From PT to PC: The Future of Personal Training

What might the Personal Training industry be like in five years time? Ten or twenty years from now what will PT’s be doing with their clients? Who will be their clients in an aging community? What are the trends of client needs at the moment? What populations are not being serviced at present that could be tapped as new markets for your services? What innovations and new approaches are you going to implement in your business over the next year? What things are working for you and your clients, that you want to remember to do again next week? What are you going to study or do to further your own development as a PT over the next couple of years? Where will your business be in the future?

These questions are important because those personal trainers who are open to the changing needs of their clients, and who innovate and provide leadership in the industry will be among the most successful and the most respected.

Do pause for a few minutes and find your answers to these questions right now.

Predicting the Future
Obviously crystal ball gazing is an uncertain science, however it might be useful to reflect on previous trends in the industry as one way of predicting the future.

Reflect for a moment on the history of personal training. In it’s current form it has a short history, but we could say that most people would agree that physical fitness training has its origins in the military and martial arts going back for thousands of years. We all have memories of watching old war movies with cadets going through boot camp being harangued by the drill sergeant, and seeing them do exercise drills including the star jumps, push ups, sit ups, and so on of what was called callisthenics.

Those old enough will also remember early school days with the PE teacher doing straight leg sit-ups, burpees, and other exercises in the thirty minutes per week allocated to ‘Physical Education’. The 1970’s saw the widespread acceptance of a new form of exercising choreographed to music : Jazzercise and Aerobics. This quickly developed more professionalism with graduates from Human Movement Studies courses bringing their expertise to gymnasiums, (previously restricted to huge, tough, tattooed men), and businessmen looking for a quick buck. Remember those early exercise chains where we all got started in the industry, but the owners of which were really only after the money?

While the collapse of that bubble hurt the industry in the eighties, it resulted in more integrity both in business terms and in providing more professional and widespread services for a greater range of clients: aerobics classes graded for fitness level and intensity of exercise, low impact workouts, aqua-aerobics, circuit classes, step classes, and so on. Gymnasiums had now become ‘fitness centres’, and their clientele often included more women than men – particularly in the aerobics room. There also developed the concept of the personal fitness assessment and gym exercise program. After the initial assessment clients were taken through their program under the supervision of a qualified gym instructor for a few times and then usually left to their own devices with a review of their program every three to six months.
Then someone (don’t ask me to name the first person to coin the term ‘Personal Trainer’) thought to offer a more consistent supervised program of exercise for clients outside of the normal gym setting: the client’s home, outdoors, etc.

Most recently, innovations have included group exercises using weights (‘Pump’, etc), Swiss or Fit balls, choreographed routines derived from boxing or other martial arts (‘Boxercise’, etc), and Yoga like stretching, breathing and relaxation classes (‘Mind-Body’).

Thus far it appears that the trend in innovation has been for a greater variety of types of physical exercises, and for more training accessories and ‘gimmicks’ such as stretch bands, step boxes, barbells, fit balls, etc. etc.

So what will the next innovations be?

To my mind there are limits as to how much further such variations in physical activity and gimmickry can go, and they really don’t address the core issue anyway – that of exercise adherence and behavioural change. In addition, if we were to be honest with ourselves such accessories really have little to do with keeping fit and healthy, but are used to maintain interest by adding variety to exercise programs.

In my opinion, the true innovations of the future are not going to be just further variations of the variety or ‘exercise gimmick’ concept – though of course these will continue to appear and provide current ‘fads’ in the industry. Rather, for the serious Personal Trainer, innovation will come from an expansion of personal education and training – particularly in the area of the psychology of motivation, exercise adherence and behavioural change.

Exercise Adherence and Behavioural Change.
Consider for a moment the real reason clients use your personal training services.

There are really only two types of clients:
1. The person who wants to stay trim or lose weight, and feel better about their physical body.
2. The committed sportsperson who wants to get fitter, stronger and more flexible to enhance their athletic performance.

The second type of client is usually very committed and highly self motivated, and needs your expertise primarily for tailoring an exercise program to suit the specific muscle strength and flexibility that will lead to the best performance in a given sport – be it golf, tennis, rugby, or whatever – and hence each client’s needs differ depending on their specific sport. These client’s usually number a smaller portion of most personal trainer’s clientele.

Consider then the first type of client – those people who come as basically unfit or overweight individuals wanting to trim up, lose weight and feel good about themselves. These people form the majority of PT clients, and who in my opinion need your help the most. But what specifically are they looking for help with?

The answer is motivation and behavioural change.

These clients don’t have the self motivation to exercise, or the self discipline to change poor eating patterns or other limiting behaviours – otherwise they would already be doing it! They look to the personal trainer to help motivate them and to help them change the patterns of behaviour which will lead them to becoming the ‘new’ person they want to be.

Clients come to you to change themselves – and personal change is all about changing behaviour. So how much do you know about behavioural change? How much of your professional studies was devoted to understanding human behaviour and personal change?

Whether you’re working with an elite athlete or sports team preparing for an important competition performance; providing a fitness regimen for a busy executive; or designing a weight loss program for a special client; the most successful personal trainers are not those with the latest exercise routines or diets, but rather the people who have an intuitive understanding of or professional training in behavioural change techniques – and how to initiate and maintain personal change in clients.

Almost all of the issues clients present with concern either the person wanting to change a limiting or inappropriate behaviour (eg. lose weight, stop smoking, get fitter, etc), or change a negative feeling state of some kind (eg. have more energy, be more confident, control pre-performance anxiety, etc). So understanding the psychological processes of successful behavioural change – and how to initiate it your clients – is essential to personal trainers.

Yet the fact is that current courses in Personal Training devote very little time to understanding these key issues. PT’s are expert in the physiological basics of fitness and health – yet successful behavioural change is 90% mental, so PT’s also want to understand the psychological basics of exercise adherence, motivation and personal change. The most effective and powerful behavioural change technology available is known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming – or NLP. Professional training in NLP can provide personal trainers with so much more to offer their clients.

So the significant innovations in personal training in the future will come from educating PTs about behavioural change, and providing them with specific tools and techniques with which to support their clients in personal change.

Once more PTs master NLP behavioural change techniques – and it is already beginning – the title ‘Personal Trainer’ will rightly change to Personal Coach. So we will progress from PT to PC. A personal coach provides much more for a client than just an exercise routine or a healthy diet: they support their clients to become happier, healthier and more successful people. You can’t do that if you limit your education to exercise physiology and nutrition, so get out there and learn about behavioural change – learn about NLP!

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed “Sportsmind – An Athlete’s Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training” and “Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings”; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph’s College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email :
website :



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