Stop bashing Personal Trainers! Time to Invest and Support – 5 Steps to Change

I’m going to stick my neck out and say, enough! Decrying Personal Trainers for their lack of commercial acumen or technical skill needs to stop. Now.

Firstly, there are some brilliant and talented trainers out there who are doing very well thank you very much. Providing great service and leading from the front.

Secondly, I raise my hands immediately and say that I used to be guilty of criticising trainers. Talking about the ‘good ol’ days’, and viewing times gone by through rose tinted specs.

But now? No. We have the health and happiness of the nation to boost and that means investment in Personal Trainers. Support. Development. Better reward and recognition. And it is time we all pitched in to make a co-ordinated effort.

Here is my logic.

Have you ever met someone who is considering going into the fitness industry? If you have, you’ll know that they often play sport or train in the gym and have done for a good number of years. They love keeping fit and are bursting with enthusiasm and energy for exercise. Often there has been transformation in their life – unhealthy and discontent, to buzzing with endorphins and sporting a new physique. They are the epitome of eagerness and joie de vivre!

Fast forward then to… making the decision to study, securing the loan, signing up, studying and getting the first ‘job’.

Then 3 months in to their new career…more than 25% bail out of the industry.

They search for new shores and leave, often feeling disconsolate or that they have failed. Why? In any other industry this would be regarded as a cause for great concern. Emergency meetings. Changes to the work environment. Not in the fitness industry.

So, have they failed, or has the fitness industry failed them?

I know where I sit. In many cases, we, the industry, have failed them.

Too much of the training and education out there at entry level (up to Level 3 PT), with a few notable exceptions, falls drastically short of what is needed to create a strong, commercially sound fitness professional.

I wouldn’t mind, but this has been the case for a number of years. How long before we ditch an approach which set students up to fail?

I’ve been involved in education in the industry for long enough to know that there are certain key factors which lead to students being prepared for the industry they are entering:

  • Tell them the truth about the industry they are entering. It is a brilliant industry. It can be hugely enjoyable and rewarding. But, it is hard work and requires them to be able to set up and run their own business. This will put them under significant pressure and in most cases, will NOT lead to earnings of £40k plus in their first year, which some people would like them to believe. It is like any other industry – hard graft and elbow grease.
  • Teach them to be service and hospitality led  It is all very well knowing your muscles and bones (yes they are important), but if you have low levels of commercial awareness and poor sense of service and hospitality, you are going to struggle. Work with students on what their unique proposition will be. What they are good at. What they love. And how they are going to make the customer the centre of their world – full of trust and belief in them.
  • Develop their showcasing skills. It is often challenging to show prospects just how good you are. There needs to be a specific strategy on how they will make their PT product tangible to onlookers. Deliver this during courses!
  • Assess students on skills delivery in a REAL environment. Too many courses simulate the practical environement with students partnered with eachother to deliver inductions and personal training sessions. This is inadequate in creating a real world experience. Tough as this is for training providers to deliver, it is a step that must be taken. Make students ‘fit for purpose’.
  • Coach students in the values of Personal Training. This career path is not about pecs and guns! It is about changing peoples’ lives. And it is about bringing joy, inspiration and belonging to those who exercise or who are thinking about starting. Making exercise irresistible! Thesevalues need to be imbued in every course.

If you are reading this article with righteous indignation because you are already doing these things, I commend you. Now let’s get everyone on board.

We need to give those entering the industry the best possible chance of success. And that means caring. It means spending more money to deliver longer, better training that avoids simply rushing through paperwork in order to get the ‘pass’. It’s time to rewrite the fitness story.