Roundtable #10 – Personal Training


Roundtable #10 – Personal Training

Feature Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash.



When people say you’re a ‘trainer’ do you feel the need to correct them in anyway? Or hate the fact that by default you are associated with the general idea of fitness, weight loss, and/or exercise?  How do/did you overcome this ‘lumping’ to continue in creating your own niche/thing?  How do you describe the service(s) you provide so that it is heard, differentiated, and still desired?


I used to care. But part of my freedom in social media is talking and shaping my own narrative and the things I want to be remembered for or as. For me I hope that leads into the most honest reflection of myself and the work I do that I can.
I think I was frustrated when I tried to put myself in a box.
The less I’ve done so the more joy I’ve found.
Being excited about your work transcends an awful lot, if you can get past or maybe get to a place that you care less about anything but the fact you are excited about it.
Maybe those values can shift, or it’s not impossible to figure out you (general you) aren’t excited after all and there’s more work to be done figuring out why that is, which can come from so very many directions.  — Samantha Faulhaber


When people say trainer I generally try to clarify rather than correct them since they’re not wrong just uninformed.
At times I have felt disappointed in the industry I’m in but that was more towards the earlier years. Now I know it just has to have room to continue to grow. It has been rather annoying to be associated with the fitness industry because people assume so much about you when they find out your occupation and (the annoying part) the assumptions are usually based upon ones own insecurities and shortcomings.
I overcame it simply with patience. I describe what I do as a “Cirque du Soleil type of workout where we hang from everything and try to make it pretty”. The Cirque reference usually helps but the patience comes in when people still dont take it seriously or prefer to stay closed minded and judgmental.   — Krystyle Bryn


Imagine this: Someone sees you doing physical activity and/or coaching another person. Maybe this observer thinks that you are a trainer or someone who is involved in fitness/exercise. Is this incorrect?
Everyone here is exercising and helping other people exercise and that’s great. What’s embarrassing is those who try to stand on a pedestal as if they are above being labeled with exercise, fitness or being a trainer.
“No, I’m not a trainer, I’m a teacher.”
“No, I don’t do fitness, I’m a movement educator.”
What a joke. Exercise should be celebrated. Fitness as Darwin described is legitimate. Maybe those words got bastardized, but the subgroups who think that they are above them are riding flavor of the month labels in denial, but really, we are all in the same boat.  If we want to overcome the things we dislike about the industry, we should be putting our work out there and be an example of what fitness, exercise and training can look like, not exiling ourselves.  Michael Ryan


My take on the word “trainer”, or any other word which depicts that what we do, is indifferent. In other words I really do not care. In the past I used to rack my brain about questions like that. Now it is just like it is, just a word. The industry is a bit more complex. On the one hand I like it because the burgeoning market of fitness shows the individual interest in getting fit, health and well off. On the other it is quite puzzling how unskilled people with knowledge so little dare to teach others. Hmm, do not know what to think about that, so I quit thinking also here. That brings me to the last, for me the most interesting question. Who am I and what is it I provide? To use a picture, I see myself as a gardener with a garden of many flowers. Different flowers from time to time. I make sure that the soil is right, that they get the right place for the sun, that they have enough water, nutrition and last but not least caring. In other words do I teach anything? No, I teach nothing, I am just present and bring myself into this process of development and growth. That is how I see myself as a trainer, or whatever you would like, in the big health industry. Most important, it taught me to be humble and equanimous, which I guess helps the gardener quite a bit.  — Christian Rabhansl


If hours put in and livelihood dependent is the delineating factor of career identity, then I am a PE teacher, routinely considered even lower that a personal trainer.  It is from this place of assumed incompetence and lack of attention, though, that creativity thrives.  Large groups of people show up every day without me having to do a thing.  That is not a traditional fitness model, and I have all the space and equipment I could ask for at my disposal.  The crossover into personal training is in personal development. It is never about the sport or game but always about them and how they choose to interact (or avoid it).  It is people management that I have had the most practice in and am finding myself most adept at.
Though my instinct is to say I’m not a personal trainer I am in fact a part of the industry.  I have no ambition to train people, just to teach them how their body works so they can solve their own problems and create their own stepping stones toward their ambitions.  Most people just want to be heard and listened to, and I find that what people seem to be really after (guised in the veil of physical development) is a trusted and supportive friend — so much so that they will schedule block paid sessions to receive it.  If we can help folks cultivate the intimate relationship with their bodies that they seek to gain from social connection, we can really be transformative.  — Chris Ruffolo


