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Are You a Personal Trainer or a Coach?

By Denver Steyn on May 01, 2014

There is a huge difference between being a personal trainer and a coach!

As much as I’ve always wanted to be a trainer, I actually wanted to be a coach. I just didn’t realise at the time how limited the role of a trainer is.

As a “Strength and Nutrition Coach” I recognise that it is part of my role to keep learning to improve myself, my services, and the abilities and results of my clients.

My role also requires interpersonal and behavioural skills to change lives by improving their mindset and relevant education rather than simply making people tired and sweaty a couple of times each week.

As part of the coaching role we incorporate the most effective and results based ways to do our job. However we are not always “the best” or will never claim to “know everything” or have the “single best method” to do anything without consideration and respect of new research in all areas of exercise and nutrition science.

When you are simply a trainer you are generally limited (by choice) to the formal education provided within your entry-level qualification, as well as specific exercise and nutrition protocols on the basis that “it works for me”.

We’ve all been there, and many things I’ve suggested and incorporated in the past with my clients would generally not be what I do now. This is one reason why I don’t judge trainers when their previous clients come to me and explain their current interesting exercise/nutrition structure.

Some examples of what I’ve learnt to change include:

  • avoiding dairy and fruit.
  • eating every 3 hours.
  • only training each muscle once per week.
  • doing fasted morning cardio for fat loss.
  • not utilising periodisation and goal specific programming.
  • thinking everyone wants to get smashed to their limits each session rather than being coached progressively over time.
  • not mixing carbs with fats in a meal.
  • not eating carbs before bed when cutting.
  • enforcing protein shakes immediately post workout.
  • low consideration for sufficient fat intake.
  • writing low calorie diets to make up for bad lifestyle choices rather than coaching clients to improve their lifestyle and behavioural choices (weekend binges/benders).
  • very limited food choices.
  • food restrictions.
  • specific meal timing for “increased fat loss or muscle gain.”
  • thinking people want to make fitness/exercise/dieting their life instead of just a part of their life (unrealistic lifestyle expectations).
  • + more…

That is 15 points of which at some stage in my personal training role I was limiting my client’s success. 15 points which no longer hold true or as strong as previously considered. That is the difference between being a trainer; essentially average, and being a coach; always looking to be better.

If you are still doing any of the above you aren’t “doing it wrong” and you can still get results. But at what cost?