Boundaries, Barriers, Hurdles and Set-backs – what other PTs may not tell you…

In the always-on, always-connected, always-showing-only-the-good-stuff world of social media, you would be forgiven for assuming that for some people, their fitness journey had only been a positive one.

That gains and progress had always come easily; that no injuries had occurred; that their gyms had always been open when they got there! (This literally happened to me yesterday!)

As a Personal Trainer with almost 12 years experience working in the Fitness Industry and a fitness fan with 17 years on his own fitness journey, many clients have put me on a pedestal, believing I too had had a seamless experience with no downsides.

Well, let me stop you right there, and in this article I’ll bring to life ONLY the bad stuff that’s happened to me (or because of me!)… But I’ll also give you pointers on how you can avoid them too!

Let’s go right back to the start: walking into a gym feeling completely overwhelmed, a bit confused, a bit intimidated too. All those confusing machines! The members who seemed to know precisely what to do! The grunting – oh Lord, the grunting!

Baby Matt did what a lot of people do in that situation: got on the treadmill for 15 minutes, then went home.

However, I persevered, and returned, and things got easier. I felt happier there and over time, was able to just get on with my workout.

Here’s what I did: dragged a friend along to share the experience, which dissolved so many of those initial stresses – sharing the embarrassment makes it so much easier to laugh at yourself or the situation. I then hired a PT in the gym to show me how everything worked and create an easy plan for me to follow. I worked out when the gym was at its quietest, and went then. All of these helped me change my mindset and belief around the gym, as did holding on to the fact that everyone there pays the same, so I had just as much right to be there!

Later in my journey, I hurt my back, twice, leaving me out of action for 2-3 weeks, which was incredibly frustrating, but I learnt from the experience (the second time!). The first time, I was deadlifting when I felt something funny in my lower back…

“This is fine!” I thought, “I only have 4 more reps to finish the set, I’ll do them, then rest…” CRACK! Moral of the story: listen to your body. It gives us warnings and signs that things aren’t right. If I’d stopped when I noticed the strange sensation in my lower back, I would have saved myself the enforced rest.

The second time I hurt my back in the gym, I was squatting, or rather, my Ego was squatting. I had done a few sets, and then decided to go for a big jump in weight. On the first rep, as I tried to come back up, my legs came up too quickly and I turned the move into a very heavy Good Morning (ie I was hinging forward from my waist)… CRACK!

Moral of the story: keep a healthy respect for the big moves and as you reach the limits of the weight you can lift, only increase in small increments.

Another barrier to the progress I really wanted, was doing the wrong workouts.

I had always been naturally slim, and wanted to put some weight on… So impulsively I purchased Beach Body’s Insanity home workout programme – yes, the one with DVDs!

The workout got me very sweaty and lean… But it wasn’t what I wanted. (My neighbours almost certainly didn’t want me jumping around above them either, but we live and learn.) I needed to be lifting heavier weights, for fewer (much fewer!) reps, which I then discovered, stuck at, and saw the change.

Something I hear from clients and members of my free Facebook group, and very much something I used to believe for a long time, was that there was a ‘magic bullet’ for fitness success out there, that everyone else knew, apart from me. But oooh, when I find that supplement / nutrition regime / workout, it will be all over and I’ll finally make the progress I really want.

Of course this isn’t true, but it held me back for a long time – I’d invest time and money in the latest fad, absolutely convinced it was the missing piece in the puzzle.

The real magic bullet? Well ultimately, it’s consistency, but even more important is to find what you enjoy doing, THEN you’ll find it easier and easier to be consistent, as your workouts won’t feel like a chore, but something you want to do that will only make your life better. Thankfully, I got there – and I love helping Fitter Confident You clients do the same.

Finally, forgetting to prioritise myself was a major barrier too. Not seeing what I was doing as worthy of sticking to, and allowing other people’s goals and wishes to be placed above mine. What took me a while to learn, is that no one will ever be able to care and support myself as much as I can. So if I had kept waiting for someone else’s validation or approval for me and what I do… I’d still be waiting now.

Be your biggest cheerleader. Decide you’re worth all and everything good you can imagine, now and in the future. Every day, put yourself at the top of your to do list, and fiercely defend your boundaries, to ensure you get to do the right things that support you and your goals.

So while I adore fitness now and the infinite number of ways it enriches my life, it hasn’t always been a bed of roses – and I’m not naive enough (anymore!) to assume it will stay that way.

But the more good stuff I actively choose to do for myself, the more I benefit and the more the world around me benefits. Accept that the path ahead may not always be smooth, but every day, in every way, choose you.

You’ve got this,


Matt Boyles

Founder and CEO of Fitter Confident You

Online Personal Training tailored for the GBTQ+ community, helping us all build strength, fitness and confidence from the inside out.

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