What Makes a Great Personal Trainer?

When you hire a personal trainer you expect a professional service and tangible results in return for your time, effort and money. As a personal trainer in London, I strive to tick the following six boxes:

1. Focuses on results

Clients come to you for results, and they’re paying good money for you to perform. One of my jobs as a personal trainer is to get really specific and objective with the client. If a client wants to lose lots of weight, 1 measure their weight, waist, and body fat percentage at the first session, then keep track of their weight loss on a monthly basis. I set a goal (eg – lose 2 stone in 3 months) with sub-goals to keep the client on track (eg – lose 2 lbs a week). Then I remind the client of their goal to keep them focused. Both the personal trainer and the client have to be focused on the same results.

Being focused on results should dominate every personal training session. This includes keeping the session intensive and free-from distractions. It’s tempting to chat to the client and listen to the client’s stories and latest news, but a good personal trainer knows how to keep the chat to a minimum and the workout intensity to a maximum.

2. Takes the lead

A great PT doesn’t slavishly agree to whatever the client asks. I’ve had clients who want to lose huge amounts of weight in a dangerously short time, the kind of thing commercial diet companies offer. My responsibility is to take the lead and explain why its healthier and more productive in the long run to lose weight more slowly with tried and trusted methods, and keep that weight off permanently.

Some clients think weight loss is the be all and end all. My job is to explain that it’s excess fat loss which is the real goal, not weight loss at any price. Commercial diet companies and diet pill companies aren’t interested in their customers’ well-being, they just want the money, and ideally repeat custom from customers who have piled all the weight back each time they came off the crazy diet. A great PT wants their client to succeed long term and lose excess fat, not lose muscle mass or bone density or become dehydrated.

3. Gives encouragement and motivation

Many clients come to me who hate exercise, so it’s my job to motivate them through their workouts. That means workouts which are varied, fun, and challenging enough to be effective but not so challenging that the client feels overwhelmed. Every client is different, so my job is to assess how hard to push the client to get the best results. This requires lots of skilled communication and picking up non-verbal signals too.

I keep at the front of the client’s mind all the benefits of getting fit: you become more efficient and effective in your every day life, more mentally alert, you have more energy, you sleep better, you become more enthusiastic about life, you’re less prone to illness and diseases like cancer and heart disease and diabetes. All these reminders help motivate the client to stick to their workouts and eating plans.

4. Focuses on nutrition

Good nutrition is vital for every client who wants to achieve their fitness goals. You can’t out-train a bad diet. All my face-to-face clients get ongoing nutrition advice as standard, included in the price. I also offer online nutrition coaching for clients who either can’t afford fact-to-face training, or live too far away.

Persuading my clients to change their eating habits for the better is one of the most challenging and rewarding elements of my job. The psychology of eating habits is endlessly fascinating.

5. Keeps knowledge and skills updated and refreshed

A great personal trainer never stops learning. When I did my personal training course I already had a head-start, having had personal trainers myself for a few years, and read extensively around the subject of exercise and nutrition. I was proud to come top in the written exam at the end of my course. But this didn’t delude me into thinking I knew it all. I’m constantly keeping my knowledge and skills updated and refreshed, partly because I’m always inquisitive to know more, and partly because it’s what every professional should do to give their client the best service possible.

6. Turns up on time

Sounds obvious, but its really important to be on time. So many of my personal training clients have told me that their previous PT was often late. My clients have busy lives, so I’m conscious of the need to respect that, which means allowing extra time for London’s unreliable transport system. Better to arrive early and have a coffee in a nearby cafe round the corner from the client, than to arrive late and blame problems on the tube. Turning up consistently on time shows respect for the client, and ensures they get their money’s worth.

(Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London with over 20 years experience. He trains clients all over London, including Farringdon, Hampstead, Highgate, Highbury, Wanstead, Maida Vale, Mayfair, Belgravia, Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Kensington. Dominic is also an online nutrition coach.)

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