It seems like everyone wants to become a personal trainer these days - even Davina McCall has announced it's her goal for 2018. But how do you decipher between the fitness enthusiasts and the true professionals? Here, trusted fitness expert and Global Nike ambassador Joslyn Thompson-Rule tells us what it takes to become a real expert in an increasingly busy arena
The huge health boom over the last few years has meant that anyone and everyone considers themselves a wellness professional these days (or wants to be one - see Davina McCall's latest pledge to qualify this year ), especially in the world of personal training. You probably follow some on Instagram – women (and men) who don’t have a nugget of a qualification but who go to the gym every day and post endless selfies of their abs and protein shakes on Instagram. Don’t be fooled - just because someone has a 100,000 strong following doesn’t mean they are dishing out the best advice; in fact some of the best personal trainers we know have relatively small followings.
One person who is passionate about promoting professionalism in world of fitness is Personal Trainer and Sports Therapist Joslyn Thompson-Rule . In fact she is so passionate about maintaining standards that she set up the Women in Fitness Summit in 2017 , an event aimed at industry experts as well as consumers which will bring together some of the best experts she can find.
Here Joslyn explains what sets apart the pros from the pretenders...
How did you become a personal trainer?
I got a flavour for coaching when I coached the novices of the ladies rowing club at university and loved seeing their progress throughout the season, it was so satisfying, and that sort of started the journey. I then went to Premier and did a three month, full time course in personal training and sports therapy. Premiergloball.co.uk.
What's your background in the industry so far?
I started off at a personal training studio in 2003 as well as assisting football physios for two seasons. I opened my own personal training studio in 2007 and ran that for five years. During that time I started working with Nike and now I am one of their Global Master Trainers, educating trainers worldwide, consulting on products and events, and working on their ad campaigns both in front of and behind the camera. I currently see a small number of private clients; online programmes for individuals and CrossFit athletes; consult with brands on fitness; and mentor coaches and fitness enthusiasts.
How has the industry changed for you over the years?
I am very enthusiastic about encouraging people into fitness, however because of social media we have lately become very visual in what fitness looks like and unfortunately training knowledge and experience seems to be at the bottom of the pile (with buzzwords, hashtags and ad shots being at the top).
And whilst it’s great that there are more places than ever to workout than ever before, people go to a class and don’t know if it’s good for them or not. I find that people are addicted to the high of a HIIT class, and it may actually be doing them damage or injury. Therefore I’m really interested in putting the professionalism back in fitness.
What qualifications do you need to be a personal trainer?
Class instructors or Fitness instructors need to have a level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing, whilst personal trainers need to have a Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training from a reputable company.
What else will set you apart as a trainer and increase your knowledge?
I always think it’s a good idea to have some kind of sports therapy such as massage therapy, a biomechanics course, or a Mayofascial release course (or some other type of rehab or prehab course) added onto that. If you know how your body moves and how it functions, then it really deepens your knowledge of the body. In my mind the recovery/ rehabilitation side of fitness is as important as the training itself.
Are there any qualities you can’t teach?
Personal skills – I’ve seen some talented people throw away great opportunities by ruining relationships with clients.
What would you suggest doing once qualified as a PT?
You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. My suggestion is to work in gym for a couple of years and to shadow or observe any great trainers you aspire to be like – the good trainers will be happy to mentor people. Those first two years are very precious, the golden years, so you must use them to learn as much as you possibly can.
If you get to take a class, my advice would be to ask people in to give you feedback so you have some guidance. Also I would do 1-2 courses a year to enhance your knowledge of fitness and the human body, and I would test things out on yourself – be your own lab rat as it were!
What in your mind sets apart the pros from the enthusiasts?
For me, it’s the knowledge and the hands-on experience. You need hands-on experience with lots of people and you need to use the science rather than base your career on hashtags. Every time you have a new client you learn new things, so you will still be experimenting as every case is different, but you will also build the tools in your tool box to manage anything that’s thrown at you.
Any advice when trying to navigate the wealth of fitness information on the internet?
Don’t trust what you’re looking at on the internet. Sometimes I will spend hours looking for a video of a move on YouTube that I want to show a client and I just won’t be able to find the correct technique.
Who inspires you?
Clients that make progress: an elderly gentleman I trained told me he could tie his shoelaces for the first time in years. That inspires me.
What is fitness to you in one sentence?
An avenue through which you get to know yourself and your capabilities, both mentally and physically, throughout every stage of your life.
What inspired the Women in Fitness Summit?
My life involves a lot of fitness trainers and clients coming to me and saying they are lost. I’m really interested in putting the professionalism back into fitness and giving trainers a guide from really experienced professionals about how to run a business, and conduct yourself in this industry. For consumers I want to draw people away from the bright lights and help them understand what good training is.
Words of wisdom to the potential personal trainers of tomorrow?
There are lots of personal trainers whose lives are Instagram buzz words, hashtags and good looks on Instagram. It’s your responsibility as a fitness professional not to put anything out there that can be misinterpreted.
Advice for wannabe trainers?
Seek to work at a space where you will learn from those around you. The first couple of years are all about getting experience, you want as much support as you can get during this time. Don’t worry about finding a niche early on, I still consider myself to be very much a generalist, I like it that way - it challenges me to continue learning both from mentors, my clients and most importantly, my mistakes (lessons).
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