My Three Mistakes as a Trainer


“There is no such thing as bad students. Only bad teacher.” ~Mr. Miyagi

Exceptional teachers inspire students to become better than the teachers.

If you ask 100 managers in a room who work for different companies, “Why do you do what you do,” 90 percent of them would reply, “I want to make more money.” If you ask 100 personal trainers in a room the same question, 90 percent of them would say, “I want to help people.” Most people who enter professional generally are good-willed and value health and physical fitness. They want to help others achieve a healthier lifestyle so that they do not have to suffer from diseases, depression, and physical pain. However, many trainers in the profession often start off in the wrong foot with the wrong mentors. No matter how much good faith they have in them, poor training, education, and professionalism can cause their clients to have injuries and discouragement.

I have worked in the fitness industry since September 2001, one week after the 9/11 attack. Since then, I have learned much from other fitness professionals, such as dealing with angry managers, working with clients who have poor posture, and listening to understand rather than listening to respond. I have learned from inspiring leaders in our industry as well as those who led with very poor examples. I have worked with clients who had a difficult time getting results and those who had thanked me every week for the service that I was performing.

I made three big mistakes in my fitness career. If you are a fitness or rehabilitative professional, I am sure that you can think of at least three mistakes you have done, and I hope you have learned from them to avoid repeating them.

Muscles Instead of Movements

Ab exercise won't make your tummy firmer or help you slug a home run.

When I started weight-lifting classes at Palomar College in 1996, I was taught to train muscles. In my certification course and hands-on training in 2001-2002, I was taught also to train muscles. However, training a muscle to get bigger in one-dimension from a fixed position does not necessarily mean that you will become stronger, faster, or move better. Doing a bench press or a leg press does not does not improve your ability to push your opponent away from you in jiu-jitsu or squat better.

Fire Your Core

No more planks...unless they want to.

I taught my clients to “fire their core” by sucking their abs in and engage their pelvic floor muscles. However, the core is a reflexive mechanism that requires no conscious work. Your core, which includes all muscles and fasciae in your torso, spine, hip, and parts of your upper thighs, are constantly working when you exercise or play sports. It keeps your body in alignment and in balance while your body moves in various directions. Therefore, core training by isolating the abdominal region is not the best way to improve core function. You need to incorporate your entire body to engage, preferably in the standing, striding, or kneeling positions.

It’s About Me

When meeting new clients for the first time, I used to talk about myself a lot. My focus was divided between focusing on the clients and focusing on what I was going to say next. I kept doing this until I read a book called, “Endless Referrals” by Bob Burg, who taught me listening and communication skills. When I do speak, it should be related to their concerns, their problems, and their goals. If my clients do ask me about my personal life, I would usually keep it brief—unless I know them very, very well.

I would like to thank Anthony Carey of Function First for starting this self-improvement journey back in November 2003; Rodney Corn of PTA Global for his guidance through some difficult decisions; Gray Cook and Lee Burton for challenging my pre-conception of fitness and movement; Andrea Dietzen for reminding me why I shouldn’t work for somebody again; Josh Mello for getting me started in the field; Dan Boe from Inner Fire Presentations for reminding me to “listen to understand rather than listen to respond;” and fellow Toastermasters in UTC for helping me to become a better speaker and listener!

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