To the outside observer, hiring a personal trainer is all about getting fit, and looking good, having those washboard abs that you can show off at the beach. But to Michael George, this is mere superficiality. It doesn’t get to the heart of what personal training is all about. To George, training is a comprehensive exploration and improvement of “the self.”
Who is Michael George?
With a Masters degree in somatic psychology and a Ph.D. in the works in the same field, George brings an educated nuance to personal training. He’s also a published author, having penned Body Express Makeover in 2006. You can also catch him on the motivational speaking circuit when he’s not in the gym training A-list celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Christian Slater and Julian Moore, or in a session coaching cancer patients back to wellness.
George, however, had humble beginnings. He grew up an admittedly chubby and overweight child. As a teenager, he developed a passion for sports. He learned to box from his grandfather and, while in school, gravitated toward any athletic program available, be it baseball, basketball or wrestling. In college, he dabbled in amateur bodybuilding until he graduated with a degree in communication. Out of college, George didn’t even consider a career as a personal trainer, instead working as a financial analyst in the aerospace industry.
It wasn’t until fellow gym goers saw him in action and asked him to train them that he decided to leave the aerospace industry and tackle personal training full time.
This was in the mid-80s, when personal training was more oriented to slowly working one muscle group at a time. George noticed that it took an incredibly long time to get people, particularly actors, looking ready for a film shoot or the red carpet, so he developed “multi-muscle training technology.” This involves exercises and movements that work more than one muscle group at a time. This quickly became George’s calling card and he noticed that he could whip clients into shape in as little as 25 percent of the time other trainers were taking at the time.
This wider approach eventually developed into an incredibly diverse approach. George says:
“You don’t just make somebody stronger. You work with their core strength; you work with their muscle strength, you work with their cardiovascular stamina and endurance, you work with their balance, their equilibrium, their eye to hand coordination, their blueprint, their body patterning… This changes their whole body structure, their posture and so forth.”
Going deeper than the muscles
Throughout his relatively long career in personal training, George took a relatively rare turn toward spirituality in his training methodology. For him, exercise isn’t just physical activity; it’s about our thoughts, intentions, attitudes and behaviors. Physical activity, to George, is a merger of all these things, bringing together the body, mind and soul. George feels that what sets him apart from most trainers is that he has “merged Eastern and Western philosophies and training modalities.” As a result, he is a big advocate of meditation and offers tips and training for proper and effective meditation practices.
One gets the sense that George sees the human body as part of a complex system that is the entire seen and unseen universe. He clearly sees more to humanity than what manifests itself physically, often speaking of the combination of the body, mind and soul that paints the whole picture. He frequently calls his approach “holistic” an it is clear that George feels that we must not ignore our spiritual side, as it is equally important to our wellness as our physical selves.
Most trainers, according to George, “have no concept of how to incorporate spirituality or soul into the world of fitness.” And he sees himself as a healer that the training industry borders the medical industry and that training should be about reducing stress, which, according to George, is the cause of the vast majority of health problems in America. In fact, it’s his passion for offering such a valuable, healing service to clients that have not only brought George so much success in the personal training industry, but inspired him to continue his growth, expansion and study of the field.
“The industry needs to evolve”
Michael George has seen the personal training industry evolve from slowly working single muscle groups to a dynamic, multi-pronged approach—and he was a big part of that. But George still feels that the industry has much to learn, and he wants to be on the cutting edge.
He has critiqued the personal training industry, saying it is too much about looking good. It’s all about body image and not enough about the entire person. Trainers have assumed the role of “body technicians,” engineers of muscle growth. In their haste to expand biceps and grow pectorals, they’ve forgotten their role as healers. George calls for a re-education of the personal training industry, saying:
“It really needs to merge with the medical industry.”
George believes a “whole self” approach to personal training can also benefit the personal training industry as well as the trainers themselves. He points out that the goal of a personal trainer is to work themselves out of a job. Once they get their clients fit and healthy, they no longer have clients. This can lead to trainers unethically stringing clients along. If personal trainers can evolve to cultivate the psychological and spiritual self of their clients, along with the physical self, they can grow and evolve endlessly. In this manner, trainers can keep clients longer, ethically, and help heal them in more diverse ways in the process.
Ultimately, George has positioned himself as a Renaissance man of the self. His decades of experience and study have put him in the pantheon of personal trainers, not only for Hollywood, but also in the entire country. With a refreshing and endearing humility, George works hard to bring his holistic wellness approach to as many people who are willing to listen. And it seems safe to say that George’s reach has made the world a better place. You can view his website at htttp://www.MichaelGeorge.com