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4 Things Trainers Wish You Knew

By Alexander VanHouten, Master Trainer & Life Time Education Specialist

Consider for a moment your assumptions about personal trainers.

How much stems from individual experience, and how much comes from the media personalities we see in The Biggest Loser, Bro-Science YouTube videos and other health channels?

Whether you’re our client or not, what you think you know about personal training can determine the impact we have – or won’t have – on your health journey and performance goals.

Sure, there’s our sports science expertise and the general know-how we could offer you as you roam the gym. More than that, however, are the reasons we do what we do and all we hope we could contribute to your health and fitness pursuit.

You inspire us more than we inspire you.

It’s true.

“Wait, Alex! I want to get as fit as you. What’s inspiring about me?”

To be honest, it’s not THAT hard to be in the kind of shape we’re in knowing what we know and doing what we do – not that we don’t work hard to be a good example of how to take good care of our bodies (while still having fun). I’m just acknowledging that you, our clients, work equally as hard and sometimes harder.

And you inspire us.

Why? You’re our people. So many don’t care about their physical health. So many won’t be troubled to push themselves or to envision something greater for themselves.

And there is nothing more inspiring than when a client overcomes obstacles that seem to keep others down and, as a result, changes his/her life going forward and even that of his/her family and social circle.

Heck, even if you’re not my client, I’ll high five you for that.

I admire your discipline to set aside time in your busy day to invest in your own well-being. The world is a better place because you work hard for your goals.

We trainers make it a practice to generate conversations with people like yourself every day – not because we’re trying to convince you to be our client, but because your stories inspire us to use our knowledge to help people like yourself work smarter, be pain free, lose the weight, have more energy to play with your kids, and run that marathon.

Your commitment is why we became fitness professionals to begin with.

We don’t do this for the money.

No veteran trainer is a materialist. There are much higher paying jobs in the world – especially for the amount of education and time it takes to master the human body, behavioral patterns, communication skills, and business acumen required to manage 25-50 client hours/month without a secretary or administrative assistant of any kind.

And what’s more? Every single trainer I have ever worked with (as an educator and manager, that would be over 2000 professionals) would tell you they would do what they do for FREE.

If not for the money, then why do we do what we do? And why is personal training ranked among the top 5 happiest, healthiest professions in America right now?[i] Self-actualization.

Trainers pursue the best version of themselves and want to spend their lives helping other people do the same.

For most of us, it’s a hard to explain feeling that stems from our pasts as well as the future we want for ourselves and others. In my own background, I grew up exposed to a whole host of serious health issues – and the expectation that I would inherit some combination of them due to what I believed was the inevitability of genetic legacy.

I found my path in the world of sports and later nutrition and psychology education only to discover that, although there’s a large genetic component (nature) to the medical problems we face in life, there is an equally large lifestyle/environmental component (nurture) to those same problems. I didn’t have to be the victim of my genetic profile.

And you don’t either! Not if I have anything to say about it…

You don’t have to take my anecdotal experience as authority. See for yourself how every year research confirms the power of healthy lifestyle, nutrition and fitness choices in helping avert nearly every single disease imaginable.[ii]

Trainers are TERRIBLE salesman/saleswomen.

Seriously, it’s a good thing our product is self-actualization and not cars or vacuums. Trainers rarely, if ever, receive any sort of sales training.

It’s true. Sure, some of us have refined our communication skills enough to make the conversation about the time, energy and money it will cost to change your life as persuasive as it is heartfelt, but not all of us have that rhetorical talent. [iii] It’s not easy to talk about your own money, let alone someone else’s.

Nonetheless, how many resources you have and are willing to put toward your goals greatly changes how we go about building your program. If I know you can commit to meeting with me 3x/week for the next 3 months, then I won’t bother spending a ridiculous amount of time teaching you how to repeat workouts that you will inevitably outgrow like I have to with clients who only meet with me 1x/week and must do their homework on their own!

Alas, until qualified fitness professionals become an official part of preventative health measures and are covered under insurance, training is a discretionary income purchase. Imagine if your doctor had to “sell you” on getting a CT scan to check on your digestive health. Stumbling through the conversation to convince you to drop $1000 today, you say, “Wow, that’s expensive. Let me think about it.”

Trainers are in the same boat – minus insurance coverage. Don’t let that turn you off from committing to a coach who can help you be the best version of yourself.

We want you to support positive change on the inside.

“Abs are made in kitchen, not the gym”

Or so the adage goes. When it comes to health and fitness, it’s been said that nutrition spurs 80% of results, while exercise results in only 20%.[iv][v] Regardless of what the proper breakdown is, the truth is clear: to live a healthy lifestyle, you have to eat well and exercise consistently.

But that’s not all.

“Alex, I wish I could just take you home with me so you could tell me what to eat and when to sleep and help stop me before I do all the unhealthy stuff….”

I get this a lot. And it speaks to a very important part of your program that your trainer wishes you knew.

How about this? “Abs aren’t made in the kitchen; they’re made in the grocery store, in your social activities and in all the routines of your life.”

That’s part of it. The success of your workout in the gym depends on not just what you eat the rest of the day, but on other habits that serve/don’t serve your health.

Are you shopping for things that are good for you and your family, or are you regularly stocking the pantry with garbage “for the kids” and wondering why you’re always eating ice cream before bed? Are you sharing your goals with your friends to garner support, or are you keeping it to yourself while they look at you funny for only having one drink during happy hour? Are you making activity a good and fun part of your life or going to the gym and calling it a day on the movement front?

Even if I could follow you home and slap your hand every time you try to pick up a cookie, it wouldn’t change your habits. In fact, I wouldn’t want to try because as helpful as habits are, we trainers are after something even deeper.

How about this? “Abs aren’t made in the grocery store. They start in your soul.”

Too existential? We don’t think so.

Health isn’t ultimately just about what food you eat, what exercises you do, or even what habits you form. It’s an outpouring of what’s inside you.

What drives you? Do you have control of your life? Do you see challenges and think, “Let’s do this!” or “Oh, man, I don’t know if I even want to try”? Are you moving your life forward, or trying to do as little as possible to get by?

Trainers tend to believe we are agents of our lives. We believe in the indomitability of the human spirit and the power of intrinsic motivation.

And it shows in the challenges we impose on our clients and the energy we offer to their journeys.

Sure, we aim to help you develop a lifestyle, exercise routine, and nutrition regimen that will help you increase performance, live longer, get off your meds, and look great doing it.

But if you really want to make your trainer proud, start believing in and identifying with the strength you have within yourself to move your life and well-being forward. Start believing in an optimism that says you have never exhausted your potential. And test yourself regularly to see that this enthusiasm is still there.

If you want to learn more about how we design our programs to support fitness and performance using our Core 3 Training™ methodologies

Download the Core 3 Training Manual.

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[ii] Phillips, C. M. (2013). Nutrigenetics and Metabolic Disease: Current Status and Implications for Personalised Nutrition. Nutrients5(1), 32–57.

[iii] Khalsa, Mahan. Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play. London, England. 2008.

[iv] Miyaki, Nate. The 80/20 rule of fitness nutrition. March 24, 2011.

[v] Johns DJHartmann-Boyce JJebb SAAveyard PBehavioural Weight Management Review Group. J Acad Nutr Diet.  Diet or exercise interventions vs combined behavioral weight management programs: a systematic review and meta-analysis of direct comparisons. 2014 Oct;114(10):1557-68. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.07.005.

The posts on this blog are not intended to suggest or recommend the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease, nor to substitute for medical treatment, nor to be an alternative to medical advice. The use of the suggestions and recommendations on this blog post is at the choice and risk of the reader.
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