If I Could Start My PT Career Again – Part 3
In the last of a three part series, Future Fit's Head of the School of PT explains another big lesson he learned as a PT and how it improved his business.
Offering nutrition advice as a back up tool, instead of the first port of call
Personal training = exercise
A simplistic but largely accurate summary, particularly in a traditional or historic sense. Although it's changed hugely over the past few years, the typical habitat of the PT has been the gym and the consequent expectation is that people primarily seek our services for guidance on exercise.
Nothing wrong with that per se, and the best trainers will indeed be able to prescribe and coach clients through an effective workout plan, but it will only be effective if a crucial foundation is in place...
I began my PT career like most others, enthusiastic and passionate about training, eager to pass my knowledge on to others. Although I had a lot to learn (and still do), I considered myself to be pretty good at teaching people how to exercise. Indeed I saw great progress amongst my clients in terms of their technique, strength, flexibility and even some body composition improvements.
But that's was the problem - just some body composition improvements. Yet that was the number one goal of most of my clients!
I knew nutrition was important, but with such a fixation on exercise I fell into the habit of asking my clients to complete food diaries only after they'd been training for 2-3 weeks. I believed their efforts were best directed at what they did in the gym and didn't want to distract them with the minor 'back up' benefits of putting the right nutrients into their body.
How wrong I was!
Looking back now it seems incredible I didn't appreciate how fundamental what you eat and drink is to health and fitness goals. There are still some people who argue personal trainers shouldn’t be concerned with nutrition at all, but I would ask them to consider what the definition of PT now is in our current society where holistic lifestyle guidance and support is vital for success (see What are we really doing?).
Address nutrition first
I strongly believe that not only should personal trainers be offering advice on their client’s nutritional habits, but that it should be the first port of call for most. Indeed if your client‘s goal is purely fat loss then technically this can be achieved through diet alone (calorie restriction) without any need for exercise at all, showing the significance of the 'energy in' side of the equation.
Just to be clear, whilst this may be music to the ears of many sedentary individuals who fear breaking a sweat, we of course know this approach will likely incur a loss of lean muscle mass which is not ideal. When it comes to improving body composition, results are maximised using a combination of diet and exercise.
However the fact remains that just altering nutritional habits positively will have a significant (and speedy) impact on health, whether that's reducing body fat, better organ function, or boosting the immune system and minimising risk of illness.
Even those looking for performance improvements will gain miles more benefit from their training with optimally fuelled workouts and carefully planned recovery nutrition.
So whilst exercise programmes and coaching continued to be a key component of the training and support packages I offered clients, analysing their diets became the priority, with workout plans introduced next once some positive nutritional habits had been formed.
Results began to come faster and more dramatically - happy client, happy PT!
Written by Paul Swainson