Do You Have to be in Shape to be a Good Personal Trainer? By Claire Winter

You hear it regularly, usually from trainers who believe their six-pack bestows some kind of superior status that raises them above other mere mortals in the fitness world; the idea that if you are out of shape, you can’t possibly be any good as a trainer.   

From a purely theoretical point of view, this attitude has a few fundamental flaws.

Does Correlation Equal Causation?

If we accept that out of shape trainers aren’t good trainers, then do we accept that all in shape trainers have to be good ones?  I think we all know some exceptions to this as a rule!  Indeed, if we go down this route, then we should forget our qualifications and ongoing learning and just go back to listening to the biggest guy / most toned woman in the gym. 

The implication is that unless you have done it yourself then you can’t possibly be able to help others to achieve, but again there are issues with this: If we accept this then does that mean that male trainers cannot possibly assist females with situations involving their monthly cycle, pregnancy or menopause? As they have not experienced these situations then how could they be in a position to know what to do?

And if the goal is weight loss then by default the trainers who have always been lean and sporty would be excluded as they have not experienced weight loss even if they are modelling the desired end result. 

If you don’t have big arms how can you get anyone else big arms?

If you’ve never been obese can you help someone who is?

By contrast, as an overweight trainer, I have lost more fat than a lot of trainers will ever see.  Does the fact that I am still experimenting with how best to maintain that weight loss mean I am less knowledgeable on the subject of fat loss than others or more so?  

Of course, a lot of the questions I have asked above are as judgemental and questionable as the one I started with. 

What Makes a Good Personal Trainer?

I firmly believe that your gender, size, strength or shape is irrelevant when it comes to what makes a good trainer. Having been through some kind of transformation, or being able to relate to any of the highs or lows your clients’ experience, can provide an opportunity when it comes to understanding and empathy.  However, this understanding can be just as valid if it comes from a different aspect of your life. 

Maybe the struggles you face in trying to make yourself consistent when it comes to posting content can cross over to a clients’ struggle with consistency or how you learnt not to chase the magic answer when it comes to lead generation is a life lesson that transfers to the hunt for the answer to weight loss.  By contrast, experience can be a bad thing, leading some people to the blinkered idea that what worked for them is “the answer” and everyone needs to do it or making us doubt ourselves and question our abilities. 

As trainers who want to improve the industry, we are best focusing our energy on the celebration and acceptance of good trainers, regardless of how they look, what they eat or what their personal struggles are.  The best trainers are those who are open to different approaches and understand that each client is an individual.  Let’s apply this same tolerance of our clients to other trainers and help to make our world a better place. 

Learn More About LTB

If you want to develop your skills further then check out the courses available as a member of LTB. As well as all of our courses, you get access to downloads on opening a facility, managing overwhelm and calculating macros and webinars from industry experts like Alwyn Cosgrove, Dr Mike Israetel, Molly Galbraith and Greg Nuckols (all available on the free trial).

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