Personal trainers, by nature, care about helping others. We work hard to help our clients get healthier, fitter and leaner. When they need a push, we push! When they need someone to lean on, we provide support. When we sense that they are overdoing it and are nearing burnout, we help them to get perspective, focus on long-term goals and recover to the point where they start to achieve new levels of success. At times, we shift the focus from work to play. Most trainers believe that fitness should, at some level, be enjoyable, if not actually fun. When it gets too much like work, we change things up. I have played games on many occasions with clients that needed some mental stimulation and a break from the grind of regular, long-term workouts.
We talk to clients about taking much-needed breaks, scheduling down-time, sleeping enough, eating regularly and rewarding themselves for jobs well done. While being great at looking after others, many of us will do so at our own expense. When trying to "make it," we often work hours that are too long, ignore hunger signals, allow others to dictate our schedules and we feel guilty when we take time off for a job well done!
If your goal is to become a true professional with a long-term career, then it is an absolute must that you learn how to be good to yourself. It is likely that you are in great shape and eat healthfully, but you're still human! Just like you ask your clients to strive for balance in their lives, you need to do the same. If you can achieve balance, you will not only reap the rewards, you will serve as a great role model for the people that you are trying to influence.
Perhaps the most difficult skill that I have had to master in the years that I have been a full-time personal trainer is the ability to achieve balance in my work life and in my personal life. A great way to do this is to look at your life in regards to three distinct areas: the physical, the emotional and the spiritual.
Your physical well-being really comes down to how you move and how you eat. Challenge your body with strength and endurance exercises in appropriate amounts that change over time, and learn to eat in a way that is supportive of your goals in the moment. Learn to step back and look at yourself like you would a client. I sometimes will even write out my goals and go through the "interview" that I would do with a client to identify just what I need to do at any given time.
Emotional health will be dependent upon your ability to manage stress and to channel it in useful ways. There are a couple of things that a trainer (or any professional) can do to accomplish this. The most important is to take control of your schedule. Decide when you work, when you don't and when you "might" if the payoff is great enough.
Lastly, it is important that you look after your spiritual health and well-being. Owning your time and finding your work personally rewarding is important but only part of the equation. Look beyond work to your personal, family and social life. It is so easy to get immersed in work to the point that it becomes you. Your job is not you, and you are not your job; it is a tool to achieve the life you want. Get a hobby, find outside interests, do things you like, and make time for yourself.
As a caring professional, you can't help anyone if you are not well yourself. Take the time to stay fresh, inspired and motivated. Take your own advice; be good to yourself, and watch your career and self-satisfaction take off.
Ernie Schramayr is an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer and the owner of All Canadian Fitness, a private training studio in Hamilton, Ontario (