Why You Are Crazy If You Don’t Have a Trainer, Coach or Mentor
Written by Tom Venuto.
An article by a personal trainer who has a personal trainer
People are often surprised when they find out that I have a personal trainer. Their first reaction is usually something like this: “Tom, what the heck do you need a trainer for? You’re in awesome shape and you already know what you’re doing.” Yes – I’m in shape and I already know what I’m doing?Now, how do you suppose I got that way? Could it be that I’ve been a good student and I learned from those who have gone before me? I’m fully capable of developing my own training programs and doing them on my own – and I usually do (with great results, I might add). But I have a trainer any way. Why does a fitness professional who has been working out for almost 20 years have a personal trainer? Because I’m a serious athlete and a serious lifelong student – that’s why! It’s a shame that so few people are open to coaching, but I guess that explains why so few people have exceptional bodies.
The first excuse: “Know-it-all-itis”
I believe that the egotistical (and ignorant) attitude of “I already know what I’m doing,” is the primary reason that people refuse to get a trainer. It’s also a guaranteed way limit your physical (and mental) development. I call this syndrome, “know-it-all-itis.” If you’re really smart, you’ll avoid “know-it-all-itis” at all costs! No matter what your level of knowledge, you can always learn more. No matter what level of physical development you reach, there’s always a higher level. People who are successful in bodybuilding or fitness are VERY SERIOUS STUDENTS – they never stop learning and growing. Come to think of it, people who are at the top of ANY field are serious students. The day you stop learning, you are going backwards. The fields of exercise physiology and nutrition science are constantly expanding, so even if it were possible for you to learn everything there is to know today, your knowledge would soon be obsolete. As they say in Zen, you must have “beginners mind” if you want to keep improving. If your mind is so full of what you already know that you won’t let in anything new, then you’ll never grow.
The second excuse: “I can’t afford it”
Next to “I already know what I’m doing,” the second most common excuse for why people won’t seek guidance from a coach or trainer is; “I can’t afford it.” I understand the economic challenges some people face, but if you’re really serious about health and fitness, you can’t afford NOT to have a trainer or coach! Here is why: Time is money. Doing it on your own through trial and error is a very time consuming endeavor. If you’re wasting time, then you’re wasting money. Getting a trainer shortens the learning curve and saves you time. Therefore, getting a trainer SAVES you money! It’s not a cost, it’s an investment. A professional trainer or coach is not cheap, nor should you look for a cheap one. Would you hire the cheapest surgeon to operate on your child? The cheapest attorney to protect you in a lawsuit? The cheapest architect or contractor to build your dream home? I think not. I think you’d hire the best you could afford, not the cheapest. Usually, you get exactly what you pay for. The average investment in a professional trainer is around $50-$60 per hour; usually a little higher in urban areas and for trainers who are in high demand. (I charge $80 – $90 per hour for one to one personal training when I’m available). People who are not familiar with personal training sometimes don’t understand the concept of paying $60 or more an hour for someone to workout with them – it just doesn’t “compute.” If you don’t comprehend the value of a trainer, then no amount of lecturing will convince you -the only way you’ll understand is to take a few sessions with a pro. Then – when you see and feel the results – you’ll “get it.”