Samantha and Michael – I really resonated with what you both said. We need to put our work out there so people know there are alternatives to the “mainstream”.
I have found myself not “labeling” myself and even wrote about how people “hide their bread and wine” whenever I mention I’m a trainer at parties. And I carried around a lot of shame because I thought I represented the entire fitness world – which in my opinion has created more problems than solved them.
But you’re right – we don’t need to exile ourselves. Just simply being out there without trying to “manage expectations” is where I am finding myself now. Just simply “being” and then documenting.  — Brandon Chien


We are really working on such a very difficult stuff but never have there been more resources and more options for us to explore what really works for me. If it works for me it may work for my clients or may speak to what my clients need. In this way I can find a way to make that something authentic I can give.

For me it was sitting. This was a personal problem but a problem that many if not most of my clients shared. As I started to puzzle through my own body in the context that we all experience of too much sitting and as I begin to study the literature, for me Prague School mostly, and I understood that there are common patterns we all share. This allowed me To find ways to intervene that had rich theoretical and clinical support and that were helpful and meaningful not just to me but to my clients.
If we think about this more deeply we have to consider whether our focus is somehow disruptive at the level of monetary value.
I believe my work is beyond monetary value and that my relationship with my clients and students and intimates is far beyond their value as citizens or consumers.
Aren’t we really talking about revolution? Isn’t that part of what draws us forward?
The fact that we do dislike and violate current conceptual categories means we are creating a new world. Stop a moment and recall those deep thoughtful processes and intentions.
It is important we be conscious about culture.
See the big picture. Keep building the community and language we need to go there.   — Jim Freda


While I don’t feel the need to correct them and I always say I am a personal trainer when people ask, I have never felt like I was part of the fitness industry. I guess this is the benefit of working for so many years in a studio by myself–I just did my thing, and didn’t worry about what anyone else was doing. I (mostly) ignored what was happening in the fitness industry, and I continue to not feel like I fit there, which is either indicative of my personality, or indicative of my insistence that creating a mind/body connection matters and you should choose the techniques that best suit the individual in front of you rather than try and make one system or thought process work for all of the people. (I no longer work alone, but I still just do my thing.)
I studied biomechanics, psychology, motor control, trauma, and anatomy. I read research, played with several different systems, worked with the people no one else was willing to work with because they were too hard and I did my best to be, in the words of Steve Martin, “so good they can’t ignore you.”  I just had one of my clients who has had several trainers over the years tell me how much he respected the fact that I created my own discipline, (I helped him with chronic shoulder pain after surgery, using a variety of techniques, none of which included manual therapy), so I do think there’s something to be said for ignoring the norm, studying a sh**t-ton so you can answer all questions related to what you’re doing, and carving your own path. I think my card says, “studio owner, personal trainer, educator. Awareness, mobility, strength.” That’s how I describe what I do. Interesting conversation, and it’s interesting to hear other’s perspectives.  — Jenn Pilotti


I didn’t come to the personal training world in what I perceived to be a conventional way. I was a nerd–sorry, “intellectual”– who decided to go to circus school. In order to get in shape to audition, I worked with a personal trainer. After circus school, I went to work at a crossfit gym, where I taught group classes. Was I a personal trainer? Then I found Ido Portal, which probably cemented the idea in my head that I wasn’t a personal trainer.
I still don’t see myself as an AVERAGE personal trainer, but that doesn’t mean I’m not one. I’m certainly not above being one. I identify more with the term “coach,” but don’t get too worked up about labels or associations people have. As an analogy, I’m not the AVERAGE juggler, but I’m still a juggler.
Another angle here is what I wanted professionally. I often said in school that I would want to be a teacher if there were any subjects I liked enough. So it’s not entirely surprising that I come to training as a student and teacher, but that doesn’t make me better than anything. I think most of us will agree that if I were to take that further, and exclusive work as a teacher of personal trainers, then I would be a teacher–less of a “trainer of persons.”  — Jeremy Fein

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