate meant that – unless I was working interstate – I was at the gym lifting weights twice a week, every week. Committing to something an effective process makes your progress almost inevitable. And by committing, you take choice out of the equation, thereby safeguarding your willpower and energy to spend on other things.

Says my trainer Kate, “Consistency is the most important; one meal won’t make you fat just like one workout won’t make you fit – it’s the combination of doing these things consistently where growth happens.”

The humiliation of learning something new

My first months of training were humiliating. I felt like a weak, idiotic doofus and I was incredibly self-conscious. (Much like the video, below, that I made for my clients.) I thought my trainer Kate was judging me and the other trainers were thinking I was a loser. I had to get over that.

We tell children to be patient and to do things repeatedly in order to learn them, but we’re far less likely to do this ourselves. Instead, we expect to be brilliant at new skills immediately and our frustration can quickly turn into self-loathing with new stories such as “I really suck at technology.”

Business is practical, not theoretical. We learn on the job. There’s no dress rehearsal. We are learning out loud, being seen and heard and inviting people to buy.

We all testing the market with every single thing we sell, every time. And it can make us feel incredibly self-conscious. But we must go through this to get better at it – there’s no other way.

As my trainer Kate says, “I can’t do your reps for you” and business coaching is the same. I can give great advice and ideas, but ultimately, the business owner needs to do their own reps in order to get better.

High five [insert first name]!

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we didn’t need external validation and encouragement? Ha! I’m over feeling bad about liking compliments and wanting recognition, so I’ve decided to just embrace it.

It feels good when someone acknowledges you by name. It feels great when they say you’re working hard and doing a great job. It feels wonderful to receive a compliment. This shows we’re social beings, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Ideally, working with a coach enables you to become your own cheerleader and while I think I’m pretty good at cheering myself on, it’s feeling bloody awesome when your coach acknowledges your ‘grind’ (as they say in the gym), commitment, and progress.

The satisfaction of progress

Seeing your own progress gives a great sense of satisfaction, which is very motivating. In business, we measure sales revenue and profit, the number of leads and inquiries, volume of website visitors, and any number of other things.

At the gym, we measure time spent exercising, weights being lifted, and food (okay, so I’m not so good at that bit. I like cooking and eating too much).

It is incredibly satisfying noting your progress – this is why I keep my old invoices, bad Facebook videos and terrible graphic design, because it reminds me how far I’ve come.

I’ve felt massive satisfaction from being able to do things I couldn’t, lift heavy weights like a superhero, and notice the extra stamina and energy I have – this has had a demonstrable effect on my business.

Rebuilding your identity

The process of adulting is the process of deconstructing your socialisation and rebuilding your identity – but only if you take up this challenge.

My old identity was as a thinker, not a doer, someone who was grateful and satisfied, not striving and overcoming, someone who was spontaneous and joyful, not goal-oriented.

Identities are complex. Embrace your paradoxes (hence the name Hustle & Heart). My new identity is someone who is strong, capable, ambitious, competitive, high-energy and upbeat. Parts that are no longer serving me, in life or business include cynicism; self-pity; complacency; depression.

Says my trainer Kate, “Exercise is about so much more than looking good; it’s about improved sleep, more energy, the endorphin rushes (which Brook loves!), and having the strength and stamina to move through life pain-free, or as good as.”

How personal training has helped my business

  • Your mental health and resilience are critical when you’re self-employed. Personal training has meant that the winter blues are no longer a thing. I still have bad days or weeks, but far, far fewer of them.
  • Consistency is far, far more valuable than flashes of random brilliance.
  • Imagine being a personal trainer working right next to your competition – you can hear what they are telling their clients and they can hear you. So what? Competition is part of life so stop wasting time worrying. Embrace the fact that your competitors are also your colleagues.
  • Goals give you clear direction to guide your behavior.
  • Work hard, rest. Work harder, rest better. Business is not all gratefulness or all hustle. We need both hustle and heart, work and rest.
  • Measurements are crucial to achieving your goals as well as measuring your progress, which powers your motivation.
  • Motivation is internal and external: use both.
  • Coaches don’t tell you what to do, they work with your personality so that you actually follow through and do it. Coaching is psychology, not a shopping list.