Education Ireland

TRAINING MY TRAINER

Personal training helped improve my coordination and concentration skills tenfold.  It helped me so much that I’ve now started my own journey to become a personal trainer, with the intention of working with people who have dyspraxia and Ronan, who trained me, is being very supportive and says I can ask him questions whenever I need to.

But that didn’t mean that it didn’t come with its challenges and frustrations.
One day I was working out by myself and trying to teach myself how to do the snatch and how to skip and it was a reminder that I wasn’t like someone who doesn’t have dyspraxia, I couldn’t just pick it up easily, that learning a seemingly basic movement such as skipping would have so many complications.
And upon trying to teach myself the snatch, what I was told was “You really want to run when you’re at the crawling stage of Olympic lifting”.  What I HEARD was: “You will never be able to do this because you’re not capable”.
Combined with the emotional regulation challenges that come hand in hand with dyspraxia, and the impending full moon, that was the final straw for me that day.
I tried to continue on with my own training session for a few minutes and got irrationally angry seeing my trainer Ronan and someone else be able to do these complicated exercises and here I was, my body not even moving as I willed it to do just a simple jump onto the smallest step.
So I walked out and swore I’d never set foot in a gym again.  I was so sad and so angry.  I thought I was an idiot for ever believing that I could fit in within a gym environment or that I’d be able to learn things like the snatch.  (It’s an Olympic lift).
I got as far as the reception area before I met Michael, my friend and one of the trainers who trained me sometimes.
I had forgotten that he’d been walking in and out and he told me, “You’re going back in there and finishing your session.  You work harder than anyone else in this gym and you’ve had to overcome so much more than them and you started from 20 steps behind because of your dyspraxia but look how far you’ve come from working so hard – oh and you sound like IT the clown laughing when you cry like you are now.” Which made me laugh then.
So I reluctantly walked back in to try again.  I wouldn’t have, if it wasn’t for what Michael said to me that day.  I will always be very grateful to him for that.
I had it in my head that I just wasn’t going back to personal training, because what was the point?
But part of me wanted to show how the challenges related to dyspraxia can start from the moment you wake up and so that by the time you get to your training session you’ve almost had eleven hours of challenges by the time it starts.
So I asked Ronan was he willing to be open minded because a plan was already forming in my head of what I would do.  I was going to train my trainer.  And the exercises were coming into my head.
His answer was, of course, yes and so I wrote out my plan.

“That was the part of the session that I could see the moment something changed in his eyes when he understood”.

On the day that I trained him I had all the equipment that was necessary in my bag and I was quite nervous, but excited.
For the fine motor skills, I had a shirt, four pairs of gloves, a key ring and a balloon.
For the first exercise, I had him button and unbutton a shirt with the four pairs of gloves on, to show how awkward it can feel trying to manipulate your fingers to do the finer movements.  He struggled a little with both as he got lower down on the shirt.
It was a challenge not to explode with laughter watching him getting so frustrated with trying to do the buttons but not being able to get his hands to do what he wanted them to do when this is something that he’s used to doing without thinking.
Then I had him tie his shoelaces and he had no problem with that but I was trying to show how awkward it can feel.
Then I gave him two things I have never been able to do before: tie a knot on a balloon and attach a keyring to a set of keys.  He did both!! I couldn’t understand it at all, when I can’t do it with NO gloves on.  I was stuck between awe, admiration and jealousy!
I have weak muscle tone on the left side of my body so I did kettle bell thrusters with Ronan giving him one kettle bell for his left hand that was four times heavier than the one in his right.  I then had him sit on the bench and placed a weighted plate on his left foot.  This was to give a physical representation of how it feels for my left side carrying weight.   And how hard it can be for my left leg to stand up while carrying weight.
I also gave him the overhead dumbbell press, again with one dumbbell on his left side four times the weight of the other one.
That was the part of the session that I could see the moment something changed in his eyes when he understood.  And it made me so proud.  And so incredibly grateful that someone had given me the freedom to be able to try and welcome them into my world and show what it can be like.
He properly struggled with both of those things – he was exhausted by the end of both rounds and that was the other aim: to show how quickly fatigue can set in.
For the last part it was focused around sensory challenges so I had Ronan do deadlifts while someone behind me banged down a 10kg weighted plate over and over again while the music was blaring and I shouted questions at him and repeatedly told him to concentrate and stay switched on.
That was horrible for both of us and inside my head I willed him to please, please hurry up because I needed it to be quiet but I wanted to get across how overwhelming it can be to deal with all of those sounds while someone tells you to keep concentrating.
I finished up with having him do a sixty second plank with a 10kg weighted plate on his back.  This was to show how heavy weight/ deep pressure can really help calm you down and ground you.  He asked me to put more weight on his back so I threw another 5kg on 🙂
I had also drawn circles around the complicated workouts that were written on the whiteboard, exercises that due to the coordination challenges I couldn’t do, and wrote “I think all these people are better than you”. To try and get across how it can feel in such a competitive environment when you’ve struggled with low self-esteem.
He learnt a lot from that session, he understood, and that was the point that affirmed my decision to become a personal trainer.
I’ve another seven months to go with the course and there will be plenty of moments of self doubt but the session where I trained my trainer will be the one I go back to to make myself remember that I can devise a plan for someone that has a logical reasoning behind it and that I am able to understand WHY I am making the plan that I am making.
It’s going to be tough but absolutely worth it. And I am so excited for the future.

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Sophie Goldsbury
Sophie is a legal secretary and lives in Dublin, Ireland. She was diagnosed with dyspraxia in childhood.
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