The greatest investment in the world
Investing in your own body is the greatest of all investments. Your savings, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate may give you a financial return, but what good is money going to do you if you don’t have the health or energy to enjoy it? Training with a pro will give you a greater return on investment than anything in the world – it will add more years on your life and more “life to your years.” You can’t put a price on that. If you disagree, ask someone who has lost their health what they would give to have it back. If your budget allows it, I recommend 2 -3 sessions a week. If your budget is tight, take one session a week and do the rest on your own. Almost everyone can afford once a week. Tell me you don’t blow $50 to $60 or more every week on coffee, gum, alcohol, soda, fast food, CD’s, newspapers, videos, movies, magazines or other little things that you could easily cut back on? Here’s an idea: Save the money you’re wasting on “fat burning” and “muscle-building” gimmicks and invest it in a good trainer or coach! Tell the truth; did you buy one of those ab-electrode things? Come on, confess! How much did that set you back? How many videos have you bought that are collecting dust? Do you own any equipment that’s now serving as nothing more than a clothes-hanger? Have you ever spent $200 a month on so-called “miracle” supplements? Did you fall for buying one of those “fat burning” creams or gels? I’m sure you’ve done at least one of these things and were disappointed with the results. Do you want to know why you didn’t get results? Because gimmicks NEVER work, and every year until the end of time, you can count on a new gimmick to come out. Are you going to fall for next year’s gimmick or are you going to do what works? Trainers work. Coaching works. Motivation works. Hard work works. Why does personal coaching and training work? There are many reasons, but here are three that I consider the most important:
1. Motivation and Accountability
Are you ever tempted to “blow off” your workouts? Are you ever tempted to sleep one more hour instead of getting up for an early morning workout? Are you just too tired after you get home from work? When you do cardio, do you ever quit early even though you know you could keep going a few more minutes? When you work out with weights, do you sometimes give up even though you know you have a few more reps in you? If so, a personal trainer is the answer Being accountable to someone is one of the biggest secrets of motivation. Even if you’re self-motivated, I GUARANTEE you’ll push yourself harder when someone is looking over your shoulder during a training session or when you have to report your results to a coach every week.
2. Information & Knowledge
Diet and exercise are confusing subjects. Everywhere you look – on TV, in magazines, on the Internet – you are bombarded with conflicting advice. If you tried to sort through all this information by trial and error, it could take years – or you might NEVER figure it out! Instead, you could learn from a pro who has devoted his or her entire life to fitness and has mastered the art of helping other people transform their physiques. Keeping up with current research, training methods and nutritional science is a full time job. That’s what professional trainers and coaches do and that’s why you need one.
3. Injury Prevention
Getting hurt is a real bummer. Just when you seem to be making progress, your back, shoulder or knee “blows out.” Then you start to slide backwards. It’s depressing and discouraging. The good news is that by learning proper form and technique from a coach, you can avoid 99.9% of painful, time-wasting training injuries.
How to choose a trainer or coach: The 9 qualities of a PRO
Hopefully, you now understand the logic behind getting a trainer, and the only question remaining is, “How do I choose one?” That’s a good question because there’s certainly no shortage of trainers these days, but there’s a major shortage of PROFESSIONAL trainers and most people can’t tell the difference. Look for these traits and qualifications to make sure you’ve got a pro and not an amateur: 1. A Pro Trainer Has Education An exercise science or related degree is usually a good indication that a trainer has the necessary knowledge. It also shows they’ve made a major commitment of time and energy to the fitness field as a career. However, a degree by itself is of little value if the trainer doesn’t have experience or any of the other qualities on this list. Consider an exercise science degree as a major plus, but not a prerequisite. 2. A Pro Trainer Has Nationally Recognized or Accredited Certifications Certifications are a dime a dozen these days. You can literally “order” a certificate through the mail by taking an open book home study or online course and there are hundreds of programs to choose from. Look for trainers with nationally recognized and/or accredited certification. Anyone with American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certification immediately gets my respect. There’s absolutely no disputing this is a top of the line organization and certification. National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) certification is also a top-notch and nationally accredited credential. The NSCA offers two programs: one for strength coaches (CSCS) and one for personal trainers (CPT). Other certifications worth honorable mention are ACE, NASM, NFPT, ISSA and AFAA. Like a degree, a certification is a plus, but never judge a trainer by certification alone. I’ve met people with degrees in exercise science and multiple certifications who, for various reasons, were terrible trainers. I’ve also met people with no certifications who were absolutely brilliant trainers with hundreds of satisfied clients. 