Become a GREAT Personal Trainer
You don’t have to know all there is to know about health and fitness to be a great trainer.
You don’t have to look like a competitor year round to be a great trainer.
And you don’t have to have a PhD or BA or another random mix of letters in front of your name to be a great trainer.
I know this because I am a great trainer. I have no fancy letters beside my name, other than my ISSA certification, live comfortably out of my competition body (for most of the year), and absolutely do NOT know everything there is to know about health and fitness.
What makes me a great trainer?
I’ll be honest, when I sat down to make notes on what made me a better choice trainer than anyone else in my city, I sat blank for almost 30 minutes. I put the pen down and stared dumbfounded at my roommate.
She asked me simply, “Well why would I choose you over someone else?”. I am terrible at selling myself. In my mind if someone wants to train with me they will and, if not, then they won’t; plain and simple.
So I called in the troops.. I asked a handful of my clients to describe what they like about the best trainers they’ve had. From their experiences, I was able to pull some key points together as to what makes one a great trainer.
A great trainer doesn’t need to know everything. A great trainer does, however, need to be open to learning and educating themselves and their clients on various subjects as they arise. Training the human body is a science, and science is always evolving. Nothing is static in this industry, and it is your responsibility as a great trainer to keep up with the trends.
Every client brings a new challenge to a trainer. Although we all have somewhat similar goals, you know the ones ” I want to lose a bit of weight, tone up and feel good in my clothes”. These are pretty typical answers when I ask clients what their goals are, but how we get them accomplished is always different. Every body responds in its own way. Some people require a lot of heavy resistance training, some need more athletic plyometric training. Some people require higher cardiovascular training, and some require very minimal.
Rather than training a client the way I want to train, or the way I would train myself, it is my responsibility to train my clients in the exact way that they need to train in order to reach their fitness goals. I get that this may seem very commonsensical, but it never ceases to amaze me the number of people I see who are disappointed with trainers who seem to ignore their ideas or goals.
DEMONSTRATED PASSION FOR FITNESS
Clients are looking to you for inspiration, education and motivation, it’s that simple. This is the role you are playing, so play it well. If you also compete, do you have to look like you compete all year long? No, of course not. Part of what will make you a great trainer is being able to relate to your clients when it comes to gaining and maintaining your dream body. Learning how to love and accept your physique on and off contest season will be a valuable lesson to your clients. A great trainer will encourage balance and self acceptance. I see too many trainers getting upset at clients who maybe had a meal off or took some time away from training. A trainer in my own gym once yelled at his male client who had celebrated his 70th birthday with his wife over the weekend and had a piece of cake- I mean come on!
A great trainer will push themselves to new levels, will eat foods that support their goals, and will rest and recover as their body requires. Through these actions, your clients will see that hard work can yield results. I think it’s important for your clients to see you in action-sweaty, worn out, and workin’ it daily! You work in the fitness industry; this is supposed to be your passion, so let them see it.
I didn’t go to university; I went to a community college for a semester and then studied from home through ISSA, one of the world’s top recognized personal training certification programs. I’ve worked alongside trainers who have spent years in universities building the alphabet after their names on their business cards, but guess what? Our clients are getting the same results and,in fact, some of mine might see more. Having years upon years of education doesn’t automatically make you a great trainer; passion can make all the difference. Spending time upgrading your education and learning about your clients combined with passion for fitness are what truly makes a good trainer become a great one.
A great trainer will understand that there are going to be days when your 100% looks more like yesterday’s 50%, and that should be okay. They will challenge you within your limitations rather than pushing you to the point of injury. It is also important for a trainer to support other fitness options if the client so chooses. I am not a runner, but if my client loves running and it’s not taking away from our current goals, then I will support it and allow that to be added into our programming.
The next suggestion actually goes against what we are taught as trainers, but I immediately threw the rule out the window, and that is to NOT BECOME FRIENDS WITH YOUR CLIENTS.
I understand the reasoning behind the suggestion but in my opinion, it is important for trainers to break away from the theme of “boot camp drill sergeant” and “poor helpless participant”, and instead pursue more of a team mentality. This is a journey that is very important to your client, and it is your job as the great trainer to walk as closely beside them as possible, educating them along the way. I have built an understanding with all my clients that, if they need anything, have questions, thoughts, uncertainties or insecurities, I am here and available. There is no way that a client should be going at this journey alone.
I also make it a point of checking in with each client in the same way before every session. I’ll ask, “How is your body feeling?” to get a sense of the type of workout the client can handle that day. It doesn’t take a genius to be a great trainer; it takes a person who honestly cares about humans.
A great trainer cares about being their best self, both personally and professionally; a trainer who is worth your money cares about creating strong-minded and strong-bodied people who believe in themselves.
If you have a great trainer, give them a hug. If you are a great trainer, high five the heck out of yourself; the world needs more people like you!