Monday, March 7, 2011

5 Truths That You Have to Swallow if You Want to Succeed

I'm going to get right into. If you are a personal trainer and you are just entering the field or you have been in the field for about 12 months and looking around wondering what you got yourself into--this post may help you out. Simply follow these 5 facts and don't question otherwise. If you do, you will fail.

Truth #1: If you fail a certification exam; its because you deserve to fail it.
Harsh isn't it? Truth is, a certification exam is EASY. The certification process is easy. Most organizations simply have you purchase the course and textbooks and give you up to three months to study at your own pace. The convenience of studying in your home or office makes this process an ideal shoe-in to obtain that piece of paper. Most students that I come across simply believe that if they paid $499 for a course than that passing the certification exam is included in that fee. Hmmm...NOT. Before you blow your hard-earned money on a certification, you should really spend some time in introspection. Cool word, isn't it? I learned that word and its meaning from none other than Henry Rollins.  
You really need to ask yourself "why is it that you want to pursue this career?" Forget the passion and the willingness to help others. Those are a given. Those are automatic characteristics that began your search into finding a new purpose in your career. you really need to brush up on your studying and note-taking skills when you are chasing something that you will be identified with. You have to be hungry in the classroom or when you are studying. If you don't understand something; you need to contact someone that is already in the position you want to be in and learn more and more. So many students that I come across "expect" to become a trainer after they pass their exams and its the furthest from the truth. See the next 4 facts.

Truth #2: A college degree is more helpful for what it is not primarily known for
Did you get that? Let's face it, there are some trainers that have gone on to have successful careers without ever having to walk across a campus. Sure a college degree in a related field is helpful for what it is known for: higher leaning education--but it also benefits you in another way. When I was in college, the thing I loved the most about taking classes in health and physical fitness was simply being around students, professors, and staff that understood and thought like me. College offers health majors the opportunity to spend 4 years in and around athletics and fitness. During my time, I spent many a nights closing the campus fitness center, mingling with other student athletes, and getting to know professors more. This really fed my hunger and helped create a drive in me to compete and succeed amongst my peers. Sure I received the a paper and walked across the stage, but it wasn't that ceremonial day that made me--it was the 4 years that preceded it.

Truth #3: When you meet your first overweight client that experiences tons of stress and has a bunch of medical conditions, everything you've learned in your courses goes out the window.
I bet you are confused by now. Shockingly, the best way to grow as a professional and as a person, is to shock your system--both physical and mental (belief) systems. This is where experience reigns supreme. Every class or course you ever take will never prepare you for clients seeking personal training. Clients come sin all shapes and sizes; and come with a plethora of human dynamics that cannot be covered in textbooks, role playing, or memorization. Training athletes is easy because they are all cut from the same cloth. There goal is to win or improve their skill set in a given sport. Each comes with a "coach-ability" mindset. And if they cannot be coached, they typically drop out of athletics. Many would venture to say that strength coaches have it easier than personal trainers simply on the merits of human dynamics. Personal trainers cannot prepare for first time consultations with clients that have a history of mental problems, food addictions, emotional disparities, or lack of will power. The only way a novice personal trainer can learn how to intervene in a client's life [that is difficult] is strictly through characteristics that the trainer ALREADY exhibits through learned behavior, upbringing and personality traits. This very subject is discussed in great detail in my book:

Truth #4:  You cannot correct every imbalance a person has. Period.
Now that the first three points are out of the way, lets dive a bit into exercise programming and design. When I began to understand human movement more and was able to correlate what I learned with actual clients, it really filled me with alot of enthusiasm. I was armed with knowledge that not many people knew under the same roof. Today, muscle imbalance are covered daily by some of the most elite experts in the field. However, a few years ago correcting muscular imbalances was still a new thing. I guess it is safe to say that the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), along with guys like Gary Gray and Gray Cook really popularized how muscle imbalances effect muscular function and human movement. However, there are some trainers that spend the majority of sessions trying to correct EVERY imbalance a client exhibits. 
The end result is there is no result. the client is simply left on a "treadmill of workouts" that absolutely do not serve any purpose towards the end goal. We are all asymmetrical by nature. We are not born ambidextrous by nature. In fact,  there are very few people that can function with opposite limbs using equal strength. We are taught to be asymmetrical partially by behavior/environment and skill. 

Listen, if your mission is to help your sedentary boss that sits behind his desk all day, there are 3 effective exercises that you can provide into his program:



Truth #5: The client is never 100% accurate.
Don't be gullible or naive to think that your client is "always eating clean" or "always works out hard" or "performs exercises just like you showed them". It is human nature to not accept blame. And clients are no exception--especially when dealing with the expectations of a personal trainer. Personally, I have had clients stretch the truth considerably when discussing eating patterns and performing workouts. And everytime it has never failed me to look at the client as the problem source and not my program. It is very easy for naive trainers to bend backwards for clients and change workouts or exchange exercises for clients if they complain:

This exercise is too hard.
This exercise hurts my back.
I can't finish this workout.
I can't eat all this food.
I didn't eat anything bad at this party.

The problem lies when a trainer changes a workout too often in order to meet the comfort level of the client. Making constant changes or modifications can halt physical adaptation from occurring and progress never maintains an upwards path. Without consistency in a program, there is a lack of specific adaptation to the imposed demand. Ultimately, tracking progress becomes difficult. And if  a client cannot see progress, they will quit. Remember this: What the client has done up until the time they met you--has not worked. Remain skeptical to a degree without seeming convictive.

Hopefully, these 5 points are easy for you to swallow. There's something to be said about people that liked to be challenged and have their ideals questioned. It promotes growth and opens doors for opportunities. For those that have a hard time accepting these 5 truths, I only have one thing to say to you:


  1. cool post , some very helpful stuff here for all trainers really not just noobs.

  2. Good stuff man! Anyone who quote Rollins is a friend of mine!
    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  3. Excellent post John - bang on the money.

    I do sometimes wish I'd been able to spend 4 x years doing a S&C degree or Exercise Science degree.

    Going from an intensive Personal Trainer course straight into a job and doing all the further learning alongside, going through alot of trial and error that I would have been able to go through at college, all the while having to learn the business side of things aswell was one big long intense roller coaster ride for me.

    Luckily, I was very determined and although it did get extremely stressful at times I managed to create a good balance.

    I can see why 7 out of 10 Personal Trainers drop out of the industry within the first year (in the UK) - I would guess alot of these are younger ones with less experience in other areas of life.

    I would have loved to have been in a relaxed environment where ideas can be explored, theories tested and experiences shared with other passionate people in the same field.

    The model of training and preparing trainers for the real world needs fixing.

  4. What a great post!! Everything you said is true!! I was starting to "burn out." I took 3 months off. I found myself missing my job. Went back to work with a new mindset. Is this job easy? Nope!! But I love it.
    Thanks John.


Thanks for checking out the blog and commenting!