Barefoot running, fasted cardio, when to eat carbs… the fitness world is awash with videos, articles, podcasts and webinars on just about every controversial topic you could think of, and we've all seen the social media debates (in some cases all out wars) on some of them.
For those of you who like doing your research and staying on top of current thinking, it can get very confusing with so much information, often contradictory, flowing into your inbox and Twitter feed on a daily basis.
While the internet has provided an open forum for anyone to give their opinion, it’s the established experts that actually give us the real headaches. When an authority figure you respect has a seemingly differing view to another, or takes a stance that conflicts with what you believe, you’re left thinking ‘who’s right?’ Up until a few years ago I too often felt overwhelmed by the confusion. Then I realised 3 things which took the stress out of it and actually inspired me to become a better trainer. Here they are:
- It’s a good thing to be made to think
The PTs that aren't bothered by all the new information available are those that haven’t changed their practices since they started, be that 5, 10 or 20 years ago. Sure, there are some fundamentals that have been universally agreed for years - and if what you do works, stick with it - but there’s a difference between that and sticking your head in the sand when it comes to anything new. I know I sometimes cringe at some of the methods and approaches I used with clients before I knew better. The differences that exist force you to question why you do one thing and not another, and that makes you more credible.
- No one knows all the answers
There are some incredibly knowledgeable PTs, coaches, researchers and authors out there, true leaders in their specialist fields whose opinions I value greatly. But even they would the first to admit they don’t know it all. The best teachers are still students, constantly learning and developing, so all they can ever pass on is what they believe to be ‘correct’ right now. What is fact today might be disproven tomorrow, so the best course of action is to take all views on board and make your own decision about what you believe to be the best option at the current time. Humans have an in-built need to be consistent, but when we accept we are allowed to change our minds it takes the pressure off.
It also means you are perfectly entitled to come up with your own approaches, based on your experience and research. You may blend certain techniques from one school of thought with those from another which produces great results for your clients, and that’s hugely rewarding and motivating. Indeed, that’s how many of the world’s top trainers got to be so successful themselves!
- Experts’ clients are different to yours
This is probably the most important one. When we read a well-respected source’s thoughts about 'carb-cycling' or how you should be able to deadlift 150kg, it’s tempting to believe we should apply these theories to ourselves and our clients.
But take a step back. They’re not always talking to you and your clients.
The experts are experts because they have become specialists at what they do. They work with (or are themselves) a specific type of person, with specific goals, and they will quite rightly talk mainly about what they know best. That’s why you don’t see world-renowned bodybuilders discussing physical activity interventions for heart disease patients, or leading triathlon coaches giving their opinion on how best to place tension on the biceps to make them grow. Their articles, posts and podcasts are aimed squarely at people in their target market.
This is particularly relevant if you have different goals to those of your clients. We naturally gravitate towards what we are interested in ourselves and so if you’re fascinated by how best to develop each head of your triceps, it’s easy to forget that your beginner client looking to lose a moderate amount of abdominal fat probably doesn't need six different arm exercises in their programme.
How do we summarise all of this? Quite simply by saying what we've always known: one size doesn't fit all. Every client not only has different goals, but different physiology and psychology. So everything you know could be right or wrong for whoever your working with. If there was a single way of doing everything, from nutrition, to programme design, to exercise performance, for every client, all trainers would be exactly the same and that would be a very bland world.
Paul Swainson is Head of the Future Fit School of Personal Training, a role to which he brings over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. Having run his own personal training business and worked as a PT manager and tutor for some of the UK’s leading brands, his aim with the School of PT is to provide the next generation of fitness professionals with all the support and resources they need for a successful career