Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Do You Have the Right Temperament as a Trainer?

I have gotten some feedback via email over the last year regarding my book, Secret Skills of Personal Training. And since its release, many readers of the book walked away feeling like I was "talking them out of entering the personal training field". Hmmmm...that's not entirely untrue.


In the book, I highlight many realities of the trade. Many newcomers to the industry slide in by virtue of passion and personal fulfillment; but they miss out on the "career" aspect of the trade. Many decide to become personal trainers on a whim----a desperate self-created calling to escape the daily mundane that is their present life/job.

Why not pursue your passion as an exercise instructor or coach? Why not subject yourself to constant enjoyment and fulfillment by helping others reach goals and best personal records? Because at the end of the day, it is still a job that requires special skills and characteristics to maintain longevity. And many newcomers lack the skills that will keep them in this trade long enough to reap financial stability and actually call it a career.

That is why I wrote Secret Skills of Personal Training, because it is designed to uncover many of the tools needed for you to sustain a career as a fitness professional---not just enter it. Look at it as sort of a "filter" read---that is designed to make you question your choice after the elation of passion has reached its climax, and all the confetti has been swept away. The read is simple. Simple enough to weed out who's right for this trade and who's not.

Kinda like Patrick Swayze's character in one of the best 90's movie s ever: Roadhouse. In his first attempt to clean up the bar, he weeded out the bouncers that were not cut out for the job:



Because personal training is a dynamic profession dealing with others, you need  a certain protocol of characteristics to enjoy the field.

Let me talk about the following things:  conversing with strangers, smiling, and keeping a poker face. What does all that mean? Ever watch children (ages 3-8) walk around in public? They like to interact with strangers. They like to talk, make eye contact, smile, and laugh aloud--even if they don't know who or what they are responding to. Now, ever talk to a group of seniors (ages 65 and up)? they will say whatever they want and they don't care if it offends you, makes you feel uncomfortable, or wrong. What do these 2 groups of society have in common? They don't care what people think. 

Somewhere along the way, as we age, we've develop a mechanism in our brain that forces us to care what people think of us if we act out of the standard societal norm. Go into a grocery store and smile at the first 10 people you make eye contact with. I guarantee you will receive half or less than half to smile back. Our behavior "outside" of our inner being is created through years of family relations, upbringing, and a host of other factors. So as a trainer, we need to focus on knowing how to interact with different personalities and pay close attention to our approach, route of instruction, motivational tactics, and conflicts of interest.

Because the field is dynamic and involves tons of human and group interaction, there are bound to be connections made. We all make connections with people we see daily or weekly. It is human nature to feel comfortable around people or even objects that we interact with on a regular basis. With that being said, many clients will share personal details about their lives to the trainer. The comfort level between trainer and client improves and it becomes easier to facilitate a rapport outside of being professional. If you stay in your "box" and not step out, you can't satisfy your clients' need to be an outlet. However, it is important to maintain a discretion and professional demeanor. This is where a poker face is useful when interacting with a client outside of normal "training talk".  


Listen, Indifferent, Mirror, and Evaluate . I call it LIME. When a client exposes some personal information to you before, during, or after a session it is important to keep your poker face and practice the LIME rule.

Listen - Remain alert and give your undivided attention. Your client WANTS an outlet to share info that may be unimportant to you, but they have an unending urge to share it with you. They may want your opinion or may want to relate to you (or vice-versa). This is interaction and is necessary for a human connection.

Indifferent - This is your poker face. Remain indifferent.  If you follow step #1 and subsequent step #3, you will satisfy your client's need. There is no need for you to offer a personal opinion on a personal topic. If you do so, you've handicapped yourself including your value, price perception, and professionalism. Don't believe it? Tell your "friend client" that you need to raise your rates because your rent is increasing and the costs of many of your fitness tools you use needs to be replaced. See what their first facial expression is.

Mirror - If you act indifferent, how should you respond? Simple: just mirror your client. Make generalized comments like "really...?"..., "wow..."..."hmmmm...", "interesting..." and mirror their exterior expression. This leaves you innocent, but at the same time allows your client to feel that she has satisfied her urge to share personal dialog. Luckily, if your client gets that you are not interested in learning more about her IBS, cheating husband, assh*ole mother-in-law; or druggie kids---than she will not bring it up again and hopefully, invest that energy into the workout itself.

Evaluation - It's not over after your mirror your client. Take mental notes and evaluate how certain private information affects them. Watch for facial expressions, tremors, withdrawal, and frustration. Paying close attention to these signs can give you a mountain of feedback regarding your client's adherence to the program, commitment level, support, and  personal "energy drainers". If you are able to decipher how personal issues effect your client, you may be able to unlock the proper and professional dynamics to bring out the best of them to reach new heights in a workout or overall goal achievement.

Back to the book...look at it as a precautionary guide into this field. Is it designed to talk you out of your decsision to become a persona trainer? Not necessarily...but then again, if you are FULLY believe that you can achieve greatness, why wouldn't you want to test it?

1 comment:

  1. Considering the book as a 'filter' is the perfect way to look at it. If someone reads it and begins to doubt themselves, it may seem harsh, but hey - it's likely for the betterment of themselves as well as their would be clients.

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