Knowing how to find a Personal Trainer in Edinburgh that suits you and your goals can be tough. At Health by Science, we feel pretty privileged to be able to earn a living from doing something that we genuinely love doing.
There’s nothing quite like seeing improvements not just week to week, but session to session. Of course, it’s not all plain sailing, coaching can be tough but we recognise that these are the moments where the best learning opportunities lie.
In order to provide the best service for our clients, we don’t like to take on too many. Rather than just send people on their way however, we wanted to help and give them something that helps put them on the right path towards their health, body composition, and performance goals.
That is why we are creating our free ebook series on the five key elements movement, nutrition, sleep, stress and mindset. We are happy to share exactly what we do with our clients because for the most part, we know what we should be doing, it’s learning how to do it consistently so that we actively want to do them consistently.
This is a lot harder than your average celeb underwear model would make it look and this is where a good quality Personal Trainer can get to work and help make your journey to health, body comp and performance mastery much more efficient.
The big question is though…
“What makes a good personal trainer and how can you find them?”
Obviously, this is a very subjective question and we stress that the following is our personal opinion based on combined experience working with hundreds of clients. At the very least it should encourage you to at least ask and reflect on the question.
So before we tackle that bombshell, let’s begin with a slightly more simple question…
What is a Personal Trainer?
Of course, there are loads of definitions for a personal trainer. The one we like to use is this:
A Personal Trainer is a bit like a tour guide to a place where you already live.
Think of a city you’ve lived in for a while, maybe you grew up there or maybe you lived there whilst you were studying at University. You think you are pretty familiar with it, but one day, maybe…
- You read up on the history of your city and realise that many fascinating things happened just on your street (in Edinburgh this is almost guaranteed!)
- A friend comes to visit and says “Hey! Let’s try that cafe down the street!” that you’ve walked past loads of times but never noticed it.
- You buy a bike and discover it’s much more efficient than the car or bus at getting into town
- You walk down a new street that you don’t normally take and discover a nice little park or walkway
That’s what a personal trainer does. They help you to explore the potential and the resources that you already have around you and inside you, then helps you to put those resources into action to improve the quality of your life.
- Maybe it comes from new information
- Maybe it comes from debunking old information
- Maybe that comes from helping you see things from a new perspective
- Maybe it comes from giving you a new strategy or tool that has been successful with other clients.
- Maybe it comes from pushing you out of your comfort zone.
A personal trainer sees clients as diamonds in the rough. They see the potential, the glass half full and how to help improve your physical and mental capacity.
A personal trainer is not:
- A parent
- A judge
- An enemy
- An all-knowing guru
A personal trainer is more like:
- A tour guide
- A facilitator
- A set of signposts and a good map
- An instructor manual
You are the traveler.
Your personal trainer is the navigator.
They are the person with the map with the skills to help you read and interpret the map.
Occasionally, your personal trainer may take the lead (especially at the start), or maybe behind to help push you, but most of the time they should be beside you, keeping you going in the right direction.
This is a method and approach known as client-centred coaching.
Client-centred coaching or the “coaching alliance” is very similar to patient-centred care or the “therapeutic alliance” used in the NHS, although obviously in a different context.
The following are indicative of a client-centred approach:
- the personal trainer actively listens to you and asks thought provoking questions causing you to challenge your beliefs at times. Their questions encourage you to reflect and think more mindfully of your day to day habits.
- They follow your lead and agenda by helping identifying your key priorities e.g. love of food and desire to lose weight for example.
- They let you be the “expert” of your own life and body.
- They don’t judge.
- They incorporate a science-based approach to inform their guidance in-line with your priorities.
- They simplify the solution so that it’s easy to understand and do.
- They recommend a clear, concrete follow-up plan.
Most importantly, throughout the process, you felt like someone listened to you, understood and emphasised and is prepared to help you work towards a long-term solution, not a quick-fix “solution”. That feeling should inspire you to change and improve.
This is client-centred coaching and is what you want to look for in your personal trainer.
Decades of research in teaching, counseling and coaching have confirmed that a client-centred approach has the best potential for long-term success. In other words, it works.
In a coach-centred approach, you may experience the following:
- The personal trainer doesn’t do a thoughtful or thorough assessment of your situation, needs and wants.
- They jump to conclusions based on their interest and expertise.
- They may explicitly or implicitly blame you for being “lazy” or “unmotivated”.
- They cause an information dump by overloading you with information.
This approach is based entirely on what the personal trainer thinks and wants. They define the problem and then tell you what to do, also known as the “diagnose the problem; prescribe treatment” approach.
While this may be beneficial in some medical circumstances, it rarely changes behaviours in any meaningful or sustainable way. Consider for a moment that less than 50% of patients take their prescribed medication.
“Knowing what” vs. “knowing how”
One more point about how we coach during this process: We differentiate “knowing what” from “knowing how”.
- “Knowing what” is information. Facts. Stuff about stuff. For instance: there are 4 calories in a gram of protein; lactose is a disaccharide; and the pancreas has “taste buds”.
- “Knowing how” is having skills like riding a bike or swimming. It’s an understanding of how things work – the processes, principles, and ideas that underlie the world. For instance: how to tell if you are on the right track, how to back squat, and how to create your own meal plan if you are allergic to everything but onions, pork, and pepper.
