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  • Clem Duranseaud

9 things I learned as a trainer over the last 10 years

10 things I learned as a trainer in Vancouver

Working as a personal trainer has been such a fun ride so far and has given me insights beyond the scope of my degree and certification. Here is a brief overview of points that where not taught in my formal education which I wished I new earlier.

1. Community is key (more than consistency) 

A gym/studio’s community englobes all of it’s trainers and staff but also all of the people that frequent it. The most successful studios and gyms I’ve seen succeed all placed considerable efforts into creating a pleasant and positive atmosphere.


What I’ve noticed is that people that find these communities enjoyable are more likely to be more consistent going there and achieving their desired results.

As a trainer working in a gym with other coaches, I didn’t realize this at first. I would focus solely on my client’s time at the gym and didn’t think there were other things I could do to make their time more enjoyable. 

Once the importance of community hit me, I started doing things differently.

One of the first thing I did with newer clients was to introduce them to whoever worked at the front desk. On top of that, slowly introducing them to other trainers created a place in which they not only knew me, but the rest of the staff. 

I’m fully aware that when a client came to see me, it wasn’t because they wanted to be part of that gym or studio, but I always made a point of subtly making them part of the community.   

2. Finding your style and sticking to it is important

This point was brought up a few times when I started but I never paid too much attention to it until much later.

Starting out as a trainer can be tough, it’s hard to get new clients, not all of the new ones stick around and it can be tempting to please everyone that comes your way.

Unfortunately (at least for me), whenever I attempted to mold my style to a certain individual, I never produced my best job. This led to disappointing sessions for the client, who inevitably would go elsewhere.

What I learned with time is that even though not everyone will enjoy your style, most will remember it. And as long as the interpersonal rapport was good, they will most likely tell someone about it when the opportunity arises.

I started getting more referrals once I stopped trying to please everyone and focused on my style of training more intently.

3. Protecting your energy - how many hours to work per week

It took me 7 years to get this one right.

In a job that demands energy, protecting and nurturing that energy is vital. It’s easier to be upbeat and engaging when you only work 25 hours a week versus 50 hours or more. (I refer to hours worked as appointments only. I am not including all the extra work trainers have to do like all admin tasks, program building, out of gym coaching and marketing)

When we start out as trainers (as with any professions I imagine), we have to spend considerable time and energy getting our name out there, learning the ropes of the business and establishing ourself.

Spending a couple years doing 50 appointments and more, on top of all other admin tasks, is normal and usually required. But once I hit my stride, I really wished I would have eased back on the numbers of weekly appointments. 

Once again, I noticed a difference in quality of my services once I took the time to recharge my energy better.

4. Grow with your clients

You clients will only get as good as you can get them. For some that’s more than enough, some will demand more. 

You may have a good idea of what kind of ongoing education you want to do in the next few months, even next few years, but often time, it will be dictated by your client’s needs.

Clients that stick with you on the long term enjoy your style of training. Listening to them can help you as a trainer further develop your training style in a way that resonates with you and is beneficial to those you train.

5. Working with a trainer helped me see things differently

I originally worked with a trainer to help me fix some pain issues and also learn new techniques. What I got from it ended up being so much more than that. 

I quickly noticed things I loved about working with a trainer: not having to worry about programming, not having to decide which weights I was lifting on a certain day, all the things I took for granted at first.

If I enjoyed those small details, surely my clients would also enjoy them. I made a mental note about everything I enjoyed and made sure I was doing those with my own clients.

I've worked with three different trainers, and all of them gave me valuable lessons. On top of great experience, working with other people in your field can help you see things you may have overlooked.

6. The 3 month rule

From a client adhesion perspective, I personally found that anyone who trains with me for 3 months straight has a better chance of staying on as a long term client.

This was important to know at the beginning of my career where most of my new clients came through marketing or distant referrals (distant referrals are those coming from a person that does not train with you: your brother’s friend referred his friend because he knows you’re a trainer).

This means to me as a trainer that I typically have at least 3 months to train/educate/explain everything the client has asked for.

