So today a guy asked me what to do to strengthen his back. He’d bent over to pick something up during the weekend only to discover that his body had no intention of letting him stand back up again. Apparently smaller versions of this had been happening on and off for the past few weeks and given that the problem was clearly getting worse he was advised to see an expert to get some help, “possibly some back strengthening exercises”.
Usually this is the kind of thing that I love to do. Using my expertise to figure out what’s wrong with a person’s body and help them fix it. I’ll prod and examine, get them to turn this way and that, possibly cough, question and deduce, yes, I am the personal training world’s “House“. Sadly, my investigative skills weren’t required. The guy was around 18kg overweight.
Now it doesn’t take a genius to see that eventually that extra weight is going to lead to some issues, in fact, the man in question had already figured that out. “It’s my work” he said, “I work 12 hour days, when I get home I’m too tired to exercise”. My righteous gloat had been stopped before I could get a word out. After all, I truly do understand that it’s hard enough to motivate yourself to exercise sometimes, especially if you’ve been working all day.
“What about the evenings?” I ventured, feeling slightly guilty to be suggesting that this man who had so precious little free time during the day use what he did have to exercise instead of rest. Of course it was the best thing for him, but considering his 12 hour days, and his age, (around 50), surely he was too tired after a shift to be working out. I suggested just light activities, short bursts of exercise he might be able to fit in somewhere throughout his day. “I work days AND nights” he said.
I felt awful. I imagined him to be supporting some enormous brood of children, finishing his torturous day shift and immediately going off to work in some coal mine or sweat shop for minimum wage so that he could put food on his table. And here I was, some cocky personal trainer living a life of comparative luxury, telling him that he had to add exercise to his woes in order to heal the back problems caused, no doubt, by the many children he bore upon it.
He must have seen my look of horror and guilt because he quickly added, “I switch between day shifts and night shifts, so I don’t have any regularity to my day” Ah, that’s better, not feeling quite so guilty now, but I see his point, “How about your days off?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah well, I get four days off at a time so maybe I could manage to get some exercise in then.”
Hmmm, ya think?