Tony Schy is a 48-year-old dad of a college-bound son and a daughter who is about to start sophomore year of high school. About a year and a half ago, Tony, who works as an executive coach, decided to go to the gym and get a personal trainer. He had never worked out with much consistency and wanted to make a different effort. What happened next changed his life. Here, Tony talks about the mental benefits of being able to have someone make all your fitness decisions for you, and why working out has helped him bond with his kids in new ways.
I’ve been working out with a personal trainer since the beginning of 2018. Part of the reason I started to work out was that I wasn’t the kind of person that exercised on any regular basis, so it was a good way to get started. There’s a very big difference between doing an exercise correctly and incorrectly. It’s the difference between getting hurt and not getting hurt. So being with a personal trainer helped me learn correct form and build a little bit of confidence.
I would say that I’m the typical middle-aged dad where you just slowly gain a little bit of weight every year. Most people don’t wake up and say “I’m 70 pounds overweight! How did that happen?” But you know, you gain one to two pounds a year over a decade, and all the sudden you’re overweight pretty fast. My weight just kept creeping up and creeping up and basically, I had just had enough. And it was the right timing. My wife went back to the gym. So I said, I have to do something here.
The first six weeks, I’d go to the gym, my heart rate would get up, and I’d leave the gym after the workout I’d have to go horizontal for a few minutes when I got home. My heart rate would still be really high by the time I got home 20 minutes later.
But once I got past that, I really started to enjoy it. So I’d say it was about six weeks before that started to subside a little bit — and that’s when I could tell I was starting to feel better overall, and I began to actually enjoy my exercise and crave it a little bit, especially after taking a few days off at the gym.
Then something started to dawn on me. About six months into it, I realized that the trainer would ask me if I wanted to do this workout or that workout, and I started to realize that I didn’t care what workout I did. I just want to come in there and have him tell me what to do.
Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column in which real dads talk about the things they do to stay grounded. It’s easy to feel strung out as a parent, but the dads we feature recognize that unless they regularly take care of themselves, the parenting part of their lives will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous.
I almost always work out in the late afternoon or early evening. As an executive coach, at that point, I’ve had a full day of coaching people and making decisions. I’m mentally spent, so to speak. So to me, it’s a huge benefit for me just to walk into the gym and not be the one running the show, like I typically do with my work. So, I can just come in and do what I’m told. I lift heavy things.
I do the reps my personal trainer tells me to do; I do the type of exercise my personal trainer tells me to do. I do not question it. I’ve come up with this theory that this appeals to people like me that are accustomed to making lots of decisions during the day. I can effectively get ‘decision fatigue.’ I don’t know if there’s any science behind this, but I know that there are a certain number of decisions that you can make in a day.
Once you use them all up, you don’t have any more left. Anyway, that’s my theory, and that’s why I love going to a personal trainer.
Beyond the mental benefits, obviously there have been physical changes as well. This time last year, I decided that I would change the way I eat. When I did that, the weight came off. Since then, I’ve lost 80 pounds. Now, I’m down to the size that I was when I was a junior in high school, and I was probably in better shape now than I was then. I’ve completely turned my life around from a physical point of view.
That really comes out in just doing the simple things. My kids like to do high ropes courses and zip lines. Those things are no problem anymore. I can keep up with them, and sometimes I’m faster than them! It’s broadened the level of things I feel comfortable doing, whether it’s rock climbing or hiking with my kids. It’s broadened the range of things that I do. That makes me feel really good.
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