How do you go about picking the ideal personal trainer in Brisbane? The same way you would in Bahrain or Broken Hill.
There’s a couple of reasons for this odd little Q&A. Firstly, it’s to get ‘personal trainer’ and ‘Brisbane’ in the same sentence for google-search-related purposes, and secondly because there’s a truth to it. The truth being that some fundamental principles apply to the process, regardless of where you’re at – location-wise or motivation-wise. Some simple but essential questions that need to be asked, of yourself, and of the person you’re seeking to help you on your way.
Naturally I’d love it if the answer to these questions lead you to my good self, and while I think I check a lot of boxes, I’m only one guy, and if you don’t get me then I’d feel better knowing you got someone good. Or more importantly, someone that asks the right questions of you.
Let me break it down as best I can.
The ‘ex’ factor
Experience counts. Simple as that. This isn’t to say there aren’t some talented and dedicated younger professionals out there, but it goes without saying that the human body is a complicated piece of kit. Multiply that complication by the number of different types of bodies – male, female, young, not-so-young, post-injury, post-pregnancy – now multiply that by the different starting fitness levels, then by the different desired fitness levels, then by individual training tolerances and then factor in the big multiplier, personality, and what each one responds to, and engages with, best. Maths isn’t my strong suit but suffice to say there are a hell of a lot of mind/body combos out there, and the longer you’ve been in the field, the longer you’ve had to observe and absorb what’s effective.
Ask someone from pretty much any profession – lawyer, accountant, plumber or pilot, it doesn’t matter – if they think they were better at what they do in their first few years on the job.
There’s a lifetime of learning in most jobs, and the job of a fitness professional is no different.
Look at me
I was reluctant to include this in the list as it seemed a bit on the vain side (being the stunning specimen that I am, ha!) and because most PTs are in reasonable shape. But I’m running with it, because the appearance of your trainer does reflect something pretty fundamental: sincerity. Sincerity in their actions and sincerity in their beliefs.
Sincerity of action, in that a clearly fit trainer isn’t asking you to put yourself through any exertion they themselves haven’t experienced. And sincerity of belief, as this fitness thing shouldn’t be just restricted to the session itself and then ignored until the next one. At its most effective – i.e to make real improvement, real progress – it’s a lifestyle, a commitment to putting your health and wellbeing first. A commitment that with the right goals, techniques and application, eventually won’t feel like a commitment at all, but simply a more natural way to live. To a certain extent, everyone’s body reflects their lifestyle. A good trainer will try as much to change your mind as your body. And it’s hard to change someone’s mind if you don’t believe it yourself.
When it comes to trainers, the cover says a lot about the book.
Learn and Burn
I’ve often thought the ‘T‘ in ‘PT’ should stand for teacher instead of trainer. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when the trainer simply barking instructions is necessary. It can help you to go beyond what fatigue is telling you is your limit. But conveying knowledge, not just the ‘how’ of drills and technique, but also the ‘why’, of why something is beneficial, is crucial for a few reasons.
1. It builds trust in the knowledge and competence of the person you’re hiring.
2. It’s helping you build your own bank of knowledge. This is important as you’re not going to work with a trainer indefinitely, and as I said before, ideally this is the start of journey where knowledge of the body and what works for you and why, will be a tool to carry with you.
3. Most importantly, it helps sustain motivation. Apologies for getting all theoretical here, but the act of learning itself is rewarding, and anything rewarding has a self-sustaining momentum, in that we want that feeling again (psychology 101). It’s also aids motivation because knowledge helps us see improvements more quickly. And seeing improvements (i.e progress) is one of the keys to sustaining motivation, especially early on.
Let me clarify. If a trainer takes the time to explain the relationship between a seemingly mundane or pain-inducing (both if you’re lucky!) exercise, and how that will help you with something else – maybe a sport you play or another exercise you’ve found to be a struggle – those insights can be powerful. It helps the whole process seem like, well, a process, rather than just a series of sweaty exertions. This is extremely important and can mean the difference between sticking with it or calling it quits.
While a good trainer should always be aware of maximising the ‘active’ time he or she has with you (you don’t want half the lesson to take place on a whiteboard), by the same token, they will also make sure that you ‘feel the learn as well as the burn’. (I know that pun is bloody ordinary, but you get the drift).
Now we’re going to shift from what you should expect to what you can do to help yourself in the selection process.
Ideally, you’d be able to clearly articulate your goals and expectations. However, a good trainer should know you’re probably a bit unsure and maybe you don’t have any more of a plan beyond a gut feeling (my puns are getting better!) that something needs to change. I’ve left this point till near the end because it’s crucial. If you’re reading aloud, listen up, if you’re near a pen, write it down. If it’s not your computer, highlight the screen. Here goes:
The worst thing you can do is just passively go along with everything a trainer says, and then not enjoy it for whatever reason, not feel a connection to the person or the training, and quietly quit, not go back. And even worse, proceed to do the same thing with another trainer for the same result.
I was holding a group session for about 10 people once, and I was talking through the stations of a circuit we were about to start. As I was describing one of them a guy piped-up and said, “I’m not going to do that one. I’ll skip or do squats when I get there instead”. Turns out he had an old shoulder injury that he felt it might aggravate, but what stuck with me was the expression of the others in the group. They were stunned that he questioned ‘the trainer’. It made me realise that where there is a gap in knowledge between two parties, people lack the confidence to speak up and just maintain a subservient, ‘they must know best’ silence.
The bad trainers probably like this as it reinforces their sense of expertise. The really good ones value relationships and put you at ease from the start. But there are good ones out there that you might quit on too soon by not speaking up.
Help them, help you.
A short title for a short section. You’ll probably be as thankful as the reader as I am as the writer to hear this: I don’t think there’s much more to say. Other than: give someone a try! Talk to friends, jump online, get a number, make a booking. Don’t commit to a long-term session plan straight up, maybe just a session or two, and be relaxed in the knowledge that if the person isn’t all you’d hoped for, you can always try someone else. Which reminds me, there’s a guy called Simon who’s meant to be pretty good….