29 Things I’ve Learned in my 10 Years as a Personal Trainer

This month marks 10 years that I have been training people.  I have learned, unlearned, and relearned many things it that time.  Research has added a lot to our understanding of how the body works and changed many things.  Plus I’ve grown personally.  I went from working at a club as a trainer and group exercise instructor, to managing the personal training department, to moving back home and starting my own training business.

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Me in my role as new Dad!

Now as a husband and father I’ve grown even more.

It is said that to become an expert at something you need to put in 10,000 hours.

In these 10 years I have gotten my 10,000 hours of training people.  It’s been fun and I’ve come to refine my training philosophy and understanding.

It just turns out I used to be a boob.  I still have more growth and I am excited to take on another 10 years with you!

Things I’ve Learned

1.)  It’s not about the number – I used to count like crazy.  I wouldn’t hardly even talk to my clients I was so busy counting their repetitions.  If they were doing something wrong I would correct it when they had finished.  My earliest clients remember this style of Jeremy and credit themselves some for getting me out of it.  It’s not the number of repetitions you do that is most important.  It is the level of effort and the proper technique.  Now I’m a horrible counter because I am more focused on coaching and motivating.

2.)  Don’t be Married to the plan – I would have my clients entire workout on a clip board and we would do exactly that when they came in.  What I found was more often than not the workout I had planned didn’t fit their physical or psychological state for the day.  Some days people came in ready to rock and some days life had kicked them in the teeth.  If I laid down a nasty workout like planned I was just adding more teeth kicking into their day.  Make them feel better when they leave is a very important goal.

3.)  I learned how to explain how to do exercises – At first all I could do was demonstrate.  I would sit down in a machine or grab a weight and say, “do it like this.”  I would do a few reps and then hand it over to them.  It’s not that I don’t demonstrate now (because for some this is VERY helpful) I can just add verbal instructions also.  I have developed the ability to get someone to do an exercise properly even if I didn’t demonstrate.  This came from teaching group exercise where you have a room of 50 people all moving at once.  You got to teach well.

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Someone's About to get Hurt!!!

4.)  Some fads are worthless – I came into training at the height of “functional” training.  Where people did all sorts of circus tricks.  I always filter my exercise choices for clients by asking.  Would I do this?  Would I make my mom do this?  Many exercises don’t pass because they waste more time than they have benefits.

5.)  It’s ok to fire your clients – There are times when for whatever reason the personal training relationship is not working.  Often times this is a personality conflict.  I’ve fired a few clients because they were either draining all my energy for the day or I was not able to reach them.  This was always hard but usually a great benefit to them and me.  (there were a couple that felt like a heavy weight was lifted from my shoulders, I had so much more energy and enthusiasm for all my other clients)

6.)  Most people want tricks when it is more about consistency and work ethic – We all want the short cut, or the easy way.  Get rich quick type thinking.  This is often part of the coaching at the start now to explain that it’s not going to work that way.  Now there are some tricks to getting great results but none of them work without consistency and hard work.

7.)  I am not all powerful – I originally thought I could MAKE someone lose weight perhaps even against their will.  I can advise, instruct, encourage, and coach but THEY are the one’s that are doing the work.  I remember one client, Stan, he said, “I have a multi-billion dollar idea for you all you have to do is figure out how to do it.  What if YOU worked out and I got the benefits.”  (if only we could)  I now avoid taking credit for people’s success (they did it not me, I only coached).  And I sometimes can avoid taking the blame for failure.  But I try to do EVERYTHING in my power to get them the results they need.  Even if it means a few restless nights thinking about someone.

8.)  You cannot be everything to all people – There are other programs out there that truly might be a better fit for someone.  I wouldn’t try to sell a professional athlete on joining boot camp because boot camp is designed for weight loss and for people who prefer not getting hurt in their workouts while getting healthier, stronger, and of course looking better.

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One of our trainers (Bo) having fun!

9.)  Variety is fun! – I used to be stuck doing the same workouts with my clients all the time.  While you can get great results that way it’s certainly not as fun.  I found if I do it right we can have a lot of variety and actually get better results because of it.

10.)  It’s not a lack of knowing – It’s not that people don’t know what to do with weight loss.  They know exercise and eat better.  It’s HOW to do it and actually DOING it.  More of my studies lately are not on exercise physiology but on behavioral psychology and even sales.  I have a hard job.  I have to sell people on hard work, consistency, eating healthy food vs crap.  A great personal trainer is not the one who knows the most detailed facts about the body (I used to be that guy) but a great trainer is one that can influence people to make the changes that are necessary for success.

11.)  There is something to be learned from everyone – I have learned more from my clients over the years than I’m sure they have learned from me.  I’ve learned more about life, it’s challenges and struggles.  I’ve learned more about what it’s like to be a teacher, doctor, lawyer, business person, contractor, etc.  I’ve also learned more about what truly works in exercise and nutrition from them versus any book.  I love being a trainer because of the great people I get to learn from.

12.)  Safety is more important than results or fun – If you get people great results and they are having fun but it’s not safe, the results and the fun aren’t going to last very long.  I operate by the principle “first do no harm.”

13.)  Results are more important than fun – If they come for weight loss and you give them fun.  They will eventually get frustrated for the lack of results.  There are other things they might still find more fun than working out with you.

