The most interesting reaction to #ProjectPaul
When I announced I would be hiring a personal trainer, I had some interesting comments and questions from people. One of the most challenging was: “You’re a personal trainer, shouldn’t you be in shape already?”
This made me think. I could go down the line of saying how it’s impossible to maintain an absolutely peak condition 365 days a year, but I’d just be kidding myself.
Shocking as it may be for a fitness professional to admit (but certainly I’d wager not that uncommon), certainly in recent months my physical condition has not been high on the agenda due to other priorities such as a young son and busy work schedule.
That said, although I don’t consider myself particularly vain, I’ve always been naturalIy fairly lean and could be in a much worse state so this boils down to the classic ‘what should a personal trainer look like?’ debate.
Here’s my take:
You should ‘look like your product’ as I was once told by another trainer.
In other words, you should be a role model for the result you’re offering your clients to help inspire and motivate them. If you coach people to be able to get on stage at a bodybuilding show then looking like you do those sorts of shows (or have done) undoubtedly makes you far more credible.
In my case, for sure most of my clients wanted or needed to lose fat and gain muscle, but not to what you might call a more ‘extreme’ level; it was more for health gains than an intricately chiselled six-pack (more on that below). Therefore I had no need or desire to get to that high level myself. It’s only now that I have decided to see just what I can achieve and have the personal and professional motivations to do so.
We should also consider that the question of what a PT looks like assumes personal training is all about appearance, which of course it isn’t. This specific project is indeed very aesthetically-geared but noone would argue that for the majority of the population, the primary aim of any exercise and nutrition plan should be an improvement in health, with better shape being a nice side-effect. With that in mind, trainers should definitely appear healthy, but how important is it really for them to look like cover models?
A good example: during my varied career, for a while I delivered group exercise sessions in care homes for the elderly. If I’d looked like Brad Pitt in Fight Club at the time it would have been a) irrelevant and b) potentially intimidating to Doris, Betty, Harold and co who just wanted to be active and mobile.
(Don’t get me wrong here, it would be ludicrous to suggest I have deliberately maintained an ‘average’ body so I don’t put people off and I’m not saying “I could easily get on the cover of Men’s Health if I just tried” – that’s precisely why I’ve enlisted the help of a PT. And for the record, appearing on the front of a magazine isn’t the actual end goal – read my first blog to find out about that).
Some of the best PTs I know, whilst far from overweight or with horrendous posture, are a way short of the fitness model look that many seem to assume should be a given. Fundamentally the most important characteristic of a trainer is that they can get their clients the results they want.
All of this said, having achieved good success with my clients for many years without maintaining barn-door shoulders, washboard abs and very low body fat percentage myself, I do believe that my own experience in this process will provide me with more knowledge to help more people, whatever I look like 3, 6 or 12 months from now.