It's been 20 years exactly since I the entered this field. When I started out, I didn't know that personal training would become my career. Looking back now, I couldn't be happier, and all because I wanted to inspire a few co-workers.

That's how it happened: one day I was a Sales Rep for a Vehicle Location Tracking device sharing info with my co-workers about diet, nutrition, and weight lifting and the next day - we all received pink slips because the company wasn't making a profit.

I decided that day that I would never put myself in that position again where someone else had the power to determine my fate. That's when I decided to work for myself and went into the field of health and fitness. I got certified and starting working at a local gym and built up my business one client at a time.

But this article isn't about my start in the business -- it's about the business of personal training and why we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. I guess you could say it's my "Jerry Maquire" moment.

Earn your paycheck by being attentive and focused the entire session
Earn your paycheck by being attentive and focused the entire session

I'll start by saying it's important to remind ourselves what a valuable job we have as personal trainers. I know, back in the day - before shows like The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Fit Club and Extreme Weight Loss made our field so popular -- being a personal trainer didn't get a lot of credibility.

But according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "employment of fitness workers is expected to increase 13% over the 2012-2022 decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations." This is mainly due to our country's high obesity rate and that people now realize there's a direct link between being healthy and exercise and diet.

Our roles as fitness instructors and personal trainers are now more critical than ever in America's fight against obesity. Besides our client's doctor, we are the one person that can really affect their health and fitness.

That's a lot of influence and a lot of responsibility. And that's exactly why it's so important to hold personal trainers to a higher standard.

Yes, there are certain associations like IDEA, NASM, AFAA, ACE and NCSA we can get certified through, but there really is no governing body that will fine us or bar us or sentence us if we don't follow certain rules or guidelines for our industry. In some ways but it can leave the field feeling a bit like the Wild Wild West.

In the UK, they have something called REP (Register of Exercise Professionals) and the only way to get on it is to have met various Levels of qualifications and certificates. It's almost impossible to get work as a Personal Trainer in the UK without being on this REP list.

Not so in the United States -- pretty much anyone can print a business card and call him or herself a personal trainer. And while having a Personal Training Certification is of utmost importance, how we conduct ourselves on the "training floor" is equally important. This is the critical time when we have our client's health, physical, and sometimes even emotional wellbeing in our hands.

Forgive me if I go on a bit of a rant here, but I must.

Throughout the years I've seen so many irresponsible and lackadaisical trainers just phoning it in or what I call just "collecting checks" who appear to really not care about this profession and that hourly session with their clients.

I really have seen it all:

  • Ttrainers on their phones during sessions
  • Trainers chatting with other trainers while a client is doing a precarious exercise with horrific form
  • Trainers eating their meals in front of the client
  • Trainers hitting on other trainers or other clients.

And don't even let me get started on professional hygiene, showing up in tattered clothes, being late session after session, or swearing at clients thinking that's what works because some trainer made it popular to yell at overweight people on a network weight loss show.

I know we all entered this field for different reasons, yet most of us are in it because we enjoy the idea of inspiring and motivating people to live healthier lives. I truly believe that the majority of us really take this career seriously and act with professionalism.

We as personal trainers, collectively, should care about our industry and the level of our knowledge and attention we bring to every training session.

11 Ways to Hold Yourself to a Higher Standard

1. If you aren't certified - get certified.

Youre responsible for our clients' body and future health so it's imperative you understand things like proper setup and alignment for exercises, and which exercises are contraindicated based on a clients' medical history or past injuries. You must also be armed with the right information or know where to find it when a client asks an important health or fitness related question.

Remember, our clients pay us because they look to us as the professional so if you aren't certified, check out ACE, AFAA, NASM, ACSM and NCSA. Some certifications are more expensive and more extensive than others. Explore which one is the right fit for you and get your certification. thePTDC did a comparison here:

2. Be up to date.

Educate yourself on the latest trends and new styles of training in the industry so if your clients ask about them you can respond with an intelligent and informed answer.

3. Arrive at our sessions before your clients.

Heck, even show up a few minutes early to set up the training area and be there to greet them.

4. Wear professional, appropriate training clothing.

5. Stay off of you phone while training clients.

In other words, be present. Unless you're using your phone as a timer for interval workouts. Otherwise, make the workout a phone free zone. Outside of the session, thePTDC ran a great article outlining the top 6 apps for personal trainers to use.

Just yesterday I was in the world famous Gold's Gym in Venice, California (my home training gym for 20 years) and a former Mr. Olympian turned personal trainer was texting right through a client's set. Imagine if our dentist or doctor pulled out their phone and started texting while tending to our bodies?

Texting is fine when in between clients, but once the session starts, put the phone away.
Texting is fine when in between clients, but once the session starts, put the phone away.

6. Eat meals before the session.

I know sometimes we go back to back with clients and don't want to miss a meal but to that I say, get better at scheduling or if you must eat a meal, do it while the client is warming up, but not in front of them. Check out Jonathan Goodman's (now famous) desk for tips on getting enough food throughout a busy training day.

7. Always be checking and correcting form and alignment.

One wrong move and our clients get injured.

8. Speak in uplifting, inspiring ways to our clients.

Don't swear or berate our clients thinking that it's a cool psychological way to motivate them.

9. No matter what reason we became a Personal Trainer, make the client feel like they are the number one most important thing to us during that hour.

10. Don't engage with other Trainers or carry on cross talk with others during our clients' sessions.

11. Always remember how fortunate we are to be in this field.

You might be making more money per hour than some lawyers, doctors and others who have spent many years in college to be in their chosen field.

I hope this post has inspired us all to check in and take inventory of where we are in this field and always remind us we are a lucky bunch, with a lot of responsibility AND opportunity to transform our clients' lives.

May we always rise to the occasion and hold ourselves to a higher standard.