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The Importance of knowing ones limits

A few months ago I was, in hindsight, pretty fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a large period of time watching personal trainers get things very wrong.

Good personal trainer or not

Good personal trainer or not

Now for the past 13 years as a trainer I have trained under the understanding that you should always be confident enough in your ability to focus on your strengths but be level headed enough to put your hand up and say “I don’t know how to do that”, if the statement is true.  In the first few years as a trainer I would just say “yep no problem” to whatever people wanted whether they wanted sport specific conditioning or injury rehabilitation as I was just learning my trade and to not know was to feel inadequate.  Now I can sit here and say that I do genuinely think that I can get Jo public into the best shape of their lives faster and safer than any other trainer around.  But I can also put my hand up and say that if its high level sports specific training or injury rehabilitation that you need then I am not your man, I just do not have the relevant knowledge and there are better trainers out there.  I do however have access to a network of some of the best trainers and practitioners in the UK that I can refer clientele too if need be.

For all personal trainers our livelihood rests on our ability to attract relevant customers to our doors and then provide the best service that we can to give them a mixture of what they want alongside what they really need.  Now this is the most simple rule and it will always make for a happy trainer and happy clientele if it is stuck to.  All the best trainers that I have met know this and it reflects in the service that they provide as their clientele achieve their goals.  However in the fitness industry there is unfortunately a growing number of individuals that just decide that, even though totally unqualified, they will diagnose clientele with random problems that need fixing or even more worryingly will have a crack at fixing a diagnosed problem.  The client will come in looking to get in great shape and in 12 weeks they will have spent the whole period improving posture, correcting an externally rotating foot or some other ailment that had never caused them a problem before.  It’s a lovely idea but this approach never works as these problems need the client to be working on these minor problems constantly through the day and not the odd hour with an unqualified practitioner.  This is really annoying for all trainers who pride themselves on providing great service or for the qualified health practitioners such as physiotherapists or osteopaths.  Over the years I have heard some crazy statements from trainers that include one actually making up a ligament around the knee when questioned as he knew he had the clients trust and more recently I had the following conversation:

Do you have a physiotherapist here?

“Yes, me.”

Okay cool I did’t know you were a qualified physiotherapist?

“I’m not but I know a lot about the body and people come to me if they need rehabilitation”

Okay so is there a physiotherapist that I could potentially refer clients to?

“Yes, me.”

It makes me cringe now even writing it back but it really does worry me that any personal trainer can decide that they are qualified when there are some great practitioners who have spent years to get their qualifications the right way.  I think many of these trainers do not mean to lead people astray as sometimes what they do will work and they will have the odd client singing their praises without ever damaging someone.  These guys will read a few good articles or go on a two day course and suddenly they are a “specialist” with no one to tell them otherwise.  There are literally 1000’s of personal trainers in London all competing for business and many will do or say whatever they need to to put themselves ahead of the pack but in reality all you have to do is give your clients what they want/need.

The best way to avoid being associated with these types of trainers whether as a personal trainer yourself or a potential client is to look through the confident speil and listen to the practical advice that they give you.  If everything sounds good then thats great but it is important that you continue to keep an open mind and ask the following types of question:

  • Why did I start personal training in the first place? Was it to lose fat and build muscle to feel better about yourself? or was it to correct unknown imbalances you never knew you had?
  • Am I getting closer to my goals and is there a way that I can quantify improvements made?
  • My trainer is a really great guy/girl but are they also doing the best job for me and my goals?

It’s a hard one and sometimes some very well known personal trainers charging a bomb can fall into this category as they are able to “sell ice to the Eskimo’s”.  I hope this helps to clear through just some of the BS that comes with a wander through the world of fitness gurus and “best” personal trainers out there.