ALEX’S CORNER-On Being a Personal Trainer or Hiring One.

Around 25 years ago, I touched down on Guernsey in a twin prop aircraft. There were about 15 other passengers on the same plane and they looked like they either lived here or had been to the island before. I hadn’t.

Fresh from LA, complete with t-shirt, Levis, Ray Bans, cowboy boots and California tan, I stumbled off the little plane onto local soil on a drizzly, cold grey, miserable March morning. Perhaps if I had been offloaded in mainland China, the landscape would have seemed more familiar to me.

As I disembarked onto the terrain of this tidy, quaint, beautiful little island, I started to wonder how I was going to ply my trade here. Even whether there really was much of a demand for it.

What on earth was I going to do? I began to reflect on how long the few core competencies that I had would help me survive in this strange land. In those early days, I found my career field appeared to be a very small and lonely one, indeed one with seemingly dismal prospects. This career field contained exactly one worker in it. And that one was me.

To most island people, “personal trainer” didn’t really sound like a very respectable profession. What kind of career was “personal trainer” supposed to be, anyway? What possible use could one be?

The stock question at parties is usually: “who are you and what do you do?” The stock response to my reply to this standard question way back then usually was: “Ah, how nice.  Really, is there a call for that sort of thing?”

Well, I really hoped so. I really did hope that just a little demand existed for what I knew how to do. There was a wife to consider and new baby girl on the way and we were living with the in-laws. I kept repeating to myself a daily mantra: “Struggle breeds character, difficulty sharpens the will, crises provides opportunity .” Sounds good, doesn’t it? Easier said than done.

So, I spent the next couple of decades finding, as the Americans say “a pot to piss in”, or rather, creating one out of nothing: struggling, surviving, jumping from crises to crises and building up a small, lonely, outlier sort of business.

But things change, slowly, eventually. Guernsey boasts many gyms now, one of them even happens to belong to me. Today Guernsey also has one of the highest per-capita concentrations of Personal Trainers in the world. Go to any party and you are likely to find more people who are ‘qualified PTs’ than not. True, most of these people will not currently be making much of a living at it, they undoubtably hold other jobs ‘just to pay the bills’ before they become famous and in-demand working as a fitness professional.

I can’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that the general public (and quite possibly even some of these newly minted trainers, themselves) do not today have a clearer understanding of the function or purpose of a personal trainer than they did a quarter of a century ago.

So, I believe that a brief job description might be of some use, here it goes:

1. A competent trainer will safely guide you through new territory and show you things you might not have otherwise noticed.

2. A knowledgeable trainer will assist you to navigate through this unfamiliar landscape and help you get the difference between what is important and essential and what is junk and not.

3. A  good trainer can concentrate your focus on a clear objective while supplying your workout experience with some of the structure and backbone that it might otherwise lack.

4. A trainer worth his (or her) salt can offer some assistance in transforming you into the  architect of your own fitness destiny. He/she will do this by using whatever knowledge, tools and smarts in their possession to open up opportunities for growth, self-improvement and personal fulfilment.

5. Although employing a trainer will undoubtably be an investment in your health and well-being that will repay itself ten-fold, it will necessarily involve hard work, sweat equity and quite possibly some pain and humiliation.  Because, if it was all sweetness and nice lights, you would have already done it on your own.

6. A really talented and experienced trainer will accomplish all of these tasks efficiently and seamlessly. He will not make simple things more complicated than they are, nor difficult things more difficult than they seem.

7. Along with these features, an honest trainer will explain why the whole process won’t be cheap or easy. If it is either, it probably lacks some or all of the previous mentioned service points. In addition, this honest and forthright trainer will no doubt make sure that you have a good estimate and  budget for the job at hand. He or she will help you ascertain that you understand the associated costs in time, money and sweat equity involved. So do make certain that you get a quote or an estimate for the job that needs to be done to get you to where you want to go.

Does the casual little list above cover the whole gamut of aptitudes and skills that a Personal Trainer should have in his toolbox? Not by a long shot, only a few of the basic ones that can be considered important and need to be in there.

Now, should you ever find yourself in the market for a PT, my hope is that you might have a little better idea of just what you are shopping for.

And if you are a personal trainer, or thinking about giving the day job up to ‘feed your passion & follow the dream’, my advice to you is to make sure that you create and maintain a ruthlessly optimistic mindset, are capable of alot of bending before you break and you know how to give value for money.

That, in a nutshell, is it.

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