How to differentiate yourself as a trainer in the fitness industry


One thing I have noticed discussed time and time again is that many trainers are struggling to differentiate themselves from other trainers who appear less qualified. I used to feel exactly the same however, I now have the confidence, experience and maturity to separate myself from my love of scientific principles and quality training to appreciate that there are other factors that can make trainers successful.

Here are a few of my thoughts on the topic.

1, You need to recognise that if these other trainers are not only busy, but busy enough that you’d consider them competitors, then they are clearly doing something correctly as well. Granted they’re coaching cues may be sub-par or they have no reason or justification to their program however, if they have consistent clients, then I believe we should pay attention to what it is they are doing well.

Are they unconditionally positive? Are they great listeners? Do they possess a great way of explaining complex topics in an easily understandable manner? Do they go an extra mile to really get to know their clients beyond the hour long training session? It’s easy to criticise others, but it’s challenging to emotionally separate yourself from your love of quality training for a second to appreciate that there are other factors that make trainers successful. I believe we should copy the useful traits!

2, Remember that expertise is perceived differently by every client. Some perceive expertise as telling them what to do so that all the guesswork is taken out of the equation. Some might think you are annoying if you try to tell them the ‘why’ behind everything you do.

Others perceive expertise as your ability to justify everything that you do. They might think you are incompetent if you tell them to ‘just trust you’ because you ‘know’ the program will work, or if you’re simply at a loss for words when they ask you to explain the ‘why’ behind you’re training approach.

Some may want to see you coach to be confident in your abilities, others just want to sit down with you and ask questions to verify your competence. Some might want to look at your program design. Some want to read you’re writing or social media posts, and others may want to ask current clients about their experiences with you.

You have to be versatile and possess a multi approach in the way that you present your expertise. Personally, I love the science and can cite off research / journals and tell people why we’re doing stuff, or I can skip the scientific approach and replace it with loud music and more attitude. I invite people to watch me coach, ask me questions, read my writing (online and articles I have got published) view seminars, lectures and courses I have given, and speak to my clients. Make ‘perceiving expertise’ easier for them.

3, Always focus on what you do well, not what you think others do poorly. Each time your mind wanders to what crazy stuff ‘functional Trainer’ X is doing with Client Y, re-focus your attention on finding ways to leverage your strengths. Nobody likes to be around, or spend money to train with a a trainer who is constantly complaining and acting like a victim. Everyone likes to hang around positive people and problem solvers, though.

4, Find and develop a niche. This was a big one for me. In my opinion fitness is getting more and more specific than ever before. When you have a niche, you don’t have to worry about what the competition is doing because there isn’t competition when you’ve created the market. It’s much easier to differentiate yourself as a specialist than as a generalist.

5, Most importantly remember that results always speak for themselves. Get results with your clients and your business will grow. Be patient and persistent  but also open minded to an improved way of doing things.

There are surely so many more than just five points to be made on this, so I welcome additional suggestions from fitness professionals in the comments section below!


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