Often overlooked supporters of adult learning, gyms and leisure centres are non-formal and informal learning hubs that enable citizens to build physical fitness and sports skills that utilise objective setting principles and goal achievement. The role of a personal trainer is to support clients in achieving these goals, whether they be to develop strength and stamina, to lose weight, or to achieve specific goals such as competing in a triathlon. Personal trainers have to consider many different aspects of their clients’ lives in order to deliver the best training programme for them. We spoke to a personal trainer and a swimming instructor about the benefits of a choosing a career in physical training and the more challenging aspects of the job.
What does the job involve?
Lee works as a self-employed personal trainer, which means part of his payment is allocated to the gym to cover costs of use of premises. To recruit new clients, he pays attention to what people are doing in the gym and tries to ascertain what they are hoping to achieve before approaching them.
“You have to sell yourself and being able to work out what someone needs without them telling you shows you know your profession.”
Janine works as a swimming instructor at a leisure centre. She usually runs school swimming sessions, although she also delivers sessions one-to-one and in pairs.
“I teach a lot of school swim groups, but I also teach adult learners and many of them are complete beginners. I have to talk to a lot of different people – children, their parents, their teachers, adult learners and sometimes other fitness coaches who are teaching my clients other sports.”
How do you tailor classes to fit the client?
Lee notes that some clients are scared of being thrown in at the deep end, so it’s important not to make the workout too difficult to start with.
“If you send them home broken after the first session, they aren’t going to want to come back again. For beginners and newbies, you need to take things slow – challenge them, but not so much that they see the gym as a negative.”
For others who are more experienced and have been training for some time, it’s good to push them harder and to show them lots of new moves.
“When someone has been in training before, they will know what makes a good session. Make sure you know what they have trained for, what they are training for now and how you can bring something new and original to their workout. They need to see how you are going to benefit them more than the last trainer.”
Janine can find tailoring a challenge when it comes to younger learners, especially if they are taking one-to-one classes.
“Parents are often the biggest issue when it comes to teaching kids to swim – they want to see immediate results and they aren’t afraid to tell you if they think their child isn’t improving. Some children take more time to learn and putting pressure on them doesn’t help. So I find I want to tailor the class in one way, but I also have to consider the parent’s views and this isn’t always the best approach to teaching. I try to tailor their classes with achievable goals that are communicated to the parent ahead of the class.
When I train adults, it’s easier, because I'm usually able to talk to them about progress without so much pressure. They are more realistic about their goals and more open to trusting my expertise. I will find out if they are total beginners or if they are competent swimmers and trying to improve, and then tailor sessions accordingly.”
Learning the unexpected
Everyone taking sports and fitness classes or personal training sessions is aware they are learning – this is an example of either formal non-formal learning, where the learner is aware that they want to take on specific knowledge; they will either have followed a pre-defined learning strategy and ended the course with a certificate, or they will have left sessions with knowledge they expected to gain – for example, knowing how to carry out a deadlift correctly. But what about all the little informal learning gems to be discovered by gym or swim?
EPALE UK asked staff for their feedback about fitness learning experiences and this is what they said:
Emma: I learned that I can swim well because I don’t turn one of my feet inwards when I kick out doing breast stroke – apparently lots of people do this and it affects how well they swim.
James: You learn more when you go with someone else! And it helps to motivate you. Some people think others will distract you, but I found it was a benefit.
Sara: You need a goal to motivate you! I thought I could just go and work out and keep it up, but you don’t unless you have something to work for. Set yourself goals!
Aisha: When I was doing yoga, the instructor corrected my form. I thought I’d been doing it right for ages, but it turned out I wasn’t! That's something you can't learn without guidance.
Eric: That I need to eat more protein, especially following a session! It helps muscles to repair!
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