A Letter To All Greenville, SC Personal Trainers

I've been training in the Upstate SC & Greenville area for about 8 years now. I'm fully insured and have experience in both in-home, corporate gyms, and a small studio environment.  I have experience as a conditioning coach for the Greenville Little League Allstar boys' baseball team as well as Greenville High School's girl' lacrosse. 3 of my female clients have gone on to place in local and state beauty pageants. One of my clients is now a full-time model and actress.

It took me 8 years to amass the kind of reputation I have in the Greenville area. There are HUNDREDS of trainers with all kinds of experience and niches in the upstate area, some of which have as equally impressive a resume. Greenville Tech is spitting out new graduates from their personal training program (which I've attended) on a yearly basis. As I get older (almost 30!) I notice the fire within new trainers to the industry, eager to learn anything they can to succeed. But among the good seeds, I've also come across some bad seeds of late.

To set myself apart (and not to claim that I'm the best), I started referring to myself as "Greenville's Personal Trainer" 3 years ago. It's just a way to try to obtain an identity in an industry where all trainers are usually lumped together. A client recently brought to my attention that there is another trainer in the Upstate who's referring to himself as a very similar moniker. I thought this could be pure circumstance, as it's a big city-- and besides, I didn't copyright the nickname. I have no claim to it more than any other trainer. However, I found that this trainer was taking subtle pot-shots at me on his site. Without mentioning me by name, it was obvious that he was attacking my credentials and even comparing himself to me.

This trainer, I'm sure, is a very capable fitness trainer. But he came off as completely classless. He touted that he is the only independent trainer in the Upstate that works closely with physicians. Not true. I work with a handful of doctors and general practitioners in the area, as I'm sure a ton of other local personal trainers do as well.

Another tout of his was that you shouldn't rely on client testimonials when you hire a trainer. Among other things, all he did in his introduction to potential clients was state how he was better than all the other trainers, and that he was the absolute best.

What gives a trainer the authority to make this claim? Has this trainer acquired the highest education possible in the world of exercise? Can he name all voluntary, involuntary, and cardiac muscles from memory? What makes someone "the best trainer" in their respective area?

Has the best trainer actually spoken with every other trainer in the local city? Has he trained with them? Did he win some contest that gives him the right to make this claim? I don't think so. In this industry, almost anyone with a sack of knowledge can tell you if a trainer is good or not based on simple progressive results.

Does this trainer's clients get results? Does this trainer show up on time every time? Does this trainer work with his clients injury free? Does this trainer refer the client to a medical professional if the client has any nagging medical issues? If the answer is yes, this trainer is considered a decent trainer. A competent one, at that.

Remember the confident attitude of one Tim Tebow? He refused to back-up QB anywhere he went. He
HAD to be the starter on whichever team he was signed to. His on-field results didn't warrant his cocky attitude, so he's no longer playing pro football. If he had accepted his strengths, he possibly could have become a competent TE or RB. But his ego got in his way and his full potential was never realized.

What gives one the authority to make the claim of being the BEST in fitness? A trainer that all other trainers aspire to be? A trainer that ALL OTHER TRAINERS have heard of, admire, and even go to for advice.

There is no authority. There is nothing that gives them the right. The fact that this person has a mouth and a keyboard gives him that right. Personal training is subjective. Let me repeat that..

Personal training is subjective...

I have my strengths as a personal trainer. Sedentary client that's never worked out a day in her life? Working toward a bikini body? Looking to drop some weight and put on a lean physique? I'm your guy.

However.. Looking to prepare for a bodybuilding competition? Powerlifter? I'll refer you to trainers who are more experienced in that area, trainers like Elvis Assemian, Jonathan Willis, or Mike Baehser.

Crossfit? Kenya Dease.

Looking to take a heart pumping aerobics class to kill the fat? I'd refer you to Nicole Tebano or Andrea Lofgren. Want to burn a million+ calories in a Zumba class? Dee Dee Robinson is your gal.

There are tons of trainers in the Greenville area with their own specialties and niches.

Was I really as bad as some of these New Kids On The Block?

When I received my first certification, which was through Peak Fitness on Laurens Road, I thought I was hot stuff. Another trainer told me that to be the best, I had to act like I was. Even if I wasn't sure of myself, I had to carry myself as a fitness expert.

"Fake it 'til you make it", he said.

Boy, was he wrong. If everyone saw me back then as I'm seeing in certain pompous "know it all" trainers, then I definitely was going about it all the wrong way. I know for a fact that I drove off potential business. I thought that by reading a chapter in a book, watching a youtube vid, or reading a Wikipedia article on something made me the know-it-all expert. I know a hell of a lot more now than I did back then-- and I was walking around claiming to be the best in the Upstate back then. "Train with the rest, then train with the best", I'd say. Boy, was I an idiot.

It's a fine line to walk, but trainers should carry themselves as humble beings with above average knowledge of fitness. That's all we are. We aren't the be-all-end-all of getting into shape. Any potential client could possibly get into shape without us. So why scare them off with the Alfa act that we put on?

