It is often said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. In the last month or so, I completed my 10,000th session as a PT! I know you’re thinking I look far too young for such a feat. Too kind.
It’s been a long journey, one that has taught me far more than I could have imagined when I delivered that first (very average) session, straight out of university. I thought it’s about time to share a few lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
- The only effective diet is the one that you stick to
I’ve seen/tried every diet there is. The only ones that work, are the ones that you can stick to whilst maintaining a calorie deficit. For me, this tends to be intermittent fasting; for others, it may be a low carb, Paleo-style routine, or even just plain old calorie counting. Whatever it may be, try a few out, and stick with the one you can maintain.
Remember, nobody in the history of the world has failed to lose weight when they maintain a calorie deficit over time. Burn more calories than you consume, and it’s impossible to not lose weight.
- Happiness is far more important than fat loss
The two may come hand in hand for some, but it’s important to remember that fat loss isn’t the be all and end all. An overall feeling of happiness is the one goal we all have in common. If you feel like you are constantly starving, missing out on every social event for fear of being tempted, or just plain hate exercising, then something isn’t right.
Most people we see are searching for a change in body composition to become happier and more confident, but often their weight isn’t the only thing stopping them from feeling so. Figure out what’s really making you feel down and address it holistically.
- Sleep is even more important than you think
So many people sacrifice sleep to succeed, without realising they are making it far harder for themselves, by thinking that the more they work, the more they will achieve. Forgo sleep, and you are heading straight for a shit-storm of stress, lethargy and brain fog. Hardly the right cocktail for success. Go to bed. Your goals can wait.
Here are my five top tips for getting a better night’s sleep:
- Remove all screens from your bedroom. The blue light emitted from your phone, tv and laptop send signals to your brain, encouraging it to stay awake. If you must watch screens in bed, download F.lux onto your phone and laptop to block blue light emissions
- Use your bedroom for sleeping and sex only
- Make it as dark as possible. Consider adding shutters or extra thick curtains
- Get the temperature right. Aim for a room temp of between 60-67 degrees F
- Avoid stimulants and alcohol before bed. The booze might knock you out, but your sleep is likely to be restless and broken
- Don’t have kids (or so I’m told)
- There is no right (or wrong) way to train
I have worked with, and trained, over 100 other personal trainers in the last 10 years. Most start off thinking their way is best. Whether it’s the big lifters, the circuit addicts, or the long distance runners, there’s no single best way to train. If a trainer snubs any method of training, it’s likely they have been brainwashed by their peers/idols that there is no alternative, or they are just relatively new to the industry.
Just like your diet, the best type of training is the one you will stick to!
The only exception to the rule is Thai boxing, which we all know is quite clearly the best.
- Supplements are worth taking
Fish oils, vitamin D, a multivit, protein varieties, and in some cases creatine, all have a place in your diet. You will hear people bang on about how we get enough nutrients from a healthy diet. The fact is that hardly anyone achieves this, so why not cover all bases with some quality supplements?
- Interval training IS all it’s hyped up to be. Weights are even better.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) works. It’s quick, simple to perform, and especially effective for fat loss when fasting.
Lifting weights = even better. No girls you won’t get too big. You will look amazing.
Simple fact is, females have very little testosterone (you know the hormone responsible for building muscle) which makes it EXTREMELY difficult for girls to get ‘BIG’. Lifting weights will just make you plain old lean , strong and in great shape! Which as it goes, is the thing everyone thinks is both awesome and attractive.Fact.
- Making people feel good is more important than their programming; Don’t marry the plan.
All too often, trainers get caught up in programming and recording progress. Unfortunately, for the majority of our clients, life has a habit of scuppering even the best of plans; sick children, holidays, recessions – they all tend to mess about with our schedules. Focus more on making people feel good, and they are far more likely to keep coming back, and as a result, get far more progress than when following a rigid, periodic plan.
A trainer that is not tracking your progress is likely just being plain lazy. Without overload, there is going to be very little progress. The trick is making it feel like it’s not getting harder!
