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Steer clear of the 12-week trainer

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You might get stronger and leaner during a 12-week program, but quick fixes don’t stick. Instead, aim to improve your health over the long term.

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You might get stronger and leaner during a 12-week program, but quick fixes don’t stick. Instead, aim to improve your health over the long term. Photo Store

This week I am attending a Poliquin International Coaching Certification Program.

It’s been a fun week so far, and I’ve met some great trainers and strength coaches from around the world. Our instructor, Derek Woodske, wrote on the board in big letters "12-week fat loss for $99," and warned us to not fall into that trap. This issue surfaced as part of a discussion on periodization, which is essentially the planning of a strength and conditioning program such that the athlete performs at his or her peak at the right time.

Coach Derek’s minor, yet endearing rant came at the right time for me, and it perfectly summed up an idea I’ve been struggling to crystallize for quite a while. It all started with me feeling curiously frustrated whenever a client would ask me a question like "How long until I have a six-pack?" or "Can you give me a meal plan to make me lose 30 pounds in a month?" or "Why don’t you teach a boot camp?"

These are all innocent questions, and at first glance they don’t seem related, but the common thread here is this misguided desire for a quick fix. No one ever thinks about what they will do once they finish boot camp, get that six-pack or lose those last few pounds.

I still I refuse to teach boot camps in the same way that I shy away from giving one-size-fits-all meal plans. To be fair, it’s not that I think boot camps or meal plans are inherently wrong, I just worry that it is a quick fix, and quick fixes never stick.

However, the real reason I don’t do boot camps is that I don’t want to be your trainer for just a month or even three months — I want to be your coach for life. I can help you get stronger and leaner in 12 weeks, but I want more for you. I want you to be in the best shape of your life. I want you to be able to do things you never imagined you could do. I want to teach you how your body works and teach you how to make informed decisions about your health.

I want you to be smart enough about fitness to avoid the trainer down the road who will take your hard-earned money in exchange for the same old meal plans and workouts he gives his 100 other clients. I want you to live a long, full life, and experience what Walt Whitman described as "spring and cheeriness, and such an absence of decrepitude," in "By Emerson’s Grave."

I can’t do all that in 12 weeks. 

Tania Tetrault Vrga is owner and head trainer at CrossFit Winnipeg. Send questions to her at www.crossfitwinnipeg.com.

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