Fall 2012-Late Summer 2013. Location: A popular commercial gym with twenty-two Personal Trainers on staff. Based on memory, I was one of only 5 that was certified.(1)
At its height, my post-rehab (those with joint/muscle related issues) and geriatric clientele (over 60 years old) outnumbered any 8 trainers combined. This lopsided clientele assignment made for some exceptionally challenging days, and nearly caused a loss of skill in working with people without training challenges.
I’m not a Psychiatric Professional, but I am a Psychiatric Amateur and have read more than enough issues of the Fantastic Four to know that professional burnout is a reality that hits people to varying degrees.
1. the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.
“good carbon burnout”
2. physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.
“high levels of professionalism that may result in burnout”
I believe some trainers would have simply folded from the daily demands and the stress of training people with pain in certain ranges or low training tolerances.
Marketing Failure 101. I was labelled (and seen) as a post-rehab/geriatric specialist guy. A worse way of looking at things, to the salesman I was an amateur hour Physical Therapist that happened to cost a fraction of the price.
How did things get to that point ?
I believe there were several contributing factors, but for brevities sake I will say that if you show relative (or comparative) talent in something, which in this case was working with elderly or limited capability clients…basically being able to show empathy and be patient along with making logical exercise choices…then to a salesman you just became “The Guy.” (or Gal as the case might be.) (2)
Although I did complete an entry-level course for Corrective Exercise (NASM CES) I was by no means a specialist in it, much less an “expert.” No training I received truly prepared me to work the sedentary elderly. All I had going for me was the ability to think logically, good research skills with considerable resources and an ability to work with interesting problems.
Although it was interesting work that diversified my skills and happened to be financially lucrative, I cannot say it was the ideal fit for a person with over twenty-years experience in strength and conditioning that primarily worked with younger and more athletic populations.
I failed to accurately market myself, and further I allowed misrepresentation to continue to a point where professional burnout could occur.
I could shift blame to sales staff all I want,the fact is I failed to see a potential issue before it happened and failed to take control. Failure is an opportunity to grow.
The outcomes since taking ownership have been positive across the board.
Being fair,despite gaining greater education and practical experience, post-rehab and geriatric training still isn’t the best fit for me. That said,I do enjoy having the ability to work with a wide-swath of humanity and post-rehab/pre-hab skills are essential to any population group, and our general population isn’t getting younger or stronger.
I now serve my clients even better than I ever could previously. My process of training post-rehab clients has changed considerably and I’ve continued to expand my knowledge. I greatly enjoy having full control of the clients I work with, or don’t work with.
The questions preceding my screen as part of the health history are very easy to apply and help drive my decisions. (3)
- Is the client over 55yrs old? If yes, are they an active athlete?
- Is the client over 300lbs? If yes, are they an active athlete?
- Is the client in pain? If yes, is it chronic or acute?
If the client is over 55, over 300lbs or in pain (and NOT an active athlete) then to the Dr they go for a medical release and any warning orders. If they refuse then I don’t take on the client. I presently only have one client over age 55 and none over 300lbs that are not athletes.
When you do not control your own marketing someone else will. What they market may or may not work best for you or be in the clients best interest, and could eventually lead to professional burnout. Taking control and ownership of ones marketing can change that.
(1) Uncertified Trainers aren’t automatically the worst thing out there. The truth is the common Personal Training certification hasn’t really been around that long and certification, or even a degree by itself does not confer qualification. Unlike a degree, which does stand the test of time, Certified Personal Trainer certifications must be renewed every 1-4 years (depending on the agency) by completing a minimum number of continuing education hours. I have personally seen trainers presenting certifications that lapsed years ago and still present themselves as “Certified.” There is also the fact that a high number of gyms will hire anyone that literally will hire anyone that “looks the part” as a trainer. This drives prices (and quality) down.
(2) I have respect for Physical Therapists and recognize where my scope of practice sits relative theirs. That said the people selling Personal Training packages don’t know, or don’t care. They especially didn’t like it when I turned clients away when their training needs were well above my capability or scope of practice.
(3) Credit goes to Dan John. I highly recommend any of his books or seminars to any Coach.