For the majority of cases, 3 months is a copious amount of time to impart appropriate information. The typical frame work goes something along those lines:

Month 1: assessment, going over all physical basis, which movements cause issues, best way to go about them, which movements are best for the desired outcome. Give homework to get good at the main movements or corrective exercises.

Month 2: continuing on with month 1 efforts and add the nutrition basics. Food journaling for a week or two depending on how that is received.

Month 3: adding more complex concepts such as workout tracking, automating progression and teaching people how to do this on their own.

My goal is to get people to the three month mark to a place where they could either completely stop coming to see me, or drastically reduce the amount of times they come to see me.

Since results typically materialize after 3 months, this is when people will make the decision to either continue training with you, or not.

Either way, the most important thing to me as a trainer is that A. They can continue with a more in depth knowledge of the ins and outs of fitness and B. Had a good time over the past three months.

7. Leading by example is a good start, up to a point

Starting out as a trainer, the best marketing tools available to you is how you look and what you do with your body. (This changes once you have more experience).

Trainers involved in a certain sport will most likely attract people who are also active in the same sport. People who want to look a certain way will gravitate towards certain trainers.

This works up to a point, because any trainer with an ounce of knowledge can get you to your desired results in 3-6 months. What happens after that?

The toughest aspect of leading by example is the difference in preferences about training in the long term. Here’s what I mean:

10 years ago, I loved squatting, deadlifting, lifting weight, eating broccolis, chicken and rice.

Today I love squatting, deadlifting, lifting weight, eating broccolis, chicken and rice.

In 10 years, I am 99% certain that I will love squatting, deadlifting, lifting weight, eating broccolis, chicken and rice.

Now, I am aware that not everyone shares that monotonous endearment towards repetitive exercise and cruciferous vegetables.

Once you get to know your clients (which can take varying amounts of time depending on the person), you need to find out what drives them in the long term. This can be tricky because we don’t usually know what influences that internal drive.

If you were to ask me why I love doing those exercises and eating blend and boring foods, I would tell you it’s because it makes me feel good. It would take a little longer to come down to the true motivation which would be closer along the lines of “it’s a way to keep up my knowledge about training and all its related sciences, as well as my best effort to keep me doing things I love such as hiking, skiing, exploring for a long time because I want to be able to do those things with my kids.”

This can generally be described to as getting to someone’s “why”. Getting to the true “why” requires trust and patience, and once you get there, you can truly align your skills with your client’s training needs in a very specific manner.

8. Take the time to find CECs that you like

CEC = Continuating Education Credits.

In my 10 years of training, no one, NO ONE, has ever asked me what certifications I have.

The immediate implication is that as a new trainer, you don’t really have to worry about which CECs you do.

The more nuanced aspect is that it is up to you to choose CECs that will help you develop your own unique style and then continuously express that evolving style.

As mentioned earlier, your own unique training style is what distinguishes you as a trainer. Since your style is intently linked to your preferences, the main outlines of your style won’t change much. It is the details of your style that will set you apart and it is the details that should be improved as you continue working as a trainer.

It is those details that should be developed through the CECs that you choose. 

9. Referrals are the best marketing tool for trainers

The best thing about a referral is the fact that they already know all the info they want to know: your style, your personality and your price. 

Since those are usually the defining factors for people to decide wether or not they train with you, you can be relatively sure than when a referral client starts with you, they will stick with you for a while. 

When you start out, you have to rely on less efficient means of marketing which is fine and normal. But once you get to a point of “referral’s only” type of onboarding, life changes a bit.

It’s worth noting that the best referrals are those that come without you asking for them. When you do your job properly, people will know wether or not they have a friend that would benefit from your service. 

These are all things I wished I knew when I was starting out, they currently help me be my best version as a trainer, and I am curious to see what other things I will learn in the next 10 years!

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30 בדצמ׳ 2023
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Well done, Clem! I can't believe it's been 10 years already! I am proud of the path you took and how you develop along this path.

31 בדצמ׳ 2023
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Thanks! Its been super fun and it keeps getting better as time goes :D

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