T Nation

Being a Personal Trainer (Worried)

Reading through some of the threads on here has got me SERIOUSLY worried! At the end of the month I’m starting a course so I can become a personal trainer. It seems that many people on here are rubbishing trainers at every available opportunity.

In all fairness, some examples I’ve read about the terrible advice given etc have given PTs a bad reputation; and with good reason! I’ve wanted to train as an instructor for years and now I finally have the opportunity to, I’m terrified that I’m going to be under constant scrutiny in the gym.

In my opinion, I think I know what I’m doing, but so does everyone else; everyone likes to think that they know best; it’s human nature after all! One of my main worries is that people will look down on me; I probably wouldn’t want to take advice from a 5’4, fairly weak 19 year old girl either (let alone PAY HER to train me!); however much knowledge she had. Is this a general idea people have, or is it just me being overly paranoid and over-analysing things?

[quote]gymbunnie wrote:
Reading through some of the threads on here has got me SERIOUSLY worried! At the end of the month I’m starting a course so I can become a personal trainer. It seems that many people on here are rubbishing trainers at every available opportunity.

In all fairness, some examples I’ve read about the terrible advice given etc have given PTs a bad reputation; and with good reason! I’ve wanted to train as an instructor for years and now I finally have the opportunity to, I’m terrified that I’m going to be under constant scrutiny in the gym.

In my opinion, I think I know what I’m doing, but so does everyone else; everyone likes to think that they know best; it’s human nature after all! One of my main worries is that people will look down on me; I probably wouldn’t want to take advice from a 5’4, fairly weak 19 year old girl either (let alone PAY HER to train me!); however much knowledge she had. Is this a general idea people have, or is it just me being overly paranoid and over-analysing things?[/quote]

One of the worst fields you could ever enter. Good luck.

Keep in mind that the people on this site make up the minority of people that go to commercial gyms. If you’re in shape and are good at motivating and dealing with people, you’ll do fine. Just make sure to keep learning after you get the job.

I agree with Doug.

The vast majority of people in Gyms want (and need) good guidance.

Mufasa

[quote]PGA wrote:
One of the worst fields you could ever enter. Good luck.[/quote]

Right. The only thing I’ve ever had a real passion for…I’m sure I’ll be one hell of a lot happier than if I were sat behind a desk bored out of my head all day. Don’t talk to me about the terrible hours, don’t talk to me about the crappy pay; I’ve heard it all before and I still don’t care. This is what I want to do, it’s what I love!

[quote]gymbunnie wrote:
PGA wrote:
One of the worst fields you could ever enter. Good luck.

Right. The only thing I’ve ever had a real passion for…I’m sure I’ll be one hell of a lot happier than if I were sat behind a desk bored out of my head all day. Don’t talk to me about the terrible hours, don’t talk to me about the crappy pay; I’ve heard it all before and I still don’t care. This is what I want to do, it’s what I love!

[/quote]

I wasnt talking about those points, but run with them. Being a personal trainer is about being a salesman first and foremost. Then comes how you look followed by what you actually know.

I speak from experience. Its a horrid industry.

Like any other business, self confidence while interacting with customers will bring success. You must convince your clients that you know exactly what to do to help them accomplish their goals. You must dress the part, talk the lingo, and have the appropriate attitude. The only true difficulty is keeping newer clients happy while they acclimate to the new lifestyle you’re going to be guiding them through.

You need not worry about what other people think. You know how you want to carry and establish yourself, and thats all that matters. No one can degrade you without your approval, so pursue what you want regardless of what anyone else thinks.

I wish you the best. Like others have said it is a tough business. Have a back up plan!

Some of these responses remind me of the joke “what do you call the guy who graduated last in his class in medicine?”

A- A doctor.

Yes there are some terrible trainers out there. But in every field there are those who are just wasting time. There are also some excellent trainers as well.

To do well in the industry you need to differentiate yourself by being excellent. Due to the poor quality of many trainers, it’s really not that hard to leave a lasting positive impression on people.

I do have a question though. You said you were weak. Why? If you know what you’re doing, you know what you need to do to become strong. So do it. If you excel at something, your clients and peers will recognise that.

Because of this, I treat my own training like a job. I don’t always feel like training, but I refuse to be the fat personal trainer. I lead by example. I hit my workouts, I hit my personal bests. Then when a client tells me that they’re tired or something hurts I can say “I know, I’ve been there, I did these yesterday. You can do it” Without being a hypocrit.

This is the thing. Be genuine. Walk the walk. People will want you to train them. The good news is that due to your age, you will only get better as you train and gain experience.

Don’t expect your course to teach you anything. You’ve found this website. There’s more to learn here than you’ll get in any one course. Keep learning and keep training and you’ll do well.

