15 Tips for New Personal Trainers

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for trainers but I’ve had a few conversations with newbies lately so this seems apt and timely. Naturally, this information won’t be (specifically) relevant for everyone but I’m sure many of you will find it interesting nonetheless.

1. Don’t talk at your clients. Talk with them. Conversations tend to work better than lectures.

2. Don’t use language that your clients won’t understand. The only person you’ll impress with your big sciencey words is you. Look at the process through their window or you’ll create disconnection.

3. Be the leader. Once you’re clear on their goals and needs, take charge. Make decisions, provide feedback, be assertive and set standards. If you talk and behave like a leader, they will see you as one.

4. Don’t constantly count their reps out loud. One of my pet hates. I’m not sure why but many trainers do this like number-counting robots. It’s really annoying and often, distracting. Besides, people know how to count. If you feel compelled to talk through their set (or activity), give them something a little more instructional, informative or motivational than 7… 8…. 9… 10… 11… 12. Good grief.

5. Don’t talk about yourself. This should be an unnecessary piece of advice but sadly, it’s not. Insecure and egotistical trainers, while common, rarely make great fitness professionals.

6. Keep the relationship totally professional. Forever. You’re not their buddy or their bestie. You’re their trainer, coach and mentor. There’s a big difference between being friendly and being… their friend. This issue has been the undoing of many PT careers.

7. Don’t make shit up. It’s okay to not know things. You can always say something brilliant like “I don’t know the answer but I’ll find out”. I’ve worked in the industry for thirty-one years and I’m constantly learning.

8. Don’t blur the lines. You’re not a doctor, dietician, psychologist or physiotherapist, so don’t diagnose or prescribe outside of your area of expertise or qualification. As my trainer, you might suggest that Coco Pops are not my best breakfast option but you should not prescribe me a diet.

9. Walk the talk. Don’t teach what you don’t do. Be a role model and let your choices, actions and results be a reflection of your words. The quickest way to lose respect and credibility is to tell your clients how wasted you got on the weekend. And yes, it happens.

10. Prescribe exercise based on your client’s goals and needs, not your likes. It’s amazing how many fitness professionals train their clients just like they train themselves, irrespective of the person’s goals, genetics, training background or fitness level. This is lazy, unprofessional and common.

11. When it comes to coaching, don’t confuse the volume of your voice with motivation. Contrary to what many trainers practice, more volume does not equal more motivation. Yelling in your client’s face (yes, it happens) while he or she tries to complete a physical task is all kinds of stupid. Many of the best trainers are quiet, philosophical and intuitive.

12.Don’t kill them. Spend the first four to twelve weeks (depending on their starting point) developing a training base, instilling good habits and building a healthy working relationship with your client (not exploring their physical limits). Not surprisingly, injuring clients and making them vomit tends to be something of a career killer.

13. Identify your PT limit. How many quality sessions can you deliver per day? Week? Quality control is crucial for the growth of both you and your business. If you’re my PT, I don’t care if you’ve done ten sessions already, I’m paying one hundred percent of your fee, so I expect (and should receive) one hundred percent of your energy, skill, focus and commitment. If you can’t give me one hundred percent, don’t book me in.

14. Keep learning, studying and up-skilling. Once qualified, some trainers (okay, many trainers) will do the bare minimum (courses, workshops) to maintain their industry accreditation. A good way to get left behind.

15. Teach. Commit to teaching your clients something new (big or small) each session. An important part of being a great trainer is to empower your clients with knowledge, skills and strategies for long-term success. You are a teacher so teach well.

And enjoy your career. :)

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