After more than 20 years in the fitness business I think it’s time to reveal one secret about personal trainers:
We don’t actually “workout all the time” like some people think we do.
It happens quite regularly, but I am always surprised when someone learns I’m a personal trainer and then says: “No wonder you’re in shape, you must workout all the time.”
I’ve learned to thank them for the compliment but part of me still wants to correct them. “Actually, you don’t have to live in the gym to stay in shape. The right exercise program combined with other healthy lifestyle choices…” Before I can finish the thought I realize nobody wants to hear that fitness really is a lifestyle that depends on much more than exercise. Working out all the time is actually a sign of exercise addiction and probably disordered eating as well. Besides, people who say that are probably just reminding themselves that getting in shape is out of their reach.
Maybe it’s because trainers on TV, YouTube and in advertisements are always in gym clothes, or maybe it’s because when we’re not working people have no idea what we do professionally. Whatever the reason, people often assume that my fitness is the result of my job and it must be easy for me to stay in shape.
There is definitely a strong connection between my career choice and my fitness, but working as a trainer doesn’t automatically make you fit. Most of my work supports my personal fitness goals, it is a career choice that I celebrate, but there are some pitfalls to be avoided.
The Truth about Training the Trainer
- If you love exercise, the gym is a perfect place to spend your workday.
- Working in fitness solves the whole “sedentary lifestyle” problem of working a desk job.
- Knowing that you’re helping people make their lives healthier is incredibly rewarding on a personal level.
- Fitness results may take time and effort, but exercise always makes people feel better and trainers get to do that for their clients every single day.
- Finding time to properly train yourself can be difficult when your day is fully booked. (Getting up early to workout takes on a whole new meaning and my bedtime is closer to dinner time than I like to admit.)
- Striking the right balance of work & rest for optimal recovery is tricky at times. Overuse injuries and burnout need to be avoided.
- Constant comparisons to everyone’s ideal image of fitness (more on this topic later).
- Rainy days are no picnic when you make house calls, especially if you live in the city and walk everywhere, which is actually a benefit but when you’re soggy the cost seems to outweigh the benefit. Waterproof shoes are a must!
Being a Role Model
Just to be clear, being a “role model” is not the same a being a “fitness model”. I’ve never been a fitness model, and I have no ambition of being one, (full disclosure: no one has even asked) but I do practice what I preach. My fitness level is above average and I’m more physically active than most women my age, but I’m probably somewhere in the middle of the pack in the pool of fitness professionals. I am especially aware of that fact when someone learns what I do for a living and then sizes me up. People will check you out from your shoulders to your ankles to see how you measure up to their image of fitness. Sometimes subtly, and sometimes not.
It’s true that part of a trainer’s professional image is based on how they look, but even well-defined muscles are no substitute for the body of knowledge required to practice fitness as a professional. In addition to the technical material, a fitness professional needs to understand and relate to their clients in order to motivate them to weather the hard times and succeed in the long run. What really matters is how well you apply what you know. There’s the science of fitness training and then there’s the art of fitness training.
Short-term improvements are the driving force in popular fitness because they supercharge one’s motivation. Everyone is at least a little tempted by the dramatic results promised in infomercials. Unfortunately, the best chance of getting lasting results with those ads is if you are on the advertising side.