Today’s guest post comes from Jeff Aker, a colleague of mine who works at World Health club in Calgary, Alberta Canada, and will be presenting at the NSCA National Conference in Las Vegas this coming July. I presented there a few years ago and had a great time, and I’m sure Jeff will as well. He’s an incredibly smart and passionate professional who will be doing big things in the future, so keep your eyes open for him. I’ll let him take it from here.
To make it in this business requires a lot of you. You’re working long hours, high physical, mental, and emotional output is required of you and on top of that add a healthy dose of uncertainty.
For a lot of aspiring trainers it is these characteristics of the craft that ultimately makes them realize that it just wasn’t meant to be.
However, there are also a lot of you out there who have been able to overcome and handle these obstacles gracefully. For that reason, you have been able to make a career of it. You have been able to adopt the innate skills it requires to build a training business, you love what you do, and you are ready to kick some ass in this industry.
I am writing this for you. Not as a guy who possesses something that will revolutionize your skillset or your business. Just a guy who makes a decent living doing what I absolutely love to do and striving to make an impact on this industry and to do it on my own terms.
My outlook as a result of this is that no matter what direction that you are looking to take your profession whether it’s being a highly regarded trainer, highly lucrative business owner, or any other opportunity that this profession may present you boils down to this. It’s a profession, and to treat it as such in my eyes is the single factor that will allow you to get to where you want to go in this business wherever that may be.
I have been very fortunate to learn under a lot of very successful fitness pros within a variety of disciplines. While their disciplines differed, they all shared a handful of characteristics that were integral in taking their game to the next level.
Research or Discovery?
How well can you interpret and apply both? I’m huge on devoting your level of attention on learning from a limited number of resources. What I can say however is that there should be a point in your career where you are able to accumulate a certain level of knowhow and application that makes you known for being you.
For that reason you need to do your homework. Eventually you will find content out there that complements your way of thinking. Take it in as much as you can through reading, research, workshops, or certifications.
Research will be the closest thing that you will get to seeking answers that you may be looking for. How, where, and when you apply them is up to you and this is where your own creative and critical thinking are meant to complement your research and allow you to come up with the closest thing that you will get to a definitive answer.
That being said, if there is anything that I have learned in training is there are very few true definitive answers.
Draw From Other Inspirations
I’ve really come to appreciate dropping the training brain down a few gears and wrapping my brain around other things.
Some of the brightest minds I have met in this business have the right brained ability to draw fitness related analogy from escapes that are completely unrelated to training. It can be anything from one of the hottest pieces of fitness equipment going today being a result of construction work or John Romanello’s brilliant article “Blue Steel And The Hero’s Journey: 13 Life Lessons From Zoolander” (Must Read).
For me, music has not only become an outlet but an obscure launching pad for some of the most profound revelations when it comes to training as a profession. I grew up in a musical family and came from a very musical region of Eastern Canada. Although I no longer play too often, going out and seeing live music has not only allowed me to not only use the abstract research angle to justify hanging out in dusty blues joints. It has opened my eyes to the fact that trainers can learn a lot from successful music acts.
- Their product is a result of drawing from multiple inspirations and making it their own.
- They have a plan when they hit the stage but the audience has the final say on that
- Their performances are interactive and engaging
- When they are on stage there is nothing else on their mind other than performing
- They are relentless in their efforts to get better
- Music is their passion and there is nothing else they would rather be doing
Get Out and Take It In
Education is pivotal in your development there is no doubt about that. However, I believe that there comes a time where there is nothing comparable to hitting the road to attend continuing education events.
There is just something awesome about seeing a different part of the world, meeting new but likeminded people, and taking in world class education directly from the source that just gets your wheels turning.
It is something that I try and do quarterly and for the trainers that I mentor it is something that I push for them to experience.
It is your chance to network, see and do things you might not otherwise see or do, and meet some great people. Not to mention this is your opportunity not only to learn from other people’s experiences but to express your own and see where they stack up.
You will appreciate it and your clients will certainly appreciate it. Not only are you learning how to better their experience but getting out there and doing what it takes to become the best you can become is certainly something that they will acknowledge and admire.
To put it as briefly as possible, I believe that there are a few key factors that have to occur in order for a trainer to evolve.
- Learning by research/application
- Discovery of identity
- Development of identity
- Expression of identity
The first three will always be a part of the process but I think what really sets you apart from the pack is when you are ready to express your own unique findings, experiences, revelations, and beliefs.
Of course there are a few ways of expressing it but I have not been able to argue the effectiveness of putting pen to paper. Whether it is writing articles, starting a blog, your own journaling, or all of the above for that matter there is nothing like being able to document and eventually share your experiences.
Writing for me began about two years ago with the intention of having another means of educating clients. It started out as sharing a few articles with clients and colleagues and soon after turned into more and more of an outlet for me. Eventually I decided to muster up the coconuts to start a blog and make a priority of contributing to it regularly.
I soon realized that I like to write. It gave me a chance to document programming, share some experiences, and express what has been working in my own circle of clients and colleagues in a way that catered to my quiet nature.
This is something that I have been quite grateful for as it has taught me a lot about confronting fears as writing has now challenged me to step into a role of educating trainers as well as speaking internationally.
Two components of this profession that I never would have thought I’d had the knowhow or the stones for that matter to get after.
Sometimes You Just Never Know
Exercise prescription of course is the name of the game in training but it doesn’t take a genius do understand that there is a lot more to it than just training. There are certainly influences and experiences that go far beyond exercise in the trainer client relationship. However where the professional line in the sand that is sometimes drawn is how profound it can be.
Sometimes you just never know who you are working with and how much of an impact you may be having on an individual.
In a world of automated banking, automated customer service, text messaging, emails, and a communication board consisting of 140 characters or less it is hard not to look at training as one of the few remaining means of uninterrupted and undivided human communication and connectivity.
I found this out one day in the form of an email from a very long term client who showcased this point in a way that has completely changed my outlook on training. You are positively influencing people in ways you may not expect and it could very well be the people you may not expect. Please don’t forget that.
Results ultimately determine your livelihood as a trainer so of course it is in your best interest to use every ethical trick in the book in order for your people to attain them. However, you could have the perfect plan in place and I am sure all of you know this but it can be a pain in the ass to get someone on board with it.
Results should be a collaborative process as you are a result of the people around you. In this automated world I consider a few hours a week of uninterrupted time together is a relatively long time so if your livelihood comes down to bringing the best out of your clients I suggest bringing the best out of yourself.
That means a constant pursuit of your education and constant assessment of your beliefs. Not to mention the endless and polishing your skillset not just as a great trainer, but as a great coach, a great leader, and most importantly as an individual.
Jeff Aker, CSCS, is a personal trainer with World Health Club in Calgary, Alberta Canada, and will be presenting at the NSCA National Conference this year. His session is titled “Integrating the Art of The Fitness Professional into the Craft of Personal Training.” He also has a website, JeffAker.net.