You said that training is your passion, but you described yourself as being small and weak. If you don’t look the part, you won’t be taken seriously. I’m not saying that you have to be huge, but you should look like you lift and you should be able to demonstrate exercises to your clients.

This site bashes trainers because most trainers’ certification programs don’t educate their applicants enough. I used to be ACE certified and the more I learned about exercise and fitness beyond my certification course, the more worthless my certification felt to me.

What certification are you seeking? The best certifications requires AT LEAST a Bachelor’s degree in exercise science, physiology, kinesology, or something to that extent. If you’re takng your exam soon and you’re only 19, I am guessing that you haven’t yet learned what you need to at the university level?

If you have this little confidence in your future profession, that you have to make your post here, perhaps you should think about pursuing something more stable? Or at least have a backup plan?

[quote]gymbunnie wrote:
Reading through some of the threads on here has got me SERIOUSLY worried! At the end of the month I’m starting a course so I can become a personal trainer. It seems that many people on here are rubbishing trainers at every available opportunity.

In all fairness, some examples I’ve read about the terrible advice given etc have given PTs a bad reputation; and with good reason! I’ve wanted to train as an instructor for years and now I finally have the opportunity to, I’m terrified that I’m going to be under constant scrutiny in the gym.

In my opinion, I think I know what I’m doing, but so does everyone else; everyone likes to think that they know best; it’s human nature after all! One of my main worries is that people will look down on me; I probably wouldn’t want to take advice from a 5’4, fairly weak 19 year old girl either (let alone PAY HER to train me!); however much knowledge she had. Is this a general idea people have, or is it just me being overly paranoid and over-analysing things?[/quote]

Wow! There’s so many things to point out.

First, let’s clear this, PGA - the whole salesperson aspect of a personal trainer’s job may or may not exist. It depends on the facility. Where I work (and I believe where TrainerInDC has commented on as well) the sales staff do this all for us. A client simply walks in, asks for a personal trainer, they are asked which goal category they fit in as far as past training experiences (level - beginnger, intermediate, advanced) and what type of program they’re looking for (fat loss, lean mass gain, combo, etc). That gives the sales people an idea of who best is suited for this client and their needs.

Gymbunnie, just dismiss the naysayers. I’ve posted on this subject recently a couple of times. The basics:

  • You don’t get rich being a PT; doesn’t mean you’ll be poor, just expect that income grows with dedication and time

  • You work messed up hours (you work when people don’t); yes, you can work whichever hours you choose as long as you realize that just means a great reduction in the amount of clients you’ll get

  • The job is attitude, a very positive, never faultering attitude towards and FOR your client.

  • Knowledge is something you get from experimenting on yourself first. You can’t simply see a picture of an exercise or a video and then try to teach your client such a move. Experiment with various exercises and workout programs yourself. I feel it’s irresponsible to advise someone on something you yourself have not grasped the basics and some tips on.
    The books and courses that PT’s take are mostly void of this content.

About the people that hire personal trainers (in general; there are always exceptions):

  • You said you think you know what you’re doing; but that everyone else does too. Not true or they wouldn’t be hiring you. Whether you keep a client or not is based on whether you can teach the client a program which means their needs (fun, exciting, challenging) and gets them results. First step - tell them to erase for the time they’re with you, everything they know. They are to follow you and your program.

  • You generally will get beginner level clients. Being a woman, you’ll get mostly women at least until some of the men start seeing your around “their place” often training others. Men for some stupid reason can’t take advice all to well from a woman when it comes to training. Muscles are muscles people.

Beginner clients (types; regardless of goal):

  • Clueless - never weight trained, heard it’s good, know they should do it, don’t know where to start, don’t want to hurt themselves. Don’t hurt them, give them steady results and they’ll be happy.

  • Frustrated - a little weight training experience but never achieved results expected. You bet your ass they’re going to want results for the $30-70 they’re paying you. If you can’t deliver quick results, they’ll dump you and blame you up and down for they never achieving results (not good for your future business in that gym). The impatient kind fall in this group.

  • Lonely - some don’t care to workout alone, require external motivation, just like to chat while working out as to avoid boredom, want someone to be proud of their accomplishments (because they’re husbands no longer care), etc. You’re that person. Some of the sweetest, kindest people I’ve met fall in this group.

  • Young (<20), Older, Pregnant, or Injured - Looking for information about their specific situation and different kinds of programs need be built for these populations; again, know your stuff.

  • Busy and/or Lazy - Know there’s information out there but don’t have the time or care to get it for themselves. These are the type of people who pay the neighbor’s kid $15 to mow their lawn. They don’t want to have to think about it. They want to give you their cash in exchange for instruction to achieve an end result (generally asthetic). This is mostly where you play drill sergant.

