This is more of a rant than anything else and originally started out as something I send to those getting my newsletters. But, it generated so much response, that I wanted to open it up to everybody. It's about an email I once received from a woman who told me of her desire to become a certified personal trainer. But, she went on to explain, she developed a medical condition that prevented her from running with her clients during training sessions. She wanted to know if her “limitation” would prevent her from becoming a personal trainer? Do you want to become a personal trainer but hesitate because you don't feel you are good enough -or look good enough? Let's talk about this and see what we can discover. Also, read the reviews on becoming a trainer with a criminal record and personal trainers who smoke for more insights.
Do Personal Trainers Have to Be Perfect?
This question – about someone not being good enough to be a personal trainer – is something others have asked me about over the years. I’ve even spoken with people – men and women – who want to be fitness trainers, and who study their butts off to do it, yet held off on getting certified until they “looked good enough.”
These people are passionate and want to begin a career they love – yet they don’t start because they literally do not think they are good enough.
I know. Shocking right?
The ironic thing is that they wouldn’t feel this way if they knew the truth – that nobody is perfect and there are “personal trainers” out there right now who look good on the outside – yet don't know anything about fitness. Those people work their muscles more than they work their minds.
Basically they spend too much time in the gym and not enough time in the library.
The dirty secret in the business few want to talk about is having big or ripped muscles and fitness education are not synonymous. In fact, sometimes, they are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Very First Class I Ever Taught…
As proof of the fact of muscles and education don't always go together, I share with you the story of the very first certification class I ever taught. It was many years ago at a fitness center that no longer exists. There was a guy in my class, in his mid-20s, who, despite having “the look,” I later learned could not read or write.
I'm not kidding. This man could not read or write English. He made it through high school and could not read or write.
I will always remember the words he kept saying to me after class: “But I got the body” to be a personal trainer – and he did. This guy could have been on a magazine cover. The problem was that even though he did have the body, he didn't know how he got it. He knew nothing about fitness, health, or wellness.
He was a nice enough guy and I spent an hour or so after class trying to convince him to enroll in a reading program at a local YMCA. I don't know what happened to that person, but I hope wherever he is today, he got the help he needed.
The Beautiful People Of Fitness…
The story I shared above highlights something which has unfortunately grown exponentially over the years. The world of fitness training has become something of a “beauty pageant” where 6 pack abs, tanned bodies, and bizarre feats of strength are valued over knowledge and desire to help others.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, just head over the Instagram where an endless supply of bimbos and mimbos post daily videos and pictures of themselves doing some of the craziest things you can imagine.
Some of it is downright dangerous.
Much of what you see on Instagram (and let's toss in YouTube also) has no basis in fitness fact and a lot of it also borders on pornography.
I'm not kidding; on the web, it's literally called the pornification of fitness.
When did the health and wellness field and porn become synonymous?
Who Do I Blame?
Who do I blame for this skewed sense of the health and fitness world? As I see it, there are 4 guilty parties:
- Fitness TV reality shows
- The so-called fitness trainers featured in TV reality shows
- Gyms which only hire people who “look good”
- The overall fitness industry
These 4 groups share equally in the dumbing down of the public's perceptions of what it's like to be a qualified fitness trainer. Why do I say this? Well, these 4 groups convey to the world -whether purposely or subconsciously –that all personal trainers:
- Always eat perfectly
- Always have 6 pack abs
- Are all “beautiful” people
- Have almost no body fat
- Have no health problems at all
Of course, all of this is utter nonsense.
And yes, I do blame those TV fitness trainers because they all seem to equate being skinny with being fit – both physically and emotionally. They take the money and fame from those reality shows and what do they do? They regurgitate the same old stereotypes. For example, research shows heavier people who exercise are healthier than thinner people who don't.
Why don't we this message more?
Fitness trainer Bob Harper of Biggest Loser fame reveals what I'm talking about. As fit as he was, he suffered a heart attack. I bring this up not to deprecate Bob – he really seems like a nice guy – but he's an example that everybody has issues and nobody is perfect. Bob is still welcome as a fitness trainer and my hope is he turns his setback into a strength by helping others avoid what he suffered.
Since we are on the topic of the Biggest Loser, I still see weight loss supplements by Jillian Michaels in stores. Again, it's the wrong message. It's about being healthy -not necessarily skinny.
And what about those Biggest Loser contestants? It turns out all the rapid weight loss ended up slowing down their metabolic rates, making it harder to lose weight in the future.
But do you hear anyone in TV land talking about this? Nope.
While statistics are not known, over the years, I've met several trainers who I suspected had eating disorders. If I am correct, then this might also be linked to the unrealistic body image fostered by mainstream and social media.
All this comes together and says to those “less than perfect” people, that there is no place for them in fitness.
I do not hold that.
In fact, I believe it's the normal-looking people who might end up saving the fitness world by giving it more respect than it currently has among the rest of the medical establishment.
My Reply To That Email
So, how did I reply to that woman who emailed me and started me on this rant?
Well, I told her how I believed that her perceived “limitation” is actually a strength because it gave her a greater ability to empathize with what her future clients will be going through. Empathy is a trait I feel is really missing in the fitness industry. And I know I’m not alone.
For example, in his book, Fit2Fat2Fit, personal trainer Drew Manning purposely gained 75 pounds –and then lost 75 pounds – just to help him better empathize with the struggles of his clients who were also trying to lose weight.
I also told her how I could tell from her words, that her passion and commitment would soon catapult her ahead of all those other trainers who skirt by on just a certification alone.
Being a personal trainer is more than looking perfect or holding a certification from the “right” organization. It's a people business centered around helping others.
I believe the unspoken message – that one has to be “perfect” to be a personal trainer sends a perverted message to the public and hinders the inclusion of passionate people who want to be fitness trainers but don't because they may not feel they fit the mold. I believe those passionate, educated individuals lift us all up and will eventually save the industry by strengthening the perception of fitness as part of the health care system in the hearts and minds of the public.
Bottom line: Listen to your calling. Be the hero of your story.
Darlene Lee says
I have met many trainers. Some have bodies that appear perfect and some have bodies that may appear not so perfect. I feel that it doesn’t matter how the trainer looks or how good they appear but what’s more important is their drive to become a personal trainer. I didn’t let my back injury prevent me from my dream of becoming a personal trainer so I could start my own business developing a fitness program for kids.
I was once a runner and loved it, but had to stop running since it was too much on my body. I found something else that I could do. I enjoy helping kids with their fitness and I didn’t let my injury get in the way of my dreams. If it’s your dream to give back and help others achieve their fitness goals then do it!
Hi Darlene, that’s a great story and I’m so glad you found your calling in kids fitness. I ran a bit myself when I was younger but these days I prefer riding my bike.