The fitness industry is a huge part of my life.
It is the realm in which I’ve dedicated my passion and turned into my profession.
I love the science. I love learning about the body and how it works. I love the concept of getting better – that we can improve our physical capacities and, with it, our mental capabilities, and vice versa.
I love helping people achieve these improvements for themselves; that I can take all the knowledge that I’ve spent hours, months, years gathering, and figure out the optimal method for its application with that particular individual, at that particular time.
I love being the expert.
Whatever the chosen vocation or livelihood – bound to neither the pursuit of athletic performance nor that of health and wellbeing; regardless of whether physical fitness is one’s pleasure or their pain – we ALL need a body in which to get around in. And, that body must be adequately maintained and cared for if it is to serve its owner’s needs in attaining success and happiness on their chosen journey for their brief time here on Earth.
That I have become somebody who people have entrusted with that care pleases me immeasurably.
And there are many others like me.
Not for a second do I believe that any person who enters the fitness profession (save for the rare bad apples, perhaps) does so lacking the requisite passion to help people.
Passion, however, does not negate the need for competence.
Unfortunately, despite best intentions by its collective personnel, the fitness industry objectively assessed as a whole, currently comes up well short.
Personal training as a profession is not regulated.
While governing bodies do exist in an attempt to uphold professional standards, providing registration which in turn permits trainers to hold public liability and professional indemnity insurance and, really, legitimacy in the public eye; the reality is that what constitutes an adequate continuing education curriculum according to these governing bodies is an education circuit of vastly varying quality and one that would appear to be serving vested interests.
I imagine this is the reason we are currently overrun with points-approved courses for PT’s that are nothing more than a showcase for yet another gimmicky, often wobbly, probably rubberised, almost certainly useless gym-toy designed to fool trainers who lack critical thinking skills into believing that having their clients perform circus acts provides a better and faster path to results than actually utilising sound training practices, scientific rationale and, you know, some common sense.
Summary: The blind are leading the blind.
For you – the fitness consumer – it’s a tough one.
Choosing a personal trainer may involve a trial & error period while you shop around.
How do you choose your accountant? Your mechanic? Your hairdresser?
You initiate the working relationship based on reputation, convenience, and intuition.
You stay based on results.
Specific qualities to look for in a personal trainer is a topic in and of itself, and one I’ll get to another day.
For a quick cheat-sheet to tide you over here are a few attributes that spring to mind.
A worthwhile personal trainer should:
- Begin with a thorough screening process & establish YOUR goals while setting mutual expectations.
- Have some semblance of an overall plan for your training process, as opposed to merely winging it from one session to the next.
- Refer out when dealing with something out of their scope such as pain, injury or illness.
- Choose logical and suitable exercise progressions and regressions.
- Is attentive to exercise technique, i.e. they actually COACH you, rather than check Facebook on their phone in the middle of your working set.
- Educate and empower you.
A trainer who withholds information from you because they fear you developing enough competence to train without them should be discarded immediately. Developing your training competency and confidence should be a priority.
- Pretty much steer clear of fixed-plane machines and cardio equipment 99% of the time.
- Practice what they preach.
A PT by no means should be expected to look like a cover model for Men’s/Women’s Health magazine, nor should they be required to possess an elite power lifting total. What should be expected of them however, is a consistent training history that has taken them through their own trials, tribulations and successes.
To test them on this, simply ask a question such as what they are currently focusing on in their own training. The response should be quick and specific.
- Share a disdain for any advice touted by Tracy “Women shouldn’t lift more than three pounds” Anderson.
That’s far from an exhaustive list, but these are just a few things that you can be on the lookout for when assessing your new PT.
Now for you – the personal trainer or coach – the onus is on you.
You have dived into a career that has yet to earn the requisite respect from many clinicians, government services and much of the general public to be viewed with any sense of legitimacy.
Do not give them further reason to doubt us.
BE A PROFESSIONAL!
- Run your business professionally (and yes, regardless of whether you own a facility, are self-employed and renting space, or are an employee at a commercial gym, you are running a business).
Look the part, be on time, be organised and create systems.
- Never stop learning.
The fitness industry and sports science as a whole is evolving so rapidly it is imperative that you stay on top of the latest research, developments, and trends. There is so much to learn, and certainly no dearth of free information right at your fingertips.
- Even better than free information is to INVEST IN YOURSELF.
Buy books on your chosen niche and a couple of accessory areas too. Maintain a balance of standard books, text books and eBooks (while some may question their legitimacy, eBooks are able to be released instantly, which circumvents publishing delays and thus eBooks are often the most up to date forms of print media).
Audiobooks and podcasts, too, so you can learn in your car and in the gym.
Get at least one quality online subscription. For what usually amounts to a few bucks a week, many of these are outstanding resources for trainers to receive quality information that would otherwise cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in person, not to mention travel and accommodation expenses.
The world is moving online – use it to your advantage.
Develop a solid network of other health professionals. Spend some time meeting and critiquing physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists and other soft tissue workers. Find a good naturopath or nutritionist or the very rare competent registered dietitian. (Sorry RD’s, but you can’t seriously expect us to keep buying the government funded “healthy” pyramid/pie/plate schemes).
Ideally, even form a good working relationship with a doctor and even an orthopaedic surgeon (especially if working with athletes).
- Further to networking with health professionals, network with other trainers.
HELP EACH OTHER!
The prevalent dog-eat-dog attitude of trainers must die. Quit trying to poach each other’s clients. That’s just a douchey act.
Stop undercutting prices in an attempt to win a race to the bottom – charge what YOU are worth based on what YOU offer. Ignore what others are doing.
Trainers who help each other create an intra and inter-gym network that ultimately better serves your clients and, in turn, better serves you. Personally, I’ve turned many prospective clients over to other PT’s whom I respected, whether it was because another trainer was better suited to that client’s needs or because I didn’t have the availability. In this scenario the client wins, the other trainer wins and ultimately, you’ll win.
The term made famous in our industry by Alwyn Cosgrove simply means to go above and beyond for your clients and give them more than they ever expected.
Meeting clients’ expectations will likely keep you in business.
Meeting their unexpressed desires will have you at the top end of the trainers in your area, perhaps making you a big fish in a small pond.
Meeting their unknown desires, i.e. helping your clients to achieve things they never even knew they could do or wanted, will make you a superstar and, if combined with a little marketing savvy, will ensure your success in the fitness biz.
Now so far I’ve only really addressed the personal training section of the industry.
But what about the places where trainers and everyone else involved congregate: Commercial gyms, private facilities, bootcamps, group fitness classes, and what have grown into virtual fitness “cults”?
I’ll get to those in part 2, so be sure to check back.
Thoughts, questions, hate mail, or anything I missed? Feel free to drop a comment below. And of course, sharing this article will naturally help you jump the queue in your wait for karmic justice to start paying out.