1. Passion for Fitness and is fit themselves.
Optimally a personal trainer is a pretty fit person. I suppose, theoretically, one can be a great coach without having played the game or necessarily looking the part. While a great player does not necessarily equal a great coach, being a fit trainer does at least in part equal being an effective one.
2. Understanding of Push and Pull, Ebb and Flow, and Periodization
The push and pull of fitness is a wonderful metaphor for a fitness professional, as there is a literal application of putting the push and pull in our fitness lives.
Still, that’s the easy part of being a trainer. Anyone can make someone do a hard workout. The key is knowing when not to push and when to pull your client back in with understanding, empathy, and a little rest. Clients want to know you have their back and you’re not going to hurt them. It’s an art, really. Before you hire a trainer, talk to his or her clients. Get references and see if he or she possesses this art.
3. Knowledge and Know-How
A trainer’s job is to help clients adapt, grow, and change and so a trainer must do so also. Therefore continuing education is also important. We are all creatures of habit, trainers included. Change is ultimately the real key to growth. If your trainer isn’t growing and learning, neither are you.
4. Excellent Communication Skills
People sometimes mistake a good communicator for someone who has a silver tongue and slick presentation skills. I tend to think that communication in large part is about seeking to understand. It’s about critical thinking and effective listening. Being a coach and trainer means agreeing to help someone on his or her journey to better health, fitness, and wellness. In order for a trainer to succeed in this role, it is essential for him or her to know where a client has been and where the client seeks to go. If I were hiring a coach or trainer, I’d tend to lean towards a trainer who listens more than talks.
5. Empathy and Compassion
In the past, I certainly received my fair share of judgment towards the sedentary and overweight. That is until my personal life and my aging body didn’t agree to keep up the pace I had been pushing for decades. Through my own setbacks and shortcomings, I found a new voice as a trainer, coach, and writer – a voice of empathy replaced the voice of looking down on those whom I previously saw as not willing to step up and just work harder.
Empathy is the key in piercing through the disconnect that sometimes occurs between trainer and client. Empathy, in part, comes from something we can all relate to – struggle. When I found that sense of true empathy and real humility, I also found a better way to reach people. Empathy is the gateway to an even more important word – compassion. A trainer does not have to have a history of being overweight, injured, or obese to relate to your struggle. However, an effective trainer is most certainly one with empathy and compassion. Make sure you hire one of those.