Choose Your Trainer Wisely…


Do As I Do And Also As I Say…

I am proud to have mentored a handful of people into fitness training careers. Another friend and former client completed her initial NASM fitness training certification this week.

On her completion she posted the following question on her Facebook page:

“So now that I got my fitness trainer certification, do you think I should get in shape? I mean like for real?

This is actually a serious question. A friend of mine and I are having this ongoing conversation, in which I claim that a trainer is like a coach and needs to know how to teach fitness and how to motivate but doesn’t have to necessarily be an athlete him/her-self. Just look at the coaches of Olympic gymnasts, for example.

My friend disagrees saying that expectations of fitness professionals are different than those of coaches. There’s probably some truth to that. What do you think?”

The thread of answers to her question were more mindful and insightful than I would have expected. To extract the commonalities from the many answers suggests that being in immaculate shape should not be a requirement or even a consideration for her. However, being in reasonable shape should be attempted if not maintained. Below is my own reply:

“I think it’s important to be in reasonable aesthetic shape, and able to perform movements as well as, if not better than your clients.

You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be ripped, jacked, or shredded. You need to be able, and you need to be mindful.

Since you are both able and mindful, end of discussion.”

What Is In Shape…

Of course what lays at the heart of this question is the definition of in shape. I once defined my own belief on what constitutes in shape or fitness as follows:

“Physical Fitness is the sum of average or above average balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, and confidence. If these can be displayed while maintaining a reasonable aesthetic form, all the better.”

I stand with that definition today. Of course the terms average and reasonable aesthetic form are subjective.

What Does A Fitness Trainer Look Like…

I have been associated with dozens of fitness trainers through the years. They have come in all shapes and sizes, and though my place is not to judge, when I have judged other fitness trainers, I have done so exclusively based on 2 criteria; their knowledge, and their ability to communicate that knowledge. That, THAT is what a fitness trainer should look like!

Through my own career, my shapes and sizes have varied. I have been extremely lean at times when preparing for long distance races, bodybuilding, or living with longer bicycle commutes.

I have been bulkier at times when focusing on strength, relaxing my eating standards, or when I have backed off of (but never away) from my own fitness regimen. Despite what I have looked like, my knowledge base and my ability to communicate that knowledge has only increased. There have even been times when you might have looked at me and thought I might need a fitness trainer, and that’s kind of my point.

When the picture below was taken, I was not proud of my aesthetic shape. Nor was I ashamed of it. At the time this picture was taken, I was actually quite strong, as well as posting very good times on my bicycle and with my trail running, despite that the picture might indicate otherwise. In fact, at the time this picture was taken, I was very competitive within my circle of hardcore fitness friends. I was also working a full schedule as a fitness trainer.

When one friend saw this picture, he sent me an email stating,

“My god Roy, get that under control.”

Maybe I will, I thought, maybe not. That picture did not define, in any way, my client’s experiences with me.

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, and professional fitness trainer.  Circa 2011

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, and professional fitness trainer. Circa 2011

Factual Selection…

I have read many times what to seek when selecting a fitness trainer, and I have also been asked this question regularly. Of course what is written by others, and what I believe are often in contrast with one another.

What a trainer looks like should be among the least of one’s considerations when choosing a fitness trainer. I also believe that education, certifications, and continuing education are not the most important factors in the selection process.

Teaching physical fitness; the sum of balance, flexibility, strength, and stamina is not rocket science. Though a basic education and some experience is needed to teach these qualities, it is the ability to communicate them and to effectively demonstrate them which matter most.

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, professional fitness trainer.  Circa last month...

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, professional fitness trainer. Circa last month…

If you are looking for a fitness trainer I will suggest that communication skills and ability to demonstrate proper exercise matter much more than the shape of their arms, the size of their waist, or the titles they have won. Look past the electric tan and the hairstyle. Before selecting a fitness trainer, ask to watch them at work. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights. Enjoy!

5 responses

  1. I truly hope this friend of yours will get your message into her head. 🙂
    But more seriously, it is like judging a book by its cover, isn’t it?
    Thank you so much for chiming in. I truly appreciate.

  2. Unfortunately in the fitness business, too often your appearance serves as your business card. There’s an assumption that if you don’t Look The Part, you must not know anything– the logic goes that if you knew anything, why wouldn’t you be in stellar shape yourself? I have seen the dark side, where “you don’t look like a trainer” has closed doors before the question of knowledge or qualifications has come up.

  3. iT IS A GREAT POST rOY. yES, OLYMPIC & SPORTS TRAINERS GET A PASS VS. TRAINERS FOR REGULAR PEEPS & IN GYMS WHERE PEOPLE DON’T HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE THAT SPORTS ATHLETES DO & SO EXPECT THEIR TRAINERS TO LOOK THE PART.

    SORRY ABOUT CAPS – DID NOT SEE THAT. NOT RETYPING! 🙂

    Saying all the above, having experience in the gym & knowing what works & does not work is important as well… says thai woman with a lot of years under her belt & no certification. I do agree education is worth it’s weight in gold but experience doing it does too. Ya just don’t know till ya do it

    AND as I say about the woman stuff – all these peeps can write stuff prior to going thru it but until you go thru it – well, ya just don’t know…

  4. This is perfect timing, after several months, once a week with my trainer of choice, I decided to move on. Though he was very knowledgeable and followed with most of my health beliefs, he eventually joined the path of his fiance: competition. In and of itself this is not a bad thing, but the transformation in his appearance and apparent show-off-style started to annoy me (fake tanning, taking off shirt to pose in front of mirror during my session, etc.). As well, his constant need to check in with ‘someone’ via text while it was my training session, the final straw.

    Granted, my trainer helped me to regain much strength and helped me learn what I needed to do to protect my arthritic back while gaining strength and muscle. But I will now be looking for a new trainer that is more grounded to my needs. It was time to move on.

    Thanks for sharing, Roy! Always on point at some point in my life 😉

    L

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