3. A Pro Trainer has Experience and a Proven Track record Here is one of the fastest, easiest and most sure-fire ways of finding out if a trainer is a professional: Ask your potential coach or trainer for testimonials and letters of recommendation. Then, do what most people don’t take the time to do: follow up and check those references! Actually speak to some of the trainer’s current or former clients. All professional trainers will have a list of references. If they don’t, then you’d better wonder why. 4. A Pro trainer is a Role Model A pro trainer walks the walk. A pro trainer is healthy and fit. A pro trainer is a good role model and sets the example. Go ahead and call it discrimination if you want, but I have a real problem with trainers who are overweight or trainers who smoke and hang out in bars. Why would you listen to someone who doesn’t practice what they preach? Would you take investing advice from someone who is broke? 5. A Pro Trainer is a Good Listener and Communicator A pro trainer is a “people person.” They love serving and helping others. They get great satisfaction from seeing others succeed. When their clients reach goals, they’re like proud fathers (or mothers). They CARE. A pro also has great communication skills. Knowledge from degrees, certifications and books is worthless if the trainer can’t transfer that information to you in a way you can understand. A trainer can be highly educated, but if they talk over your head with words and phrases that sound like they came straight from a physiology textbook, you’re not going to benefit. 5. A Pro Trainer is Great at Customizing Workouts An amateur gives the same generic workout program to everyone. To them, you’re just a number. They probably pull the workout out of their binder or off their clipboard and it’s been photocopied 100 times. No single workout is best for everyone. A pro trainer will listen very
carefully to what your goals are and then write out a custom tailored workout designed specifically to meet your needs. A pro trainer puts tremendous thought into each routine and plans it in advance. An amateur comes up with workouts on the spur of the moment. Are you getting exactly what you want and need or are you getting what your trainer wants you to get based on his or her convenience or lack of preparation? 6. A Pro Trainer Offers a Free No-Obligation Consultation Don’t hire a trainer unless they give you the opportunity to chat with them before you write a check. The first time you speak with your trainer should not be the day you meet for your first paid session. Get together and talk first. Every pro offers a free consultation. Make sure you like them and feel comfortable with them. Do the two of you seem to “click?” Did you quickly develop a good rapport? Or is your first gut reaction one of doubt? Trust your instincts; if you have a suspicion that a trainer won’t be a good match for you, then go with your gut feeling. It’s entirely possible for a trainer to be perfectly qualified and yet the two of you just don’t have the right chemistry to work well together. If you’re not a good match, a pro will always refer you to someone that’s right for you. 7. A Pro Trainer is Enthusiastic, Energetic, and Motivational A major benefit of personal training is motivation. A pro trainer will get you excited! Their enthusiasm is contagious. A pro loves what they do and it shows because energy radiates from them. You get pumped up just being around them. If your trainer has the energy of a slug in the mud, you’d better look for someone else. 8. A Pro trainer is Attentive and Focused Here’s a dead giveaway of an amateur trainer: An amateur is always looking around the gym, checking out the scene, and watching other people work out. If it’s a guy, his head turns every time a good-looking female walks in the room. If this sounds like your trainer, then get out of that relationship like you’d get out of a burning house. A pro has 100% focus and attention on you for every minute of your hour together. 9. A Pro Trainer is motivational, but not a pushy salesperson Naturally, all trainers will try to persuade you to work with them. That’s to be expected. But a pro trainer will always offer you the opportunity to take a small package or a single session to get you started. Many large mass-marketed health clubs have become assembly-line personal training businesses. If trainers at these clubs attempt to high-pressure you into purchasing a 40 pack for thousands of dollars right from the start, they may not have your best interests in mind. Personal training should be personal! Don’t let yourself become somebody’s sales quota! Many people at our club take a small package of five sessions in the beginning to “test the waters” first. Some even pay for the first few sessions one at a time. It’s usually more expensive that way, but you should at least have this option. Once you’re comfortable with your trainer, you’re likely to develop a long-term relationship with them. At this point it would be beneficial to purchase your training sessions in quantity because you can usually get substantial discounts by doing this. Make sure you ask about the expiration dates on the packages because many clubs and trainers are strict about how much time you have to use your sessions.
Although I’ve been a serious student of health, fitness and bodybuilding ever since the first day I picked up a weight at age 14, it wasn’t until 13 years later that I actually hired a trainer for the first time. After all those years of doing it on my own, getting a trainer was one of the best things I ever did. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that shortly after I made that decision, I started winning more major competitions than ever before. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a total “newbie” or a professional bodybuilder or athlete; a trainer or coach will help bring out the best in you. Life is just way too short, so learn from a pro!