World class personal trainers are few and far between. There are plenty who think they are world class but don’t have the track record, quality, traits or knowledge to back it up. To some degree, world class is still open to interpretation but there are certain non-negotiable traits that need to be hit to be considered for that category. This article will explore seven of those traits but this is not an exhaustive list by any means.
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Thirst for knowledge
Any personal trainer worth their salt will be always hungry to learn more and improve their knowledge, delivery and their overall personality. Knowledge is key to improving ourselves and applying that knowledge and making it part of who we are is vital to our progress as professionals and people. The personal trainers who do this consistently realise that they don’t know everything and in fact know very little in the bigger picture. This realisation causes them to keep improving and learning.
This can be in the form of reading more books, listening to more podcasts or attending more courses and workshops but it can also be in self-reflection, getting feedback on their performance and working on the quality of their life outside of fitness. Knowledge is the means to being able to allow us to improve and you can rarely have too much!
Arrogance is probably one of the biggest turnoffs to potential clients and even other trainers. A lot of trainers talk a big talk but deliver mediocre, if that and this just highlights a lack of congruence between what someone says and what they do. Clients who have intuition and high emotional intelligence will see straight through this and run a mile.
Arrogance also puts off people who could be useful connections, especially when it’s at levels of extreme delusion. Just to be clear, I’m referring to arrogance as not being able to deliver what you say you will or overestimating your abilities openly whilst lacking self-awareness. Arrogance isn’t referring to themselves as being excellent and backing it up with excellence, that’s congruence and confidence. Sometimes people walk a fine line.
There are plenty of trainers who promise the world but are underwhelming in delivery. We need to be careful with this approach as it may get initial buy in but it will also lead to buyers’ remorse.
“I listen to what people say but more often, I watch what they do”.
Strong people skills
This has nothing to do with introversion and extraversion because despite what some think, neither has anything to do with your confidence or ability to communicate. These simply refer to where someone gets their energy from. To put it simply, extroverts can be terrible with people and introverts can be excellent with people.
People skills comes mainly from emotional intelligence and social awareness and these are things that can be taught or learned. Learning to pick up on what someone really means, what they aren’t saying and learning to read between the lines are vital skills that many trainers (especially men) struggle with. One of the reasons for this may be that men naturally communicate overtly and women often communicate covertly as genders are wired differently when it comes to how they see the world in social contexts.
There is nothing wrong with either approach but awareness is the important thing and learning to communicate with different genders, cultures and personality types is huge. We can increase our awareness of self and others through models such as DISC, Myers Briggs and The Big Five which help us to learn about ourselves, how we are wired and how other people are wired. There’s also a very good book called “Surrounded by Idiots” by Thomas Erikson which goes into colour personality types and how each type communicates and doesn’t like to be treated and this is a great place to start if you want to improve in this area.
“Learn to read the room if you don’t want to burn your tongue”.
This ties in with congruence again but the best personal trainers don’t pretend to feel amazing all the time, they don’t act like they are flawless and they are honest about their reality and their journey. In a world of inauthentic Instagram influencers, this is a more important trait than ever because more and more people are seeing through the façade that is often put on show to the public.
People want to work with people they like, know AND trust and trust is hugely important when it comes to building client-trainer relationships. Trust is built by being honest, doing what you say you will do when you say you will do it and following through on commitments in general. It’s also about not overpromising and under delivering as this is the fastest way to buyers’ remorse.
Trust is also built by admitting and being open about your struggles when it comes to your social media presence as people will more likely relate to you than you trying to pretend you’re an infallible robot. The key principle is to be transparent in all areas that are relevant to the relationship.
“It’s not about pretending to be a better version of yourself but the most authentic version of yourself.”
They Ask For Help
No one is a “know it all”, even if they think they are. The best personal trainers will happily refer you onto someone more qualified, who isn’t in their lane and will seek out support when they can’t deliver what you want them to do. The problem these days is that many trainers develop a god complex and think they know more than they do. This can lead to problems such as injuries but also letting people down or manipulation, if left unchecked.
Strong personal trainers will build a team or network of people around them full of people that can do what they can’t. Surrounding yourself with people who can cover up our shortcomings who are experts in that area, adds value to both us and our clients. We can gain knowledge and insight into new areas whilst our client can receive a more holistic and comprehensive service all round.
“The minute we think we know everything, is the minute we should realise how little we actually know.”
They teach you how to be self-sufficient
Mediocre personal trainers make you rely on them to get and keep results but when this happens, a year or sometime down the line, you revert back to type because nothing has stuck. This essentially means that personal trainers haven’t done their job and in the process have created a dependency complex where you feel like you can only ever achieve the results you want with them.
The best personal trainers realise that this isn’t about them but about their clients and with that, it’s about facilitation of results through a progressive journey, not through dictation. The long term, bigger approach would be to help your clients to achieve their results and teach them how to keep them so they can be a walking advertisement for your business. This generates more referrals and a better reputation and beats being the trainer that didn’t get a result – that’s hardly a credible advertisement is it.
“Instead of giving a man a fish, teach him how to fish for a lifetime”.
They keep you accountable
This sounds basic and it is but a lot of trainers don’t do the basics and this is why they are mediocre. Good personal trainers will be good at keeping you accountable and the best personal trainers know how to tap into your motivations and psychology to get the best out of you both in and out of the gym.
It’s not necessarily about daily motivational messages or hounding clients but setting up a suitable structure to communicate with clients outside of sessions. This is easier with technology having improved significantly in recent years especially when it comes to tracking data and performance.
Personal trainers who are diligent will track your lifts and performance as time goes on so you can actually see improvements rather than you just “feeling better”. Measurable metrics motivate us, there’s no two ways about it and they give us the data we need to improve and take stock of where we are.
Metrics can come in the form of analysing food diaries, recording lesson lifts and reviewing goals and motivations on a regular basis. There is nothing worse than a trainer-client relationship that’s just going through the motions without a clear direction. Being accountable also isn’t about judging someone for what they have and haven’t done but creating a sense of self ownership through asking the right questions at the right times. This is a difficult skill to get right and personal trainers who can get this right create huge buy in from their clients.
As a parting thought, you may have realised that I haven’t mentioned anything about technical ability in this article. This is because as important as technical ability is, it’s not a pre-requisite to becoming a world class trainer.
World class training is about being excellent with people, knowing where they are at physically and in their minds as well as knowing how to get them to do what they need to do. Technical knowledge is useful and important but there are also many technical trainers who don’t have a strong client base or earn a living because they don’t know how to communicate.
A lot of the time technical are not so important when it comes to building relationships. If you are strong with people and strong technically then you have a perfect mix and this is something that every trainer to aspire to be.
My names Christian Roach.
I’m the Education Director at Redefining Fitness. We deliver internationally accredited fitness qualifications for aspiring personal trainers across the UK. Our internationally experienced team of tutors help students to go from enrolment to graduation to successful business in as little as six to twelve months.
We’re known for delivering exceptionally high service and for producing industry ready fitness professionals, leaving our students feeling inspired to be the best version of themselves.