SO I LIVE WITH A PT. WHAT’S THAT LIKE?
When my boyfriend Gareth left his cheffing career of ten years behind to start his personal training business, Primal Fitness Training, a lot of things changed. I’ll be honest; a part of me genuinely believed our lives would look like this:
Needless to say this isn’t the case.
To clarify something to begin with: Gareth, my wonderful other half, isn’t just a PT – he is also a ridiculously keen CrossFitter. The day this changes is the day I think he will have to throw in the towel as a personal trainer, because his unparalleled passion for what he does is the number one reason why he is so damn good at it.
So the burning question that I’m sure a lot of you are thinking already, is ‘So, is he YOUR personal trainer?”
Here’s the thing – it’s complicated.
WARNING: Do not mix PT with boyfriend. May cause serious harm to relationship.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that you shouldn’t be trained by your partner. I used to roll my eyes when I heard that. “We live together, I think we can handle a little bit of PT!” After all, we started out doing CrossFit together, we discovered Barbell Club together, we’re both passionate about it, we share the same gym friends, it’s convenient… Besides, it’d be totally fun, right? It would basically be a date. Yeah; an awesome date, hanging out, doing something we love.
…so, spoiler alert: this isn’t the reality.
Having a PT anyway can be scary; you have to be ready to let your guard down. If you mean business, you’re going to completely exposed – tired, sweaty, makeup-less – all things every woman wants to be in front of a complete stranger! You’re going to have to try new and difficult things, let go of what you think is right and listen to their advice, and accept that you’re not going to succeed every time. You will miss lifts. You might even fall over. Yes, you’ll look ridiculous. But they’ll give you the hand back up.
Now let’s add the boyfriend factor.
*Personal* Personal Training.
We get it, it’s personal. And it should be – that’s the whole point of having a one-to-one session over a group class; everything about it is tailored to you and your goals.
But there’s a whole extra level of personal when it’s your partner.
I know I take things personally when I shouldn’t. I’ve been offended before by something he’s programmed for me because it’s too easy or too hard, like “30kg snatch? I’m way better than that, you know that, don’t you?” Then there’s the opposite end of the scale, which seems to devastate me every time: “40kg snatch? That’s almost my max, there’s no way I can do the workout at that weight!” (I’ve given him a tiny 10kg window there to get it right. The word ‘unreasonable’ springs to mind.)
The truth is that Gareth knows me better than anyone. So yes, while we may need to adjust the prescribed weights once or twice, I’ve gotta give the guy a break – he isn’t a walking log book of all of my lifts – that’s why I have a training diary for God’s sake. He knows I want to stretch myself and that I have some big goals, so he’ll push me to help me achieve them.
He’ll give me horrific workouts, gruelling and monotonous skills practice (which I hate, but know that I need) and encourage me to do recovery work and even rest. Sure, he’ll tell me I know better when my technique is sloppy, but he’s there to give me encouragement when I’m really suffering.
The Jedi emerges
I genuinely believe that a big part of my and Gareth’s relationship in his cheffing days was the 1 hour weekly PT session we shared on a Saturday morning at 7am, come rain or shine, sleet or snow. This is where we discovered CrossFit: in a converted shipping container crammed full of all the gear you’d need, on the edge of a picturesque golf course a short drive from home.
There would be times (usually in the build-up to Christmas) when Gareth would, quite literally, not see daylight for weeks. He would leave the flat before I woke up, and wouldn’t be home until I was fast asleep again. With no breaks or downtime between services, Gareth would be in that windowless kitchen from sunrise to sunset, and beyond.
So as you can imagine, we would look forward to and savour that precious hour together, where we’d be beasted to the point of being stood, breathing fire in a tank top and shorts, in the container on a frosty December morning.
Not only was this ‘our time’, but there was also something about being ‘in it together’ that brought us close. It was something new for us both: we were both out of our comfort zone, and we were learning together. So, now the Padawan has become the Jedi, working out together is no longer what it used to be.
The [10kg] plates have shifted…
Excuse the pun.
Gareth’s work is now what used to be our play. I have to respect that. We have actively tried new sports together following this change so we can keep learning together. Rock climbing, snowboarding – it’s a lot of fun being back at square one together trying something new.
Similarly, neither of us are specialists when it comes to weightlifting. I love that we share a common goal there, and not only is it a great opportunity for us carry on learning something together, but also for me to get advice from someone in the gym other than Gareth. And that’s where Dave comes in.
Having another opinion and Dave’s expert advice has been great for me, and for us – we both enormously value his input and respond well to his coaching. It also gives Gareth and I a bit of a break from the PT-client thing, and takes us back to those days where we’re both looking up at the blackboard, with a lot to learn.
Gareth was never in bad shape. However, since leaving the pots and pans behind and turning to a new kind of iron, he has gone from Ken to Action Man, and from Action Man to downright freakin’ photoshopped. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it, as I poke, confused, at his solid abs after he’s devoured an entire pizza to himself.
So naturally, by comparison, I have never felt so doughy in all my life. I could talk about body image anxieties until the end of time (we have all been there, at some point, and quite possibly may be there in the future again), but what I love is that the body isn’t what he is working for. As with a huge number of CrossFitters and weightlifters, the physique is just a by-product of working your butt off.
When it comes to finding a Personal Trainer, I think there is a lot of truth in the famous saying ‘You wouldn’t go to a dentist with bad teeth’, so being in good shape has obvious benefits when Gareth’s trying to promote himself as PT – the whole ‘living proof’ idea. Inevitably, a lot of his clients’ top priorities will include ‘getting into shape’ or losing weight (or getting rock-solid, pizza-immune abs).
But it’s not just what he looks like – his personal training is all about working hard, achieving results (not just inches off your waist, but kilos on your lifts, minutes off your times) and he is a walking example of those results too.
For anyone who had been in a relationship where you have the exact same, predictable working hours, when your partner goes freelance, it can be a bit of a nightmare at first. He works almost every weekday evening, and a couple of last-minute bookings or late cancellations can suddenly change an evening’s plans. Ultimately, however, he is in control. That’s the beauty of self-employment.
So if you’ve ever had an army wife or husband, or someone who works for emergency services, or in hospitality, it’s a dream: It does of course come with its setbacks, but Gareth handles them with ease – he’d already sorted out his tax return by the 6th April (God bless his insane obsession with organisation and stationery) and we’re getting into some strict habits to plan for our future (pensions… income protection… being an adult is so fun!).
He is a great Personal Trainer partly because he’s scarily organised. We’re talking colour-coded diaries, spreadsheets and charts of progress, and regular and consistent client contact. He’s also driven and incredibly skilled. But above all, he loves it. Nothing, and I really mean nothing, beats the smile on his face when he comes home.
So yes, we’re both in better shape now Gareth is a PT – I know I’m certainly stronger than I’ve ever been. Also our washing basket is constantly overflowing with all kinds of strange compression leggings (his) and what looks like knee-high football socks (mine) instead of Chef’s whites. No, our fridge is not only full of chicken and broccoli; sure we eat healthier – probably healthier than we ever have, but we both have a passion for food and want to love what we eat.
As with all things in life (particularly single leg squats on a bosu), it’s all about balance. And I think we’re nearly there.