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Advice for personal trainers

A potential client contacts me, they used to be very active, they had fitness goals that they experienced success in and they are knowledgeable about nutrition exercise.

Over the past couple of years their job has got in the way, they feel that they should know what to do to increase their energy levels and improve their health, but they can’t do it. They might squeeze in some exercise into their busy routine, but they feel it isn’t enough. I sit down and start to explore their lifestyle. They have a couple of jobs, they pay OK, but one is self-employed, so they take every job they are offered, work hours are sporadic and at antisocial times so when there is free time it is spent catching up with friends and family or working on growing their business. On a usual day they are up and out the door at 5.45am, grabbing a coffee as they go, they have a full-on morning of work then late morning in a lull they spend a couple of hours catching up on paperwork, topping up their caffeine levels, nipping to the shop to grab something quick and easy to eat and then back to work again. Late afternoon they have a lull and they sometimes work out but feel tired so use this time to manage their social media accounts but often spend it mindlessly scrolling. At 5.50 it’s off to the next job for three hours of work, getting in late they grab dinner, quickly catch-up up with friends or family then head to bed.

As a personal trainer you know what you would be saying – something must give, healthy needs to be prioritised!

Personal trainer and fitness professionals, I am inviting you to spend a couple of minutes to reflect on how you are now so that you can be in a potion to look after yourself. The above client could be pretty much any personal trainer I have had the privilege to know over the last few years. I am writing this as I am passionate about mental health and in the year of branching out into personal training I have noticed a few things about personal trainer and how we do or don’t look after our own wellbeing. So, with my Occupational Therapist hat on I want to explore some of the barriers to wellbeing and some practical strategies you can use if they apply to you. Most of these may seem like common sense but this is a chance for you to give yourself permission to check if you are looking after yourself. You will only give your clients the best service when you are in tune with how you are.

Barrier 1: Number of hours worked is high.

Practical Solution: For 48 hours monitor, in the same way you might encourage a client to keep a food diary, sit and write down every work-related task, the time you spent on it, the income it has brought you, your level of enjoyment/ satisfaction. Now ask yourself is the outcome worth the input? Does the money it bring in make it worth your time and energy? Does the money it bring in add benefits to your lifestyle that outweigh the downside of the time consumed? Once you have monitored do an experiment and say no to something that you would usually say yes to.

Barrier 2: It can be socially isolating.

Despite it being a job with a lot of contact with people. You will be working at times friends and family are not and any colleagues could potentially be viewed as competition.

Practical Solution: Schedule and plan in time to connect with the people who are important to you

Barrier 3: Social media can lower body confidence and self-image.

Every time your scroll insta there are 100s of people looking amazing, there are PT’s telling you to practice what you preach.

Practical Solution: Mindfully choose what social media you engage with and notice how it makes you feel. If its pressing on the “you aren’t good enough” button, then let it go.

Barrier 4: Financial insecurity.

The stress of dept is a huge contributor to depression.

Practical Solution: If pay is sporadic and not meeting your needs, look at how much you charge or what job opportunities are out there. Budget your spending, I use a pre-paid credit card to help budget the supermarket shops. If you need support citizen’s advice have some advice and there are a few good debt charities.

Barrier 5: Listening to your client’s problems.

Mental health professionals talk about “client transference” if you are an empathetic person you may be picking up on your client’s emotions and baggage. Clients may feel safe in personal training and off load – leaving you holding onto all their stress.

Practical Solution: Set your boundaries with your clients, let them know what you can and can’t do. When you do pick up on someone else’s feelings know this is “Not yours”, take a step back from it. I dispel my transference through physical exercises. The proprioceptive input from lifting heavy weights is neurologically calming but ensure that if you are experiencing transference that you acknowledge it and put time aside to process it.

Barrier 6: Nutrition on the go.

Practical Solution: meal plan energy enriched foods! I am not going to get into a discussion about preferred diets for energy, but you know what works well for you. My trick is batch cooking on a Sunday evening and making my car is well stocked with snacks.

Barrier 7: Hydration and caffeine

Practical Solution: Carry 2 litres of water with you. Purposefully drink some before deciding about if you want caffeine. Don’t have caffeine for 6 hours prior to bed, see what it is like to wake up in the morning and not immediately go for the coffee.

Barrier 8: Ambition.

Now I am not saying ambition in its own right is bad but be careful not to mistake drive for an unhealthy perfectionism. I’ve noticed in this profession more than any other there are lots of “experts” telling you how to grow your business. This can lead you to feel that yours isn’t good enough or make you losing sight of what you want your daily life to look like.

Practical Solution: When setting your career and business goals, make them SMART, but not only that ask yourself what the value in achieving it is. Will achieving it bring you happiness? Research has shown that once we have enough money to meet our basic needs, money does not have a correlated impact on happiness. Daily experience is much more significant to this.

Barrier 9: Having an off day

Practical Solution: As a personal trainer your mental health is not immune and you will have your own traumas, triggers and your health will vary. Allow yourself this and be kind. Often when we get in a fight with how we are feeling it can lead to increased stress and increased number of rough days. Write down a 5-minute self-care task that you can do. Self-care does not need to be lavish activities such as a spa or a meal out. Sometimes self-care is doing a task that feels impossible when you feel it should be easy.

Barrier 10: Not being able to think of a way of improving the situation

Practical Solution:

If you can’t fix it on your own ASK FOR HELP – speak to friends, family, or your G.P. If you are finding that you are low or anxious the NHS can offer free confidential cognitive behavioural therapy. or treat yourself to private therapy in the same way that you may treat yourself to a sports massage. If you want to reach out to me I am here!

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