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The Importance of Self-Care as a Personal Trainer

Personal trainers are expected to be pictures of health and wellness. However, sometimes we give our best to our clients and at the end of the day, we have nothing left in our tanks for self-care. As the saying goes, “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.” If all our efforts in life improvement are directed outward toward others, we may spend little to no time managing our own health and wellness. What’s at stake if we don’t care for ourselves?

1)     Sustainability

If you think of your life force like crops in a field, it’s easy to see that not caring for the soil will result in a less than optimal harvest. It will be difficult to keep showing up “shiny and happy” to your 5 a.m. client when you’re running on 5 hours of sleep. It will be even more difficult to remain motivational and pumped up for your 5 p.m. client if you don’t feed yourself well throughout the day or give yourself a mental health break. Simply put, not taking care of yourself will yield sub-prime results for yourself and your clients. They deserve the energy and motivation that they paid for, and you deserve to be able to grow your business with the vigor and vitality that self-care can provide.

2)     An Exemplar Life

Would you take career advice from someone who is consistently out of work, or get your haircut by someone whose own hair doesn’t represent the look you’re going for? Of course, it’s possible to look beyond outward appearances and soak up the message, but when what is said and what is done do not match, it causes what is known as cognitive dissonance. Our brains have difficulty processing ideas that don’t line up. That’s why it’s so important for our clients’ success that we also live a life based on balance, wellness, and self-care.

3)     Possibility of Growth

What is the last book you read? Or Ted Talk you watched? Or new activity you tried? Whether the outcome we desire is fitness improvements, business developments, or something else, we often become so wrapped up in ensuring our clients’ results that we fail to look at ways to secure our own. Additionally, we must remember that we “don’t know what we don’t know.” Without expanding our comfort zones by reading, watching, or doing something we don’t normally do, we lose out on the opportunity to discover a new way of thinking or being that could help us grow.

So how exactly do we go about taking care of ourselves in meaningful ways? Consider adding the following into your daily routine. Keep in mind that not all habits will demonstrate quality improvements in your life, so it’s best to add in habits individually so you can assess their usefulness before moving on to the next habit.

1)     Exercise

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the number of trainers I’ve spoken to that haven’t worked out in weeks. This isn’t because they don’t value exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, but rather that they’ve worked 12-hour days, gotten too little sleep, or simply “can’t find the time” as we’ve heard our clients say. In this case, it’s best to take the same advice you’ve given your clients when they’ve fallen off the exercise wagon. Find an exercise you enjoy doing, even if it’s not in a gym, and schedule it into your day as you would any other appointment.

2)     Proper Diet

Again, it’s likely that as trainers we fully understand the benefit of fueling our body for an active lifestyle. It’s also likely that we fall into the same traps as our clients when we get stressed out or busy – we look for food that’s fast, whether it’s the drive-through or a bag of chips in the break room. Consider the advice you might give to your client in this area: Plan your meals, try bulk cooking on the weekend, and have good-for-you snacks at the ready.

3)     SMR/Stretching

Self-myofascial release (SMR) such as foam rolling is a great way to reduce the tension in your muscles created by stress and overuse. It’s also a great way to take care of your body that requires little time and effort. Add ten minutes of foam rolling and ten minutes of stretching to your morning routine, and your mobility and mental health are likely to improve. Throw on a Ted Talk while you roll out and stretch, and you’ll get a healthy dose of inspiration or education at the same time.

4)     Regular Massages

Like SMR, massages can be used to release the tension in our muscles and the psychological tension in our brains from a busy life. Schedule monthly or bi-weekly sessions with a massage therapist who specializes in fitness massage. Additionally, you can create a mutually-beneficial relationship with this therapist, in which you refer clients to each other. Exercise and massage are a great combo, and your clients and the therapist’s clients would benefit from help in both areas.

5)     Lifelong Learning

As mentioned earlier, it’s important that we stay committed to learning new skills and new ways of looking at life. This can be done through a great book, a motivational talk, or a skills workshop. If you’re finding it difficult to schedule learning into your busy lifestyle, consider audiobooks, podcasts, or YouTube videos that you can absorb while doing other tasks, such as driving or exercising.

6)     Meditation

Personal trainers are often goal-driven, so sitting quietly doing “nothing” for any period of time might seem counterintuitive. Meditation does have its benefits though: it reduces stress, improves concentration, slows aging, and can even benefit cardiovascular and immune health. And while you might be imagining a Buddhist monk meditating for hours on end, just five minutes of quiet reflection can have enormous impact on mental and physical health. Find a comfortable, quiet place, and see if you can focus on your breathing for a few minutes a day. You can also try guided meditations on YouTube if you have trouble quieting your mind.

7)     Journaling

Writing or typing out your thoughts is a great way to work through difficulties, as it gives our brains a chance to focus on a feeling or situation that is causing stress and perhaps find a solution. If writing about your feelings seems a bit too touch-feely for you, consider a gratitude journal in which you simply list 3-5 things for which you are grateful. A journal is also a great tool for discovering which of the above habits is creating a positive impact, which may help you decide which ones are worth holding on to. In addition, there are many great apps, such as Daylio, to quickly journal how your day is going and to make connections between your mood and your behavior. Set a reminder on your phone to journal a few minutes every morning or evening.

It’s quite easy to put off our own care to honor and support the needs of others, especially in a service occupation such as personal training. However, taking time each day to work on our physical and mental health can make a massive impact on our lives and our business. It’s likely that your clients will notice and appreciate the effort you’ve taken to care for yourself, as you will be showing up to their appointments with the enthusiasm they so desire.

How do you take care of yourself? Are there apps or other tools you use to stay on track? Let us know in the comments.