It begins when one feels the power of transformation. This can happen in a cold garage while doing push-ups on the concrete where the 97' Camry leaks oil or in a gym supplied with three years worth of eucalyptus-infused towels.
This journey is usually fueled with utter irrationality to become an example of physical excellence. Unbeknownst to the journeyman, the path turns out to be more than a physical pursuit.
Telling your friends and family about the decision to lift weights slightly more seriously than your Uncle Phil - Uncle Phil has as set of 25 lb dumbells in his living room and never fails to talk about his workouts while nursing his 8th Hennessy - is like trying to teach your dog how to use the laptop. Sometimes, it's not even worth the effort.
Pivoting the conversation to something with less mental investment is often usually the outcome. Light gossip, Ma's cooking or mainstream sports are good. Politics are off limits unless you're ready to detonate a small bomb.
Being a journeyman implies that one is good but not yet excellent. Therefore, even in the face of confusion from the social circle, one must press on. You can spot a journeyman easily: Daily training, diligent meal prep, and a dogged thirst to learn are all traits among them.
This march of industrious continues for some time. And then, the journeyman arrives at their goal. The entrance feels strangely thrilling and perhaps a nervous energy starts to weave through the veins.
Here is what lingers through the mind at this stage: "What happens next?"
This dilemma is clearly only understood by those who have experienced it.
At this point, one looks back at where they started and where they have arrived and now think, "I've learned a few things. I can teach others how to do it too."
This decision - going from a person who trains on their own to becoming a personal trainer - carries more weight than one might think. I only know because I underestimated the load myself. To the untrained eye, all it takes is telling people what you did and then proceed to shove that plan down their throat. Well. It's a little more layered than that, it turns out.
In order to be a personal trainer, you have to become reverent. Otherwise, it's a goat rodeo. You start selling tickets to a show that only benefits the host. People sniff this out quickly these days - and they also figure out that goats aren't that fun to watch after the initial disbelief.
Let's imagine the world where reverence has vanished, like a once roaring river that has dried up. Now, all that's left is a terrain without respect for one another. It's a sea of beings incapable of emotion. It's a total absence of connection.
When a personal trainer relies solely on systems to train their client, this is what it feels like: Distant. Cold. Numeric. It's a total absence of connection.
This aspect is woefully overlooked when one is flirting with the idea of becoming a personal trainer. Of course one must know their textbook knowledge of the craft. However, communicating and connecting with humans is arguably just as important. Here's why: It's not about you anymore.
When you enter a relationship agreeing to guide someone to find the answers for themselves, you shake on the fact that you are going to be selfless. This is an 180-degree turn from when you are training yourself, alone.
The lack of warmth is why people hire personal trainers. Sure, people want to be healthier, lose weight, gain muscle, perform better or whatever. But, they also want to be cared for. They want attention, not because they are narcissistic, but because they rarely get it otherwise.
And when humans don't get the warmth that they are designed to consume, they are vulnerable to other avenues: Violence, substance abuse, consumerism.
This is our goal as personal trainers: To give people the warmth they want while delivering the service they invest in.
Essentially, this is learning how to pay attention. And when the journeyman realizes this, they move from a systems-based approach to a conscious-based approach. A coaching style where the individual precedes the methods in order to find what works best for their needs. It's an intentional dethroning of rigged, scripted teaching.
While the term personal trainer will never have the sharpness of title of say a doctor, or venture capitalist, I do believe it's one of the most important positions in the next few decades. I pen that because the position allows for human connection in a world where distance is increasing.
People are scattering on how to figure out how to thrive in this new age. The hustle is catching up and at some point, they turn for help. They will want a plan. They will get it. However, what they mostly need but aren't aware of is someone to talk to, someone who will listen, and someone who actually cares.
So this the choice: Do you continue to train for yourself or do you turn back and start offering help to others? The trouble is that there isn't an absolute answer. It's a terrifically subjective question.
Offering yourself as a personal trainer with no interest to help others is like a trying to become a lawyer but having no appetite for confrontation or detail.
This is not an attempt to corner you into fear. Rather, it's highlighting the wonderful opportunity to serve people. Happily, when service is done genuinely, the giver is nourished just as much as the receiver.
To be a good personal trainer - or any form of the craft - you not only have to train often and eat well, you also have to care about people a great deal.
This is what I am learning - it's also what I had no clue of when I used to do push-ups in my parent's garage where the 97' Camry faithfully leaked her oil.