Fun fact. Half of my clientele could leave me right now and train on their own just fine with the knowledge they've gotten from me. But they choose to stay with me. They enjoy the workouts. Why? Because I'm more than just a bin of knowledge, or even potential knowledge...

I'm a motivator. Being a motivator is more than making someone workout when they don't want to...

It's showing your clients that you're there for them. That you're putting them first and that you're not only motivated by the money they're paying you. It's realizing that what works for one client may not work for another. If a client complains about an exercise and absolutely hates it, I don't make them do it just because I want them to. I find another exercise to work the same muscle group. You must be sympathetic toward your client's concerns and complaints.

Being a motivator is responding to their texts, calls and e-mails as soon as you can. Being a motivator is living the lifestyle-- eating healthy, working out.

Personal training also invites a slew of potential unprofessional behavior. It is, after all, PERSONAL training. You can sympathize with your client when they complain about their spouse, but don't offer advice. You're not a therapist. Listen to your client, but don't cross those professional boundaries.

If you're ever looking to hire a personal trainer, let me give you my take on making sure your potential trainer is qualified. First off, to understand my take on what my mindset used to be. I have adapted my view on this subject over the years, and there are those that will disagree with me, but this is my personal opinion:

I used to be under the guise that ALL trainers had to be certified in some way, shape or form. There are entry-level certifications that you can easily obtain online by studying and then taking a test right from your computer. (This is actually how I got my first cert) There are also other certifications that are considered more prestigious in the fitness community: NASM, ISSA, IFPA, ACE, to name a few. I assumed that any trainer worth their weight would have one of these.

But then I met Bob.

Bob was not a certified personal trainer, yet he worked for a small studio that I was associated with years ago. Bob was very professional and was also a wealth of knowledge. He could name parts of the human anatomy that I don't ever remember seeing in any PT course.

But he wasn't certified.

Bob constantly got results with his clients. He had been training for years and years. His clients were happy. The studio owners were happy. Eventually, I asked Bob why he wasn't certified. After all, it would be relatively easy for him to do so with his knowledge of exercise.

"I was certified one time. But none of my clients ever asked me about my qualifications. I let my experience and knowledge do my talking for me. After my cert expired, I just never bothered to drop hundreds of bucks on something that nobody has ever asked me about anyway. People don't want to know what a piece of paper says you can do. They want to know what you have done and what you can do".

At the time, I still somewhat disagreed with Bob's stance, but his answer satisfied me. He had a point. I had spent more than $700 in study material, most of which I already knew anyway, for a certification that very few clients have asked about.

I still believed that all trainers should certified. But which certification? There are DOZENS of "good" ones and hundreds of "get it now online" certs. Then I met another gentleman that was not certified. He did, however, possess a bachelors degree in exercise sciences. But he wasn't a certified personal trainer. But at the same time, he possessed more education and knowledge than the cert ever said he would. This is getting tricky!

I'm still under the belief that all trainers should have some sort of formal training in the safety and practice of standard exercise. I also believe that all trainers should have a baseline knowledge of nutrition. However, I believe that experience plays a huge role in qualification.

That being said, I would take a trainer with 15 years of experience and decent kinesiology knowledge OVER a fresh 18 year old graduate of a 9 month fitness course.

As the fitness industry gains more traction and the trend of getting into better shape continues to rise, I hope that soon the government looks at the personal training industry. There needs to be ONE overseeing body and ONE national guideline to have for fitness trainers-- and not dozens of certifications put together by experts based on what qualities they deem important in a cert. It would also help if this ONE overseeing national certification was actually affordable. I know tons of gym trainers who barely make 20K a year who have trouble ponying up several hundred dollars every few years.

This alpha trainer BS needs to stop. Alpha trainers who constantly state that they are the best, and downing other trainers, are hurting the industry. We all need to be humble and respectable. This is NOT a regulated industry.

Does this cocky arrogant attitude derive from over-confidence? Or is it from insecurity?

I also believe that us local trainers, working together, can make way more money than working against each other. I have about 50-60 training hours per week that I allot. Of those, I have around 30 regular clients, with the occasional client that trains once a month or every few weeks.

News flash, guys-- I can't train everyone in Upstate SC. It's physically impossible to do. I know tons of trainers like myself who have a full schedule and are happy.

Look at all of the potential new clients in Greenville SC as one big pie. I have a small piece, but I'm full. But there are other trainers that feel that they need to try to take my piece. Or your piece. Why? There's an entire pie sitting here. Why don't you go get your own piece and share the wealth?

I get calls and e-mails from prospects that I cannot train, for whatever reason. Either I don't believe we're a good trainer/client fit or our schedules won't work. So sometimes, I have too much pie for myself and I'd like to give you some of my slice.

Let's stop putting each other down and start building each other up. We're all in this together. In the end, it's about getting the client into great shape. It's about spreading the word of a healthy lifestyle and influencing others through practice. You're not a better trainer than me. I'm not a better trainer than you. You have your strengths and I have mine.

Think about it. If you're guilty of thinking of me as your competition, I implore you to consider changing your thought process. There's plenty of pie to go around, and we can fill our schedules easier together than we can apart.

Greenville's Personal Trainer (or not!)
Justin Bowers


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