It was during my first year as a trainer in a chain gym during my first year in Australia during my first year of running my own business.
I think the first sentence probably gives you a clue as to how I was feeling that year…. SUPER STRESSED. I was working in a big commercial gym, one of a lot of other trainers all trying to take on enough clients to create a stable and financially viable business. Sink or swim.
The lady who told me I was a sh*t trainer (she actually used stronger words than that), was a lady I had taken on as a client because I needed the money… or at least that was what I believed at the time. She was certainly not my ideal person to train. Highly opinionated and desperate to believe that all her problems were someone else’s fault, refusing to train effectively in the gym, and within three short weeks telling me that her inability to drop the ridiculous amount of weight she had decided was appropriate to lose in that short amount of time was due to my incompetence as a trainer.
I bent over backwards for that lady. Re-scheduled all of her last minute cancellations (there were a lot), continually modified my programming to suit all of her ever-changing, imaginary injuries (there were a lot), letting her pay me in a way that suited her since she didn’t like the payment system I used.
After 8 weeks of being stressed to the point of illness every time I saw her name in my diary, I decided to man up and ask her for the money she owed me. And she totally let me have it. A completely full barrel of f*cks that up until that day I had only ever read about in books. …well that is a mild exaggeration, but it certainly was language that was highly unexpected, spat out with venom that was even more unexpected. The crux of it was that I was a sh*t trainer, and who the f*ck did I think I was to even think about asking her for money.
Two things happened that day.
Firstly I realised just how much it had cost me (financially and mentally) to take on a client who cared less about the goal they told me they wanted than I did. She was right, I actually was a sh*t trainer because I had let this happen. I had allowed this lady to let her negative behaviour impact on me. I immediately looked at my diary, marked out all the clients I had taken on ‘because I needed the money’ and referred them to other trainers.
Secondly I realised just how important it was to have support in an industry that can be as nasty and competitive as any I have ever been involved in. I was being mentored at the time by a senior trainer (Dave, who later went on to create Primal PT), and it was largely through his support and belief in my ability at this time that allowed me to put this incident (and others) into perspective rather than letting it sap my confidence.
This was one of a number of learning curves that lead me in to mentoring junior PTs myself, and why now I am so excited now to be in a position to be able to provide mentoring and support to every single new trainer that comes in to The Club where I am now based.
The personal training industry is an interesting one – so many people need us, so many people rely on us for real world advice and our unique problem-solving skills, yet so many of us don’t even last a year. Not long enough to develop any real depth of knowledge. Not long enough to become properly established and confident in what we do. Not nearly long enough to have any real, long lasting effect on the lives of the people who need us. And the amount of us that last more than 5 years…..
My advice. Don’t do it alone. Seek out a mentor. A senior trainer, or a gym like mine where mentoring is included. It shouldn’t cost a fortune, it shouldn’t promise to give you the ‘one weird secret to a 6 figure business’. But it should arm you with the tools and support you need to be successful, confident, and have the longevity you need to make an impact in this amazing industry.