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The Road to Personal Trainer Mastery

In my opinion, the single worst thing that has ever happened in the fitness industry is the designation of a “Master Trainer”. It has led to far many Personal Trainers graduating from their 8 week course thinking they know it all.

They have it so very wrong.

I have spent the last 13 years wholeheartedly dedicating myself to the pursuit of mastering the craft of Personal Training, and even though I still have a long way to go, here are some of the most important lessons I have learnt.

Don’t follow your passion, let it follow you.

This advice is often the most counter-intuitive bit of advice I give. It seems so romantic: you have worked the professional life, slaving behind a desk, clocking hours that don’t make you happy. You love exercising and the concept of helping people get fit and change their lives. You decide to change careers because its all about following your passion.

This is probably the most poorly given, well intentioned axiom ever. What often happens in this situation is you don’t have enough what is called ‘Career Capital’ by author Cal Newport. Career capital can be defined as, “the skills you have that are both rare and valuable and that can be used as leverage in defining your career”.

What this means as a trainer is that you don’t have any real skills or knowledge, and your ability to have a sustainable income is not going to have a high probability of success.

The ideal strategy to follow is to intern, study, learn, train people (often for free) building up skills and knowledge that you can later leverage for income. The end goal is to develop a mindset that is devoted to developing at the craft of Personal Training which will eventually lead to money.

The side effect of this is that as you become more skilled and achieve more success, you will generally enjoy what you are doing more and more. Doing work that you are successful at is inherently rewarding. Focus on getting good enough that passion finds you.

Don’t have a Niche

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.

This is the noise millions of marketing gurus made as I have denounced the concept of a Niche as it relates to Personal Training. Caveat: Having a specific niche is extremely valuable when you have a high amount of career capital.

Too many trainers come to me wanting to only train athletes. Some want to train figure athletes. Some want bodybuilders. Unfortunately they haven’t yet trained anyone yet with any kind of result.

When you start train absolutely everyone you can have the opportunity to work with. You need to build a wide range of skills and understand how to communicate effectively with everyone you have the opportunity to coach.

Don’t Give Diets, Coach Nutrition

With competition athletes, diet plans are essential. If you have a client who desires to get down to 6% body fat, a plan calculating calories and macros to the gram is essential. However, if the client just wants to lose body fat and improve their body shape, this approach often produces the opposite results.

With nutrition coaching it is a better idea to focus on habits and behaviours for the vast majority of clients. This method of coaching will improve long term adherence, reduce confusion and overwhelm and lead to sustainable results.

One strategy I use before giving a client nutrition advice is making sure they are Ready, Willing and Able. They need to be 10 out of 10 ready to do it, willing to do it and able to do it. Otherwise the strategy is beyond that current clients nutritional capabilities. This allows you to create success, not failure and self resentment.

Under Program before you Over Program

One of the most valuable things I do is look back at all the programs I have created for clients and evaluate them based on their how clients responded. Each and every time this gives you an insight into what level of volume your clients individually respond to.

What you will find is that most people are doing far too much volume and have too many exercises in their programs. You really want to err on the side of caution with programming and always leave room for a little more work, rather than do too much.

Understand the complexities of the career and the many hats you must wear

It would be nice if we all we had to do was train people and think about squats or deadlifts. Unfortunately for us, we have many different roles we must fill for this to be a successful career. Here is a small list:

Customer Relationship Management: Bookings, emails, phone calls, making sure everything is on track

Sales – marketing, prospecting, sales calls, payments

Admin – Data management, account details, follow up

Program design

Training clients

Social Media and Websites

Content Development

This can be expanded upon greatly but I’m sure the point has been well and truly made. Being a successful Personal Trainer is more than just counting sets and reps while motivating a client. It is a highly complex and demanding career that can be extremely taxing and challenging but at the same time be extremely rewarding.

If you can truly take the advice given in this article to heart, you will be more than adequately prepared for the demands of the career you want. Commit to the craft fully and become a force for good in this amazing industry.

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