Being in the fitness industry for nearly a decade now makes me feel old. Age is just a number when it comes to quality coaching though.
I’ve seen young bucks fresh out of school with great potential, but they fail to follow some of the basic principles that would help them become a better coach and trainer.
Now, I am not saying we become wiser with age in our industry. I’ve still seen some pretty farfetched things from others thanks to social media, but I can attest to the simple fact that some of the things I did early on in my career were silly and pointless.
So instead of boring you with how to be now, let’s just visit my top three things I wish I knew when I first began my quest to be a trainer and gym owner.
1. Credentials are not the most important thing.
Don’t take this one personally. While having a quality education is essential to your coaching and application, it’s not what your clients are going to be prioritizing when seeking you out.
I was so focused on getting every certification under the sun so that outsiders looking in would think I am “worthy” and credible, but I could count on one hand the number of times someone asked me what my credentials were when doing lead calls and appointments.
The vast majority of your clientele don’t care if you have eight abbreviations beside your name. What they want to see is practical application to your profession (seeing you work with others), and providing solutions to their problems (highlighting results). A perfect example of this is displayed almost yearly in my hiring of new employees and trainers. I’ve had some come in with a degree in kinesiology and exercise science, two post-graduate years of interning, and walk into my office with the ability to communicate less than a 10-year-old.
If communication is great, there still can be the application part. I’ve had some basically read my the National Academy of Sports Medicine book by memory but then when they get to working one on one with clients, it’s like they haven’t stepped foot out of a box for 5 years. Just can’t demonstrate, nor do they have the skillset to be aware of what type of learning their client is best suited for (visual, kinesthetic, or auditory). To make things worse, they then have horrible programming abilities.
No matter how great your education is, it doesn’t make you out to be the best trainer. Your client’s needs mean a good bit more than a plaque with a certification on it.
My advice, stick to ONE quality educational source, then move on. Get the balls rolling in the other parts that truly shape your future as a better coach and trainer.
2. Shirtless gym selfies can turn people away from you.
Starting out, I truly thought every trainer needed to be in shape and rocking a six pack. I was under the impression that if you did not take care of your own body, how could you take care of others, right?
Being healthy and active is key to being a better trainer. We all know that. I get some of my best ideas, new programming thoughts and mental fortitude through my own training. Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Yet, focusing on your own image by posting numerous selfies and shirtless photos with the phrase “DM Me To Get Started” most likely won’t be the conversion ticket you are hoping for.
Let me put it this way. Most of us live in communities where your initial clientele will be middle-aged men and women who are overweight and starting back to work on themselves after years of neglect and self-consciousness. They are looking for someone to relate to them, communicate with them and be a friend and source of help that can be at their level.
So by posting shirtless selfies of your physique you could actually be turning off that mom of five who is just looking for help to get some self-confidence back and drop a few pounds. She would look at those photos and either get scared of how intimidating you would be or she would scroll past thinking that you are nowhere near the relatable type she needs.
As trainers, our jobs are a lot more than a cute face and lean physique. While these things can be great additions to our arsenal, it’s not “mandatory” to be cut and popping muscles in every area of your body. For some, this may actually turn them away from you. The best qualities for trainers and coaches to start with are the ability to communicate, build rapport, and trust. Fom my experience, most of my personal training clients over the years loved more than anything the escape and talks we have during our sessions, rather than how long I worked out that day, my diet or exercise routine, and my body image.
I’ve seen great coaches come in all shapes and sizes, so my ending advice is to simply know your audience and target market before constantly floating shirtless photos of yourself.
3. It’s not about YOU, it’s about THEM.
This is a common trap many young trainers, including myself, get caught up in. You want people to know about YOUR training, YOUR diet, YOUR body, YOUR recovery, and YOUR supplements.
You think people want to know all about this since they see you and your body/training and want the same, right?
Not so fast. People want and only connect when they know something is in the picture for them. We are unknowingly selfish human beings. We want to know exactly how we can get the most of what we want in the most effective way possible.
When I first started, I thought people wanted to know about my workouts, my supplements and even while training them, I would talk about my life. This couldn’t be further from the truth of what your clients want.
Let me paint a more clear picture. Imagine yourself wearing a shirt that says, “Hi, how can I serve you today?”
Your clientele want you to help them. They don’t care about your “long day” or “two-hour workout.”
Nor do they want to know the book of science behind the goblet squat and why every aspect of it works. They want to come in, get their workout in and have some great communication about their life and even some stress relief. They want to feel loved, appreciated and listened to.
If you are too busy thinking about your next client, next workout, dinner when you get home, or hourly rate while training your clients, you are going to fail quickly. We as human beings are not idiots. Most can sense when the session is not targeted around them, their needs, or their life.
If you rattle about that goblet squat to a busy mom of five who works 11 hours days and comes for 45-minute sessions, you will quickly either see her finding a new trainer or begin eye rolls each time you open your mouth. The key is finding the sweet spot of giving them just enough of what they need, and a bit more of what they want.
“Mrs. Jones, starting you off with goblet squats today. I know the core is an area you want to improve on and this squat variation helps get those abs working and firing up! Just keep that chest tall and push the hips back and brace those abs and you will see what I mean.”
My case in point here is to treat your sessions/workouts and clients as “escapes.” These are often your client’s only time they get for the day to work on themselves, so don’t ruin it by making it about you or boring them with the literature of squatting fundamentals.
Find a happy medium, and your care, knowledge, and support will mean more to them than any shirtless pic, workout memory, or credential you may have. Just remember, although this applies to my profession, it can be a solid insight to yours. Many of our industries today require us to take a step back and focus on what truly is important.
If you are in need of a trainer who can do what it takes to get you where you need in your fitness routine, send me a message today at [email protected] I am looking for busy moms and dads who don’t have hours to spend daily working out. I can help guide you and coach you to better health.
Mike Over owns and operates Over-Achieve Fitness in Chambersburg. Follow him on Instagram @mjo_oaf.