As a personal trainer, I have lots of “types” of clients. Some come for specific reasons: losing weight, improving conditioning for sports, they’re recovering from an injury, or learning their way around the gym so eventually they can work out on their own.

There’s the big group of people who know they SHOULD work out, but won’t unless they have an appointment, and also they aren’t sure exactly what to do once they are in the gym. That group often morphs into another group, the clients who become like friends, who come not only for a workout, but for motivation, a push, and, often, a friendly ear.

Others come because they love fitness and the mental/physical/emotional boost it gives them, a boost that impacts their whole lives (whether they recognize it or not), and they want a safe butt-kicking that pushes their limits.

Others come because their friends have trainers, and they really don’t WANT to work out, so they only do workout-ish exercises. (shhhh: don’t tell anyone, but those can be longgggg sessions.)

I’m pretty much obsessed with personal development, because it’s pretty much is the center of my job. My Kindle library is filled with motivational books, self-development books and coaching books, along with the expected workout/diet/health reference guides. When I’m working, I find myself pulling things from the personal development books more often than the workout-related guides.

“Huh?” you say. “What does personal development have to do with performing 25 stability ball crunches or 15 walking lunges?” The workouts are the means, but for most clients, personal development is the goal: they want to feel stronger, fitter, healthier, more energetic and yes, ultimately, more confident.

For healthy clients, achieving results means pushing past your preconceived boundaries — getting a little uncomfortable. It also means developing new habits, which means developing new thought patterns. People often come to the gym with big, laudable plans, but in a couple of weeks they give up. Trying to help them find the mojo to STICK with those plans (or maybe make more realistic plans) by creating new habits is a tremendous part of my job.

Let me tell you: there’s a big difference in the moods/lives of clients who constantly tell me they can’t do something (or who stick with their routines more than a week or two) and those who jump in and say, how many and how much? I wouldn’t want to be in the heads of the clients who tell me they can’t do things — I’m guessing that little voice isn’t very nice to them.

What’s super cool about my job is seeing how exercise can help people to tell that nasty voice to stop its negative “I can’t” or “I give up” yammer once the discomfort zone is reached, and replace the internal dialogue with supportive, positive self-talk.

I’m seeing that a lot lately, especially in clients who participate in my HIIT training groups: these are butt-kicking sports conditioning workouts. Everyone works at their own level, but we push that level a little further as fitness progresses. As clients find out they can do more than they imagined, their level of self-efficacy — confidence — rises.

The truth is, even though we’ve come a long way, baby, women still often don’t trust their bodies to be strong or fit — at some point many of us step back, defer, or see ourselves as somehow “weaker” or “fatter” or generally physically less-than-acceptable. We aren’t very nice to ourselves. When we find out we¬† ARE strong and fit, we carry ourselves differently and that sense of accomplishment carries into other parts of our lives.

I’ve experienced that transformation myself — when you find out you can, indeed, do things you never thought you could, your life is changed. It’s powerful.

Take a trip to the discomfort zone once in a while. It’ll do you good.