Why I Became a Personal Trainer

When choosing what you hope to be your life’s work, there is often that moment, something that makes you have an epiphany that tells you that this is your mission. What was the tipping point for you that made you choose your career? This was my story.

A long time ago, in a university far, far away, (the University of Maine, to be precise), I worked in a human performance center. There we performed maximal stress tests, blood chemistry, body composition assessments, lung function tests and many other measures to get a complete health and fitness profile on individuals that came through our various programs.

Among these programs was a cardiac rehabilitation class. Leading that class was one of my responsibilities. Susan was a class participant. Susan was 75 years old, about 5’2″, frail, and was recovering from a heart attack. At first she was challenged to simply walk around. By taking this class regularly, she was finding herself able to do more and more.

Six months after starting the program, Susan came up to me and said, “Mark, I’ve been thinking about doing more in my off days. Do you think it would be okay if I got a stationary bicycle?” Of course, I was thrilled to hear that she wanted to get more active.

Elderly Woman Smiling Wearing a Swimming Cap in a Swimming PoolAbout six months after that, still coming to class and with added biking to her program, Susan approached me with some news. “Mark, I’m feeling great and I decided I am going to start taking swimming lessons. I’ve always wanted to learn, but never got around to it.” At 75 years old (actually, then 76) she felt confident enough to do something that she’d never done before. I hugged Susan, kissed her on the top of her silver-haired head and was sold on the idea of how much we, as personal trainers/instructors, could help people live healthier, more active lives.

37 years later, I still get the same thrill seeing the successes of my clients, watching them gain the ability to do things they never thought possible. It keeps me excited about continuing my personal training career for decades to come (and I’m almost 60 now).

What was the moment when you knew what your life’s work would be?

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Attending Live Conferences and Clinics

In this day of online training, it’s very easy to avoid going to live conferences and clinics. Online training is more convenient, more affordable, and can supply you with a great deal of information. But, the experience of attending a live event can give you something that online education can’t, the opportunity to have serendipitous meetings and discussions with peers, mentors, potential employers or employees.
Carlos Santana

Hands-on Session at NSCA National Conference led by long time friend, Carlos Santana

I’m just returning from the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s national conference in Las Vegas. While I often present at conferences, this one was just for me, no other responsibilities. Besides the session content that will help me stay at the top of my game, I had some great interactions that made it worth leaving my work and my family, and traveling across the country for this conference.

Here are some of the benefits that I experienced from attending this live event.
I got to sit and chat with many friends that I have made through the years by going to conferences. While we stay in touch via social media and email, many times you won’t see them again until the conference the following year. Some of these friendships have lasted over 20 years (and may well last another 20). Through the years these conferences become like family gatherings.
NSCA Big Dawgs

Friends Robert Linkul, Jonathan Mike, and me

I made some new friends. Some I just happened to sit next to in a session, while others were introduced to me by mutual friends. Always strike up conversations with those around you. Side discussions are a huge part of the experience of live events.

I was approached with offers of additional work opportunities. Obviously, this doesn’t happen until people get to know you, but, you never know where the next opportunity will come from.
I found chances to help others. As personal trainers, helping people is our passion. At conferences and clinics, we can help others by introducing them to other professionals (facilitating their networking), by being a sounding board for their ideas, by sharing your experiences in situations that they might be struggling with, and much more. Always look to pay it forward. I have been helped by many people in the past and I want to pass that on to others.
I have seen new opportunities to volunteer and help the hosting organization. By volunteering, you are not only helping the organization, but you can also learn new skills that can help you in the future.
I’m sure I’ve left out some, but hopefully you can see the additional benefits that attending live conferences and clinics can offer you. The successes that I’ve had in the industry, beyond my day-to-day training, are due in a large part to attending conferences and clinics and volunteering to help the hosting organization (for me, it has been predominately the NSCA). So, as you look to further your education, go ahead and utilize online content, but also look for the chance to attend live events and make the most of the interpersonal connections that are there for the making.

What’s Smarketing?

I read the term in an email newsletter today, Smarketing, is a coming together of a business’s sales and marketing teams. According to the article, these two teams are often at odds, blaming each other when sales quotas aren’t achieved. The article then goes on to suggest ways to get the teams to communicate and cooperate. I have to say that I believe there is a bigger disconnect when this situation occurs.

Sales + Marketing =Smarketing, sales and marketing teams (and, in fact, all teams) working successfully together, should be happening from the start. In the mission, the mantra, the “Why” of the company it should be clearly communicated what the company is trying to accomplish and why that is important to the owners, employees, the community, and even the world. All employees should be working toward that bigger picture and not “for the money”. If these often commission-based teams are at odds, it’s because the management or ownership has set it up that way. If the marketing team is penalized when the sales team doesn’t make their quota, of course they might be upset or even resentful.

As I write this, my mind gets pulled toward research on types of rewards that motivate employees (that’s my excuse for the “stream of thought” direction this is taking). For most employees, money is the least motivating tool and, when used as the primary reward, the job becomes about the money and not being part of the company’s mission. On the other hand, if the reward is public appreciation (saying “great job” in front of others) or providing lunch for the team (maybe including the public praise), the response is to work even harder at furthering the mission of the company. Isn’t that what we all really want from our employees?

So….. my point…. the problem of animosity or the “us against them” between teams is an owner/manager issue. You either hired people that are not believers in your mission, you didn’t make your mission clear, or you’ve set up your compensation in a way that can put your teams at odds with one another. This is not about just trying to help them get along. That’s just treating a symptom and not the underlying problem. This requires a fundamental change that may be difficult for all involved, but will ultimately eliminate the problem and unify the company.