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Why I chose to become a Personal Trainer…

I have been asked many times over the years ‘why did you decide to become a personal trainer? There wasn’t just one thing that inspired me to begin training to become a personal trainer. Rather than bore people with my life story I tend to just tell them the main reason, which is quite simply because I thought I would enjoy it and would be pretty good at it. Now if you are one of those poor few who didn’t get the short answer and had to listen to me drone on about how my journey began I do apologise. Although I’m probably going to do a little of that again now!!!

The article is partly about why I became a qualified personal trainer but also why I think you should become a qualified personal trainer too.

My journey to become a personal trainer

Ok so just quickly let me tell you about the first time the idea came to me. I was 16 years old and sitting in the careers office at Cardinal Newman School, Hove, West Sussex, completing a questionnaire on the computer which resulted in career suggestions based on the answers I gave to all of the questions. There must have been over 100 questions but when I was finally finished it made just three suggestions:

  • P.E teacher
  • Join the army
  • Fitness Instructor

I dismissed the first two pretty quick and I had no idea what a fitness instructor was.

“We didn’t have Google back then so I read the brief description which sounded pretty cool but I wasn’t  a great deal wiser for it.”

I didn’t pursue it any further and ended up choosing a course in graphic design as I liked drawing. The course was actually cancelled at the last minute due to a low number of enrolments so I had to quickly choose something else. I chose health and social care because that’s what a few of my friends were doing. I didn’t enjoy it at all and wasted the best part of two years on it and still came out with no qualification. I then tried a city and guilds course at Northbrook College in motor vehicle repair and maintenance which was ok. I finished it with a distinction but felt I still hadn’t found my passion.

After finishing at Northbrook in the summer I wanted to earn some money so my mum suggested I hand my CV into lancing leisure centre to see if I could get some summer work there. They offered me some casual recreation assistant shifts almost immediately and I began working there full time for the summer. Even though there was a lot of cleaning involved I really enjoyed it. I loved the atmosphere of working in a sports centre and I got on really well with all of the staff.

This is also where I discovered the gym (by the way I am 18 at this point)!

I use to go into the gym in my lunch break to lift weights and very quickly started to see my body changing. I remember the buzz like it was yesterday. It felt great and I started to read up on everything I could to do with health and fitness. The more I read and trained the more interested I became until eventually, I decided in September to do a diploma in health-related fitness and exercise at Chichester college. I loved the course and I loved the industry and the rest is history as they say.

So why should you become a qualified personal trainer?

If you can answer YES to most of the following questions then I think you should become a personal trainer for the same reason I did, because I think you will enjoy it and I think you will be pretty good at it!

  • Are you passionate about health and exercise?
  • Have you felt the benefits yourself from engaging in regular exercise and living a healthy lifestyle?
  • Do you get enjoyment out of helping others?
  • Would you like a job where you are moving for most of your day instead of sitting still?
  • Would you like a job that gives you the opportunity to work outdoors too?
  • Would you like a job that gives you the opportunity to be your own boss?
  • Would you like to control your own working hours?
  • Would you like a job that challenges you without being stressed?
  • Would you like a job that feels rewarding and gives a positive contribution to society?

If you can answer YES to any of these questions, get in touch for a chat…

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Finding a job you enjoy and feel passionate about is priceless. For most of us work takes up a large portion of our day so why not spend your day doing something you enjoy?

Stay active folks 💪

Personal Training Success Tips

If you Google ‘personal training success tips’ you will get over 367,000,000 search results. Where do you start? The amount of information is overwhelming and varies from one source to the next. Also, the term success is very subjective. Success to one PT may mean making a six-figure salary, but to another PT it might mean getting paid an average salary but thoroughly enjoying what they do.  I often write about what helps drive PTs to be successful but the truth is it is not just one thing, it is not even a few things. It is the combination of several things done well and consistently over time. If you аrе entering thе profession of personal trаіnіng, іt іѕ a time оf grоwth аnd орроrtunіtу. The public are becoming forever more health-conscious and need our help. However, there is also a hugе іnflux of nеw реrѕоnаl trаіnеrѕ іntо thе іnduѕtrу, whісh means іnсrеаѕеd соmреtіtіоn. For you to be successful you must work hard to stand out from the competition but more importantly work smart. 

