Survival of the Fittest - Personal Trainer Interview
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When you think of a personal trainer, you might imagine a tan, beefy man in a muscle-shirt barking orders at a sweaty victim on a treadmill. Or maybe you picture a wide-shouldered woman in spandex, dragging her clients from one weight machine to the next. These stereotypes may have been true in the past, but a new crop of personal fitness trainers is bringing a more holistic, wellness approach to the industry. Tim Sinnett is one of those personal trainers breaking the traditional mold.
Personal Trainer Career Realization
Tim realized in his mid twenties that he was headed down a career path that did not suit him well. With a degree in actuarial science and a career with an employee benefits consulting firm, Tim asked himself the following question: "If I died tomorrow, would I be happy with how I was spending my life?" Tim's answer was a "resounding no." With this realization, Tim spent the next few years on what he refers to as his "spiritual quest," studying Eastern philosophy pretty heavily, as well as yoga, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and healing traditions.
Having always been interested in health, fitness and spirituality, but not wanting to focus on just one specific specialty, Tim decided to combine all of his physical and psychological interests into a universal, personal training practice. "I grew up as an athlete, and also had a background in yoga and martial arts. I wanted to be able to include them all together in to one big scope of practice. And I found that I could do that by putting them all under the umbrella of personal training." Tim found this career choice created a natural transition into a healthy work and life balance.
A Thriving Personal Training Career
As a USA Weightlifting (USAW) sports performance coach and a strength and conditioning specialist, Sinnett uses his personal training experience, extensive education and knowledge of alternative health practices to provide his clients with a holistic form of personal fitness training. He lives and works in Seattle, where he is an independent contractor at Sound Mind and Body gym. Tim also trains students for two of Seattle's top fitness programs: the nationally-recognized Sound Mind and Body Ski Conditioning Class, and Free Radical Fitness, Inc.'s Camp Radical. With his extensive knowledge and skills, Tim provides accelerated sports conditioning to both amateur and professional athletes. He trains clients in nutrition and sports performance while adhering to the principles of martial arts and yoga, such as alignment, rooting and force development. He applies his knowledge, and his own positive energy to produce a balanced, holistic, personal training regimen for his clients.
Personal Trainer Clientele: With such a diverse approach to personal fitness training, it's no wonder that Sinnett has a diverse clientele. "My range of clients is all over the board," Sinnett observes. "But that's partially because I also do sports performance. On one hand I have sports performance people, and on the other hand, I have people interested in a more holistic approach to fitness. My youngest client is a twelve-year old basketball player, and my oldest is a sixty-seven year old retiree. So, basically, my clientele consists of anyone who wants to get back into shape or to maintain the fitness they already have."
This wide range of clients allows Sinnett to tailor his training for each person. He takes the time to sit with his clients, learn about their medical and injury history, and determine their expectations and motivations for personal training.
Sinnett notes that he does not train each client in all of the various specialties. Instead he brings bits and pieces to each individual session, depending on what each client wants. "People are drawn to the holistic idea, but they don't always want to engage in it. If someone is looking for it, then I engage in it. Most people just want to lose weight. But if they know my background, and they know that I understand yoga and other movement disciplines, then they know that I can apply this knowledge to their traditional exercises."
Personal Trainer Schedule: Technically, Sinnett and other self-employed personal trainers can create any schedule they want. However, the schedules they'd like to adhere to aren't always possible. Trainers usually have to work around the schedules of their clients, which can make for a very long day. "The schedule is challenging. Sometimes I'll have up to 12 clients in 15 hours. Theoretically, I can make my own schedule, but it's all dependent upon the clients. I usually start the day at 5:35 a.m. to train the people who want to work out before going to work. Then, I might get a small break during the day. Then I work with people who come in after work." Sinnett says that his typical day runs from 5:30 in the morning to 8:00 in the evening.
Personal Trainer Work Setting: Most personal trainers meet with their clients at the gym since they are typically employees of gyms. Tim mentions that he may occasionally work with clients who have home gymnasiums or those who want to be outdoors. "I work at this really large gym," says Sinnett. "We have access to Olympic platforms, free-weight, medicine balls and much more. It's definitely easier to train in a gym like this." Tim also mentions that he doesn't like to use a lot of machines in his workout sessions, despite their prominence on the gym floor.
Personal Trainer Session Preparation: The preparation begins when Sinnett first meets his clients. He gets a feel for their goals, reviews their medical history and, most importantly, their attitude. "You have to figure them out. Learn their constitution, what they like, what pace they like, how compliant they are and how driven they are." The biggest preparation is "if a client has an injury." Tim says that he needs to tailor the regimen "so as not to cause further injury" and to "help rehab" the injured area.
The Down Sides of Personal Training: Many personal trainers are self-employed, and being self-employed brings with it the stress and worry about getting clients, maintaining clients and getting paid. The schedule, more than anything else, is the biggest downside. "The schedule is hard and emotionally taxing. I think something like seventy percent of trainers burn out after one year," Sinnett says.
Daily Rewards of Personal Training: Ironically, both the reward and one of the downsides are the same for many personal trainers—self-employment. He has to adhere to the rules of the gym, but he is his own boss beyond that. He also likes the appeal of training and the chance to establish friendships and rapport with his clients. "That rapport is what was missing from a lot of jobs." Sinnett says. "I like the ability to connect to people. Not to mention contributing to their health and well-being."
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