The past, present and future of the personal trainer

The personal trainer is an essential figure in the economy of modern wellness cultures. If the role of the PT has changed from its inception to the present day, redefined according to customer needs and technologies, its usefulness and its social and sporting function has never been questioned. Today, the fitness and wellness market highlights this opportunity, the growing development of the professional figure of the personal trainer and dedicated services.  The opportunity must certainly be seized, but it is necessary to analyze and plan one's own area of intervention so that it can be truly professional and not only occasional.

But what is a personal trainer? And what role do they play today in modern fitness centres?

The personal trainer: a definition

Let's start from the definition that Wikipedia gives of a Personal Trainer: the personal trainer (conventionally indicated by the acronym PT) is the professional figure responsible for managing in an individualized way the exercise of those who approach or practice physical activity to improve their health or fitness.
Starting from this definition we try to understand what kind of figure we have in front of us, what are its specific characteristics and how it develops today in the fitness and wellness market.
At the base, as we can simply see from the Italian translation of the term, there is the element of personalization and the personal coach. This aspect is certainly not innovative, but it is useful to understand how this term, this profession, was born to define what it is today and what opportunities the sector offers.

A brief history of the PT

It's difficult to specify a historical moment in which you can outline the appearance of the personal trainer, but we can certainly draw the birth from the figure of the sports coach, the coach, present in competitive sports and especially in professional sport. In sport, the personal coach has always been a safe guide to lead the sportsman to important results.
In sport, the personal coach has always been a safe guide to lead the sportsman to important results. In addition to be a professional who provides the athlete with the right technical training solution, the PT has always been a personal motivator, able to work on the psychology of performance and how best to optimize it.
Starting from the world of sport, the personal trainer as a professional has developed in the fitness field, referring to a training with objectives not related to sports performance, but referring to a maintenance or achievement of good fitness.

Like most trends in the fitness industry, we have also seen personal training grow and develop first of all overseas and specifically associated with Hollywood stars. After experiencing the evolution of the first fitness centres, mainly oriented first to bodybuilding and then aerobics, the eighties arrives and then the professional figure of the Personal Trainer.

The origins: personal trainer for celebrities

Initially, the figure of the PT is associated with famous people with a high investment potential, people who had their free time to improve their physical appearance by devoting themselves to the practice of physical activity through the use of the personal trainer as a guide. This led to associate the figure of the personal coach with a fashion of the moment, also seen as a form of exhibitionism in some cases.

The personal trainer today: wellness, specific objectives, motivations

Today personal training, as a service in the fitness and wellness field, has undergone a very significant evolution. We can say that it is a professional figure that has asserted their presence in the market thanks to the growth in consumer demand for wellness, seen as a broader objective than simply improving the aesthetic aspect. Today the search for wellness is defined in several ways, from the need to feel good and therefore to keep active as a prevention for their health, to the need to achieve specific physical goals, regarding slimming or an aesthetic improvement of their body.
The PT is today a widely diffused figure
Starting from a service seen as a possibility that few could afford, today personal training has become much more widespread and the prerogative of a larger number of people, having a diversification of specific services that also host a greater number of opportunities for economic investment, thus approaching more easily the pockets of the average population.
Although today it is a service much more widespread and more in demand, is not always valued and understood in the right connotation and specificity. We will resume the definition given at the beginning of this article adding a second point that further specifies the role: Another important area of intervention of the personal trainer is related to education to healthy lifestyles and the role of motivator in the practice of physical activity.

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Pt teaches healthy lifestyles
We can see that other specific characteristics of this figure are underlined: education to healthy lifestyles and the role of motivator. The element of differentiation is precisely in these elements that make the figure of the personal trainer a valuable professional figure.
The first part of the definition is emphasized by the element of customization of training and individualized accompaniment. These features allow the conduct of individual persons to achieve personal goals, but this certainly requires a thorough knowledge of the technical subject.

Scientific studies at the base of the figure of the personal trainer

The development of specific studies is the basis of the professional construction of the personal trainer, as well as the support of a field experience that allows them to practice the acquired theory.
The personalization of the training derives from the ability to understand not only the specific needs of the customer through an in-depth technical anamnesis, but also the ability to provide the right solution adapted in content to the subjective specificity.
To manage this aspect of customization you need to deepen your studies of technical subjects, it is not enough to have developed a strong passion related to training and above all it is not enough just a technical experience derived exclusively from your training experience. In addition to being specific and in-depth, the training is certainly interdisciplinary and, above all, must be continuous, aimed at constant updates.

The skills of a personal trainer go beyond purely technical subjects

Be careful, however, because technical training and a strong passion for training are not enough as characteristics to qualify as a personal trainer. We can understand from the historical analysis of the development of this profession and from the definition we have taken into consideration that competences go beyond purely technical subjects. The aim is to develop and deepen the areas of communication, relationships, psychology and, finally, sales and company organization.

The personal trainer as a profession to defend

The loss of value of this profession today is represented precisely by the all too often lack of in-depth knowledge of these subjects on the part of operators interested in holding this role. Instead, the development of value lies precisely in the completeness of the preparation. The value of the personal training service is linked to the subjectivity of the person who uses it, this value is proportional to the degree of satisfaction that the user processes.
What is service satisfaction linked to then? It is a process defined based on the person's experience and related to their initial expectations, i.e. their specific personal goals. It is this element that a personal trainer must work on, starting from the specific needs of everyone and the ability to analyze them which leads to a guarantee of knowing every useful detail for a successful personalized path aimed at achieving these goals for each customer.

Communication as a key element

But in this process of technical analysis and planning, the element of communication comes into play first and foremost. How can a personal trainer analyze in detail all the subjective and personal aspects of the user in front of them if they are not able to set up a consistent communication model?
Furthermore, how can they create a good relationship of trust if they don’t understand the correct setting and management of communication? All the great work of study and improvement of technical theory becomes secondary.

Skills, not only in training

In the analysis carried out in this article we have outlined the importance of being not only a coach, but also to develop one's own competence as an educator and motivator. The demand for the personal training service exists today even if it is not always evident. Finally, people's greater awareness of the positive nature and usefulness of physical activity has grown thanks to the dissemination of information through the channels.

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