Driving Personal Training Success

TAKE ACTION

If you really want personal training success you need to take action. Self-directed learning through reading, listening to books and podcasts are great for helping you create a plan for success but that’s all. It is your actions that are the most important. If you take nothing else away from this article then at least take this away. Thinking is fine, acting is better.

HIGH LEVEL OF PROFESSIONALISM

A service-based business like PT requires a high lеvеl of professionalism.

  • Be consistent with your delivery.
  • Where a clean, presentable branded uniform.
  • Manage your time well and always be punctual.
  • Manage your client’s expectations with a signed personal training agreement.

PRE-PAY POLICY

Operate with a pre-pay policy. You саn establish thіѕ undеrѕtаndіng durіng thе initial соnѕultаtіоn with your client. Yоu might bе surprised to knоw that mоѕt clients will fіnd it соnvеnіеnt to make one large payment реr month іnѕtеаd оf one еvеrу time thеу hаvе a ѕеѕѕіоn. Always get paid in advance and never sell one-off individual sessions.

BE CREATIVE

A gооd personal trаіnеr must bе сrеаtіvе. A cookie-cutter approach won’t cut it.  Fоr еxаmрlе, if a сlіеnt hаѕ lоw bасk раіn оr tіght hamstrings, you may have to adapt the day’s programme to accommodate that. If the client is feeling low and unmotivated but the sun is shining take them outside for a walk or run and just listen to them. Cоntіnuе to establish уоur vаluе bу hеlріng thе сlіеnt to rеасh anticipated gоаlѕ through your сrеаtіvіtу.

LEARN TO SELL YOUR SERVICE

If уоu want tо be a ѕuссеѕѕful personal trainer уоu muѕt learn how tо market and рrоmоtе your ѕеrvісеѕ. You muѕt bе аblе tо identify whаt mаkеѕ you different thаn other реrѕоnаl trаіnеrs and present уоur strengths. Remember to ѕtаtе clearly whаt service you provide and уоur ability tо help specific сlіеntѕ reach thеіr gоаlѕ. Yоu can аdvеrtіѕе уоurѕеlf as a реrѕоnаl trаіnеr whеnеvеr уоu’rе іn рublіс by wеаrіng сlоthіng with your company name or logo, оr ѕоmе оthеr іndісаtіоn of whаt уоu dо. If someone asks what you do don’t just reply ‘I am a personal trainer’. That is just your job title. What you actually do is help people overcome a problem. For example, your reply could be ‘I help mothers lose their baby weight whilst building confidence and self-esteem’.

MAINTAIN A CLIENT BASE

Onе of thе mоѕt common reasons personal training buѕіnеѕѕеѕ fail іѕ ѕіmрlу thе іnаbіlіtу to еѕtаblіѕh and mаіntаіn a steady сlіеnt bаѕе. High сlіеnt turnоvеr аnd lоw client retention rates mаkе it hаrd tо run a рrоfіtаblе buѕіnеѕѕ. Build a community that people want to be part of. Rеmеmbеr yоu can hеlр реорlе іmрrоvе thеіr lіvеѕ, build relationships аnd make a great lіvіng аt the ѕаmе time!

Tackling Mental Health Issues with Exercise

The mechanisms underpinning the connectedness of physical exercise to mental health and wellbeing are complex and multi-layered. In a previous article, I looked at the brain and the physiological changes that take place. In this article, I’m going to discuss the psychological side of things and how the chemical changes induced by exercise, go on to affect mood, behaviour and feelings, therefore playing a big part in tackling mental health issues.

The World Health Organisation now ranks depression as the single biggest contributor to global disability with anxiety disorders ranking sixth. The last published figures in England state that 6 people in every 100 have anxiety problems and 3 in every 100 have depression, with as much as 12% of the UK population suffering from depression each year.

Treatment of mental health issues is usually via anti-depressant medication.

Could exercise play a greater part in tackling mental health issues?

A number of studies have demonstrated how exercise can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. The strongest evidence for exercise’s role in the treatment of mental health is on depression, with both aerobic and strength training having beneficial impacts. Even more, there are multiple extra benefits of exercise compared to anti-depressant medication: few side-effects, very low cost, it doesn’t have the negative stigma, it’s available to everyone and it’s a great empowering and self-management tool.

