When looking to start a new career in fitness, there is undoubtedly one phrase that will rattle through most minds “Do I need to be fit to be a personal trainer ?”. Most learners think their own fitness and body image is what will attract and keep clients. What if I told you… your fitness is irrelevant…
When learners start their journey to become a fitness professional they are really enthusiastic about fitness- and yes, some are seriously strong, seriously fit and have great muscle definition – but only about 5% would fit into these categories. Do you need to look a certain way, or run ridiculously fast times, or dead-lift massive weights in order to be an outstanding trainer and coach?
On one side, we have coaches and instructors who believe a good strength coach or personal trainer needs to be strong and fit, otherwise they’re a fraud.
On the other, we’ve got coaches who believe a Personal trainer or coach can benefit from being strong and fit but it’s definitely not essential to being good at the job.
So who’s right?
Do you need to be fit to be a personal trainer, or can our clients get extraordinary results either way?
Let’s start by looking at the facts of what a coach or Personal Trainer or Instructor actually is.
The sole aim for all of these roles is to help the client achieve their goals, to offer guidance in health, fitness and occasionally sport related training. To offer nutrition and mindset guidance. To coach them to achieve their goal and maintain a lifestyle.
Notice that none of these description even remotely discuss the way the trainer looks, how much they can lift, how fast they can run or physical ability. No to mention that body image and physical fitness is not part of the assessment criteria for becoming a coach.
Functional capabilities are important as it can be a very active job role, especially if teaching classes, spotting for clients or tidying weights away. Having said that, I have worked with a handful of extraordinary instructors and trainers that have various disabilities – from deaf or blind to amputations and wheelchair bound. These trainers are just as great as instructing as the next person and a true reflection that size, strength and speed are not required in order to be a successful coach.
There is a difference between functional ability to do the job and super-fit or super-strong trainers.
But should they bit super-fit or super-strong. What benefit could this possibly have? Arguably, if you are strong, fit, well defined you have successfully achieved the goal your client is setting out to achieve. This makes you a role model, or at least gives you experience and knowledge of how to train towards that goal. It makes you familiar with the tools and it makes you aware of all variables. You may be able to relate and empathise better with the client if their goal is similar. But really it comes down to having experience –
Does Personal Experience Make You a Good Coach?
Just because you’re strong or proficient in a certain sport or activity doesn’t mean you understand how to program, modify exercises, alter volume and intensity, or…know how to coach and instruct.
This is actually a very serious problem, notably among retired professional athletes.
It’s not uncommon to see retired pro football players become the S&C coach for their kids’ high school team despite having zero background in strength and conditioning.
Being strong ONLY means you are strong
Of course, personal experience is tremendously beneficial.
Not to say they’re remarkably strong or world record calibre…but they practice what they preach and, in the process, understand intricacies of training that you can only learn from personal experience.
What about Body Image?
Surely no one will invest into a personal trainer with a flabby belly and low fitness levels? Wrong. It is a common misconception that personal trainers look like a Barbie or a Competition ready bodybuilder. It simply isn’t true. In fact, some clients will prefer a “real” looking trainer, or someone who has transformed their own body in a way hat they would also like to .
Looking a certain way does not mean that you are a good trainer, it is being a good coach that attracts and maintains clients. Some amazing personal trainers seem to have it all – including the looks and low fat percentage, but some are equally great trainers, and look much more “real” to the end user.
The day of relying on looks-alone are long gone; with competition fierce in some clubs – it is the good coaches and instructors that will win over the clients, with word of mouth selling PT packages whenever each client achieves the goal they set out for.
So, in answer to my original question ” Do you need to be fit to be a personal trainer ?”. It depends on the situation but mostly NO – it is ten times more important to understand the science of coaching and to get the client their goals!
Regardless of your shape or fitness level,
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