Monday, February 25, 2013

Stop Being Everything to Everyone and Just Be the Trainer You Want to Be

Flashback to 2003-04....There was a time in my career when I tried to have ALL the answers for all my clients. There was a time when I was too proud to say, "I don't know"...or "I'm not sure"... or "I don't really have experience with that".

There was a period of time when clients were referring friends and family to me for such things as orthopedic problems, metabolic syndromes, and female related issues. At the time,  I enjoyed being a resource for these individuals and acquiring some sort of notoriety. It helped me gain popularity among the staff (of the gym) and eventually, increased my productivity and sales.

However, I didn't have the answers all the time, and other times, I gave inept generalizations to inquiries that should have been dealt with specific matter-of-fact answers. At my most productive times, I was rushing to the nearest computer and researching specific conditions that I was asked about earlier such as:

Fibromyalgia, Exercise during pregnancy, Exercise-induced vertigo and Exercise with Parkinson's 

My resourceful network? Google...Yahoo...and Wikipedia.

After overloading myself with information, I was realizing that I wasn't really learning anything about these individual conditions; I was simply passing information along and making any modifications to the exercise program I designed. I realized I was not learning about these specific circumstances that people were experiencing; I was simply memorizing certain phrases and key points as I hastily skimmed through information on the Internet or in textbooks.

Metaphorically speaking, I realized that I was simply in the passenger seat staring out at the scenery as someone else drove. I was "taking it all in" but not learning how to "get there".

I wasn't the driver learning the route. I was simply taking visual snapshots of the area around me so that I can talk about it later with others.

I finally caught on that I wasn't becoming a better trainer. I was simply becoming a "middle man" for people that wanted to be fed information quickly--regardless if it was incomplete, vague, or even erroneous. It was not until I left the commercial gym atmosphere and left behind the grind of sales, monthly quotas, and pressure that I grasped the idea of focusing on doing what I know best and making THAT better. What made me my best was being who I was and using what I had learned to get the results clients had achieved. I realized that I was good at what I did and what I did was motivate, held clients accountable and set high exceptions on them. 

How did I do that and how can you do that?

1.) Ask yourself or write down what your strengths are and what your weakness are. The stupidest question you can be asked by someone is "what are your weaknesses?". But it's not a stupid question if you ask it to yourself. It's introspective. Write them down and analyze them. What can you do to make them better and into strengths? If you have weakness--that is normal. This is where you need to draw the line and stop wearing that particular hat.

2.) Recognize which clients in your career benefited the most from you and find out why. Once you do that, go back to #1 and check it over. If you are lacking confidence, go back to your history and evaluate which clients reached success and make a list as to why they did. Was it your programming? Did they mesh well with your personality? Is there a certain type of client that you work best with/for?

3.) Identify who EXACTLY do you want to train. For a while I thought I could train anyone and everyone. That was the young and eager guy in me that was aspiring to be great and please everyone. There are certain clients that will stretch and go the distance to maximize your effectiveness. Those clients are a rare breed--but still can be created if poised in the right environment. You control the environment. So it is up to you to identify who can profit the most from having you in their life. Today,  I am not afraid to decline a prospective client or refer them to a colleague.

4.) Forget gimmicks and fitness fads. There was a period in my career when I used balance boards, Dyna discs, and other balance apparatuses to train for "balance and stability". My senior clients would eat this up. I thought I was getting somewhere, until I realized I was "yawning" and growing tired of watching amateur rope walking acts. When I researched more and adapted more strength training into my programs--it dawned on me that balance has to do more about strength that it was getting credited for.  Today, seniors still ask me for the balance board, but I always steer them away from it. If you want to do any type of "balance or stabilization" training with a client--just get them on one leg. That is the most effective. The rest is simply not the right tool for the job.

5.) Ask for feedback. I am very adamant about self inventory check-ups. It has helped me to receive feedback from my clients, friends, and other colleagues on my coaching style, my verbal communication skills, my attitude, and my programs. This has helped me to uncover the components to make number #1 (see above) effective. There is nothing like giving a presentation or workshop for a group of young trainers and having them--one by one--approach you to compliment you at the end.

6.) What kind of equipment do you want to use? This is a new one for me. For years, I tried to learn and understand every machine in the gym: adjustments, inner workings, and usage. Little did I know that the best equipment was the human body, free weights, and some very simple tools to add resistance. If you want to train clients with fluffy, chrome shined machines than you are going to have to accept the fact that you will only attain clients that do not want to surpass a certain work capacity (which will probably be low). I realized that the more I learned about conditioning and strength training--the less tools I needed to obtain it! Today, I have outfitted an entire studio with only about $3000. In a commercial gym, that is the price of ONE piece of equipment! Think about it.

I am a better trainer today than I was only five years ago. And the year before that I was a better trainer than I was the year before that. Each year of my career, my target becomes clearer. And my strengths become stronger and my weaknesses become more readily identify-able.

Today,  I don't receive many questions on topics I am not familiar with. Many of my clients know me for one thing. Five years ago, clients knew me for 50 things. Seriously, do I know what it feels like to train while pregnant? Do I even know what fibromyalgia "feels" like? No...and I don't try to know. I am not afraid to reply with "I am not familiar with that". 

Call it it narrow-minded....but I call it self-discovery. And ultimately, personal growth.


  1. Excellent article as usual. I often see PT websites, cards or brochures where they list their "specialties" in... 11 or 15 things. I'm sure there are some brilliant people who really can specialise in 11 or 15 things, just as there are some people who speak 6 languages fluently.

    But most of us would be doing well to do 3 or so things really well. And that's okay!

    I think perhaps it's partly age, too. No 21 year old male likes to say the words, "I don't know." Around 30 or so you start not caring, becoming confident in what you do know but not afraid to refer someone on for the stuff you don't know.

    Strangely, being willing to say "I don't know" actually seems to make people more confident in you as a trainer or coach. Why? I don't know ;) Ask a psychologist.

  2. I agree age has something to do with it!!


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