Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The 'Career' Student That Continues to Learn and Never Applies Anything

Lately, I find more and more personal trainers are not really training, but simply studying more. Let me clarify. more and more personal trainers with minimal to no experience whatsoever are busy keeping their noses in the books, rather than practicing what they study in the real world. They are in an endless "certification" process.

It's a bold statement to make.

In my college psychology and sociology classes, I learned that humans learn through three different processes. They included:

Auditory process - "Hearing" or "listening" to someone lecture to you; or being given verbal instructions on something.

Visual process - Seeing or visually absorbing the information as it is laid out in pattern such as PowerPoint, drawn sketch, flowcharts, or demonstrations.

Kinesthetic process - Using actions of the body to imitate, perform, or touch to acquire information about the subject being instructed. 

Experiencing one or all of the learning processes is stimulating to the brain and adds to our personal growth. Some of us are very receptive to the learning process and excel in understanding concepts and retaining education. That's why some people are great students and excel in school; while others are disconnected by stale classroom instruction. However, there is a breed of new personal trainers entering the field,  that well...don't really "enter the field" because they don't ever use what they've learned.

The learning process is a 'safe-haven' for people that are fearful of using the concepts they are learning. Personally speaking, I have always found it easier to learn new things while in school, but when it was time to take an exam; I got nervous. I thought, "what if I don't get everything right?"

This same fear may be holding back many students into fulfilling the role of personal trainer fully.

I think that same fear crosses the minds of many trainers that continue to embark on learning as much as they can. Personal training students become fearful---not of the certification exam or course quizzes---but of using what they've learned in the real world afterwards  So, in order to remain in a comfortable state, they remain on the path of learning--constantly seeking more and more certifications without training a soul. The learning process becomes handicapped because only two out of the three learning processes are satisfied.  In the classroom, visual and auditory leaning cues are used and do not allow students to en-grain the knowledge using kinesthetic patterns.  Basically, it is trying to learn martial arts by simply reading a martial arts magazine. One cannot become proficient at a craft unless they are engrossed with a 3-way learning pattern. There is no better example of this than this training montage from The Karate Kid:

So where is the problem? Many students entering personal training courses and exercise studies, do not have an athletic background or weight-lifting experience. However, one doesn't need it to become successful. But it should be acquired. It is acquired through application and practice. This is what affects confidence levels in new trainers  They feel that they do not have an adequate amount of "under the bar", "in the trenches", or "gym experience". To solve this,  they bury their heads in more fitness textbooks and magazines memorizing concepts, movement drills, and exercise demonstrations. This is probably not the best way to learn exercise. The best way is to get in  the gym and practice.

Where does the student learning how to be a trainer or exercise physiologist fall? I have seen many students that accumulate numerous classroom hours and credits obtaining certifications including specialized certifications in nutrition, rehab, speed & agility, senior strength training, and corrective exercise. However, the motivation to begin a career is hesitant. Beginning a career working with your first client (stranger) is outside of the comfort zone. It is outside the "safe haven" of the textbook or classroom. Many of today's students are reluctant to step out of the comfort zone and apply the concepts they have learned. 

Personally speaking, my first 1-2 years in full-time personal training were eye-opening for me. Luckily, I had some great clients that were happy to be accountable to me. What they didn't know, is that my program designing skills were off. I wasn't sure how to prepare a program; plan a workout, modify workouts, or work around injuries. I guessed on quite a few clients in those early years. But...it allowed me to learn from my mistakes, find similarities in training feedback, and refine my "consultation talk". 

Many of today's young trainers are hesitant, fearful, or ignorant to applying what they learn sooner, rather than later. If not applied, the kinesthetic learning process is not reinforced (if ever begun). If mistakes or discoveries are not made,  the mind doesn't expand beyond what was written in texts. Tell a boy that playing with fire will burn, and he will likely not understand the concept. But if he burns his finger on a lit match,  the brain will "file" that feedback; and he would have learned more effectively if you had just told him or made him read it.

Moral of this post? Once you are certified  get out there! Find a job, find a client and begin transforming their life. Your lives will transform simultaneously!


  1. Thanks for the post, John! I'm at the beginning of my PT career and I feel like I could have done this mistake too. Not even in fitness industry, but in other aspects of life as well (personal development, my own training etc.) Now I'll focus more on actually doing things I've learned.

  2. Yo thnx for the advice, im just starting as a trainer but luckily for me I have numerous practical gym experience, I trained in muay thai, and my second college required 200 hours of hands on gym experience with half of that time training clients as a internship to build applied job skills. This really helped my confidence alot as I now know I have a big advantage over other beginner trainers. Where I need the most work now is applied business and marketing strategies which im researching and experimenting currently. Hands on experience really does help!!


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