Thursday, August 28, 2008

“Invisible” Achievement

I realized that I saw more improvement in my ESL (English as a Second Language) students, in 16 years of teaching, than I do in Personal Training clients, in the last 3 years. Huh! Is English easier to learn than physical fitness? Certainly English can be studied more hours per day than the average person can work out, which would lead to more improvement. But, say, each were done 5 hours/week; then how would the progression compare? In that case, I think the development would be about equal.

A big difference between the two is the “visibility” or lack thereof. I can “see” ESL students’ improvements in writing and speaking. I can ask comprehension questions to “see” whether they understand what they hear or read. However, fitness improvement is often “invisible.” The first progress my clients always notice is improved energy and sleep, which are imperceptible to me. That’s usually followed by increased strength and functional ability (i.e., climbing stairs, getting up from a chair or the floor, lifting groceries, etc.), which are indistinguishable to me. A doctor’s visit might inform them that their heart and bones are stronger, their cholesterol is better, their metabolism and immunities have increased, and their blood pressure, stress, and risk of injury have decreased; all of which are unseen. Consequently, their doctor might have them decrease their medications, which is also invisible to me. Lastly, their clothes might fit better, even if their weight doesn’t change.

So, rather than thinking that my clients aren’t improving, I need to think of them like advanced ESL students: They don’t advance by leaps and bounds, like beginning ESL students do, but their English becomes refined, fluent, comfortable. Even if I don’t “see” my Personal Training clients’ progress, their workouts result in a wide range of “invisible” improvements.

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