The evidence for exercise

  • The government’s Start Active, Stay Active report states that adults participating in regular daily activity have approximately a 20-30% lower risk of developing depression and dementia. That is significant.
  • Other studies have shown that exercise improved symptoms in people diagnosed with depression when compared with no treatment or a controlled intervention, such as social activity when seated.
  • A large review of 49 randomised control trials investigated the effect of exercise on anxiety and found physical activity to significantly reduce anxiety when compared to a control group.
  • The benefits of exercise seem to be elevated for individuals with greater levels of anxiety and depression as there is more room for potential change.
  • Aerobic exercises using large muscle groups, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking and dancing were all shown to boost mood and alleviate negative mental health issues over a period of 10 weeks.
  • One study found that running for 15 minutes a day reduces the risk of major depression by 26% and that maintaining an exercise schedule of the longer term has also been shown to prevent relapse.
  • Interestingly, some research comparing physical exercise effectiveness with that of medication or cognitive behavioural therapy, another type of treatment, has found no significant differences between the interventions.

Why is exercise so powerful in alleviating the mental health burden?

There are a number of theories with more research still needed, but it’s clear that exercise can have a number of positive impacts on mental health on multiple levels.

On the physiological level, we’ve seen how exercise impacts the brain. Crucially for those with depression, exercise can stimulate parts of the brain that aren’t responsive during depressed periods. Physical activity promotes all kinds of neural growth and brain activity that cause greater feelings of wellbeing.

Exercise has a key social side too. It gets people out of the house and interacting with others. Also, completing an exercise session really does give a sense of achievement, which is heavily linked to increases in self-esteem and confidence.

Here’s a quick rundown on how exercise can positively impact mental health:

  • Increases self-esteem
  • Increases social interaction
  • Stimulates the release of beneficial brain chemicals 
  • Improves confidence
  • Enhances cognitive function
  • Boosts mood
  • Impacts the brain’s reaction to stress
  • Gives someone a purpose and focus
  • Acts as a distraction from negative thoughts

The ‘dose’ of exercise doesn’t have to be particularly high either to stimulate internal change. Thirty minutes a day of moderate exercise is a great ball-park figure. Analyses of studies in combating anxiety revealed that exercise interventions were most effective at moderate or high intensity. 

The evidence points to exercise being a key remedy for mental health issues. If not wholly then certainly as part of a rounded solution. There currently seems to be too much reliance on a solely medicated solution, whereas it seems clear that exercise can either act as a standalone treatment or as part of a combination of treatments in treating mental health disorders. It certainly shouldn’t be overlooked as an intervention.

Take-Home Messages

  • Exercise significantly reduces the risk of developing depression and can stimulate parts of the brain that aren’t responsive during depressive periods.
  • Scientific studies have found physical activity to significantly reduce anxiety when compared to control groups.
  • Exercise has many, many positive impacts on mental health, such as increasing self-esteem and confidence, increasing cognitive functioning, focus and the brain’s reaction to stress.

 

Personal Training Equipment | 5 Items Every New Personal Trainer Should Own

As a newly qualified personal trainer purchasing personal training equipment can be a real challenge, especially after forking out for your course fees and training manuals. However, there are some great low-cost items out there that won’t break the bank! So here are my top 5 Items Every New Personal Trainer Should Own.

Personal Training Equipment List

Interval Timer

Interval timers can be used for HIIT sessions, timing rest periods between strength training sets, and timing stretches, and they range from just £10-£20. You can easily set up the length of your intervals, the length of the rest and how many rounds you want to do. When you are good to go simply hit a button and the timer will beep/vibrate to notify you of the start and end of each round and again when all rounds are complete. They can also be easily attached to your waist with a handy little clip. Alternatively, there are plenty of free interval apps you can download onto your phone.

Suspension Trainer

Suspension trainers can be used for warming up, stretching, endurance and even strength training. They are particularly good for training in homes, outdoors, offices, church halls and studios. Some brands are extremely expensive but there are some less well-known brands available online that cost from just £30 upwards.

Kettlebell Set

Kettlebells have to be the most versatile personal training equipment you can buy. It doesn’t matter what your fitness goal is, a kettlebell can help you achieve it. They are also very portable fitting into the boot of the car easily and you can even take a Kettlebell Training Course to master the teaching practices. Lighter sets of 2kg to 8kg, that are adequate for many beginners start at just £30.

Resistance bands

Resistance bands are probably the cheapest but most useful bit of kit a new personal trainer can purchase. They can be used for muscle activation during warm-ups, pre-hab and re-hab of specific muscles, and all-round strength and endurance. They are particularly of training clients in homes or parks as they can be used to train the muscles of the back (traps and lats) with rowing and pulling exercises.

