Looking Back on My First Three Years in The Fitness Industry

Nicholas Lapointe | 19 Jun 2018

I’m going to share with you what I have found I’ve learned about myself, my training methods, and working in the fitness industry as a whole through my first three years as a personal trainer and strength coach, and how this has changed over the course of these three years.

1. How Much Learning I Still Had to Do

Coming out of 5 years of school, becoming a Certified Exercise Physiologist, and getting my first real job in the field, I thought I had it all figured out. I was eager and ready to change people’s lives. Boy, was I wrong. I already look back at some of the first programs I ever designed, and they are far from what I would program today. In another three years, I may look back at today’s programs and think the same thing.

This is partially due to the fact that our industry is forever changing. Static stretching is a prime example of this. Long ago, it was the go to “warm-up” modality prior to exercise. Then, with some studies concluding that long duration static stretches actually reduces strength and power, every coach and trainer in the world quickly abandoning pre-exercise static stretching. Today, we find ourselves somewhere in the middle of that pendulum, welcoming back static stretching depending on the individual’s needs.

In addition, it’s very important to be regularly reading articles and pursuing knowledge, but it’s equally as important to question what we read as well. This is especially important with social media and the thousands of self-proclaimed fitness experts online. Using research as an example, just because a study concludes one thing, it doesn’t mean you can simply take it as is. Who published the study? Who funded the study? What were the methods used, and did they make sense? Once you’ve analyzed this, you can then make a decision as to whether there are practical implications you can draw from the study.

Professional development - even if you’ve reached your quota for professional development credits for your certification body, it doesn’t mean you should stop learning. In this field, if you’re not continuously learning, you’re falling behind. Attend conferences and workshops, network, shadow other trainers, and ask questions!

2. I’ve Found My Niche... Kind Of

What I have learned is that I’m not the best with weight loss and aesthetic goal driven clients. People who just want to “work up a sweat” and burn a tremendous number of calories without a ton of thought going in to the programming (like 99% of the workouts you can find online) just isn’t for me. I think it’s important to realize and acknowledge that. I’m way too fixed on developing a program that follows a plan, requires attention to detail, and spot on form. I also discovered I really enjoy assisting people through their corrective exercise training, which I honestly didn’t think would be a huge interest of mine when coming into this field. The only way to truly find what type of clientele you work best with is through exposure. At first, try and shadow or train people of varying needs – from young to old, and from athletes to those with chronic conditions. You’ll quickly realize who your best fit is.

Once you’ve found the type of clients you enjoy working with and work best with, pursue that. I think it’s best to be great with a couple different types of clients, rather than be a mediocre trainer with every type of client.

3. People Don’t Care About How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care

This ever popular saying might be a little cliché, but it stands true for all aspects of life in my opinion. In the realm of coaching and personal training, you can put together the ‘perfect’ program for a client with the best training split, and all the variables thought out so thoroughly that you may think it’s impossible for them to fail. However, I’ve learned that a supposedly perfect program means nearly nothing if your trainee doesn’t buy in to it. Show your clients that you care by going beyond the hour they paid for, check-in regularly via text or email, and ask for feedback on how they feel the training is going. These small gestures mean more than you think. It keeps your clients accountable, while also showing you care about their progress, which will lead to trust and better adherence to the program.

Another thing I’ve learned was that with most clients, you can spare them the scientific words and physiology terms. It can come off as boastful. Not only will they not fully understand, they likely don’t care. I used to think I was providing such a good service when explaining the physiological adaptations that this training phase will cause, and why doing aerobic interval training at 85% heart rate reserve may be better than at 75%. The reality was they just wanted to know, in laymen terms, how it would make them better either in their chosen sport, or their everyday life.

The Takeaway

In this field, you have to be a life-long learner and open minded about new training methods. The amount I have learned in such a short period of time is tremendous, and I look forward to learning more each and every day.

What have you learned most about yourself? What’s changed most about your training methods? Do you deal with clients differently now than you did when you first started training? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Nicholas Lapointe

About the author: Nicholas Lapointe

Nicholas Lapointe was a competitive swimmer for 15 years. His passion for performance and understanding the how the human body functions lead him to pursue his Bachelor of Physical and Health Education from Laurentian University which he graduated from in 2014. He then furthered his education at Niagara College where he obtained his Ontario Post-Graduate Certificate in Exercise Science for Health and Performance in 2015.

He is now a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, as well as Level 1 Certified in Functional Movement Screens. He currently works at the University of Calgary in Calgary where he is the Coordinator of the Personal Training department as well as Head Personal Trainer.

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