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Reflecting on a year as a Personal Trainer

My Facebook memories feature is bombarding me with my updates from a year ago, which of course is perfectly usual - but right now, those posts are all about my first steps into life as a Personal Trainer.

It's caused me to spend a little time reflecting back on how things have changed since I made the decision to broaden my fitness skillset from dance, yoga and perinatal things.

I was never going to be a very "conventional" personal trainer, but then I'm not really sure many trainers really are! In the last year of continually seeking to better my practice, I have encountered lots of truly inspiring trainers and coaches, who really are breaking the mould. At the same time there are aspects of the fitness industry that I have found myself embracing more as I get to understand them better.

The ethos.

When I first started, I set up this blog and bookmarked the first post with my Free Living Fitness Manifesto. Occasionally I check back in with that, to see if it still makes sense from my most recent perspective. I am pleased to find it does. In fact the more I learn about fitness, the stronger I feel about tenants such as:

  • Love your workout
  • Love and care for your body
  • Inclusivity
  • The right of every individual to have access to the means to live well in a healthy body

I see developing my skills as a trainer as a way to add to this, to find new ways to reach more people. I knew when I started that strength training had been a major factor for me developing physical efficacy with my EDS, and I've seen my dance students blossom in all kinds of ways, but every individual is different and the more modalities of activities I can bring, the better I can help people.

The programming

I remember sitting in the classroom, the very first time I was asked to write a workout, and not having a clue where to start. I'd not been in a gym for 15 years and programming gym floor training was way out of my comfort zone. I found myself wondering what I was really doing....

Well that's not an issue now. I love programming! Once I learned the principles it became easy to apply it to different kinds of training (bodyweight, suspension, freeweights, HIIT etc). I've learned that while building a balanced programme is a key skill, it's not hard to learn, and when you can do it, it flows. I really love taking those skills and being creative with them - building workouts that fit my clients well in every way, from their particular areas for improvement, to the things that make them want to train.

In the past year I have studied programming theory, dissected programmes and trained with programmes from a variety of great trainers, from Dan John to Pavel, Jen Sinkler to Alwyn Cosgrove, and seeing how they structure and why has been really helpful, but the mechanics of it aren't really the important bit.

The real skill a trainer puts into both the programme and coaching it, is making it something that the client wants to show up and do. Making it interesting, challenging but not so gruelling it's hard to get up for. Understanding what motivates that individual and knowing how to present the programme so they can see how it is going to help them reach their goals. All that is way more important than whether you include a zercher squat or a hack squat.

It also makes me think of the disparaging things I have heard about high profile "celebrity" trainers, whose programmes aren't actually very good. How did they get to where they are? I think it's because the key skills of a trainer, the stuff that matters, is not so much exactly which exercises they use and how, but whether they are able to make people do them. Trainers that are able to get people off the couch and putting on a DVD to work out *without even being there*, without being able to reach out and remind them - they have mad skills, they can be learned from.

The best workout is the one you will actually do, consistently.

Understanding my worth as a trainer.

I'm a performer, so naturally I get imposter syndrome. I spent far too much time wondering if I am really good enough, and agonising over whether the work I've done was up to scratch. Which is useful, because that's why I'll always reflect and push to be better.

One of my main sources of angst when I started was not being a "gym bunny" or "fitness person". It wasn't my world. And that was partly why I wanted to do the personal trainer thing - because I think more people outside of the intense fitness subculture need to be supporting people in being healthy.

I've learned that what makes me good as a trainer is not how much time I've spent in the gym, but things like listening skills, being able to talk someone out of a rut, helping people to see that their barriers can be overcome, helping other people to recognise their worth.

These aren't gym skills, they are teacher skills, doula skills - all things I brought to the table before I even qualified, and not things you get taught in basic PT training (though some of them are covered by Precision Nutrition in the coaching certification, which incidentally I love to bits - I just completed certification). Recognising my own strengths means that I can tailor the services I offer to best use my top skills.

The stuff I never imagined would happen

When I started out on my course with Premier, I knew I was going to have to spend time in the gym. I didn't expect to love it. I don't think I had ever picked up a barbell before I started my course. Now I am barbell training 3 times a week and about to have a go at my first powerlifting competition.

Being part of the powerlifting community is brilliant. I feel like I have found a bunch of body positive, performance motivated fitness people. It's a fitness community without the bits of "gym culture" that doesn't sit with my personal ethos.

My plan was always to work with people who weren't into gyms, in my studio, and teach exercise classes. About halfway through my course I realised I was going to have to get a gym membership, because I was loving training in a gym environment.

That's great because it has fed into the other part of my work which I wasn't expecting: Online training. Even though I don't train people in a gym setting at the moment, I am writing programmes for online clients who do, and that's a lot of fun for all of us!

Where do I go now?

So what does the next year have in store? Well, I'm not counting any chickens that's for sure!

It's all pretty exciting! I've got Lotus Bloom launching officially at the beginning of October, I'm forming an online coaching group for diet survivors and anyone who needs a bit of help getting their healthy eating in order, so give me a shout on Facebook messages if you want to be included.

I've been working with an informal online group building another "off the peg" programme and that's been so great. I hope to launch that by new year.

I've got a couple more programmes in the pipeline, but I'm busy with one to one clients so they will happen when they happen.

I want to expand my exercise horizons. I'm looking at boxing training because I have a martial arts background I can't currently use with clients and frankly, who doesn't love punching stuff? I'm also looking at a powerlifting coach qualification. I'm going to pretend that's for business purposes, but basically the idea of spending several days dissecting the intricacies of 3 movements appeals to the biomechanics geek in me.

So much to look forward to!

If you are interested in training with me, don't hesitate to get in touch through Facebook or  I'd love to hear from you.


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