By: Bo Stansell, SPARC Specialist & Sports Performance Coach

Personal trainers, for those of you who have been living under a rock, are individuals responsible for creating, based on a thorough assessment, an individualized exercise program for a client. The trainer will also be present during the program’s execution to explain exercises and to ensure that each exercise is done correctly and to completion. That’s the primary role and the most commonly understood responsibility of a personal trainer. As a first time trainer years ago I naively thought that if I could handle those responsibilities training would be a breeze. No one tells you about the seemingly infinite number of different hats you’ll be wearing when working one on one with people as a trainer. Drill sergeant, teacher, student, confidant, and friend are just a few examples. You are being paid for your knowledge and expertise as a trainer, but it’s next to impossible to be a good trainer without the ability to connect in some capacity with your client.

I have always been a shy person and if you had told me only 5 or 6 years ago that my job would require me to connect with strangers on a regular basis I would have thought you were nuts. There is no way that I could keep a conversation going with random people who signed up for training. I would be engaging with individuals of all ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and personalities. I remember thinking to myself “this isn’t me” and “how could I possibly enjoy this?” I decided to do it anyway and hope for the best. What have I discovered so far? If you can get your client to open up you will find that people are so wonderfully unique and that you can learn from every single one of them. People that would never have crossed your path are now a part of your life, and if you are with them long enough you will know as much about them as their friends and family do.

Clients pay me for my services as a trainer, but I would be doing myself a great disservice by not also using our time together to learn from them and grow as a person. We are a result of our relationships, our environment, and how we choose to interact with both. Speaking with intelligent, kind, and interesting people on a daily basis is an amazing learning experience, and a perk of training I didn’t even consider. It’s not always easy to connect with each person and can be extremely frustrating, but it is absolutely worth it. When you are essentially forced into consistent close proximity with a client you get a glimpse into the life of a person that until only weeks or months before was a total stranger. They will begin to tell you more and more about themselves and their interests, hobbies, family, and work. Before you know it your tenuous and superficial relationship has now budded into something you wouldn’t have imagined. You reach a point where an hour spent with a client can be the highlight of your week or the time they spend with you may be the highlight of theirs.

I am sure that I haven’t always been exactly what my clients wanted me to be or given them the service they expected, but I hope that through my mistakes I have matured as a trainer. Training is in many ways an art form and takes a unique skillset to be good at it. Things haven’t always worked out perfectly and my own faults have gotten in my way multiple times, but I have met some amazing people in my path so far. I only hope that I have made a difference in my clients’ lives in the way that they have made a difference in mine.