10 Things the “books” don’t teach you about being a Personal Trainer (What I’ve learned in the past 3 months)

drop i tlike a  squat

No, I didn’t learn to drop it like a squat! :)

Before I get into my lessons learned, let me give you a quick back story here. I have trained off and on over the past six years or so and have been teaching group exercise classes for the past four years, pretty much on a weekly basis.

I say I have trained “off and on” because about six years ago I worked at a gym in Arizona where they did not regulate certifications. They actually offered an in-house certification program and then basically pressured you to make sales… that was no fun and I had no clue what I was doing!

Since then, I got my Group Ex certification (4 years ago) and have just trained people I knew here and there on the side.

When I first starting training I thought, “How hard can it be. I know how to work out?”

Well, luckily, I do/did know a decent amount about strength training, proper form, sports conditioning, and a variety of exercises (thanks dad).


Throw back pics :) #beastmode #wooha

However, PERSONAL training is about the other PERSON, not me.

When I work out, I do whatever I feel like that day, NOT plan programs and progressions. When I work out, I take breaks to clean the dust I just saw under the couch when I was down in a push up.

I sometimes quit when I get bored or distracted or someone calls me and offers something better to go do.

I do jump squats because me knees don’t hurt, I do deadlifts because I can keep good form, I do kettlebell swings and deep squats because I know how to.

I think you get the point…

So, when I officially got my ACE Personal Training certification (after studying off and on for years) and now that I have been training regularly for the past 3 month – there are quite a few things I have learned that the books just didn’t teach me!

10 Things the books don't teach you about being a Personal Trainer

1. You will not be the BEST when you start training. You will look back and realize you should have progressed a client slower, did different exercises, focused on something more or less…

2. Closing a sale is tough when you are new and lack confidence and expertise. When you sell personal training, you are essentially selling yourself. And it is tough when you see more experienced trainers looking all cool and casual and natural, and inside your doubting yourself because your new client just asked what kind of clients you typically work with and if you can help her, and the reality is you have no clients yet!

I had to remind myself a few times at the beginning (and still do) that every experience will make me a better trainer. I am building confidence in myself and believing in my ability to help someone change their life… that is why I got into this business after all. I KNOW I can do it!  It does take time though and it’s OK that you are not the best when you start out, so just keep getting better!

3. You will put in A LOT of time ‘off the clock’…. researching, re-reading your notes and PT text book, reading fitness articles, putting together training plans, trying different exercises and workouts (kind of hard to tell someone to do something that you have never done, at least I think so)…. If you want to be good at what you do, you have to put in the extra time!

4. You will rarely train someone just like you. If you are thinking about being a personal trainer because you “like to workout”, you will be sorely disappointed when your first client is a 65 year old women who has tendinitis in her elbow and a knee replacement.

I spend A LOT of my time working on basic balance exercises (lift you leg up and hold it there, now move your arm), proper squat and plank form, warm up exercises, stretching, and explaining body alignment and how to use equipment. I do not have a single client that I would do the same workout for them that I would do for me. And most of my clients are older adults, and that is the reality of this business…. the over 50 age group makes up the  majority of the population and they have the money to spend. (Not that 50 is old!) :)

5. Training is mentally tiring. I imagine it gets easier the more you do it, but I spend so much time and effort creating training plans and workouts for my clients. After all the planning and documenting and actually training people, I am pretty mentally tired by the end of the day!

6. You will learn SO much once you actually start working with clients and things that didn’t make sense when you were studying will come together. I feel like I am constantly learning new things and becoming a better trainer – I just had to get STARTED!

7. You will have TOUGH clients that make you question EVERYTHING. I think this goes with any job or situation in life. And like I said earlier, I feel challenging situations and people only make you better. I recently met with a potential client for over 2 hours where she asked me a ton of questions and I truly felt like everything I said was not good enough for her. At one point, I even thought to myself, “I have no idea what I’m doing right now; I don’t think she likes me and she probably wants to work with someone older than me who can relate to her better.”  

In the end, she bought 16 sessions and we start next week! Boy, was I surprised!

I guess what I lacked in years and saying the right thing at the right time, I made up for in patience, listening, kindness, and sincere interest in her well-being.  She is going to be a lot of work. I am going to have to get very creative with her workouts because of various medical issues and the fact that if I progress her too quickly, I know she will not be a happy camper.

