Dynamic Thinking in the Fitness Industry: And Why Other Personal Training Courses Are Letting You DownJan 24, 2024
Personal trainers face new challenges every day.
As you navigate our rapidly evolving profession, you may find yourself overwhelmed (like I was) by the various difficulties highlighted in my article, “The Hidden Challenges of Personal Training”. Fortunately, amidst the dynamic landscape or personal training, there lies a straightforward and powerful solution: Becoming a Deep Generalist.
What is a Deep generalist?
👉🏼 A Deep Generalist is someone that has a deep proficiency in the many categories required to understand and impact holistic systems. In layman terms; they are someone who has both a wide breadth of knowledge and a significant depth of understanding of the individual components. In contrast to a specialist ("inch wide, mile deep"), this type of person goes both “wide” and “deep”.
This concept is a continuation of the ideas presented in “From Novice to Expert: Career Advancement for Personal Trainers”. In it, I highlight why Deep Generalisation is crucial in overcoming the hurdles that personal trainers face today. From imposter syndrome to low-income, Deep Generalisation is a surefire path forward to a fulfilling and profitable career.
Deep Generalisation isn't just an idea. It's the backbone of a successful career as a personal trainer. Humans are complex. This complexity demands a broad and deep understanding that only generalists can provide.
Personal Trainers are More than Rep Counters
Why become a Deep Generalist? The answer may not surprise you. As you have no doubt noticed, fitness professionals do more than deliver exercise.
We coach, and
You support and guide not only your clients outer journey, but also their inner one. That's why it’s essential to take a human-first approach in all of our actions. We must acknowledge the dynamic and nuanced reality of being a human. If you’ve ever tried to help your client create new habits, or reconcile the demands of work, family and health… you know what I’m talking about!
Failing to neglect the humanity of our clients sets them up for failure. It's due to our shared humanity that personal trainers must have a wide breadth of knowledge.
👉🏼 Because breadth of competence drives depth of influence.
Let me break that down: By expanding our expertise beyond traditional personal training, we meet the unique needs of our clients. Fostering a deeper understanding of human anatomy, exercise mechanics, pain neuroscience, and behavioural psychology enables us to tailor our interventions to each individual. Helping them get what they want, and be who they want to be.
Why Other Personal Training Courses Are Letting You Down
Unfortunately most personal training courses promise transformation and deliver frustration. (In another blog I’ll be highlighting which courses I recommend to all my students, but more on this later...)
They feed us superficial information, ultimately quenching our thirst, but fail to satiate us. Ninety-percent of the continuing education space is like junk-food. It tastes great in the short term, but it lacks the quality nutrition needed to satiate us in the long-run. Because of this we go from one course to another, ingesting systems, facts, and bravado until we feel satisfied. Only to feel the same familiar feeling of emptiness return all too soon. And the cycle continues. Sound familiar?
These courses give you what you want, but not what you need: Nuance.
“See X, do Y” is not the answer.
The nuanced and interdependent reality of human function demands more than memorized protocols. It’s because of this that linear systems always fall short.
Linear systems in dynamic environments are doomed to fail. And let you (and your clients) down 👎🏼. Unfortunately, so long as you continue to avoid the hard work of fostering the dynamic thought process of a deep generalist you will continue to go in circles, going from one course to another. Scratching an itch, only for it to return.
Growth that endures requires a shift in mindset. A shift towards embracing complexity and seeking to understand the "why" and the "when", not just the "what" and the "how".
Growth that endures requires that you lean into the mountain, to ascend it.
Revealing My Career Journey From Naive to Nuanced
How it all started:
In the early days of my career, I was either overly confident or overwhelmed by the vastness of what I didn't know. I'd done a series of courses, memorised their systems and was getting decent results with my clients. I was also starting to feel more comfortable asking my clients for $7000-9000 dollars in exchange for the guidance they needed to hit their goals.
My Inflection Point:
Roughly 3 years into my career, I had good momentum and was making decent money. I inherited some complex clients, had some success, and quickly became known as the “rehab guy” at my club. But there was a problem, a big one. Although I was helping most people, ~30% of the time my systems would fail. I was disappointing people, and I was beyond frustrated.
