So what does it mean to be a PT?

Last Tuesday I had a session with a client of mine, who had a knee pain from doing lateral jumps. That client has been a regular of mine for almost a year now, and initially his focus was to gain muscle mass and manage weight. However, during our weekly sessions a whole lot of underlying health issues came out that required an informed and creative approach to achieving that goal.

As I was explaining the mechanics of the movement that caused compression in the knee, I heard him say: You know, the more I work with you the more I start to appreciate how much knowledge a PT must have to fix all these problems. Previously, I never thought it was the case. Thought PTs just help building muscle. Food for thought. I never really thought about how our clients see us, personal trainers and that little confession opened my eyes wider to the reality of what being one actually means.

Putting aside “getting huge” and smashing away kebabs from unsuspecting clients on a Friday night, is it possible that the job offers more benefit to the society than meets the eye?

The muscle building is granted. Good nutrition is a must, but aside from the obvious, personal training is quite a hard career choice and certainly isn’t meant for the undisciplined. A good personal trainer should be able to influence and encourage a positive and more efficient mindset in people. In fact, the most inspirational people I met were people connected to performance in sports and mind mastery.

So what is it like to work as a personal trainer?

If you work in a profession where your career lives and dies with your performance, then you know that the “job” never ends. You can’t just come home and detach from your work. That’s why you have to approach personal training more as way of being or a lifestyle, rather than a job.

When you work as a PT you’re are expected to empower and inspire which means you have to be an epitome of what you’re preaching. You either walk the walk or better not seek a career in coaching at all. The following three attributes lie at the core of PTs professional life:

The physical

This is barely news. As a PT, you constantly, without fail, are bound to manage all aspects of your physical health- fitness, nutrition, weight and physical gains that are individual to each professional. As you come home after work, the thought of taking your sweet time reclining in front of TV with a bag of Doritos just isn’t in line with anything you stand for. The job is strictly based on a mindset and discipline that you have to nourish and preserve for as long as you’re planning on being serious about your health. While strict calorie-counting is optional, the commitment to nutrition is a must. Training is not open to bargain. Weather conditions, lack of motivation, low energy and even injuries are not enough of a reason to forgo a training session. An injury or accident, assuming that it’s not life threatening, means resting/rehabbing the impacted part of the body and shifting the training focus to another part.

The mental

The commitment to physical fitness is directly proportional to the mindset and discipline training. In fact, the whole job is strictly based on the mindset and I dare say that most corporate employers  would wish for their employees to share half the dedication to their 9-to-5s as PTs devote to their own development.

Working as a PT isn’t about being an endless source of motivation and buzz. Your PT-self would experience as much stress and low energy as anyone else. And neither are you just magically, naturally born with aversion to burgers and chocolate. You just know that you have to build up strategies to overcome weaknesses and temptations. I still chuckle a bit when I remember one of the top bodybuilders telling me how sick he is of lifting weights and the amount of repetition it takes, but he does it because without it he would not longer be the best version of himself. Personally, permanent rejection of certain foods I used to love was the most excruciating test of character I had gone through on that journey. The sacrifices will sometimes stretch your limits but you’ll just have to embrace the suckage.

The educational

Education and application is a key component of maintaining a relevant knowledge base, and I’ll be damned if it only applies to muscle building science. Conversely to what the world of Instagram fitness influencers would have you believe, personal training requires vast knowledge of any subject related to both physical and mental health. If medical research papers bore you, you’re probably not the right person for the job.

The same way I would distrust a psychologist who disregards the benefits of the exercise on mental health, the same way I would not pay a PT who doesn’t understand the neuroscience behind balance disorders. It’s imperative that as a PT you have a working knowledge of relevant areas of medicine. The extent of health-related conditions and their impact on fitness is boundless and the job is a never-ending learning curve. An interest in psychology, elements of psychiatry (oh, yes!) and physics comes hand in hand with being a well rounded personal trainer.

Last but not least, exactly like it does with professions such as doctor or a lawyer, a PT’s specialty plays a big role. At the end of the day, you won’t go to a podiatrist while suffering from kidney stones, similarly a PT that have been an avid powerlifter may not be the right person to help you prepare for a half-marathon. Unfortunately, the reality of working in the PT industry, and a significant pressure on profit in the chain gyms focuses almost exclusively on sales, making mastery a forsaken art.

A training session is a form of therapy that gives clients an outlet to detach, talk, vent or sweat out their problems away. In many cases the role of a PT is more than a screamer trying to squeeze out one more rep from their suffering clients but a coach that can instill a long lasting impact on someone’s mindset. That  puts PT in the run-up to the most rewarding jobs on the job market, despite its challenges.


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