It’s no wonder people get confused between them all, especially when, to the untrained eye, it appears as if they’re all doing the same thing – teaching someone how to do an exercise and motivating them, right?
Well that’s certainly part of the role for all fit pros, but if you’re going to convince someone to pay you to train them privately, particularly in a gym, you’re going to need to demonstrate how much more you offer than what they get included as part of their membership.
So let’s look at the two traditional roles that exist in the fitness industry. They are often given a variety of names which causes the confusion as mentioned, but we’ll refer to them by the most common:
Usually employed, instructors do gym inductions for new members. They will show them how to use the equipment, and depending on the facility, may do a standard fitness assessment as well as perhaps writing a simple programme (we’ll come back to that later) based on the member’s goals. Instructors will spend time ‘walking the floor’, talking to members and offering advice and assistance. If qualified, they may also cover certain group exercise classes. They may then contact members every few weeks to offer to update their program and do a fitness re-assessment.
Remember, gym members normally get all of this included as part of their monthly fees – you can’t offer the same and expect them to pay you!
It is now widely accepted that simply doing more exercise and physical activity is not the answer to all of our health and fitness problems and dreams. Whether it’s weight loss, muscle building or sports performance, correct training is just one part of the equation. In other words, even if people are given a good exercise programme to follow, chances are they won’t see the results they want. It’s the job of a Personal Trainer to address that. They should provide the complete package to help coach their clients to reach their goals, doing whatever it takes to achieve that safely and effectively.
So what else is required? First and foremost, effective nutrition. You’re probably familiar with the various statistics and quotes: ‘what you eat accounts for 80% of your results’, ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’, ‘abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym’. The importance of eating the right foods for your body is paramount and this should often be the first area to look at whatever your goal – get healthier from the inside out. So PTs need sound nutritional knowledge.
Linked to this are the other lifestyle factors that affect an individual’s wellbeing. Stress levels and sleep quality all have a significant impact on the body and if they aren’t managed, you may end up doing more harm than good by asking someone to engage in exercise. That’s not to mention the effect on their emotional state – the bottom line is clients want to feel better: imagine if you could help them achieve that before they’ve even set foot in the gym!
Once we have taken care of all of this, then we can add in effective exercise. To ensure the training plan is tailored to the individual, a Personal Trainer should conduct an appropriate health and fitness assessment. This allows you to prescribe the most effective and appropriate exercises to help them function better and reduce the risk of injury. We mentioned earlier that Gym Instructors write simple programmes that may be reviewed every few weeks. However, by definition a programme requires progressive overload to be factored in. There needs to be clear progress over time in weights, intensities, durations, repetitions and exercise complexity in order to ensure the body is adapting and improving. These changes have to be timed correctly to prevent overtraining or stagnation, so close supervision is key. A single list of exercises, sets and repetitions is effectively just a workout – although someone might do it regularly for 6 weeks, it’s likely they won’t see any changes beyond the first few times they do it without direction on how to progress. An effective programme therefore requires careful planning and management by the PT.
You should have realised by now that it’s impossible to jump straight into training a PT client. There’s a considerable amount of preparation work that needs to be done, beginning with an in-depth consultation. This in itself demonstrates to the client how much you care and how seriously you take your role, and it is only by building trust, credibility and rapport with an individual that you stand any chance of convincing them to invest in your services.
Once you are working with a client, the majority of the time you spend with them will be around their training sessions. However they’re certainly not going to pay you to just stand next to them while they do their exercises! Personal training is about delivering an experience – you want your clients to look forward to their sessions and leave feeling energised and happy. You need to ensure your exercise knowledge is at the cutting edge so you can offer the most effective techniques and strategies to keep them engaged.
Underlying all of the above is a need for sound knowledge and skills in psychology and behaviour change in order to keep clients motivated and making progress towards their goals. The best Personal Trainers are those that are able to maintain their clients’ focus long term – results don’t come overnight after all.
So you can see that the level of service provided by a Personal Trainer far exceeds that of a Gym Instructor, which is why their earning potential is so much higher. A key part of your role as a fitness professional to communicate and demonstrate the level of service you offer effectively so you can be paid what you are worth.