Learn from your mistakes - 3 PT lessons
As a personal trainer, you will find yourself meeting all sorts of different people in all sorts of different situations.
Whatever the outcome of these experiences, they are just that – experiences – and as such you can learn from them (in however small a way) to improve the service you offer as a trainer.
Here’s 3 lessons I have learned the hard way...
Lesson 1# Have a calculator handy
One of my first clients came to the gym wanting, like a large percentage of people, to lose weight. He was clearly clinically obese from observation but in order to set him SMART goals we needed to do some assessments so we had specific figures to work with.
I asked him to step on the scales. 124kg was where the needle reached on the dial. I duly set about writing this down on the record form at which point my client looked slightly confused: “what’s 124 kilos in stones?” he asked.
“I’ll just have a look for you” I replied calmly, knowing there was a conversion chart on the wall next to me. At this point my client hadn’t seen the chart so there may have been an opportunity for me to avoid the impending awkward moment, by finding a calculator or doing some quick mental arithmetic. However, by the time my finger had reached up and made contact with the chart it was too late.
It was at that exact same moment I realised my mistake but there was no turning back. I drew my finger across the chart towards the higher end of the scale, 90kg, 95kg, 100kg...
And then, at 110kg, it stopped. The chart went no higher. My client was literally off the scale.
“Oh” I muttered, “it’s not quite on there”. I was mortified. I remember staring at the chart for what seemed like an age for fear of seeing my client’s reaction. “I’m sorry about that” I finally said.
“Don’t worry” was the reply, “it’s not your fault”. What a relief (he must have felt as bad for me as I did for him). I resisted making the situation potentially even more embarrassing by turning the chart over in the hope it continued, and used the calculator on my phone to find the right answer.
We were able to move on from that initial hurdle and my client went on to achieve great results but ever since I have used a calculator to convert measurements when asked on the spot.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, 124kg is 19 and a half stone.
Lesson #2: Watch out for giraffes and low ceilings
As trainers and instructors we know we need to assess our working environment for potential hazards – loose weights on the floor, blocked fire exits, broken equipment, etc. In the home training environment however, there are added, unexpected dangers.
I was observing my client as he performed a set of press ups in his living room when I took a small step to the side for a better view of his technique. I felt my elbow brush something solid and as I turned my eyes widened as I saw a four foot high giraffe ornament swaying like a tall tree in the wind. As my client was facing down he fortunately didn’t notice as the wooden structure rocked from side to side, further and further each time, seemingly in slow motion. As I uttered the words “three more reps...” I managed to subtly grab the giraffe by the neck just before it toppled and crashed to the floor. My client’s cat witnessed the incident and I’m sure she was glaring at me for the rest of the session.
There was one situation, however, that I could not rescue. Another client had just finished a set of shoulder presses and we were doing some dynamic stretches while she rested. She swung her arms up overhead and then back behind her whilst I explained what we were going to do next.
Then she unexpectedly took a step backwards.
Her arms arched skyward and both hands crashed into the light fitting hanging from the ceiling. Pieces of broken glass rained down on us both as we ducked for cover, the insurance claim flashing before my eyes. I felt awful, and just hoped she wasn’t injured. After the initial shock my client actually giggled, “I never liked it anyway” she said, much to my relief.
So even though we don’t need much space for home PT sessions, wherever you’re training a client, make sure there’s not only enough room to swing a cat (or giraffe), but also their arms.
Lesson #3: Don’t be surprised by people
‘Personal Trainer’. By definition we are in a people business. We cannot do our job without meeting, talking to, listening to and interacting with others. One of the strangest things I ever heard a trainer say to me was “I’m not really a people person”. I don’t think he still works in the industry.
I have been fascinated by the variety of different personalities I have come across and like to think I have become a fairly good judge of character. However, you can’t always expect people to behave in a certain way. Every now and again I meet or speak to someone who completely surprises me, having made the mistake of taking them on face value. Here are a couple that spring to mind:
- The man who called to ask what the initial consultation involved. After explaining it to him he said he would think about it. He then called back on no fewer than five further occasions over the next month. Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting more information, except this man acted as if it was the first call he’d made to me each time, asking exactly the same questions and telling me he would like time to think about it. Severe memory loss perhaps?
- The lady who was so motivated after her consultation at the gym that she booked three sessions a week for three months, and put the first 12 in her diary. However, she didn’t have her cheque book with her and agreed to pay on the first session. I looked forward to what would have been my best month financially all year.
Not only did she not turn up to her first session, I never saw her in the gym again. Many people agree to sign up for sessions then later change their mind (often having spoken to a partner who has not seen the benefits of what you can offer). However, while most will politely contact you to let you know, it seems some get so embarrassed they think hiding is the only option...
These two people, and many more besides, never became clients (most probably a good thing). Along with all the other lessons they also serve to remind me that one of the most important traits a personal trainer should have, one that will keep you sane throughout your career, is a good sense of humour.
Written by Paul Swainson