No matter what we do, deep down, most of us feel like we aren’t good enough.
Have you ever felt uncomfortable asking for money for your services because you secretly wondered whether you’re worth paying for?
We all know that getting a certification does not mean you are qualified in the fitness industry. But that begs the question: when are you qualified, and whom are you qualified to train (and not train)?
These are the sorts of quiescent thoughts that trainers don’t like to talk about. All of those uncertainties and doubts are collectively called imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the mindset that you’re “just a fraud” and that you’ll eventually be found out. New and experienced trainers alike are constantly battling it, yet nobody discusses it out in the open. At least until now.
If you’ve ever felt like you aren’t good enough, know that you’re not alone. Every trainer deals with imposter syndrome, the fears, and the nagging doubts at some point in his or her career, usually more than once.
We’ve all had it at some point, some of us still have it to some extent.
In any profession involving mastery, like personal training, this impostor syndrome is very real.
The problem lies in the inability to measure absolute effectiveness in training. A client can probably be happy and get good results from about a thousand different programs, whether you trained him or not. Who is to say that your program is better, or worse, than another one? How would you ever know?
Combine this with inflated egos in the training industry, and it becomes particularly difficult for new trainers to overcome this syndrome and get their feet wet, so to speak. I feel for you.
However, an ego is necessary for a trainer to sit in front of a client, listen to the client’s insecurities (stuff he probably doesn’t share with many people), say “I can help you with that,” and take his credit card to do so. The job self-selects for it. When you go online, for example, you’ll see coaches professing to be the experts who hold the “secrets” to fat loss.
You need to develop an ego. All good trainers have egos.
I’ll let you in on an industry secret
Feeling like an imposter is why most trainers are afraid of sales. Your anxiety toward a sales meeting, sweaty palms, and fear of stuttering words that you’ve otherwise practiced over and over again all have much less to do with your sales acumen than you think. Unfortunately, another book on selling isn’t going to help you.
This is what will help you:
Know that none of us knows what we’re doing. We’re all making it up as we go along. All good trainers look back at their programming from six months ago and shudder because of how awful they now think it is even though they had taken pride in it at the time. Take solace in that.
We have good guesses, and those of us who actually care are always striving to get better. Personal training is a profession that requires mastery, where every practitioner is acting on hunches and working hard to figure out what works in terms of coaching, physiology, and biomechanics. We hope we hit the right buttons to help our clients get results, and most of the time it works. But basically, we’re all making things up as we go along.
I confess these things in the hopes that you gain the confidence to push forward and strive for mastery. That’s the best you and any of us can do. If you’re always getting better, you’ll be one step ahead.
Approach every day with confidence knowing that, on that day, you know more than you’ve ever known from the day before.
Then six months after that you recognize how much of an imbecile you were.
Of course, none of this means that you are allowed to be irresponsible. Here is how you can strategically build up a diverse level of knowledge for working with different clients without overwhelming yourself:
Step 1. Figure out whom you are qualified to train and become confident in that
In my experience, the real reason that younger trainers lack confidence in themselves and their abilities is that they don’t know which kinds of clients they should be working with. If you reflect on previous sales meetings with clients, you can probably remember feeling comfortable in some, excited in others, and downright worn out by the rest. This is normal.
We want to work with people we feel excited about, but the key to attracting these right kinds of clients is first knowing who those clients are. To better speak to that, this article will help you find your niche.
Once you know the kind of client you can help, you should be confident enough to say “no” to clients whom you cannot help. Getting comfortable enough to turn down clients is also a skill. When you get to that point, it’s a great position to be in because you can use it as a powerful networking tool and refer them to other trainers in your area who specialize in areas that you may not be familiar with. This allows you to create and build referral networks.
Generally, you should be training the one kind of client whom you feel are most qualified to train. For example, people like yourself or people who are going through similar experiences that you can offer insight on and help with.
Step 2. Gradually expand to different people
As you progress throughout your career I suggest taking on one client type outside of your ideal niche at a time. This allows you to thrive within your niche and work hard on expanding your knowledge base by doing research for the one client who doesn’t fit your existing mold. Once you’re confident in this new kind of client, you can take on more like him and continue the process with another new type of client.
Your best is (probably) more than good enough.
Are you the best trainer in the world? Probably not. Who is? I have no idea. Does the best trainer in the world exist? Nah, I don’t think so.
But here’s the personal training secret sauce—the stuff you won’t ever learn in a textbook:
“The importance of the quality of a workout that you give a client pales in comparison to the importance of your ability to get a client to do a workout, any workout. Period.”
There are exceptions, but the general rules of fitness are pretty simple:
* Nutrition: Eat whole foods, with an emphasis on lean protein, minimally processed carbs, and healthy fats. Avoid food and (especially) beverages with added sugars.
* Exercise to burn fat: Do stuff you suck at. Once you get good at it, stop doing it.
* Exercise to build muscle: Train consistently, maintain a high intensity, keep rest around one to two minutes per set, increase volume over time, and recover well.
That’s basically it.
I’m oversimplifying things, of course, but whether a client does a back squat, front squat, goblet squat, split squat, rear-elevated split squat, or walking lunge doesn’t really matter to 99 percent of the clients we’ll encounter. Any of the aforementioned exercise variations will get them the results they desire if it meets my guidelines above.
Stop feeling like you aren’t good enough. Your best, right now, is (probably) more than good enough.
Tomorrow you will be better than today and will have a new best. A year from now, you will look back at today and think you were a complete idiot. But right now, today, at this moment, you’re the best that you can be. Take pride in that. That’s pretty amazing. You’ve worked hard to get here.