Them: “So were you a gymnast, or a sprinter?”
Me: (Hearty Laugh) “Neither, I’m a stiff biff and move at the speed of a tectonic plate”
Truth time, I enjoy the programs offered through GMB (1) and am not the worst sprinter in the world thanks to Training for Warriors level 2. My stiff biff and tectonic plate comparisons are a bit off and looking like a gymnast or sprinter certainly isn’t the worst look (or more importantly, physical abilities) to have at any age.
In the eyes of a gym goer and a coach that didn’t previously know me, I “looked the part” of a person that was/is one or the other. While I am not without some skill in teaching bodyweight strength training or improving sprinting form, I don’t consider myself an expert in either. There are other coaches that fill that need and its good to have them on speed dial. I gladly refer business their way and only ask that they return my texts. (2)
I didn’t look the part of a Powerlifter, much less a coach that happens to teach the Powerlifts (Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift and their variations) What were they expecting? The classic big guy with a power gut that gets out of breath eating third lunch? While there is some truth to the stereotype, it is not representative of all Powerlifters. One visit to Powerlifting meet will prove that fact when you see the lighter weight classes compete.
Mind you, I genuinely liked these people at first meeting, and I can fully understand their perception, especially since I had just dropped off a horizontal bar working on lever holds.
On one side is what the trainer looks like. On the other is what they are actually capable of doing, and how well they do it. While I believe a balance can be achieved, I favor the side of ability.
I can reasonably speculate the entire “Looking the part” thing stems from three major sources; (a) Gym Bro’s that look particularly impressive and won’t take advice from anyone that doesn’t look MORE impressive than they do. (b) Trainers that look a certain way, and believe that no trainer that looks otherwise is qualified to lend an opinion. (c) The general publics belief that the better the trainer looks, the better they are at training other people.
Speaking on behalf of the Gym Bro’s, I’ve observed a small gradual shift in this line of thinking, and that a percentage of serious Bro’s will seek qualified information regardless of what the source looks like. They live in a world of results, if a smaller or fatter trainer can get the results they’re seeking, they will listen.
Older trainers can swing either way and be viewed as being either highly knowledgeable or not in touch with modern training science. As an older trainer myself I will state that wisdom (in training) does not always accompany age.
Possibly BroScience on my behalf, but based on observations I’ve found many of the trainers that overstate the importance of a trainers appearance tend to lack in other areas. I can’t fault them for playing their strengths, but applying that thinking broadly is illogical.
As a trainer, especially one that deals with the general population, I can understand that overweight or underweight trainers finding themselves at a disadvantage in terms of perceived credibility. This can be professionally overcome, however it can be an uphill battle.
I believe the worst-case scenario would be a trainer that doesn’t look the part and cannot perform the part either. Having seen this firsthand, my standing advice in this is if the trainer is serious about this profession, they need to hire a trainer of their own (ideally more than one) and spend a year in the trenches learning the craft.
(1) My testimonial for GMB: https://gmb.io/reviews/#is
(2) Sprinting Education: https://primalspeed.com/events/