Representing you as a brand

With the second Australian Russian Kettlebell Instructors Certification (RKC) being held this past weekend I thought I’d take the time to write a few words to all the trainers out there. This isn’t just for RKCs either, or even for people who just like kettlebell training, but for all personal trainers.

Just like there are many different businesses that cater to every different type of person, there are plenty of ways to be a personal trainer. Some of them may work for others, but there are some that will always work for everyone. What makes it easy for RKCs to figure out how to run their business is that the path has been well trodden by thousands before them, and that we actually even give you a reminder of how to behave on the back of your certificate. It states that as RKCs shall represent both themselves and the RKC with honour and dignity. That we will treat out customers and others we meet with respect and professionalism. To display our strength with modesty and be alright saying “I don’t know” when asked a question we don’t know the answer to. Most importantly it says that we will always seek to continue our learning and education so that we may become even better instructors.

That’s a pretty good starting point if you ask me. No confusion there about some glorious greater good or whether we’re trying to create world peace – just professional instructors who act as decent human beings. That should be the goal of most businesses in my opinion. Obviously, if you work for a big bank, major pharmaceutical company or the government none of those rules apply because the goal for them in their daily work seems to be to act like the biggest assholes possible and give it to everyone around them as hard as possible like it’s their first night in prison. But I digress…

The tricky thing about personal training though is that clients can take on so many forms and psyches that it can be a minefield trying to appeal to your target market. For instance, let’s assume that having done the RKC your business focuses on kettlebell training, like Read Performance Training does, and that the majority of your clients come to you for fat loss. That would be a large percentage of the fitness industry, in terms of the fat loss, and then a special niche for the RKC kettlebell training aspect. So your clients walk in the door expecting to see a lean fat fighting kettlebell expert…are they seeing what they expect to?

I have to say that society as a whole is in worse and worse shape. Standards are lowered across the board from the military to law enforcement and that also trickles down to personal trainers. I can tell you now that the guys and girls I worked with in my first gym were hard bodied studs and studettes. No flabby tummies and no one who didn’t pray at the alter of the squat rack weekly. We all cut our teeth on Arnold and Bruce Lee (even the girls) and it wasn’t unusual for us to train together and really see if we could make each other vomit. I can remember one particular leg session – twenty sets of squats at various weights – that I thought I had survived only to finally pull up outside my house and suddenly realise I needed to get my lunch out of my system immediately, all over the sidewalk, and right almost on my neighbor’s feet as they came by walking their dog. That kind of work environment is hard to find.

But think about your own position as a trainer, role model and leader of fitness to your clients and the world at large. Statistics don’t lie. People can moan about the BMI not being a great measure of many things but the fact is that there is a wealth of research on it and how it correlates to poor health, diabetes, heart disease and many other factors that are tied in with obesity. In Australia (and the USA) the BMI figures show us that roughly sixty percent or two in three adults are overweight or obese. To put this in perspective the cancer statistic in Australia is one in three. I used to think that fat loss training was for trainers who couldn’t figure out how to train people for performance. But looking at the statistics, and at the public health cost of looking after the obese who will ultimately cause far more of a long term strain on our health system, fat loss training IS easily as important as curing cancer. In fact, given that obesity is now classified as a “disease“, as much as I may disagree with it, it makes me wonder what possible role personal trainers have long term in the eyes of health services.

As the front line of obesity treatment – before doctors and dieticians – we need to be setting a positive example for our clients and the rest of society. So let’s ask ourselves two questions:

  • Are we setting a good example? And,
  • If not, how can we do this better?

Like I mentioned above with the different types of businesses we need to acknowledge that different customers will respond differently to different types of trainer. So, as much as it pains me to say it, I have to admit that a super lean, cover model ready trainer may make some people feel incredibly insecure and actually be too much for them to deal with. But this shouldn’t be an excuse for trainers to be slack with their own professional standards. I often tell new trainers when I lecture that you don’t need to be able to run a sub-three hour marathon, or bench press a house, but you need to look like you could run around the block without dying of a massive infarction (just love that word) or that you don’t even know what a bench press is. So when we’re talking about kettlebell trainers and how new clients will be seeking fat loss and toning advice, what we should see is a personal trainer who clearly knows kettlebells well, and can still their toes. I’d even go so far as to say that RKCs should always be able to spot test any of the skills they’ve previously done instantly and pass. If the test weights are too much for you mostly then you have work to do. Likewise if the snatch test induces fear and loathing in you – that is a warm up., nothing more. A hard warm up, for sure, but still just a warm up.

The body shape thing is always a tough thing to speak about. Society has no problem labeling people as cheaters, drug addicts, gamblers…but if you call someone fat or overweight everyone looks at you like you’re a baby killer. I like to keep it simple – if you can’t pass the RKC tests as a trainer at whatever body weight you currently are then you’re probably too heavy. The RKCII tests in particular are a great way to check your strength to weight as well as whether or not you are actually in what would be an optimal range. I’ve seen plenty of heavy guys press some incredible objects and not even be able to do a single pull-up. Perhaps the thing they should really be trying to press is themselves away from the dessert buffet?

The RKC is very much about athleticism. We’re not concerned about the development of only a single athletic quality, but about overall athleticism, and body fat levels are very much a part of them. Not only that but your clients and colleagues, whether you like it or not, will judge you based on your appearance. While that may seem shallow it need to be remembered that the prime reason for people to seek out personal training is vanity and weight loss so that they gain self-esteem back that may have been lost for decades. Why would they go to an unmarried marriage counselor? If your role is to provide fat loss/ kettlebell training then shouldn’t you look like you are on track with your own diet and handle kettlebells with ease? The best way to do that is to work at them constantly. Every day focus on diet and improving your skills as a trainer, both the physical skills of lifting as well as your communication and interpersonal skills.

So beyond acting like a decent human being, make sure to work hard so that your clients will see you leading from the front and follow suit. The world may depend on it.