Wednesday, June 20, 2012

6 Ways a Trainer Can Gain Respect

I  receive emails from time to time from readers that tell me how much they respect me and my work and often wonder, "do you get respect in the field of personal training?"  To me, respect is an ongoing process. It is something that you have to continually proper hygiene. Call me old fashioned, but I believe in earning respect. Most of today's workforce "expect" respect right out of the gate. Personally, I believe in giving others a reason to respect you. And it starts with a little thing called common courtesy

Funny when I give a trainer this easy tip, they don't believe me. They think there should be more to it. Truthfully, if you show people common courtesy--which is a standard form of respect--they should give it back to you. What most trainers look for from me regarding gaining respect is essentially a "to do" list to gain the respect of your peers, clients, and let's face it...your Facebook friends. 

Over the years, I've compiled a list of 6 tasks that I feel a fitness professional should be able to accomplish in order to be revered with respect and acknowledgment. How was this list compiled? Through the years I have had the opportunity to interview over 150 trainers at 3 different facilities I have managed since 2003. Some I have hired, most I have never called or seen again. Some of these traits were easily identifiable in interviewees and some needed fostering and instruction. Nonetheless, those trainers went on to experience some success in the field.  Some of the tasks are not going to be completed before you enter the field or within your first year. Some of the tasks reflect your character and how it correlates to the field of personal training (i.e. dealing with client issues), while others reflect your understanding and preservation of academia and concepts learned through the process. However, you should concentrate on working towards proficient completion of each one within your first 14-16 months in the field. Each task will ensure you become capable and skillful as a fitness professional to your peers, your clients, and most importantly…yourself. 

Prerequisite #1:
Be capable of multi-tasking. 
Trainers have an enjoyable job that lets their passion lead them, but there is always the need to be organized and professional. The ability to schedule appointments, prepare ahead of time, and return phone calls—all at the same time—is the grain of this profession. The more aptitude you demonstrate, the more likely you are to maintain a consistent schedule and reap the rewards of word of mouth referrals and successful exercise programming. Getting stuff done is the epitome of getting respect. If you can accomplish multiple things (and do them right), people will notice that--be it a client or boss---and you will be in control and become a leader. Stop wasting time on Facebook or reading blogs (like this one)...and get those things done that you were hoping to cross of your list!

Prerequisite #2:
You should be assertive. 
I usually tell new trainers that if they are not a “people person”, then they are in the wrong field. This profession is filled with  numerous highly educated trainers that can design an entire off-season program for a dozen lacrosse players—but have the personality of bird-cage paper. Education is an important element to have in this field, but without the proper vehicle (personality) to convey that knowledge, it makes you virtually handicap to the receiver. The ability to converse with your clients about off-topic issues and maintain their focus on the exercise at hand is critical and a very important “middle-ground” to have when sustaining a profitable client load. Its not always the program results that keep a business is also the human dynamics.

Prerequisite #3: 
Ability to perform skin-fold (caliper) measurements. 
I know the use of the bio-impendence analyzer (Omron) is popular and easy to use; however, it is still not as accurate as a properly performed skin-fold test. This simple fact is enough reason for all trainers to take the responsibility to become proficient at using the Lange or Skyndex caliper. Since the introduction of the Omron to the market and mainstream fitness, most new trainers fore-go the task of performing caliper testing as an alternative to body fat measuring. This is an error. Learning and becoming efficient at using calipers can project an image of professionalism and skill. Most detractors will argue that clients feel intimidated and uncomfortable with even the sight of a Lange caliper; however, with the proper instruction and explanation, a trainer can perform the body fat assessment with a caliper—even on the opposite gender. Most 3, 4, 7, and 9 site tests include simply lifting or adjusting clothing—but never fully removing. 

Prerequisite #4:
Name at least 3 top fitness experts or their work (which you’ve hopefully read). 
It disheartens me when I have a conversation with some trainers who have been in the field for a number of years, and they do not recall any of the sources that I cite in my programs or articles. For instance, by now you should know who Michael Boyle, Stuart McGill, Juan Carlos Santana, or Alwyn Cosgrove is. You should know or have read some of the written materials that they have produced to help reassure that your programming is up to date. Books like “Functional Training for Sports”, “Athletic Body in Balance”, “Low Back Disorders: Evidence-based Prevention and Rehabilitation”, “Starting Strength (2nd edition)”, and “Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes” are staples in a bookshelf and should be on your reading list. Among the hundreds of resources available today, it is important to continue the learning process from those that are more learned than you. The internet has enabled users to obtain information from millions of resources across the world—albeit the more important it becomes to make sure that the resources you do use to acquire additional info comes from reliable and trusted sources.  

Do you know me?
Prerequisite #5: 
Maintain a MINIMUM client load of 12 sessions per week.  
I know, it doesn’t seem like much, but it ensures that you are serious about your career. Keeping a dozen people happy is harder than keeping 3 people happy and easier than keeping 25 happy. So 12 is a well-rounded goal to meet for a minimum. Most trainers that work part-time, typically stay in the field "part-time”. Trainers who dabble with fewer client hours or typically work another 40-hour week job (not fitness related) tend to not fully grasp the on-going learning process; lack program creativity; and tend to miss client sessions or be tardy at them. If you are currently under 10-12 hours per week in actual training sessions and you are content with that amount, my advice would be to challenge yourself to learn new concepts and take your continuing education seriously. You can try teaching group circuit classes; semi-private personal training, or volunteer at your local school to expose yourself to more clients.

Prerequisite #6:
Be able to properly instruct a client to perform the Squat, Deadlift, & Push-up.
Over the years, nothing has been more and more compelling to me than the importance of these three movements. It wasn’t until I really understood why they were important that they became staples in 95% of my clients’ programs. When you have a comprehension of human biomechanics and real-life functionality—the role of the squat, deadlift and push-up become much more clearer. These movements help improve the body’s natural locomotive mechanisms and assist in the progression of external loading. These movements are translated in everyday life and more often than not, are tattered with poor compensatory patterns and dysfunction. The typical general population client picks his luggage up poorly; or has trouble standing from a seated position; or the simple task of closing a door becomes cumbersome because the over-abundance of joint deficiencies.  These primal movement patterns are lost through age, inactivity, atrophy, and injury. Yet, with simple, effective instruction, these three exercises can propel a trainer to success—yet, too many trainers view this task as either “too simple and not overly complicated” so it is skipped in exercise programming and replaced with "balance work" and ineffective  exercises; or they are not proficient enough themselves in performing them. In either case, if you are a trainer who is not sure how to perform these three movements, I suggest you hire yourself a good fitness trainer and learn them. 

1 comment:

  1. Agreed with everything except number 3, I think it is a great still to have but not a requirement for all trainers. Trainers that focus more on lifestyle, injuries, 100+ lbs weight loss,strength etc. see little use for taking calliper readings.

    I haven't used callipers since I left a mainstream gym 3 years ago.

    Great skill YES, needed for respect, NO.
    (side note: if you are going to use them be sure you not only know how to take measurements but the proper manners that go along with it.)

    My 2 cents

    Kurtis McDermid


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