Questions to ask your new trainer before paying any $

As an active member of the fitness industry, as an active proponent of living a healthy lifestyle, as someone that understands, implicitly that being fit directly correlates to being healthier I am concerned at a particular message that’s promoted by many in the industry.

I listen to Joe Rogan who I love. He is easily the most engaging public speaker I listen to and he covers a wide range of topics. I especially love how “they” tried to cancel him and failed and failed miserably!

But even Joe gets it wrong.

The message is, “just move”. In many instances I hear trainers and coaches say it. I see it promoted by companies like Fitbit, have you done your 10000 steps? I see people riding flash bikes, wearing flash lycra (oops) and pedalling furiously on their bikes, “moving” and people strapping on the running shoes and dragging themselves out for a run because all they have to do is move, right?

Wrong. Very wrong.

Are all those people on bikes and running past you on the streets in great shape? How many times do you see the same chap, day after day, week after week, month after month running or riding and still looking the same, not a single kilo lost?

I know some people are not out there running and riding (moving) to lose weight. But most are.

To make a message as simple as “just move” is akin to saying just eat or just drink. McDonalds or Coca Cola, anyone?

To just move is suggesting that jogging on a treadmill wearing headphones and watching a TV screen is something worth doing – talk aout engaged! You get out of something what you put into it and to be so unengaged you have to watch TV while you exercise tells me there’s serious issues related to your fitness “journey”!

We can’t just move, there needs to be purpose. One of the tenets of the Optimise personal trainers education program is that everything we do in our programing needs to have a purpose. Nothing is random because random training equals random results. Furthermore “movement” especially the 7 human movement patterns should be scrutinised in all clients and corrected if faulty. Way too many times we have found clients that can’t squat properly, do a proper push up or even understand what a hinge pattern means – I wonder truly sometimes what is being taught by trainers.

We as an industry have a duty of care to ensure we are instructing clients professionally otherwise we can and do inflict the worst type of injuries on people – chronic. Chronic injuries occur when repeated movements are performed incorrectly, loaded (obviously the worst) or unloaded. These faulty patterns result in compensatory movements, incorrect joint performance, reduced or excessive range of motion, dangerous loading and many others all of which add up to injuries that should never happen.

I have witnessed trainers performing such acts time and again and it pains me to see it. Most often I cannot do anything about it, unless it is really endangering the individual or others in the vicinity and even then, intervening creates so many issues. Most trainers have egos the size of the average house and do not take advice well, especially unsolicited, no matter how well people think they’re delivering it.

Telling people to move by itself, is a wrong message. Move with purpose would be better but still not enough. People need to move, lift, push, pull, rotate, jump, sprint and more. If the fitness industry wants to level up its standing and integrate more with health services, which is the way fitness must progress, higher standards of professionalism must be attained by more individuals.

Right now it’s a mess. The industry has an incredibly low level of entry. Courses can be done online and people can be “certified” in days. There’s definitely groups trying to correct the situation but while I think it’s doubtful real positive change will ever occur, the consumer can start to become better informed.

Questions you should ask your trainer BEFORE handing over any money –

  1. How long did your qualification take, was submission of coursework and shadowing of an experienced trainer required?
  2. Can you show me your certificate?
  3. Is there an annual requirement to keep your qualification up to date?
  4. Do you engage in professional development outside of maintaining your PT qualification?
  5. Do you have a nutrition qualification? Can you show it to me?
  6. How many years have you been a trainer?
  7. Do you write individual plans for every session? Ask to see some examples and ask the trainer to explain the system they use. Occasionally you can have a trainer that doesn’t write session plans but keeps notes – ask to see the notes
  8. Will you do an assessment that includes posture and movement?

Answers and tips –

  1. A solid certification should take at least 2 weeks fulltime and involve coursework that should be submitted in the subsequent 1-2 months or online/part time for 3-6 months with relevant coursework requirements. Shadowing of an experienced trainer should always form part of a course.
  2. Going online and researching the awarding institution based on what you see on the certificate is essential.
  3. Most institutions should require this.
  4. Are they passionate about what they do or do they already know it all? Good trainers are always updating their knowledge and skill sets.
  5. Same as #2, check out the institution awarding the certificate and determine its legitimacy.
  6. VITAL! More than 5 is very good less than 5 not so much. If less than 5 years then they need to tick all other boxes.
  7. VITAL. All trainers should have plans or at the very least keep comprehensive notes.
  8. If they ain’t assessing, they’re guessing. And that is not good!

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