I’d often ask myself “Why aren’t things working?!”.
I was doing everything I was told to do, often collaborating with physiotherapists and chiropractors. But my clients just weren’t getting better. This frustration drove me forward. This need for answers drove me to understand why the body does what it does. Fortunately, I found a mentor.
My First Reality Check:
Everything shifted at a conference in Toronto, Canada. Here, I attended a seminar by Greg Roskopf, the Founder of Muscle Activation Technique. The seminar was called “Why muscle tightness is secondary to muscle weakness”. He proposed that muscles got “tight” NOT because they were flawed. But their hyper-tonicity was created by the brain in response to internal instability (In layman's terms, when the brain detects that a given region is unstable, it tightens up muscles to create stability).
My mind was blown. 🤯
At this time, I had many clients who were unresponsive to their flexibility and rehab protocols. This man was presenting me with a sound alternative. I had to learn more. I signed up.
The Insight I Needed:
It was at this course that I met my first mentor, Peter Chiasson.
When I first met Peter, I wasn’t sure what he could teach me, but within a matter of minutes I lived a moment that I couldn’t ignore. Peter was using words like torque, moment arms, and force to describe exercise selection. I had never heard these words before. The room started to spin. Literally. I remember this moment like it was yesterday.
I sat back in my chair, took a breath, and said to myself.
This was the first moment where I internalized that I in fact, didn’t know much at all. Yes I had some hypertrophy, rehab and body-composition protocols ready to go, but I lacked the depth of understanding of WHY those things worked and WHAT they manipulated.
I realized that this was why I consistently pushed up against the limits of my competence. It was because of a lack of depth.
This lack of depth creates an “illusion of understanding”, something my next mentor Tom Purvis calls “sound bites”.
Sound bites are words and phrases that people use without truly understanding what they mean (insert industry buzzwords like “functional”, “stability”, “torque”, “optimal”, and “fascia”).
These rapid fire answers sound smart at the surface. But when questioned, they don’t hold up. I realized I had been in a cycle of memorizing exercises, protocols and sound bites, and that I lacked the depth required for true understanding. The type of understanding that would propel my career.
It was at this moment that I committed to delving deeper into the principles of human function, and exercise.
A little older and a lot wiser. And how you can be too!
This journey has transformed my approach from rigid to flexible, from linear to dynamic, from fragile to antifragile. It's thanks to my mentors that I am where I am today and that my career horizons are broader than I ever thought possible.
As of today, I work with a broad spectrum of clients both in-person and online and I grew my in-person training business to over $10’000 per month. All of the results I’ve had in my career are due to this one moment of inflection, and the commitment that ensued.
Don't get me wrong, I still experience doubt and uncertainty in the face of new client cases. This is normal. And in my experience, it never goes away. But my faith is stronger than my doubts. I now trust my ability to work through problems, because I’ve done it hundreds of times before.
The past is history. Your future is up to you
True wisdom in personal training lies in recognizing the limits of our knowledge and knowing where or how to find the answers. It’s not about knowing everything…It's about being equipped to think on our feet, and to be nimble. All rooted in a fundamental understanding of the components that influence our decision-making.
This is the essence of being a deep generalist.
If this sounds familiar, keep reading... This is for you
If you’re a personal trainer who saw yourself in my story and wants to take the next step on your path to mastery, I’m excited to announce that I will be opening a few spots for 1:1 mentorship in the coming weeks. This is your chance to join an exclusive group of fitness professionals that are dedicated to elevating the standards of their practice.
If my story resonates with you, if it speaks to you, click below to join the pre-sale list for exclusive deals and early registration. Spots are limited – don’t miss this opportunity to move your career forward in a meaningful way.
Cut the line and join the ranks of deep generalists that are shaping the future of personal training. Click below.
Remember: The journey provides the lessons. Keep learning, and stay curious.
'Til next time;
Etienne Asselin, mhRTS
Founder of The Exercise Mechanic.