Thursday, September 6, 2012

How To Be the Trainer You Want to Be

The other day I was speaking with a friend of mine who happens to be a personal trainer also. Amongst the numerous topics we talked about, I remember a particular phrase that she stated and it stuck to me for the rest of the day. She said, "I want to be the trainer that I want to be".

That really stuck to me.

It seems in the fitness industry--especially in the gym industry and personal training industry--trainers are having a hard time becoming the personal trainer they want to be--without even knowing that they are struggling with this identity process.

The fitness industry blasts us with so many images of what a personal trainer look like...how we should act...and how we should entice the public into exercise.

There really is not a clear cut identity for a personal trainer. The public assumes we should all have 6-pack abs and muscles. But the trainers of today really fall under a number of categories and have individual characteristics that make them different. The problem most are having is being comfortable enough to be themselves. And there are a few reasons why most trainers are facing challenges being themselves. 

There are the organizations that certify trainers and the expectations they impose on them. For instance, NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) transforms it's trainers into "corrective exercise seekers". The course curriculum 'pressures' students into following a specific training model with assessment and corrective exercise strategies. Another organization, CrossFit--the popular training cult that just got picked up by sponsor giant Reebok--pigeon holes their trainers into the organization's specific method of training that includes Olympic lifts, power-lifting and ultra-metabolic training. CrossFit trainers become accustomed to a single type of training client and environment. Take them out of the CrossFit environment, and that trainer is close to having to be taught everything again from the beginning. 

Most commercial gyms also follow a specific organization's training philosophy that a trainer may not agree with. For instance, I have worked as a trainer for specific gym chains and we all followed the same protocol that was somewhat "elementary" to where I felt my level of comprehension stood. With that, our training was "slow" and "safe" and made it quite boring for me. I think most trainers fall into this trap as they become victims to how the "boss wants things"--rather what you truly believe. Not everyone can deadlift, but you want to be able to advance your clients to a higher level than the ACSM recommended guideline for walking. 

Then there are the strength training gurus and websites that project a "Bad Ass" or "Beast Mode" philosophy. The information surplus gives the impression that all people have to do is begin to "lift heavy objects" and they will increase their lean body mass, gain super-human strength and leap tall buildings in a single bound. This is the type of marketing to youngsters that enticed me to buy thousands of dollars worth of supplements in the early 1990s because I thought I would look like the guys in the magazines.

Truth is, most personal trainers do not work with people that want to look anything remotely close to a bodybuilder or "beast". Most personal trainers make a living working with people that want to be healthy and gain a considerable mount of muscle (or lose fat) that constitutes a physique change. Most gurus and websites market to an audience that have a strong desire to become something that takes years to achieve. They don't tell you that...but it is the truth--with steroids or not.

Most youngsters that want to achieve "beast mode" status have not incurred a serious injury. Omit the occasional sore quads, sore traps, and painful shoulder--and most youngsters think they can lift heavy things without a care in the world. However, as I have learned personally over the years--tear a tendon here, herniate a disc there, and go under the knife a couple of times--and you begin to believe you ARE human after all. 

So after 13 years in the business, how is it that I have become the trainer that I want to be and how can I help you be the trainer you want to be? Here are some pointers I have learned through the years.

1.) Be Honest. I can't stress this more. Be honest with yourself firstly, and be honest with people in general. The less you hide,  the more genuine you seem to others. People are attracted to "real-ness". In a world filled with "Kardashian's", people want honesty and will stick by it and you.

2.) Be Forthright. Don't wait to be told to do something.

3.) Follow Through. No one respects someone more than when that person says that they will do something and they do it.

4.) Look People in the Eye. Nothing garners respect more than looking someone in the eyes.

5.) Speak with Conviction. Going along with #4, look people in the eye and speak with fortitude. If you don't know the answer to something, practice pointer #1 and tell them. When I meet with a new client, I look them in the eye and I say, "If we do this, we are going to this all the way. No half-assed effort. My time and your time is too valuable. We do this my way and you will get what you are going after". This phrase alone closes the sale every-time.  

6.) Keep Your Emotions in Check. People that know me--I mean have met with me and conversed with me--always say they never know what I am thinking. I have a  habit of not letting my true thoughts out or letting emotion dictate the conversation. The less I share,  the more control I have. And because my intentions are always for good, I receive respect from others for it.

7.) Think Before You Speak. When I was younger, I blurted stupid things out. As I got older, I listened more than I spoke. Take the time to process information and speak your opinion carefully.

8.) Don't Feel Trapped. When most people want to complain, whine, or quit--think of another way. When I enter a movie theater or restaurant, I always gaze for the emergency exit. Keep in mind that the glass is always half full when it is half empty. Sounds simple, but most people live in a world of scarcity. They feel they are limited and the only person creating those limitations are themselves.

9.) Be Transparent. Be open to clients about your training philosophy and style. I make no bones about my training style when I am contacted. I try to be as descriptive as I can and leave no stone un-turned.

10.) Know Your Client. Don't pigeon-hole clients into transforming them into athletes. That is an apples and oranges scenario. Know the capability and threshold that your clients may have and force them to the edge. If you can really change them physically,  you will change them mentally. If you can do that, you will get the respect that comes with achieving results from anyone you meet.


1 comment:

  1. Great post John. There's definitely pressure to conform in the fitness industry. I also see it with potential clients, or gym members that aren't my clients, in that they have certain expectations of what is the "right" way to train based on what they read or see their peers doing. The current trend is not going to be the best method for most people (especially if you're cleaning weight as fast as you can with poor technique). I've only been a trainer for 5 years, so still learning, but becoming more and more confident in my abilities to facilitate change in my clients... On my own accord :)

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