Friday, May 16, 2008

...Before My First Client

It's no secret that I am a big believer in gaining "under the bar" experience before you even consider stepping into the personal training field. I really believe that one should acquire some experience WORKING OUT themselves, before pursuing a career as a personal trainer. So many "newbies" are so caught up in buying the texts, taking the exam, and receiving the certificate in order to begin training clients. They miss the boat on experience...not necessarily training others, but training oneself. I wrote about this extensively in my book "Secret Skills of Personal Training".

Recently on a forum, I was pressed by a poster (who had expressed she was "newbie") to discuss my experience before actually training my first client. I was hesitate to address this simply because it was going to be a long soap-box rant, but I decided to kill about 15 minutes while I was cooking my grilled chicken and veggies and answer it. My post is as follows:

Poster: "John, We all have to start somewhere - just like you did at some point. You had a "first" client once didn't you?"

My response: "I respectfully appreciate your thirst to gain experience. I will tell you about my first client...

Before my first client back in 1998... I worked out myself in a gym 3x/week for about 6 years.

Before my first client...I subscribed to the Weider principles of Bodybuilding and bought every supplement under the sun--including ephedrine (when it was legal), creatine by EAS, and numerous others...
Before my first client...I had a stack of Muscle & Fitness magazines dating back to 1988 (check my blog for a pic of the actual stack--all mint!)

Before my first client...I had played sports and suffered injuries that made me intrigues about bio-mechanics and the body's response to injury
Before my first client...I completed 3 years of university level courses in public health and exercise science (I actually started training before I graduated college).
Before my first client...I worked at the YMCA as a weight-training instructor, logging in NUMEROUS hours of simply supervising the floor, mingling with members, and providing machine orientations.
Before my first own weight had fluctuated from 175-190 lbs, as I tried numerous "gadgets" and "diets" to get it under control.
My first client was a 15 year old hockey player whose father hired me to train him 4x /week for the entire summer. He pre-paid me $1600. This boy's father was HUGE and was convinced his son would make it to the NHL. So I was pressured and I made every effort to communicate with the boy. We experimented with the things I already knew and tested through my own training and he followed my direction. At the end of the summer he had gained over 10 lbs. of muscle and was in better shape than ever.

(Here's my first client ever--Mike, 1998--and yes, this is a "after" pic)

I know my "tough love" approach is not easily digestible to every "newbie" out there...but if you put yourself in my shoes and realize the unregulation and politics (or lack of) in the fitness field, you will be frustrated too at the fact that every day 125,000 people become personal trainers--only to have 25,000 drop out of the field after year one. The turn-over rate of this profession waters it down because "newbies" think they want to be trainers and lack EXPERIENCE training --NOT ONLY OTHERS--but themselves! They lack grasping concepts and they sometimes don't even know HOW they lost weight or gained muscle. They just memorize programs in Shape or Flex--but they can't recite for their lives how they ACTUALLY did it! So for the trainers who have been doing it for years, it gets frustrating because this lack of regularity and this thought that "anyone" can be a personal trainer is what makes the profession laughable. Why can't anyone become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer? Because it takes years of schooling and testing and dedication. I'm sorry, but so should the personal training field.

If you want to be at the level you are at...than fine. But if you want to be a high level trainer, than you have to bite the bullet and take it sometimes. I have received plenty of "tough love" when I first started out...and I got it bad as a chubby trainer...but it motivated me to be better, smarter, and resilience than my fellow professionals. Am I the best? Not at all...but I guarantee if I walked into a roomful of trainers, I wouldn't go in there planning to be in second place. Sorry for the long rant...but maybe, maybe...if you straighten out your crooked eyebrows and take a deep breath..lose the animosity and some of the anger, you will see there is a message here. We all have this notion that we are "owed" something...not all advice is going to be sugar coated.

1 comment:

  1. another conversation you and I have had for HOURS...

    IMO, the NO. 1 thing this field is missing is a mentorship program. I completely understand that everyone starts somewhere and it most definitely should be with ones self.

    I remember trying to get one of my trainers to gain 20lbs of fat so that he had to diet it off to better understand the tribulations of clients (at the time I didnt know he had previously lost 30lbs), but i think the point was made. Does everyone need to do something this extreme? no. but, i think you should as john likes to say, get under the bar. Dont recommend something you cant do or havent done!

    if you dont have experience, you need to seek it, and it shouldnt necessarily come from experimenting on clients. This may have something to do with the ridiculous turn-over of new trainers into and out of the field every year.


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