Job title Personal trainer
Employer BodyPower UK Ltd/Mark Laws Performance Coaching
5 things I've learned as a personal trainer
“I have been working full time in the fitness industry for 12 and a half years now. There have been good days and bad. The busy periods have been sickening but there have been plenty of other times when the most sickening thing was the silence of the phone not ringing (or beeping).
“In an industry where around 90% of all people fail and quit within 18 months, I feel confident enough that my experiences are more than capable of helping anyone wanting to prolong their career as a personal trainer.
“So, if you would like to be in the top 10% of all the personal trainers in the world who survive longer than 18 months, then please read on. If you’ve already made it to 18 months then these lessons will be just as valuable.”
“1. Simple may not be sexy, but it’s most effective”
"I am a very simple man. I’ve grown up in the countryside, I wear a £7.99 Casio watch and I like a nice quiet hassle-free life. It was all going smoothly... and then social media arrived and ruined EVERYTHING. "Now, all of a sudden, we can watch videos of people all over the world doing crazy stuff. The problem with the way that social media works is that the weirder, crazier, more dangerous or sexier something is the more likely you are to watch it… the more we watch something the more it gets shown to others… the more ‘views’ it has the better we think it is… the more likely we are to copy it! "I have been there and done it myself, but my clients never really achieved anything. In the last two years, I have stripped everything back to absolute basics – the results of my clients have been better than ever before, and it’s no coincidence that financially it has also been my most successful period too. Lesson: Dare to keep everything really simple and become amazing at the basics. I have built an entire career on exactly that.
“2. Don’t copy other people’s methods”
The most important lesson I have learned is to be able to answer the question ‘why?’ five times. So, whatever exercise, or technique, or piece of equipment I use I make sure I have five valid reasons as to why I am doing what I am doing. Copying something from someone else doesn’t teach you why they are doing it that way. Therefore, you end up copying other people’s methods, which is a fast track route to failure because even if you copy someone who is successful, you don’t understand how they have come up with that way of working... which then makes it impossible for you to adapt the exercise to perfectly suit your clients. Instead you want to learn other people’s methods and use them to develop your own specific set of principles. This becomes your brand or your identity as a coach. Lesson: Copy someone else’s methods and any good results you get from them are through sheer luck. Luck cannot be replicated. Use their methods to develop your own principles. These can be adapted meaning you can replicate success with every single client, ever.
“3. Be right by being wrong”
A huge mistake that I see too many personal trainers making is that they learn something... and then they take that information to the grave with them. To be successful in this industry you have to be able to contradict yourself and you have to be prepared to be wrong more. The human body is the most complex and miraculous machine on the plant. What works for one person at one time, will not work for all the people all of the time, so your knowledge base needs to reflect this. The best thing to do is to try and prove yourself wrong on something you believe. This will open you up to conflicting opinions/research and will open your mind. Initially it is very easy to prove yourself wrong...but the better you get the harder it becomes. Low and behold this will also help you to develop your own principles as it will teach you to appreciate which methods are appropriate for different people at different times with different goals. Lesson: Don’t blindly copy other people’s methods. Use them to develop your own set of fail-proof principles.
“4. Not about sets/reps”
Not about sets/reps Another issue that catches so many people out is their obsession with minute details, like how many sets or reps is best to use, which piece of equipment is best for certain tasks or which order should you do certain exercises in. I can promise you now, that NONE of these things matter in the slightest if you cannot abide by some far more important rules first. Here are my golden rules for everyone I work with – this list is non-negotiable and can only be carried out in the exact order listed... 1 – is it safe? 2 – is it fun? 3 – is it a habit? 4 – is it working? 86% of the population don’t have a gym membership. 80% of those who do have one, don’t use it regularly. You worrying about whether 4 sets of 8 is better than 3 sets of 12, or whether a Back Squat is better than a Goblet Squat is completely and utterly pointless until you can make someone feel safe, make them enjoy their sessions and make them want to come back so often that it becomes a subconscious habit to want to come to the gym on a regular basis. Then, and only then, do you need to pay any attention to whether what they are doing is actually working. If you make a client work so hard that they feel sick because your ego is fuelled by ‘beasting’ people then you will be doing very well to stay around for long. Lesson: Your ‘soft’ skills are the most valuable. Learn to communicate well and to make people feel comfortable in an environment which intimidates them and is associated with what they perceive hell to be like!
“5. You are never off duty”
When people find out you are a personal trainer they will all have a list of questions for you. Whether you are out with some friends, at a wedding or chatting to a neighbour you will be bombarded with questions. Don’t get annoyed about it...take advantage of it. These are real people with real problems and they think you have the solution. If you don’t have the solution get it really quickly and then sell it to them and any similar people with similar problems! Lesson: Here is a very simple and lucrative business plan I have adapted from a good friend Dan Meredith...find people with a problem, design a product that solves their problem...then sell it to them!
Mark has been coaching people for 19 years, working full time as a fitness professional for 13 years, working with professional athletes for 10 years, teaching courses to fitness professionals for five years and delivering lectures and seminars all around the world for three years. He is currently Head of Education for BodyPower, runs Mark Laws Performance Coaching and writes regularly for leading publications such as BESTFIT and Muscle & Fitness magazines. Email: email@example.com.