Lessons learned as a personal trainer

” Being good with anything in life comes down to the Nike commercials you have seen on TV…” Just Do It.” Simply put, I have no choice.
Life will keep coming at you in many different angles whether or not its convenient for you or not. As such, you need to make a conscious effort to foster the skills that are required to get ahead in life.
You must learn how to multi task! Whether that be balancing work and school, work and life, or simply a huge project you have been wanting do do, you must learn at every chance you get! Success leaves clues, so you should develop good habits in life that set you up for the right path.” 

The above was a note I received from one of my mentors in the Marine Corps after having a difficult time with change.

Now, you are probably wondering how in the hell does Nike have to deal with fitness??? Well, below are some of the things I have learned during my first year as a personal trainer.

No one cares about the letters after your name! : Ok, this one may seem strange to some of you out there, but people don’t care about what certifications you have! I’ve never had a client ask me, wait do you have your  CPT, RKC ,or CSCS.  All my clients that I have come across in the last year care more about getting results and feeling appreciated.   Sure, some have asked me how I got into the field, and were stumbled when I mentioned I did not have a degree in the field, but no client has ever  chose to decline my services because I did not have a degree or certain certification.


In addition, I don’t have a strength coach certification yet, but still got hired on at Cressey Sports Performance as their head group fitness trainer. This industry is about relationship building, and instead of spending lots of money on extra certifications, spends your cash on books that teach you how to build rapport and sell. Or better, yet, attend some seminars and find like minded individuals to expand your network.


me Internships are awesome! : Before my internship at  CSP, my only knowledge of the fitness world was 10 years in the Marine Corps, and typical meathead gym movements. I found a desire to work in the field, and found a great internship that not only prepared me for the fitness world, gave me a realm of opportunities wherever I went.

The internship  was tough, as it required me to work 35-40 hours unpaid, but it allowed me to really get a grasp for the fitness world.  If I did not do the internship, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today, and for that I am very grateful.   Not to mention, one year later I am on staff at the same place I did an internship.

You can’t be a coach/trainer part time : I learned this one from Tony Gentilcore, as he always mentioned it when I was an intern. Dealing with people’s health is not a part time job.

 When I came into the fitness world, I left a high paying job with a Masters Degree in Business.  It was  a huge culture shock. For the first few months after the internship, I worked long split days for a little above minimum wage to try and gain clients. It was exhausting both  mentally and physically. But, I looked at the challenge as a long term commitment and made it through.

Roughly 80% of trainers quit during their first year in the field.  I knew where  I wanted to be and stuck it out through tough times, and while still learning how to climb the ladder, I am in it for the long haul which makes learning a lot of fun and a challenging reward.

Bloom where you are planted : I took this one straight out of the Marine Corps. There were times in the Marine Corps where I had to go where the Corps needed me even though it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I learned quickly to adapt to the surroundings and make the best out of it.

 The same can be said for the fitness industry. I quickly learned that a health club setting really isn’t that bad , if you make it work for you. Sure, you have to put in some rough hours from time to time, but once I figured out how to get going, it was like my own business in someone elses gym.  I currently work at the Executive Health and Sports Center 3 days a week, and have a great base of clients.  If  put your heart into it and give it the best you can,  hard work will pay off.

atFunctional Anatomy is very important: I have my mentors to thank for this one! And while I am still learning tons each day, if it wasn’t for the team at Cressey Sports Performance, my coaching skills would not be where they are today.

They don’t teach the good stuff in the class room, and you have to learn how to apply the body  to fundamental movements by doing research on your own.   If you can’t tell someone why you are assigning exercise A, or why exercise B is a good choice for  pain, then you should not be prescribing it in the first place.

Understand programming :  My first real exposure to programming was the intern challenge at CSP. We were hit with  5 programs with just a bout every limited factor you could think about.  At that point , I had no clue what anything was and had to really do some research. However, we only had 90 minutes to create all 5 and it was tough.e = mc

If you understand anatomy, then you will have an easier time understanding how to design a program.

Technique is everything : I can credit this to my experience at CSP.  At commercial gyms everywhere, someone is always doing something crazy. Heck, I even see it at the health club I work at. What really pisses me off is when I see other trainers texting on their phone, or not even paying attention when their clients .

My clients appreciate the feedback, even on simple exercises.  I even take pride in teaching my clients to conduct the exercise without me.  I will never program something I cant do myself, nor will I program something just because everyone says its cool.

Mike Boyle said it best ” If something looks like crap, then it is probably crap “, and it is my job to fix it or regress it to make it better.

Learn how to communicate : This has helped me tremendously in the last few months. Communication has helped me both retain and attract new clients.  Knowing how to relate to someone can be a huge factor in someone’s success.

When I first started working in the industry, I saw a lot of subpar trainers with a full/steady base of clients that did real well.  How did this happen?

They knew how to get inside the persons head and really relate on their level!  It took me a while, and am still learning, but I now understand that being a trainer isn’t just about how good of a trainer you can be, but rather an overall approach to everything at hand.

Being genuinely interested in someones life makes a huge difference and has helped me learned some valuable lessons in life.

To close things up, there is a lot more to personal training then just creating workouts, and counting sets/reps.  I hope these things can help you if you are looking to be a trainer or a coach. 

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