14.)  Fun is important – having bashed fun above.  It is still important.  I feel that life is too short to not have fun.  It usually my goal in every workout to get people to smile at least a couple times.  I want people to leave feeling better in every way.  It is my goal to try to be the best part of their day.  (for some people that is easier than others)

15.)  Fat trainers are creepy – There is something unsettling about an unfit personal trainer.  I kinda feel like they are a shady used car salesman.  They are trying to sell other people something they don’t believe in.  I never want to be “that guy.”

group workout 300x200 29 Things Ive Learned in my 10 Years as a Personal Trainer16.)  We need each other – I have done very well with one on one training.  At least 5,000 hours of my 10,000 hours has been spent one on one.  There are a few cases where it is best but I have noticed that the power of a group with similar goals can be a far bigger benefit to people.  When you have friends that you meet daily during your workout it’s so much more fun and there is a deep need that gets filled that I as a personal trainer cannot do on my own.  I’ve had some people move from one on one training to boot camp and one of my favorite lines is, “no offense Jeremy but boot camp is way better than one on one.”

17.)  Our program is very unique – There are boot camp classes all around the country.  But they are done very different from how we do them.  They have BIG numbers sometimes hundreds of people.  They can come at anytime.  They let people join in the middle of the month.  In general I find they are missing some of the most powerful strategies we use.  Even if the workouts were exactly the same (they aren’t, we do that weird too) the program would leave people feeling a lot more isolated and not provide the same education.  I want to see this style spread because we are on to something here, but I want to make it even better first.

IMG 1138 150x150 29 Things Ive Learned in my 10 Years as a Personal Trainer18.)  Nutrition Beats Exercise for Weight Loss – I’ve seen so many people try to out exercise their diet.  They get so frustrated.  Experience proves diet to be more important and the research supports it.  As soon as we coach people into the right nutritional tracking mindset they start dropping weight.

19.)  Nutrition can’t do everything – People who just diet to lose weight do lose weight but the body they have at the end is not ideal.  Exercise shapes and tones, energizes and strengthens.  My mom was a great example when she first got to her goal weight she did it with only diet.  Now, she is at her goal weight and she says her body is, “totally different.”  She is several sizes smaller at the same weight because of the right exercise program.  Plus she can outwork people half her age in daily activities.  Also exercise can help you by allowing you to lose weight by eating more.

20.)  If you don’t take time for stretching you will take the time when you are injured – most people feel stretching is a waste of time but if you skip it regularly you will have consequences eventually.  I used to tell people to stretch on their own.  They wouldn’t and would eventually come in feeling achy and sore in their joints.  I got fed up and include it in every workout now.  People are feeling much better.

21.)  There’s no “I can’t” – When we say things like I can’t we are taking the control and choice out of our hands.  There are absolutely things people should NOT be doing.  Not because they can’t but because it would be unwise.  If someone has bone on bone in their knee they shouldn’t be doing repetitions of something that hurts that joint.  They could do it but it’s not smart.

22.)  Keep moving – When injuries come up.  Keep moving.  Maybe not the injured area but move the rest of your body.  Life happens and we get aches, pains, and injuries (like falling in the driveway).  If you stop for every injury you will constantly struggle trying to get back in shape.  We modify so much in our classes so people no matter their condition can keep moving but also be smart about it and let the injured area heal.

23.)  Cardio should be the last thing you add to your fitness routine – Most people add it first but there are far better uses of your time than cardio.  Add resistance training first, then intervals, and finally cardio.  If you have more than 4 hours a week to exercise you can fill the extra time with cardio to increase calorie expenditure.

24.)  There are a lot of clueless trainers out there – My first conference I went to I was scared out of my mind.  I had hardly trained anyone at this point.  I thought I was getting in over my head.  Then I started talking to trainers there and hearing the questions they were asking the presenters.  My reaction was, “wait, they don’t know this stuff?”  It was a HUGE confidence booster.  It’s scary to think of some of them with their clients.

Screen shot 2013 01 20 at 6.13.01 PM 250x300 29 Things Ive Learned in my 10 Years as a Personal Trainer25.)  I love teaching and talking in front of groups! – This is like a “duh” for those of you who have seen me in boot camp or a seminar.  This is like a complete 180 from who I used to be.  I was super shy and scared of most conversation.  I was the quite guy.  In high school I would have been voted least likely to be public speaking.  As I began teaching and being up there more I realized that when you have information people need to hear, it is exciting to be able to share it!  Now Sarah can’t shut me up.  :o)

26.)  I don’t know everything – When I first started I think my insecurity made it hard for me to admit I didn’t know somethings.  And for some reason I actually did think I knew it!  (probably that conference I went to).  Now I know my limits and I can direct people to better resources than myself for specific topics.  I am excited by all that I don’t know.  I can’t wait to learn some more!

27.)  Your clients can be your friends – When I first started the books I read said that you shouldn’t be too friendly with your clients.  I saw that some trainers did go WAY too far.  (it embarrasses me to be in the same category as them but there are some trainers who are sleeping with their clients)  I do believe you should be a professional not a animal.  But, when I started I distanced myself too far from that.  It meant I couldn’t laugh and joke with clients or care about their lives outside of the workouts.  Sarah and I even have dinner with our client friends sometimes.  You are a friend as soon as you become a client.  We care.

team 300x207 29 Things Ive Learned in my 10 Years as a Personal Trainer28.)  I can’t do it all alone – If you want to do great things you need the help of others.  I’m so thankful for mentors that taught me and lifted me up.  I’m even more thankful to the great team I get to work with.  Tall Trainer wouldn’t be what it is today with out each of them!

29.)  There’s never a bad time to ask someone to join our circle – If you haven’t tried our program.  You might really like it and we would love to count you as a new friend.  Just call 1(800)380-7047 or fill out the training application on our website www.talltrainer.com.  Next session starts January 28th!!!

I hope you enjoyed this list of my learnings.  Please leave me some comments so I know you were here.  Anything surprising or something you want to talk about?

Posted in Fat Loss Strategies, Featured, Fitness, Life Without Walls by talltrainer | 25 Comments


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