A ‘best personal trainer’ in Townsville competition was recently brought to my attention through a tag by a client and friend on social media. The competition is being run by the local paper – it has asked through their social media platform ‘who is the best personal trainer in Townsville?’
I wasn’t nominated and that’s no surprise so you may write this blog off a disgruntled punter having a go, but since hearing out the competition, the sceptic in me took over and I found myself musing over how they identified the winner. Was it on testimonials and proven results over a minimum population? If so, what empirical data (if any) was reviewed to determine this? What were the testing characteristics or criteria? How are they determining this?
As it turns out, the competition in reality is more of a popularity contest than anything else and the person with the most votes will be tagged the best trainer in Townsville (if that criteria can make such a determination). Aside from the obvious exposure and marketing benefits of such a competition (if you win that is), the question I ultimately found myself asking was ‘what makes a good trainer?’
Obviously this is a question loaded with subjectivity, as one can argue various aspects as to what constitutes a good trainer. Taking the above competition for example: even though it appears to be nothing more than a popularity contest, if the winning trainer gets hundreds of votes then you may have to entertain the notion that that they are in fact quite good.
There is some objective reasoning even to this basic metric; to even get the most number of votes would suggest that the trainer has obviously touched or influenced a lot people while doing their job, which can only be a positive thing. If they have influenced people to be healthier then they have fulfilled the mission statement of any trainer and are deserving of the accolade. However, the alternative view that is they might have supported or invoked a very good social media campaign through friends and family who may not even be able to attest to their abilities and are not in a position to make such a determination. The cynic in me sees the alternative as the reality, but nonetheless, the concept has spawned some thinking that I would like to expand on more fully.
HOW WOULD I JUDGE THE ASPECTS OF THE BEST PERSONAL TRAINER IN TOWNSVILLE?
From my perspective, there are two aspects, distinct but nevertheless interrelated, that fundamentally establish the measure of a good trainer: knowledge and personality.
To be the best in any field you have to be well versed in what you are doing; there is only so long that one can ‘fake it till you make it’ before they are found out. Further to not having the requisite base knowledge, if a trainer has stopped upskilling then they are destined to fail in the not too distant future, if they haven’t already. Further education is essential in expanding a trainer’s abilities.
Knowing is not enough however; it’s the application of that knowledge that further influences a trainers ability. As such, the question expands to whether ‘are they are flogging you and leaving you?’ or do they actually have a long term plan that goes toward improving your well-being? It easy enough for someone who isn’t trained or qualified to flog a person to the point of spewing; that is doesn’t make anyone a good trainer.
A good trainer is someone who has a significant well laid out plan, including periodised programs that work on your weaknesses, accentuate your strengths and accommodates your wants all at the same time. This approach in itself is an art form and not always that easy. To be a good coach is a balancing act between having the requisite knowledge and the ability to implement in such a way that works best for a particular individual. What works for some does not work for all so any trainer worth their salt will need the ability to compromise, adapt and sometimes innovate in order to continue to achieve results.
Foremost to the application of knowledge, from my perspective, is to consider whether the trainer is diligent in teaching good form and technique and further, whether they practice what they preach and police proper technique at all times. This is a no brainer; if the trainer isn’t on top of this and proves negligent, then they deserve the years of insurance litigation and career limbo that such negligence will bring. That is not to say that accidents happen, not by a long stretch; physical activity of any kind brings with it such risk and sometimes, people simply get hurt. However, if a trainer is not competent enough to mitigate injury through poor technique, then they don’t deserve their shingle.
The final limb of a good trainer’s technical abilities, which assimilates both the knowledge and application aspects, is the question ‘are they measuring?’ Put simply, if your trainer isn’t measuring, they are guessing. Everyone should be measured; there is a myriad of measurement techniques available which will allow a trainer to track a client’s progression. This also allows the trainer a vital and objective form of feedback, ensuring that they are implementing the right approach to programming and if in fact they are meeting the very criteria upon which they were initially engaged.
It is one thing to have the knowledge to be a great trainer but it is the delivery of that knowledge that ultimately keeps the client engaged enough to want to keep putting themselves through the wringer. If a trainer has Stephen Hawking like knowledge but the personality of a doorknob, then there is a fair chance that clients will not engage with that trainer.
In this industry, more than many others, a great trainer has to have the ability to provide energy to people in circumstances where the client may struggle to harness it for themselves. Let’s be honest: exercise by its very nature is a horrible thing. No one likes breathing through their arse all the time; we do it for benefits after the fact and not the action itself (unless of course you enjoy the pain which is, quite frankly, a little on the fringe and a conversation for a different time, audience and forum).
*Bad stock image intended
All things being equal, if your trainer doesn’t provide you with the energy day in, day out to perform the unpleasant, then they are in the wrong business. From my perspective, the delivery of this energy is two tiered:
- Over the top enthusiasm. This works for many but can also be downright annoying for just as many. You know the type: “HELLO, I hope your feeling SUPER today!” and “Let’s get POSITIVE!”; and
- The trainer that ‘gets their clients’. This is the type of trainer that understands their client enough to broach topics that will get their client engaged in exercise. This engagement involves having the client focus their efforts on what they are about to do by understanding their individual personality.
However, I am not suggesting that the training session turns into a massive catch up between long lost friends; rather, a personable approach allows the client to remain attentive on the exercise but at the same time, distracts the client from the inherently ‘shit’ feeling that comes with working their arse off. It provides an opportunity to create a unique bond despite the fact that a visit to the trainer involves all sorts of uncomfortable physical effort, it is important that the client appreciates what they are doing and which ultimately builds a foundation of respect between the client and trainer.
Lastly but not least, central to a trainers personality is their professionalism. If your trainer constantly changes your times, turns up late or in the extreme, sometimes doesn’t show up at all, then they are downright a poor professional and do not respect you or the job and should be discarded immediately. However, a trainer who approaches the job professionally like any other, who appreciates that it is a service industry and they are beholden to their reputation and client’s respect is one that should be appreciated. Someone who does not respect these simple rules cannot be trusted and will not help a client attain their respective goals.
DO WE MAKE THE GRADE?
So there you have it – my two-bob as to what constitutes a good, if not great, trainer. Any hint of arrogance (and poorly constructed jokes) aside, I like to think that the staff here at Hammer strive to approach our business and provide our service with the above in mind. It might not win us any popularity contests but we are comfortable with that – we believe that a client’s well-being is worth more than some click bait and self-gratification.
That being said, feel free to tell your friends about us – after all, we can’t pay the bills on goodwill alone!