Being a trainer isn’t all about squats and #motivation. While it’s a trainer’s job to challenge the people they work with, we can sometimes forget the challenges our trainers have. After all, it’s a demanding job that requires an emotional connection with clients to help them reach their physical goals.
I asked some of the top trainers in Los Angeles from the Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival about what really goes through their minds at work . They not only revealed the less-than-glamorous parts of their jobs, but also what they wished their clients understood and how all of us can get the most from private training sessions and group fitness classes.
Truth #1: It’s crucial to build relationships with clients
Every single trainer I spoke with stressed the importance of their relationship with clients. After all, working out with someone, whether it’s one-on-one or in a group fitness class is pretty intimate. You’re telling someone how to use their body and trying to push them to their limits.
Jason Wimberly of The Wall explained, “Being a trainer is really about making relationships. I always say that our clients are trusting us with their most valuable assets: their time, money, and bodies. So, we have to invest in those relationships and build a foundation of trust and support. So at least for me, that goes far and well beyond just clocking in for an hour and making someone sweat.”
Truth #2: The work isn’t over when the session ends
Xavier Quimbo of Speedplay revealed some of the biggest challenges don’t happen at the studio, but when the session ends.
“Inside the gym with a private client or inside the studio leading a group, the environment for motivation is there. As best we can, we can control the engagement, the quality of the movements, and the program,” he explained. “But the most challenging part to control is what our clients do the rest of the 23 hours after they walk out our doors. When we’re not at arm’s length, how do we provide the motivation to make the right choices when needed?”
Diving deeper, Quimbo sees a commitment to working out as just part of an overall formula to achieve your goals. “Your lifestyle makes you lean. Your lifestyle makes you healthy. Your lifestyle makes you happy. An hour in the gym here and there won’t cut it if your ‘lifestyle’ isn’t up to par.”
Truth #3: Your clients need to be honest with you — and with themselves
Luke Milton of Training Mate experiences similar issues with some of his clients, who he has sometimes found to be less than forthcoming with him.
“It doesn’t matter how good a trainer you are. You can’t out train a lie. The most difficult part of any trainer’s job is when you have a client that tells you they are doing everything you’ve prescribed for them — the nutrition program, cardio, classes, etc, but there’s no results. You just know that client is lying to you. Until they are honest with you and themselves, there’s not lot a whole lot you can do.”
His clients have given him every excuse in the book, from lack of time, prioritizing other things, to “a wheel fell off my car and I just took my children to the hospital”… when the client didn’t have any children.
Truth #4: Clients will want to see results right away… but that’s not usually realistic
Wimberly says he wishes his clients would understand that the process of transforming your body takes patience. “Change takes time, and long-lasting change requires long-term shifts in habits and dedication.”
Truth #5: Fitness should be fun — even the failures
Wimberly also likes to help clients see every step of the journey from a new perspective. “Learn to celebrate the small victories along the way, and celebrate the fumbles. Falling over means you’re doing something new, and that’s the first step to creating the change you’re looking for.”
Milton has a similar philosophy, “Fitness can be fun. [Don’t] beat yourself up. You miss a workout! You have a hamburger! The wheels are falling off and the world is over. That’s the mentality that is out there. I strive to re-educate any of my clients that if we look at anything as a healthy lifestyle program, then those small things that happen in between are really irrelevant.”
Truth #6: At the end of the day, professional training is a business
Then there is that often overlooked part of being a trainer—that it’s actually a business. Quimbo told me, “As a studio owner and operator as well as a trainer, the least glamorous part of it all may be everything outside of actually training. From dealing with leases and the growing cost of your city to late nights designing new and creative programs with matching playlists to that ever-growing unread email list.”