Disclaimer: It is not now nor has it ever been my intention to write this article as though I am sitting up on a high horse looking down at all other trainers. I have been fortunate to have exceptional role models in the training world that have taught me right from wrong over the years. In writing this, I'm hoping to fast track your learning curves as trainers or as potential clients to separate the good from the great trainers out there.
Unlike many other professional industries, there are a wide range of abilities in trainers. The truth is anyone can get a canfit pro certification in two weekends and then call themselves a trainer. It's a shame and a tough reality in this business, so it can be really difficult to tell who actually knows what they are talking about.
Here are my general guidelines that I apply to help me be the best trainer I can be:
1. Never ask a client to do something that you wouldn't do yourself.
If you tell a person to drop and do 1000 burpees, you best have done that within the last 72 hours and if not then get ready to drop and do it with them! This rule is relative -- I train a lot of men who can lift more than I can, but watt/pound wise I'm right there with them!
About eight years ago I signed up at a gym that required everyone to take a "fitness test" before you could workout. This was really just a chance for them to make you feel like you needed to buy personal training sessions. I remember them telling me I was nearing the overweight range at 134 lbs at 5'4... Anyway the "trainer" that was doing a "fitness test" with me asked me to jump up the stairs on one leg skipping two stairs. I asked him to show me and he jumped but missed the second stair, he fell down and blood started pouring from his nose that he smashed into the floor. Safety first! Be smart with clients and always try something yourself first in a workout before you ask client to try it.
2. Practice what you preach. Along the same lines as rule #1. If you tell someone they should workout five times per week then you should be doing at least that too, and then some. Clients always ask me if I workout on top of teaching Bod Squad classes -- absolutely! I need to stay one step ahead -- constantly alert and focused. Nobody wants a huffy puffy trainer! My workouts are short (30 minutes) but super intense.
3. Don't cookie cut. No two clients are the same and therefore no two workouts should be the same either! You wouldn't believe how many times I see trainers run through the exact. same. plan. day. after. day. every. single. session! It's nuts! And talk about boring!
My ultimate goal when I'm training is to feel like I've morphed inside your body and I'm working in there, learning how to optimize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
If your trainer is constantly working off a sheet of paper to train you, that workout isn't worth the piece of paper it's written on!
4. Train like trainers. It's mesmerizing to me how few trainers actually do similar workouts on their own that they do with clients. A great trainer will know how to walk you through a workout because they've already done it, not just told others to do it.
5. Look the part. In order to be a "great" trainer, I really think you need to look your greatest. Fortunately, great in the training world doesn't mean a super skinny size 00, it means healthy, vibrant and fit. Confidence and consistency are key. If you're constantly yo-yoing in size, dieting, trying this that and the next thing, it can send the wrong message that you don't really know what you're doing.
6. Dress the part. Sweat pants and t-shirts are great for at home but if you want to be treated like a professional then you need to dress professionally. My mom always harps on me, "Christie, those pants are off-brand," meaning old and frumpy looking. I'm lucky to be living in every girl's Lululemon dream closet right now but really all you need is a couple pairs of pants, a few great tops, and some clean running shoes and you're set.
7. Be nice to other trainers. Never, ever, ever say anything bad or gossipy about another trainer to a client. Even if you know that trainer has a side business selling crack or works as a prostitute on weekends -- seriously stay out of it. It won't do you any favors. Put good vibes out and good vibes will come back to you.
8. Put your GD phones away. Seriously, get off your phones! It is totally unprofessional, rude and inconsiderate to your client. If you're constantly needing the entertainment from your phone, you might be in the wrong job.
9. Great trainers only take on and keep great clients. Honestly, I love every single one of my clients for different reasons. I love the super intense go-go-go ones, the chatty ones, the happy-grumpy ones -- they are all great. If you're in a training relationship that isn't great, get out of it. I've fired a few clients and as awkward as it is in the moment, it will save you months of anguish and it will keep you weighted down. Trim the fat. Work with the best and you will be motivated to be your best.
10. Surveys and feedback are critical. After every Bod Squad session and every eight weeks or so with personal training clients, I check in to see how they're feeling about our progress together. We take measurements and I send out an online survey form for suggestions. It lets everyone know I care about getting better and I want to hear from them on how to best do that. It's tough to put yourself up for criticism but it will come back in positive spades and generally people are less critical when you give them the chance to be.
Bottom Line: The greatest trainer for you is the one that pushes you through that extra ounce, that you look forward to seeing, and that inspires you to be better.
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