  • Decisive - have already decided on a specific program they wish to follow but are not sure of some of the details, perhaps some of the exercise execution. These are one of my favorite groups. They’re willingness to take in information is incredible. But you better know a wide variety of exercises and how to execute them!

Intermediate clients (types; regardless of goal):

  • Again, Frustrated/Disheartened - have tried various methods (usually half heartedly) and are tired of wasting their time, money and efforts.

  • Knowledgable, Want to Advance - These are also some of my favorite kinds. They know quite a bit. Perhaps more than you and me. But they know that you know something they don’t. And they want that knowledge. You won’t keep these clients; you’ve got them for 1 week - 2 months tops. They soak every tidbit out of you and move on. This is where you show off, and the word of mouth happens quite a bit.

  • Taking Up Someone’s Advice - These people are usually referred to you. Friends, family or collegues of these types of clients have worked with you and have got results in past. They’ve recommeded you and here this person is now. Show them what you’re made of.

Advanced clients (types):
I won’t make this detailed because you won’t see these clients for a quite a while, if ever.

People at this level have in general trained for more than 10 years CONSISTANTLY. They have small, specific goals in mind (symmetry imbalances for example) or challenges they wish to conquer (winning an upcoming contest).
These types of people seek out coaches with 15 years of experience (like some of the T-Nation article writers).

  • I’m the first to admit this list is not the be all, end all of clientelle. Just an off the top of my head sort of list.

Now, Gymbunnie, if these types of people sound like the kind you want to spend a great many hours of your time with and you feel you will absolutely LOVE your job - DO IT!
Forget what anyone else says. Your friends, fam, etc may balk at you but screw them!

Even if you step into it and hate it, try another avenue of personal training (bootcamps for example which are stupid hot here). There are so many different methods and ways to PT.

And, most importantly…if you can’t sit up straight and stop calling yourself a “fairly weak, 5’4”, 19 year old girl" you’ll never make it in this industry.
My ex is 5’1" and didn’t know ANYTHING about weight training 3 years ago. She is clearly genetically gifted in building muscle, but over that time frame has built a great body and has learned a great deal. I introduced her to the iron and she inspires the hell out of me now.

So she’s going to become a PT soon too (as a part-time job). She’ll do fantastic things for people.

Age, height, sex, and strength levels carry FAR LESS importance than ATTITUDE and KNOWING YOUR SHIT!

If I can help anymore, PM me.

Cheers!
AT

[quote]AllTraps wrote:
Wrote stuff just condensing…[/quote]

Around this area there are places that filter out clients but that is not the norm. Its more common for PT’s to have to approach people and sell them the idea of hiring a personal trainer rather than have them handed to them. The sales staffs around here sell memberships not training sessions. Once they sell the memberships they cant care less about the members.

Also, what most clients are looking for is to lose lbs and feel like they’re working out. The latter translates in making them sweat. Most cant care less about lifting weight or getting stronger. Its all about the scale. And if any perspective PT’ers think differently they are in for a major wake-up call.

Its rare to actually get a client that aligns with a good trainers philosophy. Most of the time its brain dead work trying to pay the bills. Those very few clients that are good were not enough to keep me in the business.

BFBullpup, I agree about ACE looking far less shiney as time goes on. But it’s a start. And as long as the person going after that cert keeps that in mind, they’ll do fine. Getting a $40,000 university education to make no more than $10 more an hour than an ACE certified trainer just doesn’t seem to make much sense at all. Seems like a waste of degree if you ask me.

Yes, I fully agree with the mindset of “walk the walk” and your comment “If you don’t look the part, you won’t be taken seriously.”

I don’t know man, I’ve seen some really out of shape trainers do pretty damn well. It pisses me off, mind you because of the hipocrisy and all.
And some people in fantastic, awe-aspiring shape fail in the industry.
I still firmly believe that the greatest successes in PT come from first attitude/outlook of the PT and his/her knowledge.

[quote]PGA wrote:
Wrote stuff just condensing…[/quote]

Agreed bro!
Many commercial gyms operate like this unfortunatly.
Fortunately I don’t have to do “cold walk ups”

[quote]PGA wrote:
Also, what most clients are looking for is to lose lbs and feel like they’re working out. The latter translates in making them sweat. Most cant care less about lifting weight or getting stronger. Its all about the scale. And if any perspective PT’ers think differently they are in for a major wake-up call.

Its rare to actually get a client that aligns with a good trainers philosophy. Most of the time its brain dead work trying to pay the bills. Those very few clients that are good were not enough to keep me in the business.[/quote]

This is not my experience at all. In fact, I can think of only two out of 23 clients I currently train that think this way.

