The Most Creative Personal Trainers Are the Best Personal Trainers

In this blog, we'll explore why creative thinking is absolutely essential to becoming the best Personal Trainer you can be.

by | November 6, 2018

“Creativity is intelligence having fun”

– Albert Einstein

In this blog, we’ll explore why creative thinking is absolutely essential to becoming the best Personal Trainer you can be.

By definition, creativity is “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, and patterns, and to create meaningful new ideas.”

Being creative should not be mistaken for being different for the sake of being different, however. Being creative is not simply the ability to transcend ideas and patterns to create new ideas. Being creative is the ability to transcend ideas, patterns and rules. These rules are science-based principles of exercise prescription which are:






These are rules because they have been tested and repeated a number of times and have remained consistent in the results which they produce. The methods used to implement these principles, however, may change significantly depending on the person and situation.

Methods are many principles are few, methods often change but principles rarely do.

A good example of being creative is adopting an exercise programme design to a client because everyone is slightly different with regards to:

  • Goal
  • Training experience
  • Preferences
  • Equipment availability
  • History of injury
  • Medical conditions

Even if you ask three expert PTs to design a programme for the same person, the methods and design may vary slightly, but one thing they will have in common is that they will be aligned with science-based principles. Here is a good example by Bret Contreras.

*There is an unfortunate amount of misinformation with clever marketing which uses anecdotal evidence to provide the illusion of being creative. Being a good Personal Trainer involves being able to think like a healthy sceptic so that you can be genuinely creative and not another charlatan who thinks that science needs to catch up with them.


Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Divergent thinking (creating choices) and convergent thinking (making choices) are both essential for being a good creative thinker.

Divergent thinking helps create abstract ideas and is similar to focusing on the methods relating to programme design such as exercise selection. Convergent thinking, on the other hand, helps create concrete ideas and is similar to aligning the programme design to the principles of exercise.

Both divergent/abstract thinking and convergent concrete thinking help us to create a broader range of ideas than using one or the other alone.


the difference between divergent and convergent thinking for creative thinking.

Another way to think about Divergent and Convergent thinking is to ask “Thin” and “Thick” questions.

“Thin” questions include:

  • How long will the workout be?
  • Who is completing the exercise?
  • What type of exercises should they do?
  • How many sets and reps should be completed?

“Thick” questions include:

  • What if the equipment isn’t available?
  • What if my client doesn’t like going to their gym?
  • What might happen if they don’t like a specific exercise?
  • What exercises do they enjoy?
  • What do they think of the workout?
  • How would they feel if we tried something new?

Most conventional Personal Training education teaches us to converge our thinking by following a recipe book of answers to exercise prescription. This can be useful for starting out, as illustrated below, however, you will be limited in your Personal Training ability if you do not learn to apply divergent thinking as well.


Are you a cook or a chef?

In the restaurant world, there are cooks and there are chefs. Cooks follow the recipes, chefs create recipes using the creativity they have practised. The key is to figure out if you are a cook or a chef.

If you are creating your first programme you are probably a cook. In this case, it would be wise to find a recipe and follow it exactly.

When you started out as a PT your ability to design an exercise programme from scratch was likely poor. You were not an experienced chef with respect to programme design. In this instance, the better choice is to choose a recipe designed by a chef and do a great job of making the meal.

For example, a good place to start would be one of Nick Tumminello’s books “Strength Training For Fat Loss” or “Your Workout Perfected”.

In order to help become a chef more efficiently and effectively however it’s important that you practice thinking more divergently and thus creatively in your own time by speaking with others and experimenting with your own training.

If you follow this philosophy, then after a number of years of successful program design, you might eventually qualify as a chef.

Try the following creative thinking exercises on for size and then practice them regularly to become the best Personal Trainer you can be.


How to Improve Your Creative Thinking

1. Write stuff down

Keep a note of any ideas or things which you are curious about just like Leonardo da Vinci. This could be something you read in a blog, watched on a video. It could be a new PT business idea or a new method you could apply to your programme design. Writing them down encourages more neural connections which will help any similar ideas to connect. This mind dump can also be a source of inspiration when you need it most.

2. Sleep on a problem

It’s often been assumed that the purpose of sleep was to simply rest the body and mind, however, research now suggests that sleep is vital for both learning and creativity. On average, people who get better sleep learn better and are more creative.

Sleep is also key to problem-solving. Research (here, here and here) suggests that whatever you learn is much clearer after a good sleep and sleeping on a problem does, in fact, help people to find better solutions. So if you’re having trouble understanding a new concept or idea, try sleeping on it.

3. Relax

The assumption that being busy and stressed is proportional to increased productivity is perhaps one of the most damaging in the modern workplace. Although we are all aware of the negative effects of too much stress, it’s often viewed as a worthwhile trade-off in exchange for improved performance and profit.

However, in “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time” Brigid Schulte describes this phenomenon:

“Neuroscience is finding that when we are idle, in leisure, our brains are most active. The Default Mode Network lights up, which, like airport hubs, connects parts of our brain that don’t typically communicate. So a stray thought, a random memory, an image can combine in novel ways to produce novel ideas.”

Therefore if you want to improve your creativity, decision making and performance as a Personal Trainer, make sure you schedule in time to be idle and play leisure activities.

4. Go for a walk

The previous blog post emphasised the anecdotal benefits of walking to help boost curiosity and now researchers at Stanford have found that it helps boost creative thinking. They found that walking indoors or outdoors improved creativity levels consistently and significantly more when compared to sitting.

“Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking. We finally may be taking a step, or two, toward discovering why,” the authors Oppezzo and Schwartz wrote in the study.

5. Listen to other PTs

Actively listening to other PTs allows you to listen to other people’s ideas, perspectives and opinions based on their own experience. Rather than waiting for your turn to speak, active listening involves asking questions and checking your understanding. If you disagree with them, instead of trying to win the argument try to understand why they believe what they believe instead of jumping to assumptions.

When done properly, active listening can become the cornerstone of creative listening. What’s more, you’re more likely to change their opinion by questioning them and encouraging them to think more critically than by simply disagreeing with them.



  • We are all Creative – it just needs to be practised
  • Creative thinking is a divergent type of thinking
  • There is a strong connection between creativity and personal training success
  • We were all born creative
  • Just like any skill, creative thinking can be developed with practice
  • Creativity exercises work best when you try a lot of them and then practice the ones that work for you

Further Reading

Next Best You – A new Obstacle Course Race for people with mental and physical impairments.

Next Best You – A new Obstacle Course Race for people with mental and physical impairments.

Read more