5 differences between being a coach and a personal trainer

October 4, 2016

I knew a couple years ago that I wanted to work in the fitness industry. I knew that my heart belonged in a place where I could change lives through fitness but I didn’t really know where to begin. I was a journalism major treading unfamiliar territory so I took the first logical step—becoming a certified personal trainer. I studied for about six months and passed a test but I felt like the only thing that proved was that I was good at studying and taking tests. I didn’t feel qualified to give anyone training advice or a workout that would help them reach their goals. Sure, I was a “personal trainer” but I wasn’t a coach.  



Here at Force, I have learned what it truly means to be a coach. I have learned that being someone’s coach stems far deeper than telling them to do “3 sets of 12 reps of a goblet squat to the corner of a box with their knees out, chest up and sitting back into their heels.” It stems farther than giving someone a piece of paper with a list of 10 exercises to complete in an hour, hoping they know what each exercise is. It stems farther than throwing someone onto a machine and walking away for ten minutes. Anyone can do that, but it’s the coach that can change a life. It’s the coach that can take a timid middle school athlete and turn them into a super star or who can take the average man or woman from sedentary and full of health issues to active and full of life. I don’t coach because I’m a “personal trainer,” I coach because I want to help everyone become the best versions of themselves and here at Force that’s what we strive to do.


We aren’t just training, we are coaching and these are the five biggest differences between the two:


1. We don’t just count your reps


On the rare occasion I find myself somewhere other than Force, I can’t help but observe how other trainers coach their clients. As I was working out over July 4th weekend at a gym in my hometown, I watched as a trainer was coaching about 3-4 clients and would simply tell one client to use one machine as he counted their reps then walked away and told another to use a different machine—all with bad form and all on machines that put the body in positions that were not safe. Coaches don’t just count reps—they critique form, encourage clients, and make the sessions fun. Clients should be able to count their own reps and coaches should be worried about all the other technical things that are going on in the movement—the much more important stuff and the stuff the client is paying for. If you need to pay someone to count your reps then you need much more than a personal trainer.


2. We empower clients to be independent


Coaches should be providing clients with things that they can’t provide for themselves and I think we should all be thankful for a place like Force that believes this. We don’t throw our clients on machines—we are giving our clients the ability to use the greatest machine of all—their body. Once our clients can use that, they don’t need us anymore and we can only hope for that day when we merely become the support system instead of the crutch and we can rejoice with our clients as they walk out of our doors crushing every goal they ever had for themselves whether it be in fitness or not.


3. We learn just as much from the client as the client learns from us


I think one of the coolest things about the relationship between the client and the coach is just how much each learns from the other. The coach knows everything about a world the client knows nothing about—fitness. And clients from all different stages of life, occupations, ages, genders, and life goals come to coaches and are able to share so much knowledge about their world. I have learned far more about things I never thought I had an interest in because I have met so many different people with so many different backgrounds. They have opened my eyes to a world beyond fitness, which helps me do my job better. We aren’t just in the business of fitness, we are in the business of changing lives, and in order to do that we have to understand our clients’ current life.


4. The relationship stems farther than the four walls of the gym


Force is a family, a community, and a group of friends that permeates farther than the four walls of the gym. We have groups of trekkers, accountability groups and lifting groups who all push each other to grow stronger both physically and mentally. Just as we want to learn about clients’ life outside the gym, we want to be a part of it. We host field days, charity activities and outings that all help us to continue building relationships with our clients and watching them grow. I never thought I would stay in Bloomington a minute after I graduated from IU, but I have found a family in the clients that I coach and the people that I work with that I don’t want to leave.


5. We CARE


Ultimately what it comes down to is the fact that we care. I truly believe that in order to grow as an individual it’s not about what you take but what you give to others. We hurt when our clients hurt, we are frustrated when our clients are frustrated and we are happy when our clients are happy. We become just as invested in our client’s journey through fitness as they are and we always want them to know we are with them every step of the way because fitness is hard—no one should have to figure it out alone.


So we aren’t just personal trainers—we are friends, we are teammates and most importantly we are COACHES.

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March 31, 2018

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