The Power of Catharsis in Personal Training
Catharsis is a fancy way of saying that someone is “havin’ a rant”. More specifically, catharsis refers to the emotional release following a rant. Now the postmodernist’s such as Foucault and Derrida are infamous for their rants on the state of contemporary society, but they offer little solutions to their critique. Confession: I am a fanboy of Foucault’s theory of power-knowledge, especially with it’s pervasiveness in the fashion industry and likewise within the scientific intelligencia.
My close friends are aware that I picked up a high-velocity ski injury in 2020, kapooting my ACL cleanly down the middle. Thankfully I had a great orthopaedic surgeon who restored my ligamental integrity and dictated on his post-op note,
“Mr Ali, a 28 year old fit athlete underwent an anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction with lateral tenodesis with no immediate complications. It is now down to him, to rehab his knee and surrounding muscles to full strength and flexibility. I will be seeing him periodically over the coming 2 years to check his rehab progress. I have advised him of the importance of undertaking disciplined physical training in order to return back to his previous level of sports performance.
Mr Big dog surgeon”
In summary I failed spectacularly at my 1 year check-up. It was marked with a brief encounter with the Mr Big Dog surgeon,
“If you go back to skiing with this strength, you will re-rupture my perfectly reconstructed ACL. Sharpen up lad and I want to see you again in a year, stronger than you were pre-injury”
Obviously disappointed and sulking at the outcome, I got myself together and realised that I cannot do this rehab thing alone. I needed to collaborate with an expert. It is a rule of life that has served me well,
‘Help others in what you can do, and seek experts in what you cannot”
That is when I decided to get a personal trainer. Initially I was hesitant given the cost and it is a massive leap of faith if you will click with your trainer. Trust me, there are many bad players out there in the personal training sphere. One of my female friends told me about an incident where her personal trainer was recording her sessions without prior consent and possibly even posting it on social media 😲. I suppose it is similar to finding a good therapist, one that you can trust with your trauma’s and grow in a safe space. Anyways as a scientist I am pretty good at running literature searches, hence I applied the same principles. For a good search you need to first define your end outcomes, the clearer the better. My aim was to improve flexibility and alongside make strength gains, with focused work on the lower half. It is also good to define what you do not want. For me, I definitely did not want to look like The Hulk.
We all know that females gym goers stereotypically love their stretching and glute work (the glutes were a major area of deficit for me, needing focussed work). Therefore, I opted for a female trainer. Then I just took my chances and opened a conversation with the first friendly personal trainer I spotted at my gym at the time. We talked about books and her brand image appealed to me, ompowermovement (click to check out her insta 📸). As an amateur yogi and a seasoned meditator, that brand name encapsulated my ethos well.
Six months on, we have a great working relationship, and are now friends rather than simply collaborators. We have even started an open-water dip club together (📷 Dundee Dip Club insta 📷). In the midst of personal training we talk about books, poetry and UK grime/hip-hop. I had to cut the Beyonce playlist as soon as she played it in the first session…sorry Jeni, ‘put a ring on it’ is definitely NOT a power song.
The power of the rant
In one of our recent training sessions, Jeni was getting me to do glute pulses with lunges, a dynamic multi-step movement. It is a movement pattern I am slowly improving at with time. I know it will improve my overall stride pattern and glute activation. Right in the middle of the movement she started overloading me with pointers, “knee in, ankle out, upper body twist”. There were too many instructions to process whilst actively doing the movement. I snapped in an outburst,
“Jeni, we need to work on one thing at a time and you really need to stop overloading me whilst I am mid-movement. Please save the big feedback for the end!”
There was a moment of awkward silence. I followed with,
“ I am sorry for snapping. You know I say it to you straight, because I respect our time and working relationship.”
This interaction has had the most profound impact on the quality of our training sessions. We are now on time, to the point and get the job done. We save the chit-chat for a coffee afterwards. I know we are heading in the right direction, as other’s have complemented me on my developing physique. More importantly, I feel more dynamic and functional in my day to day. Furthermore, we talked about how any relationship is a two-way street. As I develop in my physical goals, Jeni simultaneously develops in her coaching style. Ultimately, life is an endless cascade of self-iterations (hopefully for the better).