Five ways you can be a better personal trainer

There are five distinct things that you can do to be a better personal trainer, according to Liam Daley, Head Teacher of TAFE NSW Northern Beaches' Sport, Fitness and Outdoor Recreation department.

So how do you become a better PT? See below for Liam's top five tips.

Listening and responding

The best thing that you can do as a trainer is to listen to your client and to respond to them as an individual.

Listen to:

  • what your client wants
  • what they are aiming for
  • what type of exercise they like
  • what their body is capable of
  • where their roadblocks are
  • how they are motivated.

‘Some PTs struggle because they use template programs, and that doesn't generally work,' said Daley.

‘Exercise adherence is so important for clients. It's not about getting them out for three hard sessions over three weeks.

‘Exercise adherence starts with looking at what intensity to start the client at (what they can cope with but will challenge them) and building from that. You want them training for the next two years, or better yet, right into old age. Not just for three weeks.

‘The only way that that can happen is understanding the client as an individual, what they like, what they struggle with, their lifestyle, their personality, their goals.

‘Then it's about connecting those dots into a program tailored to meet all their needs,' he added.

Couple exercising outdoors at the beachWhat works for you, may #fail for someone else

If you are a trainer who had personal successes with kettlebells and TRX, then you may be tempted to think that your personal program will work for everybody.

‘Often people come into the industry having had success with exercise, whether it's from a particular sport or fitness style, and then they think that's the best path for everyone to follow,' Daley said.

‘But the fact is you need to know and work with lots of different fitness styles and motivation techniques in order to find ones suited to individual clients.

‘So if one of your clients is not exercising or doing the work, and you end up telling yourself "I'm telling them to do this, and they're not doing it so they must be lazy," then that's a poor PT response.

‘Really what you should be thinking is "I'm taking responsibility for that person not exercising, that means that I haven't built a lifestyle program that works for that person".

‘So how can you change what you're doing as a PT to motivate that individual? That's where having lots of exercise and motivation techniques under your belt comes in,' he added.

Celebrate successes and you create advocates

When a client reaches a goal like losing a kilo or running their first 5kms, you need to acknowledge and celebrate that success.

One way to do this, according to Daley, is with certificates.

‘One example that I often use for our students is around ticking off goals with certificates. It may sound a little silly but it reconfirms that the client has achieved something and it's rock solid,' he said.

‘The other thing that it does, is if your client has a certificate like that, they are going to show at least one other person. So whether it's their partner, a friend, or they put it on their wall-they become your promoters, and it's really authentic,' he said.

Be client focused

Your business is all about your clients, not you.

‘So on a cold morning when it's rainy, you in some way have got to make sure that that's the best possible experience that it can be for your client-even if you don't want to be there.

‘The client must be the centre of what you do,' Daley added.

Woman and fitness instructor talking in gymDon't take on too much

It's tempting to want a lot of clients, particularly when you're starting out. After all, more clients equals more money right?

‘PT's actually struggle with that in the initial stages of their careers because they're tempted by extra cash that the new client can provide,' Daley said.

‘The problem is, they may end up with 30 - 35 clients, and that's just too much. They work over seven days because they're trying to squeeze all this stuff in and they don't get a break and are likely to burn out,' he added.

The solution is to build your business slowly. Work out the right amount of clients to sustain your lifestyle, and to make sure that you can give enough individual attention to each person.

Closing thoughts

Being a PT is as much about listening and communicating as it is about fitness. To be the best, you need to put your clients first and really try to understand and work with them. But you also need to take care of yourself, plan your time, and build a strong business that can sustain your lifestyle for the long haul.

If you're interested in becoming a PT, or in learning more about the fitness industry, come along to the TAFE NSW Northern Beaches' Fitness, Sport and Outdoor Recreation Day on Sat 24 June. You can chat to teachers like Liam Daley, plan your career, join in fitness workshops, learn about nutrition and tour the facilities. Check out our open day site for full details and to register.