What makes a good trainer, a Recipe for success Part1

I’m a personal trainer and I love my job. I love every part of it. Well, ok being up and ready to teach a 5 am bootcamp took a little getting used to. But I’m inspired every time I teach an early fitness class and see the determination and dedication of everyone who is there to look after their physical health before most people’s day even starts.  There are many things that make a good Personal Trainer, but a passion for the job and admiration for the people who look to you for guidance along their fitness journey is paramount.  I feel that I am good at what I do, however, I still have a lot to learn and that is a prospect I look forward to. Knowing and accepting this is one thing that makes me a good trainer.  I’ve been very lucky so far to have the experience that I’ve had and to have worked with the people I’ve worked with. Malcolm Gladwell says that to be considered an expert at something, you have to have done it for at least 10 000 hours. If you’ve done something for 10 000 hours, I think you could say that you’re experienced at that something (I have not reached 10 000 hours but it’s only a matter of time). However, just as important as experience, formal education is irreplaceable. Would you go to a dentist that hasn’t been to school for dentistry but has been doing it for a few years? I wouldn’t. Formal education is one corner stone many personal trainers are missing.  Lastly, a Personal Trainer has to love people. Not just put up with them or just like to watch them, but love to study and learn from them and more important than that, they have to want to spend time with them. Working closely with a client who is sweaty and feeling vulnerable is an interesting situation all trainers find themselves in. It takes a certain amount of decorum to not only feel comfortable yourself but more importantly, ensure your client is comfortable. My goal here is to give you an idea of what to look for when you are searching for a Personal Trainer, not all Personal Trainers are created equal. If your Personal Trainer is experienced, educated, and passionate about helping you be your best, you’re in good hands.  If not, perhaps it’s time to look for someone who is.

In my, to date, four years of working in the Fitness industry in beautiful Victoria BC, I have had the privilege of working with literally hundreds of clients and fitness class participants. I’ve sat and tried to actually come up with a ball park number and my honest estimate is 500+. That number comes from the one on one clients I’ve worked with to the fitness classes of 60+ participants that I’ve taught and everything in between. Working with this amount of people in my relatively limited time as a Certified Personal Trainer is a dispensation that not all trainers are blessed with and I do not take it for granted. However, it is experience that builds confidence and an understanding of people, what they like/dislike, how different people respond to different approaches and just simple raw face to face time with real people.  In my day to day classes, I’ll get a workout mode stuck in my head. Whether it’s a countdown or a ladder or combination of movements and I just can’t stop thinking about the possibilities or the options that the idea or combination provides. So I will use that same idea all day or throughout the week with all the different groups and one on one clients that I work with. Ok, I may not use it for everyone and will always adjust it to fit each client or groups fitness and competency level, but the core idea will be in there. I don’t’ do this because I’m lazy and just don’t want to come up with a new idea. Part of the reason is, like when the first song you hear on the radio when you wake up gets stuck in your head, and the only way to get it out is to belt it out and sing the words out of your head; exploring every option of the idea helps me get it out of my head and gives me a number of subsequent ideas at the same time. It also gives me the opportunity to watch how different people respond to similar stimuli. I find it so interesting to watch a group of middle aged women beast through a tough workout and then use the same workout for a group of young men who barely make it through. This provides me with experience points that are invaluable and help me learn, not only how to adjust movements and intensity for one group over the other, but how each individual person in that group responds.  I love challenging myself to keep things fresh, new and interesting; this also keeps me gaining experience. When I teach a SPIN class I try very hard not to teach the same class more than once; I change at the very least the order of the drills to see if it makes a difference. The point here is experience. Experience comes in many forms and at unexpected times; looking for it, learning from it and applying it the next day is the sign of a good Trainer.

However, experience isn’t the only thing that a good trainer needs. While experience is a great asset, there is still more that is needed. Education is Experience’s big sister. I will talk about education in Part two of “What makes a good trainer”. Until then, as always, Thank you for reading and happy Thanksgiving.

Matt Kingstone (King Cobra Fit)

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