“What do you think…should I wait ’til I’m ripped before I pursue my trainer career?” “Does this bod make me look like a trainer?” These are a couple of the FACs (frequently asked curiosities) that I and other NFPT reps have heard over the years. We get it. It makes sense (especially in this profession). Just remember, no matter the profession, our human tendency is to question if we’re GOOD enough – or, in this case, ‘BIG’ or ‘PRETTY’ enough. On one hand, I could say that, “yes, big muscles matter if you want the ultimate respect as a fitness guru”. Perhaps that answer would be more motivating to your training goals. Workout harder because the trainer stereotype says you gotta be ripped. But, to me, that’s all superficial stuff. It doesn’t speak to the heart of training at all.
The majority of clients aren’t looking at how ripped you are and thinking ‘now that’s a smart trainer’ (notice that I didn’t say “all”, I said “majority”, because maybe some of them really do look at those bulging biceps as an indicator of smarts). Considering two ends of the surface spectrum, one end being the well built, super lean and attractive trainer and the other end being the much less put together, sloppy trainer…then it’s obvious who the client is going to choose. What’s on the surface will win out every time when you’re looking at these two extremes. No one wants to pay someone who doesn’t look like they care about their own health and, yes, their appearance too (which includes a good smell, or at least the lack of a bad smell). BUT, the idea that you have to have the biggest, most sculpted physique in the gym to be “attractive” to a prospective client is not the case at all.
At the end of the day, being a good trainer is about how well you know your stuff, how effective you are to the goal, and how well you work with others.
You’ve got to know how to put together a fitness program that gets results for your clients. You’ve got to know how to inspire, motivate, be a friend and a professional – it’s all about how to keep your clients coming back because they genuinely want to. Now, don’t get me wrong, I see physical appeal, self-control and ultimate will power in the finely crafted. NFPT’s founder was a competitive bodybuilder, and thousands of NFPT certified trainers are bodybuilders, runners, swimmers, fitness models and athletes of all kinds…and they look the part, believe you me! The shear will and dedication in that level of athleticism is amazing and inspiring. These trainers represent a niche that not every other trainer can jump into, and that niche (which subsequently includes their outward appearance) keeps them in high demand, for sure. However, a large number of trainers come to the table just like their clients do, wanting to be fit and maintain a healthy weight. The difference being, between client and trainer, is that the trainer developed a passion for it that went over and beyond. In large part that passion is ingrown and stems from a place of excitement for teaching and a desire to inspire others with knowledge – not everybody has that ability, that’s what sets a good trainer apart. You don’t have to be at the level of a competitive athlete to set yourself apart – so don’t beat yourself up for not looking like one or for not being as ‘pretty’ as those you see in the magazines.
“Practice what you preach” because it’s the ultimate judge of character. If you have a love for something, then show it! We all start off with a passion for something and then we feel the need and the pull to pursue it; we don’t start out by just knowing everything there is to know. In the context of personal training, it starts with a passion for fitness and a desire to stay active and healthy. It grows from there into wanting to learn more about the human body and how it all works. Then it becomes something that you want to teach to others – you find fulfillment and joy in helping others to achieve their health and fitness goals; it makes you happy to see them happy. But before all of that happiness happens, you have to make sure that you’re knowledgeable on the subjects, that you have the skills to reach goals and that you can hold your own among other trainers who have been doing this awhile. None of this happens overnight, but none of it requires the largest biceps in the room, either.
You can be the best looking, most well-built guy or gal around and still be a horrible trainer. You have to cultivate your new career from the seed of something meaningful, the rest will fall in line. I guess the same is true for the passion you may have to get bigger and stronger…the longer and harder you train, the more ripped you’ll get (if you’re built for it and have the will for it); but your clients aren’t paying to feel your muscles, and, if they are, then you need to evaluate where your head’s at, professionally speaking.
You’ll make it farther in this industry with strength of mind and body, endurance, and careful service to others. These come more from a mental, not physical, place. Just know that this industry is filled with all kinds of physiques – endurance athletes, nutrition buffs, thin and thick trainers. Does outward appearance matter? Yes, to a certain extent; you can’t be a sloppy trainer or not take care of yourself and still make it in this business. Hold your head high. Care, and look like you care. But don’t stop pursuing your goals because you’re not built like a brick house!