Both “knowing what” (information) and “knowing how” (skills and the ability to use them) are important and are enhanced using a science-based approach. But we need to focus more on “knowing how” because, information changes.
Remember in the 1990s when everyone was convinced that dietary fat would kill us all? Or that you could get a six pack using a vibrating belt? And we should all look like a bodybuilder if we’re healthy?
The problem is, if you don’t know how to learn new stuff and spot the BS, you’re in trouble. That’s where “knowing how” comes in.
Part of “knowing how” is that it’s adaptable.
For instance, if you already know how to ride a road bike, you can figure out how to ride a mountain bike more easily than if you couldn’t ride a bike at all.
You understand the concept of a bike, you understand the general principle of how it works, and you can transfer that “knowing how” to a different kind of bike.
(Have you ever wondered why librarians are such godlike creatures? It’s not because they know every fact. It’s because they know how to find every fact.)
You should expect to keep learning, developing and growing to maximise the quality of your life, throughout your life. You can only do that if you prepare yourself to learn, develop and grow.
What You Should Expect
Clear expectations are an important part of any good personal training service.
You should understand what you can expect from your PT and what you should reasonably expect from yourself.
By the end of your time training regularly with a PT, you can expect to be able to:
- Be a self-aware and self-questioning person. You’ll look at self-care as an active practice that requires constant care, growth and development for improvement.
- Develop strong working relationships with your PT and your significant others. Using a client-centred approach, emphasising empathy and the “coaching alliance”.
- Be guided through all stages of the personal training process. You’ll develop a broad-based and robust system of theory and practice for self-care management, regardless of your background or circumstances.
- Understand what’s truly important. You’ll learn to identify, understand and prioritise key self-care concepts, principles, and ideas.
- Use the right tools and techniques for the job at hand. You’ll learn and practice a wide range of skills and self-care methods and learn when to choose the correct ones for your circumstances.
- Be treated as a unique individual, addressing your needs holistically. You’ll understand what factors shape your self-care needs, process, and outcome, such as:
- sex/gender, age, ethnicity, culture, and other demographic factors
- activity limitations and disability
- stage of readiness for change
- confidence and preparedness
- preferred coaching and learning styles
- Develop your own self-sustaining “growth practice”. You’ll learn how to learn, how to seek feedback and how to keep developing and improving for your entire life.
We’re sure you have more expectations to add to that list and while not exhaustive, hopefully, it gets you thinking.
Likewise, personal trainers have expectations too!
Here’s what your PT will expect from you:
- That you dedicate a little time daily to the process. To be successful it’s important that you take a little time for yourself to plan, prepare and reflect.
- That you don’t just give us time, but also your full attention. The world is full of distractions. It’s really hard to juggle a bunch of stuff and do personal training. It’s possible – some of our clients have had surgery during their personal training process, for example – but difficult. So there are other things competing for your attention and focus, consider which ones are truly important, and make this process a priority.
- That you work to discover your own strengths and your unique “best self-care” approach. Most personal trainers want to produce clients who are well-rounded and able to maximise the quality of their life as they see fit in their own unique style and self-care practice.
- That you’re willing to work, especially on your organisation and time management skills. No matter how awesome you are, you must show up and do whatever it is you are working on consistently.
The Quick Fix “Solution”
Quick fix “solutions” are everywhere because they provide quick profit and a high turnaround of clients. Beware of any PT who claims they can get you the results of your dreams in a short period of time.
Don’t believe us? Then consider the following example that we have seen all too often:
A client sits down for their first session. He’s super motivated, pumped and ready to roll.
He has his wedding coming up in two months, and he wants all his friends and family, but most importantly, his future wife to see him the leanest and fittest he has ever been.
The client is a high achieving executive who’s used to getting things done. He wants a precise, take-no-prisoners meal plan and he wants us to kill him in the gym.
Great! Plan created, gym killing provided three times a week.
This client is 100% compliant with his eating and exercise plan.
He runs hard enough to throw up during every session and never so much as sniffs at the homemade cake brought into the office each week. When he isn’t steaming broccoli and surgically dissecting the skin off his chicken breasts, he’s in a spin class or swinging kettlebells on the treadmill.
He sheds so much fat, he seems to be melting. He hits his wedding looking like an underwear model.
Then we don’t hear from him for a little while.
Eventually, we run into him in town.
He’s put on all the weight he lost, with interest.
What happened? Well, that hardcore approach just wasn’t sustainable.
And the same principle applies to you.
When you begin a new strategy or tool with the help of your personal trainer, you should ask yourself; What will you be doing in a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now?
Now consider this:
If you continue to work at the pace you’re working right now in the way you’re working right now can you last?
Having a good quality personal trainer can be one of the best investments you will make. We recognise however that a personal trainer is not for everyone. People lie on a spectrum and our mission is to help everyone along that spectrum. From the athlete looking for a little more structure in their training programme to the obese client trying to change their lifestyle in a sustainable way.
That’s why we have written eBooks outlining the exact same information strategies and tools we use successfully with all our clients. The astute ones among you may be wondering why would we give away our secrets for free?
We believe that good quality and accurate information as to what you can do should be available to everyone free of charge. Individuals use our service to help show them why and how they can make these changes as efficiently as possible so that they can begin to maximise the quality of their lives.
For access to our free resources, sign up to our newsletter, here.
Yours in great health,
The Health by Science Team