8. People will think you are a doctor or some sort of magic injury psychic.  I have people come to me all the time and point to something (usually around their knee) and tell me it hurts and ask what it is and what they should be doing. Clearly, I can not diagnose the injury, but I can give some generic stretching and strengthening recommendations, which is usually followed by, “if it still hurts, go see your doctor!” 

For anyone who is studying to be a PT, I would definitely recommend spending some extra time on the chapter about common injuries. Almost every person in my classes and who I train has had some sort of knee, back, neck, shoulder, elbow, or wrist injury!

9. Smile and introduce yourself to EVERYONE you see on the fitness floor. First of all, it is just so much more fun to go to work and smile. I have really enjoyed getting to know the members who I train and who just use the fitness facility. Also, it  makes people feel comfortable and important when you go out of your way to get to know them, some won’t care, but most appreciate it. And it might even turn in to a potential training client.

10. You will form some great relationships. Personal training is quite personal. You get to know someone very well when you work so closely with them. They form a relationship with you, as their trainer, unlike any other they have in their lives. There is, of course, professional boundaries to keep and I try not to talk about myself unless I’m asked a question, but it is a truly fun, unique, and very rewarding experience.

~ ~ ~

I am sure I have a TON more to learn and perhaps I will have to do a follow up post (or two or three) as I learn more!

All in all though, I am LOVING personal training.

Although, my busy training and class schedule, going to bed at 9 PM to wake up at 6 AM every morning, and spending all my extra time researching and putting together training plans has kept me away from my blog a bit!

I am still here though and if there are any trainers out there, I would LOVE to know…

What are some of your tips for new trainers? What have learned as a trainer!?

Can you relate to my list? 

Activating the Glutes!

Good morning sunshines!

yoga good morning

It has been a couple weeks since my last post (#bloggerfail), but it’s a new morning, I am in a new apartment, and I have a new post for you! Let’s make it a great morning! :)

As I mentioned before, I work at a country club so I hear more about golf than I ever wanted to! Talking about greens speeds, birdies, aerification, and back swings are a regular thang.

A few weeks ago, there was quite the buzz in the media and in the club’s fitness center around Tiger Wood’s comment:

“It’s just my glutes are shutting off. Then they don’t activate and then, hence, it goes into my lower back. So I tried to activate my glutes as best I could, in between, but it’s just they never stayed activated.”


I never really heard of someone’s glutes “shutting off” but I do talk about activating the glutes (the butt muscles) in fitness classes quite often.

When you drop in to a squat and push back up, the glutes should be doing most of the work.  If you are doing a squat and your knees come out past your toes, most likely your quadriceps are doing most of the work and not your glutes.

A good way to practice squatting properly is to stand a few inches in front of a chair and push your hips back to sit on it and then stand back up. Another option is to stand facing a wall and squat back. This will force you to use your glutes and will keep your knees on top of your feet (not past them), which protects the knees from risk of injury. Give it a try now!

As a trainer and instructor, it is easy for me to tell when someone is not using their glutes to squat. If the knees more forward first when going down into a squat, then the squat is initiated by the quads and the knees will most likely come past the toes. If the hips tilt back and then the person drops into a squat, they are using the glutes to push back up.

I often have class participants stand with their hands on their hips and practice just tilting the hips back (sticking the butt out a little) and then dropping into a squat. This pushes their hips back and does not allow the knees to come out past the toes.

Here a few PROPER SQUAT CUES I like to remind people of when they squat:

“Stick your butt out behind you first, then drop into a squat.”

“Keep your hands by you shoulders as you squat to keep your chest up.”

“Keep knees behind toes.”

“Wiggle  your toes when you are down in the squat to ensure your weight it behind you not over your knees.”

“Your lower leg should be parallel with your torso when down in the squat.”

“Drive your heels into the ground as you push up from the squat.”

“Hips and shoulders should rise at the same time.”

It is very common for people to have weak glutes because they use their leg muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) more often and do not think to “activate” the glutes in every day activities.

Next time you are walking, think about using your glutes (tightening your butt muscle) as you push off the ground with the back foot. You will notice those muscle back there working, when typically they probably don’t contribute much when you walk or run because the quads do most of the work.

 Until next time, have a fabulous day!

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Power comes from the core. Balance comes from the core. A weak core can cause low back pain, throw off the body’s kinetic chain, and possibly cause other injuries else where.  Continue reading

How writing a fitness blog has helped me in my fitness career

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ACE personal training certification review - Shh_Fit_Happens

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