What is the role of a good personal fitness trainer?

Peter Petrou

Personal trainers are everywhere in Sydney Australia yet in my opinion most of them aren’t worth a cent. There are numerous reasons that lead me to this conclusion and one of them is that I am constantly hearing about people injuring themselves doing their personal training or more to the point they get injured due to the inadequacies of their trainer and yet I constantly hear people saying
“my trainer is so good, he/she trains me so hard”
A capable personal trainer shouldn’t push their client to their limits every time they train and should be smart enough not to push their clients past their limits ever. A capable personal trainer should, by a perceived rate of exertion scale be able to ensure their client gets a good workout without having to push the client too hard, the old adage of no pain no gain is bullshit, you do not have to train to pain every time you train. If you train to pain every time you train all you are doing is increasing your risk of injury and all an injury will do is prevent the client (you) from training and possibly lead to them losing heart. That of course doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t train hard but there is a difference between training hard and training to exhaustion or injury every time. Training someone past their limit is not the sign of a good trainer. It is the sign of a bad trainer. Remember everybody has a limit and it doesn’t matter how fit they are if you keep pushing them they will reach it. A good personal trainer should be good enough to provide a workout routine that is difficult but that the client can manage, gradually increasing the intensity as required.
A trainer should of course be constantly increasing the intensity of a clients workouts. Yet this generally should be done by using a progressive overload principal to their workout routines. An example being that you start a client on a new routine that is harder than they are used to but that they can manage. The client continues with this routine for 6-8 weeks, by the end of the 6-8 weeks they are finding it relatively easy and then you update the program with a new routine that again is harder than the previous one but that they can manage and you go through the whole process again. This is of course a very basic way of putting things and isn’t taking into consideration changing the type of training i.e., training aerobically, anaerobically or varying the energy system used whilst training i.e., either aerobic, anaerobic lactate or anaerobic alactate but let’s try and make this article not so that I am trying to impress you with my knowledge of training terminology or big words but so that it is easy for everyone to understand.
I also constantly hear people say “my trainer is so good he/she has such a good body”.
Let me address this statement in a couple of ways. Firstly, your trainer has a good body because they have probably been training their whole life and probably train a lot more often than you do or can and are a lot fitter than you ever will be. Secondly, genetics and basic body shape play a large part in your body make up and two people can do exactly the same exercises and have exactly the same diet and will never look alike physically. Of course I would like to believe that the guys I train want to look like me but I can’t see why any of the girls that I train would want to have a body like mine.
Another issue that can play a huge role in body shape and something I don’t really want to bring up, yet unfortunately is rife amongst personal trainers in Australia is the use of anabolic steroids and in my opinion a lot of trainers are just morons who have gone to the gym a lot, regularly take anabolic steroids and then do a fitness course and think because of this that they are an expert on training. Well, they aren’t and is this really the person you want advising and guiding you through your fitness journey?
So, what is the role of a good personal trainer? Firstly I think the majority of good personal trainers are former athletes (not all, but most). These people have a deep ingrained knowledge of exercise, getting fit and being fit.
A good personal trainer should also have a lot of experience in the field of exercise and fitness (and again experience doesn’t mean they have gone to the gym a lot and taken steroids). Granted there is only one way to gain experience as a trainer but do you want to be somebodies crash test dummy when your health and well-being are on the line? Personally I ran group exercise classes for years while I was still an amateur athlete and Australian representative in my sport before moving onto personal training.
I believe the role of a good personal trainer is quite simply to find the right exercises for their client to get the results they are after and then to ensure the exercises are done correctly and safely, and to update the workouts when necessary.
Most importantly though your ideal personal trainer should be able to make your workouts enjoyable. I am constantly telling my clients that when it comes to fitness, consistency is the key. It doesn’t matter what sort of training you are doing if you train regularly you will get results. You could be on the best and most modern scientifically designed exercise program in the world, if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it regularly and you won’t get results. On the other hand, you could be prescribed the most basic and simple exercise program in the world, and because you enjoy it you will do it regularly and hence you will get results. And isn’t that what we want, because let’s face it any results are positive results.
All of the reasons listed above are just a personal trainers basic job description, just as importantly a good personal trainer should be more than just a capable coach. He or She should be someone you feel comfortable with. They should be someone you feel is not just there to take your money and they should be someone who’s company you actually enjoy.
When picking a personal trainer they should of course have the appropriate qualifications. Hopefully have some sort of sporting background, be experienced and just as importantly it should be someone you feel comfortable with and ideally someone you can enjoy being with because you are going to spend at least one hour a week in their company.
Remember; it’s easy to get fit, it’s just hard work.

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