- It’s much easier to stay in shape if you are a trainer
Too often have I read blogs from trainers and fitness gurus telling people how easy it is to lose weight “If you just do what I do” – then post a before and after picture of themselves to show just how easy it is. The simple fact is that we work on a gym floor every day, performing hundreds of reps doing demos, and loading/unloading weights. Most trainers are also fairly young, and have time as well as genetics on their side.
It’s important to be aware that most clients have sedentary jobs, families to look after, and very little time to properly prepare their nutrition. What’s more, they don’t have all of the resources and knowledge of how to correct their bad habits that we have at our fingertips.
Show some empathy, and help provide some guidance rather than belittling them for not having a handle on it.
- Out of shape trainers shouldn’t have a job
Refer to the above. There is simply no situation where it’s okay for your trainer to be in bad shape. If they are, find another one. Sorry, but it’s true.
- It’s okay not to know everything
I’ve seen this a disturbing amount of times. Trainers will make up the answer to their client’s questions just to save face. There is no harm in asking for help. Surround yourself with knowledgeable peers and ask for their opinion. People don’t think you are stupid for asking for help, they respect you for not lying to them.
Our industry changes at a rapid pace. The more studies that are published the faster the pendulum swings. Remember when we were told that fats made you fatter? That jogging was the fastest route to fat loss? That we should only eat two eggs a week for fear of the dreaded cholesterol? Smart people believed these to be true because other smart people told them so. Science is improving so quickly, and with it, the validity of the research being published. A good trainer never stops learning and adjusting their opinion according to the latest science.
- Variety is the key to retention
Deadlift, bench press, back squat…repeat. Although these exercises have tremendous value, they are a sure fire way to bore your client to death over time. Use your imagination to keep people interested. There are dozens of variations for every movement pattern. Use them.
- Influence is more important than knowledge
I have seen extremely knowledgeable trainers come and go because they lack influence. Inspiring a client to stick to the plan is more important than a creating a perfect programme.
Knowledge has actually become fairly straightforward to acquire, with the right amount of effort and an internet connection (Google it if you don’t believe me). The hard part is becoming likable, inspiring, and influential.
- Not everyone works in a gym!
Lots of fitness professionals seem to address their clients as if they already know what they should be doing, whether it’s in person, on their website or through their social media content. Trainers tend to come across this way in order to impress other trainers. For example, you will have no doubt seen trainers posting videos of themselves lifting massive weights to show how strong they are. Who are these videos for?
A better use of their time would be to help explain some simple techniques, and sharing recipes and tips to give added value to their clients, rather than harvesting Facebook likes from their mates.
- Everyone is your teacher.
We all know someone that knows it all. In fact, I’ve been guilty of that more than once. Instead of closing yourself off from learning from others, always be searching for wisdom. I’ve learnt so many valuable lessons in business and life from the most unexpected people. In my case, when it comes to happiness and wellbeing, children and seniors have taught me more than I can explain.
- Everyone is going through their own battles.
No matter how wealthy, happy or confident people appear, everyone is going through their own battles. And if they are not, they will be at some point. One day someone will need you more than you think. Always keep an eye out for a colleague/client in need.
- Exercise is AS important as nutrition
You cannot out train a poor diet for sure. However, it’s also impossible to reach your potential without exercise to improve your body composition, wellbeing and brain function. There is no single solution. You are more than capable of doing both.
- Everyone should meditate
I know this sounds like some Californian new-age bullshit, but trust me, it works.
I’ve tried and failed to get into meditation dozens of times. Only recently have I started feeling the benefits, and it’s made a profound change to my life. It can also help absolutely everyone gain control of their busy minds. If you are struggling for where to start, try the ‘Headspace’ app. It’s free, and easy to use.
- Never sacrifice your health for money.
No one has ever been on their death bed and said ‘I wish I had bought more stuff’. People all to often fall into the trap of keeping up with the Jones’s. I’m speaking from experience. I’ve seen it end tragically more than once, and it breaks my heart. Clever people making stupid sacrifices. Spend more time chasing experiences, building meaningful relationships, and doing the things you love. There is no point being the richest man in the graveyard.
- There is nothing more important than looking after yourself
Every aspect of your life gets better when you look after yourself. Invest heavily (with time and money) in yourself to make your own life better, as well as your family’s. You owe it to yourself and those around you to be on top form!
Here’s to the next 10 years!