Boxing Mitts and Focus Pads

Whether you are training outdoors or indoors everyone loves to unload with some good old fashion boxing. I don’t think I have ever had a client that didn’t enjoy some pad-work in their session. Punching focus pads is fun, great cardio and great stress release. You don’t even need a huge space to use them. I bought an extra set last week online for just £15. That was the gloves and pads. I feared they might be a bit cheap and nasty but took the risk and they are actually really nice. Make sure you get gloves with the thumb protectors too.

Well there it is, that is my top 5 low-cost items every new personal trainer should buy.  For £100 investment, you can have some great equipment that is easy to use and will all fit in the boot of your car.

PT equipment

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Should you train without a goal?

Goal setting is great for providing a training focus and motivation. Athletes use goal-setting to ensure they prioritise the right training programme and exercise prescription for improved sports performance. However, do non-athletes need goals? What if you just like training? Should you train without a goal? Before I answer that let’s first investigate why we train?

Why do we train?

I have been asking that question to my clients, students and fellow fitness enthusiasts for years and the responses I get are not that varied.

  • To look better
  • To be healthier
  • To perform better in my chosen sport
  • To improve my mental health

To me, these are all goals. They aren’t terribly specific but they are still goals. If you want to take things further then you might choose to measure the progress of your goal.

The ‘look better’ goal

 

If your goal is to look better then you need to have a clear idea of what that actually means to you. It will mean different things to different people. 

  • A bigger bum
  • A smaller bum
  • Bigger arms
  • Smaller arms

Photographs can be used to measure this but you must be careful as we are our own biggest critics. You must also control all the variables to truly measure a difference. Same camera, same lighting, same pose etc.

You may prefer to use more indirect measures such as using a tape measure to measure your waist or your arms or your hips. At least this way your eyes won’t be playing tricks on you. If you want a smaller waist and you have a smaller waist you have achieved your goal.

The ‘be healthier’ goal

 

Before you can track the achievement of this goal you will also need to establish what being healthier means to you. It could mean lower blood pressure, lower body weight, or even a lower resting heart rate. Or again you may like to choose a more indirect measure:

  • the number of minutes you are physically active each week
  • your average step count each day

The sports performance goal

 

The goal of improving sports performance is more in-depth and too detailed to cover in this article. However, we cover this in a lot of detail on our level 4 certificate in strength and conditioning course.

The general process is to determine what physical attributes an athlete needs to excel in their sport, determine which is their weakest with a suitable test battery then that becomes their goal.

The mental health goal

 

In recent years I have had more and more people telling me that they train to improve their mental health. They use exercise to boost their mood like an anti-depressant. A lot of people just know they are a better person when exercise is a regular part of their life, I know I am. One of my clients even goes so far as to say she is a better wife when she has personal training with me, seconded by her husband, who is really supportive of her passion.

When it comes to measuring your improvement in mental health we can look at this from a short term basis and a long term basis.

Short term measurement

This can be done using a simple rating scale of 1 to 10 (10= max happiness/ 1 = max sadness) at the beginning and end of each training session. I have done this several times with clients over the years to reinforce to them the powerful benefits that exercise has on their mood. I have not yet had a client that has not improved their mood from a training session.

Long term measurement

Alternatively, you can download this Mood questionnaire and complete it at the beginning of a 12-week training programme and at the end to measure the long term effects that exercise has had on your mood.

To Conclude

So back to the original question ‘Should you train without a goal?’

No, I don’t think you can! I think everyone trains with a goal in mind. Your goal might not be very specific and you may not be measuring the progress but we all train for some purpose, otherwise what’s the point.

Stay active folks 💪

For more information on our range of courses, get in touch today.

Is walking good for mental health – Part 1

In a previous article, I shared my own experience of depression and how my daily walking ritual helps me manage my mental health. I have been convinced for a long time now that walking has a profound impact on my mental health. As I child I could never sit still and just wanted to keep moving. I also walked on my tiptoes so my mother once asked the doctor why he thought I did this and his response was that my mind was further down the road than my body was. All my life I have frustrated those around me, particularly my school teachers,  with my inability to sit still. I remember doing my Duke of Edinburgh award when I was a teenager and being given the nickname ‘Duracell Bunny Jon’ because whilst hiking across the peaks in the lake district I never wanted to stop for a break. A few years back I took part in a 100km walk for charity and I felt the same when we reached a checkpoint. I did not want to stop. I preferred to keep moving. I’m happiest when I’m moving. Let me describe my feelings when walking:

  • I feel stimulated by the sites, sounds and smells of my changing environment.
  • I feel sedated, relaxed but also energised.
  • I feel free from the infodemic that often torments me.
  • I feel a connection with my fellow walkers.
  • I feel a connection with nature.
  • I feel healthy.
  • I feel good.
  • I feel happy.

