Friday, July 12, 2013

What is a Personal Trainer?: Part One

Assisting Coach Chelsea at the Y
A good personal trainer plays a lot of roles. Their job isn't to get you in shape, it's to point you in the right direction. I tell my clients, "I can get you to 5. Getting to 10 is your job." That doesn't let me off the hook, though. Here are some of the things I think a Personal Trainer needs to do to be good at their job: things I strive to include in my own work.

Be a Role Model: I don't think a trainer needs to look like Arnold or Jillian, but their appearance and conduct should reflect a commitment to wellness. I wouldn't reject a trainer out of hand because they have a big butt or a pooched belly, but seeing them in the break room with large fries and a coke might get my attention. Physical, mental, and spiritual health go hand in hand. A good trainer is working for balance in their own life, even as they are coaching clients to strengthen themselves.

Be a Cheer Leader: When I told my friend that I would be leading a group exercise class, she asked, "Are you going to have to chirp 'GOOD JOB!' every three minutes?" What I've found is that sometimes I have to do it even more often. When my trainer encourages me like this, it isn't to convince me, or even to praise me, really. It's to inject positive energy into my workout. Four push-ups may not be an earth-shattering performance, but that little boost could be the difference between giving up and pressing for five. The truth is, you deserve praise for showing up. That may not be the most strenuous part of your workout, but getting off the couch and into the gym is surely the most important part. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric once said that Leadership is knowing when to kiss and when to kick. I've found that a kiss is usually a lot more encouraging.

Be a Disciplinarian: Having said that, there are also times when a boot to the butt is what you need to get you over the wall. Fighting for your life, (and isn't that what we're all really doing?) is a battle between pride and shame, love and fear. My trainer has probably said, "You're doing great!' to me a hundred times, but the day I'll never forget was during a brutal set of Burpees in the sun when I fell to the hot asphalt, panting on my knees and she shouted, "Don't you give up on me, Bob!" She had earned my trust. We were a team. I would have died out there rather than not finish that last rep. Not because I was afraid of what she would do if I disappointed her, but because I was afraid of what it would feel like to know that I could have gone on, but didn't.

Be a Teacher: Ultimately, a trainer's job is to make themselves obsolete. Just as you outgrew your third grade math teacher or your freshman writing professor, you may very well outgrow your need for your trainer one day. That might mean moving on to a different coach. Or it could mean taking the things you've learned and designing your own programs. A trainer should always be helping clients to increase their knowledge, not just the size of their biceps. That could mean a quick cue on how to perform a squat more safely, or it could be a 10 minute conversation on how to get to sleep at the end of a stressful day. A trainer who does nothing more than carry a clip board and count reps is not worth your money.

Be a Student: Like any good teacher, a personal trainer must first be a student. The good ones are always reading, listening, watching videos, studying other trainers. Exercise science is growing every day, and knowing what works and what doesn't; what's an effective mode of exercise and what's this year's latest fad is important. Every professional certification requires continuing education. If your trainer is certified, that suggests to you that they've made a commitment to learning and staying current on the state of their art. A new client has the right to ask about their trainer's education AND experience. I want to know that the person teaching me to use combat ropes has spent some time at the end of a pair of them, not just watched somebody else use them on YouTube.

A trainer plays a lot of other roles: Counselor, Listener, Producer, Inspiration. We'll take a look at them in our next installment. Till then,

Sleep well. Eat clean. Lift heavy. Run hard.


No comments:

Post a Comment