I’m going to level with you guys on this one. Every time I learn something new, I look back and ask the pointless “what if” question. “If only I knew this, things would be different, blah blah blah…”. It’s so funny to flip through old programs for some of my first few clients. I laugh, realizing how little I knew at the time and cringe when I see some of the exercise selections (remember the unstable surface trend? Yeah, I fell for it and many other stupid fads…).
I remember when every session with a client included high intensity drills to the point where they were totally gassed after sessions thinking I was delivering the best and highest quality sessions… I was very misguided at the time but we all start at that point! In addition to learning more about programming for clients, below are 5 lessons I’ve learned from my first 5 years in the health and fitness industry.
- I don’t know everything and that’s totally fine. It takes decades to be considered an “expert” in any field, despite the fact that the term is used way too loosely these days. Nowadays, if you have abs and an Instagram account you’re a fitness expert (but we’ll cover that another day). When I first started, I was very insecure and frankly couldn’t answer many of my clients’ questions. I was overwhelmed and questioned the value of my coaching. Guess what? That still happens! Get used to using the phrase “I don’t know, but I can find out!” Or, if it’s totally outside of your realm refer out! Stop being everything to everybody and focus. Get really good at 1 or 2 things so you’re the go-to professional for them.
- Get under the effing bar! I don’t care how many certifications or degrees you have, you’ll never be a great coach unless you train yourself. You can be well-read, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t apply what you’ve learned. Your clients look to you for guidance with everything health and fitness, walk the walk! There was a period early in my career when my client load blew up. Life was great! I was training a bunch, loving life and building a great business. I was so busy that I “didn’t have time” to train myself anymore. My health deteriorated and I gained 20 pounds and 3 inches around my waist. My energy levels took a hit and I wasn’t providing the highest quality service to my clients. Not to mention, I’ve learned so much from both observation and experimentation in the gym. Continuing education is fantastic and should be invested in. That being said; put the book down and pick up some weights. I love the gym because it’s my playground and classroom. To quote the wise Shia LeBouf, JUST DO IT!!!!!!!!!
- Hire a coach of your own. You will never push yourself harder than a coach will. The best coaches in the world have one and you should too! Find someone who is more advanced and can teach you new movements. It’s a great way to not only learn but push yourself to new levels. Whenever someone is a little nervous about hiring a coach (or not yet convinced of the value), I level with them and point out my trainer. They usually look at me and ask “You have a trainer?” It’s a great way to communicate the value of training by showing them that I’m willing to invest in it myself. My clients laugh when I tell them about how my coaches Sean and Mike beat me up for an hour.
- Your credentials and education are nothing compared to your passion. Take care of your clients and show them that you care about them. I make it a goal for our session to be the best part of their day. How many times have you seen them tired, dragging into the gym not feeling motivated at all? Some days they don’t feel up to it. Adjust accordingly. You’re there to serve them, the client always comes first. Don’t ever forget that. Be the reason that they look forward to training.
- Make sessions FUN!!!!!! The client is there to train and reach their goals while maintaining safety, those are obviously the top priorities. However, no one wants you to sit there and simply count reps. Appropriately timed jokes are great and lighten the mood whenever a client is having a rough day. Want to throw in some conditioning work? Get a couple of lightsabers and battle them for timed rounds yes, I’ve done this). They’ll have a blast, get a sweat and have a fun story to tell their coworkers.
It would take all day to write the many more lessons I’ve learned, but these are the most important ones I can think of. Aim to get a little better every day, learn and there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.
To your lifelong health and success,
-Demarco Crum, CPT, Jedi in training