I believe that until we, as individuals, can own our place in the fitness industry and accept others of all kinds within it, then we will never be in a strong enough position to convince everyone outside of the industry that they belong too.
My dream would be that the personal training world is one that accepts that there are infinite combinations of skills and approaches that can all provide fabulous experiences and results for clients and that results are anything that gives the individual concerned a positive feeling. A world where I never have a conversation with a personal trainer who feels they have to justify why they don’t have transformation photographs or how they are concerned because they can’t do a strict pull up, squat 2 x body weight or any other random metric. A space where there’s never any question of someone’s appearance being what reflects their skills and where no one feels self-conscious or like they have to add a justification or self-depreciating joke when they introduce themselves as a personal trainer.
I appreciate that this is a very big dream and that it requires a lot of changes at a lot of levels. However, that leaves me with the choice to either hide away and decide it’s not worth trying, or to be brave and contribute to the conversation, share my thoughts and encourage others to share theirs, even if they don’t agree.
At the LTB conference I took the opportunity of a last minute space in the timetable to speak about how concerning it is that so many trainers don’t feel like they belong in the industry. We regularly see posts in the member group where someone is questioning their place based on their looks, physical abilities, other skills or concerns; I have lost count of the conversations I’ve had with people who feel they, or their service, is somehow lacking despite everything their clients have to say to the contrary.
Although, as trainers, we spend a lot of time aiming to convince the general public that fitness is for everyone, we have a different viewpoint when it comes to the people who make up the fitness industry; mostly when it comes to ourselves, but sometimes when judging others.
I don’t know the answers or indeed all the issues. I can completely identify with the idea of not fitting in. Attending industry events as “Chris’ groupie” is ok, attending one on my own or as a personal trainer, takes far more courage because I have a larger body. But why should it? What has my level of bodyfat got to do with my ability to be a personal trainer? And this isn’t just about people in larger bodies, I’ve had conversations with slim, fit personal trainers who are concerned because of the amount of visible muscle they have, or don’t have. Chris often uses humour when he refers to himself “looking like he doesn’t train” because he has long limbs that don’t lend themselves to showing large amounts of muscle. That’s just examples based on shape and size elements, when we add in skin colour, religion, age, gender, disabilities or any other factor that makes us all individuals, it is no wonder that so many people feel insecure in the industry. But what is the right age, gender, amount of body fat, amount of muscle…?
What does a great personal trainer look like?
Great personal trainers come in all bodies. There are great trainers who are in their 20’s and great trainers in their 60’s and beyond. There are great trainers who are tall and great trainers who are short. There are great trainers with visible abs and great trainers without, great trainers who are ripped / toned / shredded and great trainers with more body fat. There are great trainers who do power lifting, great trainers who do yoga, great trainers who do triathlons, great trainers who do Zumba, great trainers who do crossfit, great trainers who can do all things physical and great trainers who have physical limitations for all kinds of reasons. There are far more things that I could list here but hopefully you’re getting the point. 😊
All the people in this photo are people in or connected to LTB and you can see a wide range of ages, experience, knowledge, body composition and abilities to connect with their target audience. The things that influence how good they are as trainers are the experience, knowledge and ability to connect and communicate with others, none of which can be seen in a photo.
It’s always really easy to list issues with things, but I’d like to focus on solutions. Things we can all do to improve the fitness world we all play a key part in. After all, if we each create our own small oasis of acceptance and belonging it will provide a safe and comfortable environment for everyone in our network. Then, if we link together, we can start to influence more of the people around us to see that fitness isn’t a specific weight, shape, ability, performance goal or skill and that it is not limited to a particular skin colour, age, gender, heritage, social background or any other arbitrary grouping. Just think how amazing it would be if everyone truly believed that fitness* is for them and that they belong in the fitness industry without a second thought about how they look! (*In whatever form that takes for them, based on their own viewpoint and ignoring all others.)
I’d love for you to spend some time thinking about the following question (jot your answers down and if you want to drop them to me in an email I’d love to see them too).
How can we each make the fitness industry feel welcoming for ourselves and other trainers?
I don’t have all the answers but if you want to hear some of my suggestions, or those of some of the attendees at the conference then check out this video of the “Who Fitness Is The Fitness Industry For” talk I did at our conference last year.