However, this is just my perspective and very anecdotal. So being the sports science geek that I am I decided to do a bit of research and see if there are any published journal articles on walking and mental health. Whilst researching I stumbled upon a research paper titled ‘Walking and hiking as a way of life’. I was not surprised to find out that a lot of people share my sentiment about this free and easily accessible form of exercise.

Walking and hiking as a way of life (Roberson and Babic,2008)

 

The walkers in this study were approached whilst walking in a nature park in Croatia and asked by the interviewers if they wouldn’t mind answering a few questions about their motivations for walking. The study interviewed 122 hikers and walkers, and the findings centred around three main experiences, with mental health being a common theme:

  1. Nature and outdoors
  2. Benefits – Mental and Physical
  3. Interaction with others, and the self

The following are some of the responses from the 122 walkers and hikers that were interviewed. They are direct translations from Czech so excuse the grammar:

Nature and outdoors

“For me walking is connection with earth – that is something divine”

“Not sure why it has this impact – but there is something about the nature, the wood, peace, quiet, it is green”

“The people I meet here, there is just a different energy here”

“For me hiking is health, well-being, hiking fuels my life, forest is life for me.”

“I am here because the air is better. I love the forest; it is green in the summer. And the nature is really nice here.”

“Everything that is negative is just going out. By the walking, by the quiet. You make an effort, and you have the fresh air.”

“Here is better air, breathing is better quality, and it is good relaxation. For me it is escape from city, enjoying in nature and I never smoke when I’m here.”

“Nature relaxes me, makes me feel better, we always have some good tempo of walking. It is important for us, and I think it is the best way of relaxation. Hiking gives me better vitality, condition for life, and for living. Nothing can’t make any problem for me, everything is easier.”

Benefits – Mental and Physical

“I feel good when I am here. I can feel it when I have been here.”

“We feel good physically and psychologically, I sleep well and healthy; it is pleasure, it is chance to see my friends and be with them, for me is very important knowledge that I do something for myself.”

“It is an exercise for me. I enjoy good conversation and fresh air. I can fill up my batteries. I can throw out the boring when I am here. I just see how simple everything is when you look at nature. I look at what is around.”

“I keep walking because it makes me feel good, I fuel my battery for the rest of the next week.”

“I love to be here today with my wife in the nature (very affectionate). This helps to relieve stress. I am not in the city environment, my cell phone is off.”

“I am coming here to relax and to get in good condition. I know if I am doing this I will have better physical condition. And also I will have a better psychology.”

“I use this hiking instead of a psychiatrist. It is good for the mind and for the physical. In one way I am tired when I finish, yet full of energy. I am full of energy, it is filling me.”

“This is like a balance between the physical and the spiritual. This is psychotherapy.”

“I am here 2 – 3 times a week, and every time in the week I am here walking. I feel sick if I don’t walk or sweat.”

“For me hiking means health and conditioning. I enjoy in walking. I wasn’t visit doctor since 1991.”

“For me hiking is health, physical and physiological relaxation, joy, during hiking I forget all problems.”

Interaction with others, and the self

“I love it! I feel better the whole week when I have been hiking here. I have better health and I have a better mood

“This is a stress relief from a stressful week. And I am trying to learn my son to get with the nature.”

“This is something we can do with nature, something that promotes a peace.”

“I heal my depression here. It makes me internal pleasure and balance.”

Hiking means to me realising of stress, health, physiological and physical well being.”

“I am throwing out all this bad layers in my head and replacing it with fresh thoughts.”

“During hiking I forget all problems.”

It is clear from the walkers/hikers responses that they have discovered a real passion for walking in this particular part of the world and they believe that both their physical and mental health are all the better for it. I imagine there are some specific benefits to walking in a more natural environment such as this that are perhaps absent when walking through a built-up area such as a city. However, I know from my own personal experience that even walking through town still gives me a good feeling of well-being.

That’s all for now. I will keep digging and see what else I can find.

Stay active folks 🚶‍♀️