If I were to ask you, “What are you?” you might look at me a little strangely and reply “a person,” “a woman” or maybe “a personal trainer,” “fitness professional” or even “success coach.” The point is that the industry of personal training is still relatively young. As it has evolved and expanded, it has become less and less clear exactly what a personal trainer is.

At one point in our evolution, trainers were the exclusive “property” of the rich and famous. Hollywood stars and high-profile athletes (maybe) used trainers to get into shape for specific roles or to take their games to the next level. “Regular” people went to the gym alone or used the floor staff at the gym for advice. Magazines featuring the routines of professional bodybuilders were also a prime source of training information for newcomers and veterans looking for an edge. Eventually, it became difficult to separate the hype from reality, and in the end, it really was a crapshoot if you didn’t have a qualified, certified professional on your side.

Lately, the tide has turned and it seems like everyone has a personal trainer. Seniors, injured people, overweight, underweight, performers, musicians, executives, housewives and even doctors seek our advice on a regular basis. Because of this, it might feel like you need to be everything to everyone. In my career, I have worked with a 93-year-old gentleman in a nursing home as well as a 14-year-old elite hockey goalie. Last month, I wrote about pushing your boundaries and getting outside of your comfort zone, and, believe me, having a diverse clientele will do it!

While I was working with my clients at each extreme, the thought that I was spreading myself too thin was always in the back of my mind. I was part trainer, part companion, part nurse, part babysitter and part drill sergeant. Quite a combination! The one thing, however, that I never lost sight of, was that I was a personal trainer. Too many of us shy away from this label because of society’s perception of what a personal trainer does and what they represent. I think it is well past time that we take the label back with pride and create a new association that places us on a pedestal alongside all of the professionals that come to us for advice, guidance, motivation and, ultimately, results.

As a professional personal trainer, you should find your niche and work hard to establish yourself within it. If you want to work only with athletes, go for it. Your specialty could be body transformations or even helping seniors become more independent. Be the best you can be at your particular discipline, but don’t ever lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day, all of our clients want results. My 93-year-old client, Ed, was just as excited when he could get to the cafeteria by himself as my young goalie, Mike, was when he got his first shutout.

Behave like a professional. Be proud of what you do, and when people ask, “What are you?” tell them that you are a personal trainer.

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