I am sure that if you conducted a survey into what people look for in a personal trainer, there would be a broad spectrum of attributes people would cite. I think one of the most important traits you can have in any profession, and as a person, is honesty. So, with a degree of trepidation, here goes.
I am writing this article with a hangover and my legs are so stiff that I can barely sit down without a wince. I’ve also just eaten half an Easter egg that I didn’t particularly want. As with all stories, it’s probably best to start at the beginning.
One of my dear friends recently got engaged to a wonderful girl – so far so good. When he announced his chosen best men on a night out (one never seems enough these days), a mutual friend, who is something of a bon viveur, cast me a lingering stare and, with a lupine grin, hissed “It’ll be a massive stag do!”
I’ve recently set up a company (which has entailed a couple of really good bollockings from my accountant for my laissez-faire approach to book keeping) and been knee-deep in getting my website up and running. Combine this with training my clients, tweeting (I am about as tech-savvy as Harald Hadrada), contending with a second burglary at my flat in as many months, trying to write regular blogs for Huff Post UK, staying up-to-date with journals, and reading, plus trying to train myself and cook my meals. My mind was elsewhere.
Before I strain my ears for the barely audible screech of the world’s smallest violin, I can safely say I have been getting more stressed and less productive with each passing day. I was not taking any of the advice I was giving to clients. I was just about keeping up with things, albeit being snappier than usual – then the stag do hit (literally). I’d never contemplated what it would be like to run away from an amped up, 500kg bull – whilst being smashed on sangria, and having sunstroke – just after witnessing said bull break the arm of the trainee matador, who was supposed to be our teacher – it is surprisingly good fun. The stag do was brilliant (I am getting to the point…) but it was to be my undoing.
I have written before that stress will eventually lead to people, who are normally vigilant with their diet, going ‘tonto’ – and losing control. Check: there is a wonderful photo of me gazing amorously at a slice of pizza like it is Monica Belluci. I didn’t meet a single carb that I didn’t like in Spain. Once I started eating badly, I didn’t stop.
I have also spoken to many clients about the need to keep time for themselves, and to use me as a sounding board if they need an ear and think I can help (a good PT should always be a coach who listens to their clients’ and responds accordingly) them from getting too tired, annoyed with their nutrition plan and throwing in the towel or relying on coffee, junk food or alcohol because they have too much on. Check.
The three-day stag do was followed by a five-day hangover. It was then my birthday, so I had ANOTHER week off training, drank way too much coffee (my only resolution this year was to stop and I was doing pretty well) skipped meals and then made awful food choices due to low blood sugar (the sandwiches I inhaled took me straight to gluten hell), and stalled on pretty much everything I have meant to be doing, because I felt so knackered and didn’t pace myself. I had a final birthday celebration with my family last night and drank too much Sauvignon Blanc.
My John Wayne walking gait can be attributed to my first session back in the gym, and trying to keep up with my training partner (because, despite me easing any client back in to training after a lay off, I’m a numpty). I also ate the chocolate because it was there, and I feel rancid.
Confession over. The beauty of this is that it was only just over two weeks. The damage is minimal. I have planned my work schedule (with time to breath), amended my diary and enlisted help with the bits I am struggling with (including working with a business coach who is Amazing). I am also making time to cook my meals again, starting a new training phase and having a month off the booze.
My next blog will be on ‘How to start your quest for a summer beach body’. I’m sure there are more than a few of you who feel like Willy Wonka’s love child and never want to eat another’s chocolate…
My point, after this meandering confessional, is that I think the best personal trainers are fallible and human. I worked in the city before changing careers and I can empathise with clients when they tell me about the constraints they face. It also enables me to set realistic goals and implement strategies that will work. I help, I don’t judge.
Is it important to look healthy and fit? Of course. I usually train four days a week and cook all my own food. Do you need to keep up to date with courses, reading, and have a good understanding of nutrition and hormonal balance? Without a doubt. You have to practice what you preach and have good knowledge.
However, that knowledge is only useful if you can apply it to each client individually. To know when to ease off, when to change a programme, when someone needs an hour long stretch and to let off some steam and to be able to be honest and ask some difficult questions – because you genuinely care and your clients know it.
‘Falling off the wagon’ also reminds your clients that you are not perfect, and that is important too.