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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Things I learned from my first years as a trainer

I am approaching the two year mark as a certified personal trainer.  I've been "in the industry" for almost five years as a group exercise instructor and wellness coach, but becoming a personal trainer has been the most rewarding experiences of my professional life.  There is nothing more enjoyable then watching people change not only their lives, but the lives of their family members as well.

While in the grand scheme of things, two years is minuscule, I've grown so much in that short time.  I've made plenty of mistakes and learned some lessons the hard way.  Here are the top five lessons I've learned in my first years as personal trainer:

The learning doesn't stop when you pass the test:  You spend all your free time reading your text book, doing the practice tests, going to workshops, and asking your personal training friends questions but that's just the beginning.  It's more than just signing up for continuing education classes to keep your certification current.  People pay a lot of their hard earned money to spend time with you and tap into your knowledge.  Take it seriously.  Read books, watch videos, observe others in your field.  Do whatever you can to help yourself help your clients.

Don't comprise your best judgement for what you think the client wants: Ugh, looking back at how I approached client programming (or lack there of) when I was just starting out makes me cringe.  I'll admit it, I was giving clients new workouts every single week because I thought that's what they wanted.  If I gave them what they wanted, they'd stick around right?  Not so much.  

The thing is, I knew better too but was too concerned with keeping a client happy.  Really, what makes (most) clients happy is reaching their goals and my variety workout of the week programming sure as hell wasn't going to do that.  The icing on the cake was that after four or six weeks they had six different workouts and stopped training with me because the message I was unfortunately sending them was that all you need are workouts.  Who cares about progression?  Improvements in form/technique/recovery?  Please don't make that same mistake.  

Trust your gut:  When that voice inside of you that tells you not to do something (or do something)- LISTEN.  One of my first clients came to me with a long list of health concerns, bodily aches and old injuries.  After an assessment, my gut was telling me to proceed with caution but as a new trainer I was so excited to help people, with their doctor's consent I pressed (gently) forward.  Despite giving them my full attention and writing their workouts to meet their current status to the best of my abilities at the time, they got injured doing one of the workouts. I felt terrible.  I should have called in reinforcements for a second opinion.  Thankfully they have recovered and are now progressing nicely.  

It's ok to say, "I don't know" and "no":  As mentioned above, it's ok to admit you don't know something and ask for help, especially when not asking for help means putting a client at risk.  Avoid answering questions you don't know the answer to with BS you made up or heard somewhere else.  I believe you can gain more credibility with clients with honesty than knowing it all.  

It's also ok to refer potential clients to another trainer who might be better suited to help them.  If your goal is to run a marathon, I'm not your trainer.  Of course I respect runners but I've never run a marathon and have no interest in running myself.  Trainers naturally seem to find their niche whether it's lifting, running. pilates or yoga.  You don't have to be a jack of all trades to have success.  Find what your passionate about that and spend your time and energy knowing everything about that topic.  

Other trainers can be a great resource, not competition: Granted I work at my local YMCA where we don't work on commission or have sales goals to reach but some of the best information I've received has been from other trainers sharing what they've learned with me.  It can be as small as a cue to use when coaching clients or as big as allowing you to intern with them.  Find the best trainer in town and ask to observe them with clients.  These people have been where you have been.  They're in the trenches with you, trying to help people reach their goals. And if helping you means you can better helping people,  then most trainers are willing to help.

I'm sure in another two years time I'll be sharing a whole new set of lessons learned.  Until then….
What lessons did you learn in your first few years at your job?

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