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  • drsuzbaxter

Do you know what a Personal Trainer does? And what do you need?

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

So I figured I'd jump on here and give you a bit of insight to things I've been thinking about a lot lately when it comes to my client journey. So put these thoughts down for you and let me know what you think about them.

The first one being when you go to hire a personal trainer, I think, what is the outcome or goal that the person is looking for? Because it's hard for you, the new client, to know how many sessions, how long the sessions need to be, how long the contract needs to with the Personal Trainer (forever? 3 months? Initially 3 times a week scaling back to 1 time a week?).

And why should you know? I know that your goal isn't to do personal training, its to achieve your goal through exercise and potentially nutrition instruction. Personal training is rarely the endpoint for someone, but the start of the journey.

If you are hiring a professional personal trainer, you obviously value expertise outside of your own zone of genius. Me personally, as the fitness professional with doctoral level university learning and 16 years experience, I want to know all of the factors of the new client (skillset, experience, goals, injuries, stress levels, available time) that will help to shape my expert opinion based on my expertise for getting you where you want to be.

Now we don't have in our industry a "regulation level of personal trainer" like "senior" or "head" or associate, and it's certainly true that years in the job doth not equal number of hours of experience, and courses completed doesn't mean a person knows application. All of these also don't necessarily wash together to make you the best personal trainer in the world. Because the best personal trainer in the world is the one that resonates best with the client. So that said, here are the some of the things that a personal trainer might be able to help you with.

Spoiler alert, it's more than just telling you what to do. The amount that a personal trainer will charge per say, is typically based on the value that they bring to the session based on the courses that they've done, the experience that they've had, and also potentially the demand they have for the services.

So what that looks like is,

  1. On one level, you've got someone who's holding you accountable and may week to week be able to say “you haven't been to the gym besides seeing me”, but you'll be more accountable with that person if you're going to that person, three times a week or more, because that's your required number of times to go per week and they will either know you did or you didn't go to the session.

  2. A personal trainer leads you through a safe exercise session. They don't just tell you what to do, the exercises should be appropriate, have balance (front and back and sides of your body) and take into account what you actually want to achieve.

  3. (bonus) there also should be some thought behind it that's linked to your goals and they should have done a movement screen and a health screen. So first, they're doing no harm. I've referred new clients straight to a doctor who referred them for surgery based on what I found out in a screening assessment.

  4. (also bonus) and potentially creating some thriving experiences for your life and educating you a little bit more during your session as well.

  5. Nutrition Coaching: On top of that, a personal trainer or coach might be able to give you some nutrition advice if they're legally allowed to do that (if they've got a nutrition qualification). It tends to be for me, I find when in a physical session with someone (because they're trying to lift a weight), then I'm trying to tell them about how many times to lift a weight, and what strength training is about, and why we use a certain weight for a certain amount of time, and why we do it a certain way... if I was then adding in on top of that extra level of "What did you eat last week please list your breakfast" is just a lot of things going on in what should be kind of a Zen state that you're creating in the exercise sessions.

So usually if someone wants extra nutrition advice beyond macros, that's coaching. If someone already has exercise experience and they've got really good technique, I'll suggest towards doing online coaching so that we can assess accountability for sessions that aren't held with me, as well as talking about behavioral strategies, mindset and things that they need to be aware of for health in their day-to-day, their week and also how to adjust based on what comes up for them.

It's a really good learning experience for you when you do coaching with me because then when you're doing check ins, things that come up such as holidays birthdays, weddings, that sort of thing. It's possible to address them on the go, sort of ad hoc which is a really nice learning tool and good way to receive the information. So clients get a lot of value from that.

That said that depends on the level of experience that the you have doing the technique. Personal trainers that have been in the industry for less than five years, and potentially 10 years if they've only been doing it for a part time for a long period of time. If they've been in the industry for less than that amount of time, training someone online is probably a poor experience for you. The online version should really be for coaches that have been coaching for long enough in a gym setting where they've actually seen what they might not initially think of themselves.

Other things that personal trainers can help with is suggestions around how to overcome obstacles you have in your week. If you're unable to get in for exercise or if your sleep is diminished, or potentially you're going through some things like stress at work I comment on strategies that I've had with experience from other clients. So that can be quite helpful, especially if you're really stuck in the middle of something and you're being too hard on yourself. It can be really objective to hear from another person that you're too hard on yourself and you need to step back and be thinking about how you can lessen the load and how you can be more kind to yourself and still achieve some really great things for yourself as well. So that's another really good thing about having a coach because it can be another sound box.

On top of that. As someone who's qualified in the industry I write my programs, I write my nutrition, I write my exercise, I know it to a really high level. They always say coaches need a coach and the thing that I would say that I would go to your coach for would be the accountability and also the rationalization which I mentioned because when you're talking to yourself in your head you always think you're the exception and not the rule. So what I mean by that is I used to write exercise programs that were six days a week, but I thought rest days were for everybody except for me. And so I'd believe everyone else needs a rest, and that I did not and that's probably a big mistake that I made when I was in my very early 20s.

Another mistake I would make is I'd say, Oh, I'm not seeing the shifts that I want as quickly as I do. So I would just say, Okay, today I'm cutting my calories again, even though it's been three days. So having that extra person to tell you, "Hey, don't be an idiot". That can really help you to not make rash decisions or end up on this kind of spiral train of just giving up and then starting again and giving up and starting again. So even if you used to be a personal trainer yourself, whether you're a nutritionist or those sorts of things, then you may want to consider thinking about having a personal trainer for accountability or soundboard or to learn more about your own body.

Another great time that you want my coaching is when you're going through something that you don't have specific experience of yourself. So if you are pregnant for the first time, or maybe you want to go to a physiotherapist for specific exercises, these are great times to invest in a really good professional that's going to help you learn more about your body and what that means for your body long term. Same with menopause. Same with post diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Just getting exercise and nutrition advice from somebody (me) who has worked with those specific things for a long period of time and has extra qualifications in those things because they're going to help you achieve a lot more. They're also going to keep you safe and they're going to help you learn a bit more about your body so that you can feel more confident in the things that you're doing. It's gonna be especially useful if you go to see a lot of health care practitioners and you feel like you're just not getting enough information from them about the things that you need in regards to exercise.

One final thing you may want to take into account cost but usually cost equates to the level of experience and what you want from the trainer which we've discussed above. So depending on whether you just need someone to be behind you to yell, "run" that is also possible, and I know a lot of trainers (not personally) who do that and I can refer you to them. Do check my other post for more information on choosing a personal trainer and the ultimate guide to healthy eating here.

Find someone who's really punctual, organized and takes a lot of time and attention in what they do. The last thing you want is to be showing up to do exercise and then get canceled on last minute by a trainer who is constantly sleeping in but only charges you half price of the other trainers.

Have you found your ideal personal trainer? Have you thought about what you're looking for in a personal trainer and does the personal trainer you have meet the needs that you have? And if you think Ive missed something, reach out here.

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