Things I wish I knew when I started as a personal trainer

Things I wish I knew when I started as a personal trainer

If hindsight was foresight we’d all be rich” as the saying goes. Well today’s article might be able to help you with this, well it may not make you rich rich but rich in knowledge at the very least.
The article is made up of contributions from various personal trainers from all around the world that are reflecting on the things they wish they knew when they first started out.
Jonathan Goodman is the creator of the largest free collaborative blog for personal trainers, the Personal Trainer Development Center (the PTDC) and author of the best book for personal trainers, Ignite the Fire.

Jonathan Goodman“I could give the easy answer and say that I don’t wish that I knew anything different because all of my mistakes made me into what I am today. While that’s kind of true, there is one thing I wish I put more emphasis on early and that’s building out operational documentation. It’s really quite simple: I should have written down everything that I did (and I mean everything) in a way that a five year old could have followed it. This way I could have scaled quicker, offset time-sucking tasks quicker, and built in accessory income streams faster.”

Mike Samuels is a personal trainer, writer and diet coach based in Southampton, UK. He runs Healthy Living Heavy Lifting and works with clients in a one-on-one and online capacity.

Mike Samuels“I wish I’d known the value of showing people you care, rather than just expecting to get clients because you have a personal training certification.
Personal trainers are a dime a dozen, and potential clients don’t know whether you’re any better than anyone else. To show your worth, you have to provide value and go out of your way to help people.”

Meghan Callaway is a prominent personal trainer in Western Canada (Vancouver, British Columbia) with over 12 years of training experience coaching in the trenches. Read more about Meghan at

”When I first meghan callawaybecame a personal trainer, I made the mistake of making myself available to train clients at all times. Rather than having a certain window of hours where I would work, my schedule was extremely spread out. I would see several clients in the early morning, would have a break, then I would go back to train clients in the afternoon, then I would have another gap, and then I would go back and train clients in the evening. Not only was this schedule incredibly inefficient, it was beyond exhausting. I was basically working from 6 AM until 8 PM, and during my breaks, I had to conserve my energy. Now, I have a set window of hours where I will see clients. I have learned that if people really want to see me, they will make it work. This change has given me much more physical and mental energy that I can give to each client (and they deserve this), and it has given me more energy to devote to my workouts, writing, and other hobbies.”

James Harris, a  personal trainer, who also studies kinesiology at the University of the Fraser Valley and runs Titanium Strength.

James Harris#1 Build value. Your service should always make the cost feel like a positive investment. Never undercut your value for a quick buck, no matter how much comes down the management chain to “sell more or do better”. Your services, even if they are expensive, should make people walk away feeling like it was worth every penny.

#2 Compare yourself to…yourself. Too many times, I’ve almost quit the industry because I felt that I would never measure up to “the big guys” in the industry. The thing we forget is, the big guys were once the little guys in the exact same position we’re in now.

Two years ago, one of my co-workers and I were on our way to a class he was teaching. I told him how I felt like a failure for not being where he was and wished I would get there someday. He replied, “I don’t really know anything, I’ve just been doing this for a long time and have been in the exact same position you’re in now. Just keep learning. Get better all the time and don’t worry about where I am. Focus on building your own business. I’ve got 10 years on you; think about where you want to be 10 years from now and work towards that”.

That trainer is Dean Somerset, one of the most successful and recognizable names in the industry.

This sentiment has stuck with me through every struggle I’ve had since that day and drove me to keep trying no matter how I felt about my business or standing in the industry.

No one knows everything. Every famous trainer is just an average guy/girl who goes home at night and sits at the dinner table just like everyone else. Keep that in mind when setting your standards for yourself.”

Mason Woodruff is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) as well as a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach, and he also holds a BSc in Nutrition. He runs the website Mason Fit, his personal website for writing, coaching, and consulting.

mason-woodruff-1-150x150“I wish I had known how inefficient my client management was when I first started as a personal trainer. You may think that every client needs super personalized programming to demonstrate our superior knowledge, when in reality they just need programming, plain and simple. Unless you’re a high-level coach working with high-level athletes, the best program for your clients will be the one they can stick to. That means the majority of your time should be spent helping clients stick to their protocol, not updating training programs. This took longer than I’d like to admit to click with me, and I wasted plenty of time developing training programs and making adjustments. That time would have been much better served if I had spent it actually coaching my clients and talking about their struggles each week.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning the “cookie-cutter” programming method, but you should definitely have base templates to start with and make adjustments at day one. From there I would suggest educating your client on the ‘why’ behind the program and how they can begin making their own adjustments. This turns the coaching experience into a conversation as opposed to a dictatorship and from my experience, this is a good thing. The more things you can educate your client on how to do on their own (program updates, tracking nutrition and other metrics, performing and sending assessments to you, etc.), the more time you’ll have to talk about why those updates need to be made, what they’re struggling with in the kitchen, and why their assessment didn’t turn out the way they would’ve liked. Building systems is more than a way to save yourself time, it’s a way to maximize your time spent with clients and in turn, your effectiveness as a trainer.”

