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What do you do when a personal trainer comes up to you and says you are doing something wrong

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I was asked this question by one of my students just recently. He attended an On The Edge BOSU conditioning workshop and was working with his friend practicing some of the exercises. His friend was standing on the BOSU while he did partner taps when a trainer ran over and told him that he should never do this exercise because of the instability it causes to the ankle. The student, who is not yet through his personal training certification, did not know what to say. He didn’t know who this trainer was, his experience or educational background.

After he told me what happened I remembered a similar incident I experienced when I first started personal training and I also didn’t know what to do. I felt very unsettled because I was following what I’d learned in my course and what my instructor taught me. There was no reason to doubt what I’d learned. However when that trainer came up to me and criticized me on an exercise I was teaching in front of my client I felt like I didn’t know anything and my confidence was seriously shaken.

At some point in your personal training career someone will offer their opinion on an exercise or perhaps critique how you explain something to a client. For whatever reason, some people feel compelled to share their knowledge in a manner that is “crisp” rather than helpful. Whether this has to do with their own ego or whether they sincerely believe they are just trying to “help you out” the manner, style and method of delivering feedback is important but unfortunately not always thought out.

I would like to offer some suggestions on what you can do if you should find yourself in a similar situation.

Suggestions

1) If a personal trainer approaches you while working with a client say, “Thank you for taking the time to come over and speak with me. I would like to hear what you have to say however this is not a good time because my client is paying for my time. Can we chat later and in private?” It’s important that feedback not be given in front of a client as this can undermine the trust between yourself and your client.

2) Listen respectfully, seek to understand their point of view and ask probing and thoughtful questions.

3) Ask for educational resources to back the information and if there are books, web references or published studies you can review. If they can provide you with that information then they most likely have furthered their knowledge in a way that you might be interested in learning more. If they fumble trying to give you those resources then chances are they heard it from someone else and aren’t really sure why themselves.

4) Do your own research around the topic. Talk to other industry professionals and perhaps even get back in touch with your instructor and ask them their thoughts on the topic.

Information in the fitness industry constantly changes. When you become a fitness professional you commit yourself to a process of life-long learning. You can’t just stop at the courses you’ve taken to become a personal trainer and never do anymore reading or continuing education. You must constantly be updating your knowledge because new research comes out regularly. Share what you learn with other trainers and be respectful of how you deliver this information so that it comes across as helpful and not threatening.

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