“Do you have any good personal trainers on staff?”
This is a question potential members are likely to ask a health club. People keen on shedding pounds and looking for a good cardiovascular workout are curious about the machines and facilities (are the weight and cardio machines properly maintained or do they look like they’ve been resurrected from another era?). They look for ambience (are the people here fanatics and maniacs or just regular human beings?), and personal trainers who are competent and approachable.
A personal trainer has no goods to peddle – the club management handles that part of the operations. What a personal trainer needs to sell is an idea and the service that supports the idea. The idea is health and fitness, and the service is made up of the methods to achieve health and fitness. These methods are in the form of a fitness program or routine that trainees must follow for optimum weight loss.
Recruiters of personal trainers agree: it takes a certain kind of personality to become an effective personal trainer. Let’s look at some of these characteristics:
• Outgoing / friendly person
• Good communicator
• Flexibility to learn new skills and concepts
• Organizational abilities
People who are ashamed of how they look because of the excess pounds they drag around will be intimidated by a sour-faced, dictatorial, and mumbling trainer. Few people realize it, but unfriendly and intolerant personal trainers are one reason why people give up on a gym. All it takes is one unpleasant experience.
Complementary to friendliness is the ability to communicate clearly. Here is one example of a session we overheard recently:
Trainer: “Raise your weights slowly to your chest and let go, and then repeat.”
For someone with no previous weight training, a more effective way of coaching would have been if the trainer said something like this:
“Hold the weights firmly, and then raise them towards your chest slowly. Start with the count of 1, and then 2, so by the time the weights are close to your chest, you shall have reached the count of 4. Take a deep breath and then bring your arms slowly to your original position in 4 seconds.”
The words “slowly” and “quickly” are relative and subject to personal interpretation, but specific units of time and measurement are universal.
Finally on the personality and communication issue: if you had a terrible fight with your spouse or teenaged son the night before and your nerves are in a tangle, tell your supervisor you can’t train for that day, because those emotions will be visible when you’re coaching a customer.
Certifications: Indispensable Tools
Just because you’ve been working out for 10 years and you can recite the types of machines by rote, no amount of experience and “gym residency” will qualify you to take on a personal trainer job. The basic requirements that health clubs look for are First Aid (or Emergency Assistance) and CPR certifications. On top of these certifications are other board or government certifications that will confer status on you as an accredited personal trainer.
While there are numerous organizations that issue certifications, be vigilant about who they are and whether they are recognized both locally and internationally. International certifications, while they may be more costly to obtain, will come in handy in case you relocate and want to continue your practice. Be wary of programs that do not combine an equal amount of theory and practice and an opportunity to apprentice so that you can satisfy the minimum number of training hours.
And remember: it’s a good idea not to let your certifications expire. Pay attention to not only renewing muscle strength but also on renewing those certificates!