The Role of The Gym

Simply put, the role of a gym is to do two things:

  1) To get you fit and strong

  2) To empower you to take responsibility for the other 23 hours of your day

This is what it means to be an ‘athlete’. Applying the emotional and psychological benefits of training to all other aspects of your life. Whether its diet, friendships, parenthood, your career, or even sleep.

The 60 minutes you spend at the gym is a catalyst for the other 23 hours in your day.

That one hour is the ignition point in the system that gets everything else moving. It is what starts the engine. However, the ignition system is useless if you have the wrong fuel (or no fuel) in the tank. Its useless if you’re driving for 10,000km’s on end without stopping. Its also useless if you’re running at 10,000 revs per minute, pushing to the brink every time you turn it on. Its useless if you don’t conduct regular maintenance and pay attention when little things start to act up. You also can’t just turn it on and then do nothing and let it sit there.  Everyone wants the nicest, best looking car, but what really matters isn’t how it looks, but rather where you’re going in it. To parenthood, to old age, to a career, to a competition or even just home every night to your cat. You want a solid car that can get you there. One that can go fast when you need it to, steady when you need it to, one that’s fuelled with the best petrol & well maintained. You want a car that’s reliable & resilient, strong, capable & dependable.

As a coach, its my job to light that fire in the ignition. I get that ball rolling. I inspire and motivate, but most importantly – I teach. Just as your parents would have taught you your first time behind the wheel, I slowly teach you to be a good driver of your car. I teach you how to stay within the safety lines, I teach you proper technique & protocol, perhaps even some etiquette (though I could argue this one is less prominent), until eventually you have learnt an adequate amount to be able to venture out on your own. Nobody wants their parents in the passenger seat forever, just as you shouldn’t depend on your coach as your key to prolonged success. There should come a point – if the teacher has done their job –  where you know enough, understand enough and have the tools necessary to run the engine by yourself. Now don’t get me wrong, you can always benefit from having a coach, but that is different from needing one. The wheels of the car shouldn’t fall of if there’s nobody in the passenger seat to guide you.

One of the main issues I see is people’s willingness to hand over the wheel, and a gym’s willingness to take it. They dictate your weights, your pace, your progression, your food intake, your thinking (of yourself & others). I can’t emphasise this enough; YOU WANT TO BE DRIVING THE CAR. This is your life. Its also your workout. I am reminded of this whenever anyone asks me questions like “how much?” or “how fast?”. My response may appear passive or that I don’t know, but what I’m really doing is placing you in the drivers seat of your workout. You need to figure out what works (or doesn’t work), otherwise how will you ever learn? Sometimes you need to make bad choices – like going too fast in the first 500m of a 2000m row. Or forcing yourself into a workout that you weren’t feeling up to so you perform badly and irritate your body. Obviously, as a coach you are here to guide your athletes and ensure they aren’t going to crash their car and fail miserably, like for example if I see someone loading up their bar with way more weight than I know their body can safely handle, but there is so much power in choice, much more than people give credit to.  So when you’ve completed a workout, whether it smacked you in the face, you owned it, or perhaps you even have a little gas left in the tank – you chose the route – you dictated the outcome. I merely guided you safely down the path you had already chosen for yourself. The responsibility of your workout is yours. The responsibility of your LIFE is yours.

As with any space of learning and self development, this process forces you to look inward. As a coach, we provide you with the tools and guidance needed to go anywhere you want to go, but you are the one that ultimately needs to chose the route. The route to better nutrition, to better sleep and managing your stress more effectively. The choice to be a better friend, sibling or parent. The choice to ask for that promotion at work, or walk away from a harmful relationship. The choice to back yourself and own your decisions. Initially this may feel confronting, perhaps even intimidating, but over time what you learn is that you have power over your life. You can choose, at any moment, the course of your path – and ultimately be, do, achieve anything you set your mind to.

If my gym, for whatever reason, ceased to exist tomorrow,  if I have done my job well as a teacher, my athletes should be able to continue on to prosper and succeed. They should not be dependent on me or the gym for their success. This circles back to my second point above. The role of the gym is to empower you to take responsibility for the other 23 hours of your day. It should empower you to learn about nutrition, to stretch & mobilise, to rest and sleep well, to stay humble, to be kind & encourage others and to perhaps lift up those who are in need of little more fire in their ignition. Most importantly, it should inspire you to jump into the front seat of your car every single morning with reverence and determination.

Melanie Corlett