I print a little newsletter about the comings and goings of my little gym which includes training/diet advice tidbits. The bulk of it is me writing about my clients breaking PR’s etc.

I train 70% women and most of them are over 40 y/o yet all but the two I mentioned care very much about thier current squat, DL, bench PR’s. They may not have cared so much in the beginning but over time they’ve seen what big numbers will do for thier body comp.

I’ve found, especially for women that they become addicted to the feeling of power. They seem hungrier for another 5lbs on the bar than most guys I know. I think once they get a taste of what above average strength can do for them, they get hooked!

As a side note here, I’ve had roughly 1/2 of my current clients for over four years, three for over 6 years and one for over eight years, and consistent, 2-3 times per week. You really need to know how to deal with individuals, convince them of what they need and then give it to them, in spades.

Hey,

As a 20 year old personal trainer, I’d say it helps to really know your shit and practice what you preach. Most of my clients typically thought I was between 24-27 years old because of the levels of professionalism and knowledge that I showed as well as my own results.

You need to earn the respect of your fellow trainers and managers as well so that they are completely confident in your abilities. They’ll be more likely to hand clients your way in that case and it’s obvious to your client if you are the laughing-stock of the gym or if you are the the trainer that most others go to for questions.

And also, even when you come across trainers who don’t know a damned thing…try to either mind your own business or present things in a non-threatening, non-condascending manner. One of the most sucessful trainers at the gym I worked at was a pro bodybuilder who honestly knew the least out of anyone on the staff about training and nutrition. Unlike one of the other trainers, I kept this to myself for the most part unless someone else expressed this as well. Even still, keep your negative opinions of other people in the staff on the down-low. Too much bullshit gossip gets around.

And as far as the confidence thing goes, it taks time. You have to keep trying to make progress with your own training so that you constantly question and try various methods to see what work. You have to be ravenously hungry for knowledge so that you educate yourself every-day. And then you just have to “dive in.”

Good luck.

-MAtt

[quote]PGA wrote:

Also, what most clients are looking for is to lose lbs and feel like they’re working out. The latter translates in making them sweat. Most cant care less about lifting weight or getting stronger. Its all about the scale. And if any perspective PT’ers think differently they are in for a major wake-up call.

Its rare to actually get a client that aligns with a good trainers philosophy. Most of the time its brain dead work trying to pay the bills. Those very few clients that are good were not enough to keep me in the business.[/quote]

If this is your attitude then it’s no wonder you didn’t make it in the industry. You have to enjoy what you do man and you sound like I do when i talk about my old job in the teleco industry.

It’s not for everybody, maybe it just wasn’t for you.

Hey thanks so much for all the advice, I found AT’s post particularly interesting. After reading some of the comments, I realised it sounded like I’m not seriously into my training (which I am). I suppose I consider myself weak in comparison to many of the T Vixens on here, but then again most of them are older and have more training under their belt than me, so understandably they’re highly likely to have superior strength. I consider myself weak in comparison to my goals but I’m working my ass off to achieve them! I’m a ‘work in progress’.

I also agree with the point that AT made; I went to uni to study in September but the teaching was atrocious for what I believed to be an over-priced degree. In my mind, 3 years experience working with clients is much better than 3 years at uni that just leaves you with textbook answers.

Thanks everyone for your replies and advice; it’s reinforced my decision and I’m going to be the best I possibly can be!

[quote]PGA wrote:
gymbunnie wrote:
Reading through some of the threads on here has got me SERIOUSLY worried! At the end of the month I’m starting a course so I can become a personal trainer. It seems that many people on here are rubbishing trainers at every available opportunity.

In all fairness, some examples I’ve read about the terrible advice given etc have given PTs a bad reputation; and with good reason! I’ve wanted to train as an instructor for years and now I finally have the opportunity to, I’m terrified that I’m going to be under constant scrutiny in the gym.

In my opinion, I think I know what I’m doing, but so does everyone else; everyone likes to think that they know best; it’s human nature after all! One of my main worries is that people will look down on me; I probably wouldn’t want to take advice from a 5’4, fairly weak 19 year old girl either (let alone PAY HER to train me!); however much knowledge she had. Is this a general idea people have, or is it just me being overly paranoid and over-analysing things?

One of the worst fields you could ever enter. Good luck.[/quote]

“PGA is an idiot!!” Training like many other fields is growing fast and with every job, you have the good and the bad. If this kid wants to be a trainer then more power to him. I have a few friends who make alot of money as trainers and who are very good at what they do!!! I’m sure your job is so much better.