Jason Wong is a fitness professional in Adelaide, South Australia.
jason wong“Looking back and now, I realise that there’s a lot of different exercises out there and that not everybody can be or wants to be like you. Also, as a PT you’ll never stop learning and everyday is part of that process.”

Bradley Wu has worked in the health and fitness industry since 2007 as a personal trainer, personal training manager, remedial massage therapist and holistic health coach.

bradley wu“The thing I see most with new personal trainers is the lack of seeing themselves as a business. They go into personal training without putting any serious thought and understanding into how to run a business, ie ensuring they have policies and procedures in place for different events and scenarios. There seems to be a lot of ‘flying by the seat of their pants.’ They forget they’re a business and as a result clients forget also, so a lack of respect for the business relationship also follows suit.”

Chris Dawson is a health and wellness coach that operates out of Goodlife in Essendon, Victoria. Chris can be found on Instagram or Facebook.

11196337_598977006905006_6251722474340574462_n“When selling a personal training session when I started out as a personal trainer I would often make judgements on what I thought they could afford to sell based on that. Since being in the industry for 5 years I sell based on the pack they will see the best results from. I still use qualifying questions to see what exactly the client is looking for but I never sell a one off casual session to clients.”

Carmelita Varelas is a personal trainer in South Australia She can be found at Live True Fitness.

Carmelita Varelas

“Confidence to back myself in being able to meet clients, screen clients, take them through a session, program, and continue a real business in the industry.

Don’t doubt, don’t stress. Don’t over think.

Value – Set a standard of your services and never cheapen or overcompensate to prove your services to people who don’t want to understand the benefits.”

Haydn Dinsdale from 5th Element Wellness.

13219739_10209716251329955_797873139_n“Be prepared to work and be prepared for your sleeping patterns to change.

Become a student of human behavior, no one is the same however there are patterns that can be recognized if you learn to recognise and understand them you’ll be more successful in influencing your clients to make the right decisions.

Be courageous and be resourceful.

Be confident in your knowledge and abilities as a trainer, if you’re not, start learning so you can bridge the knowledge gaps and become confident.

Be present in the session (not distracted by your thoughts, phone or other people) and give your client  the attention they deserve and have paid for.”

Mark McCormack runs Xcite Personal Training and is the definition of a true fitness professional all-round. 
Personal trainer Mark McCormack“Without a doubt one of the biggest things I wish I knew was how valuable knowledge is. As a PT it not only increases your confidence in the product you’re selling but also adds value to it! It gives people a reason to choose you over someone else. This is even more important these days as there are so many more PT’s to choose from than there used to be.”

Stephen Brown has a large comprehensive educational background and personal experience from Fitness First PT Manager, Goodlife Fitness Director too teaching cert 3 and 4 in fitness. this has made him an advanced specialist in the mind, body and business.

personal trainer stephen brown“If I was to go back in time and start this amazing journey from the beginning I would definitely do things differently. The first thing that I would do is find myself a business coach. A business coach does not necessarily need to know the personal training side of business (although that can help) but they do need to know business well, they need to be someone you respect and have the business qualities that you desire. These business qualities will definitely rub off on you. The biggest thing this person needs to be is firm, and they need to be able to pull you up on your bullshit. The only person that can make you fail is yourself! Find someone to push you, motivate you and guide you into the success you want.”

Gerard Lewis has been working in the fitness industry as a personal trainer for 5 years and runs a business called Sculpt Fitness.

GSF“It’s hard when you start out.

I’d say one of the biggest challenges would be getting and maintaining clients.

When you first start out you have to leave your ego aside and actually realise, you really don’t know anything.”

Rohan Sellick runs a personal training business called Gym To You and is a veteran in the fitness industry.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 10.47.34 PM“I think above all else , every trainer should realise that the subconscious mind is the driver behind success and failure. Think positive thoughts and clients will reap the rewards, meaning, they get better results, which in turn leads to better client retention.”

Kym Dametto is a personal trainer, fitness director and AIPT lecturer in Brisbane.

“Business skills are required. Performing sessions for clients is almost the easier part of the job and requires less overall planning and preparation. Writing programs for clients comes easy to most PTs. Business skills not so much.
Examples – writing out your perfect week, amount of session goals, planning for tax, tracking income and expenses, setting up a direct debit system for clients, time management and organization for meetings and business plans and ideas etc. Also, selling skills. 90% of PTs need to work heavily on this in the first month or so of their career as it is a must to be more successful.

People skills and the PTs ability to build rapport and a relationship with the client outweighs the role of qualifications the PT has. You can be the #1 PT in Australia and your client base will be very limited if you are a dick. People love working with relatable people they trust, respect and like. Not someone with abs and 10K Instagram followers.”