Hey, looking for a nutrition plan that’s tailored to your specific metabolic needs so you can lose those last few pounds? Perhaps a detailed diet to help you to manage your prediabetic symptoms? My hat’s off to you for trying to make a positive change!
Oh, wait — you want ME to write that plan for you?
Sorry, friend. You’ve got the wrong guy. What YOU need is a dietitian — not a trainer.
How’s the stiffness in that hip and lower back been doing? Getting any better? Let’s keep working on getting you strong and stable with some carefully applied exercise, and I bet you’ll see improvements over time.
What’s that? You felt something ‘POP’ when you were playing with your kids yesterday and want me to tell you why you can’t stand up straight now without debilitating pain?
I’m pretty sure you need an orthopedist or physical therapist and some imaging. Resistance bands and isometrics won’t rebuild a disc in your spine.
A proper exercise regimen can absolutely improve energy levels and improve your heart health.
So you’re telling me you haven’t been able to sleep well and your heart’s been beating irregularly for the past two weeks?
Get yourself to a doctor!
Far too often, people mistake those of us who work in fitness for all-around experts on everything health. From diet, to exercise, to advanced biochemistry and immunology — it’s expected that we’ll have an opinion and stand by it confidently if a client puts us on the spot with a question. But the simple reality is that no amount of studying will make someone an authority in all of these areas. In fact, most exercise professionals are lucky if they can really call themselves an “expert” in one or two of them!
There’s a reason I don’t wear a stethoscope except when I take people’s blood pressure — I’m not a doctor! If you need something diagnosed, see someone who’s licensed/registered to do that!
But in all fairness, I can’t blame the public. I can’t blame the clients. After all, they get these impressions from somewhere. They get it from US.
That’s right. I’m talking about people in this very industry who have plenty of opinions and not enough scruples. They kick down your door with promises that they can fix almost anything in your life with their secret knowledge. They position themselves on the same level as medical doctors and nutrition experts (if not above them) and say definitively that [insert problem here] is simply caused by [overly simplistic scapegoat] that is easily fixed with [remedy that is either insultingly simple or completely arbitrary]. This creates a perception that personal trainers are experts on anything that even smells like it’s health related.
NEWS FLASH — WE’RE NOT!
In fact, the REALLY knowledgeable ones who actually may know a good deal about these other fields tend to be even more conservative about the advice that they give. They almost always respect the limits of their own knowledge and the scope of practice of other professions (like medicine, physical therapy, dietetics, etc.).
So a simple rule of thumb is this: If a personal trainer always has an answer for everything — even things that have little to do with actual exercise science — RUN!
Now before anyone gets too upset, let me be clear. I’m in no way saying that we exercise nuts can’t do some pretty incredible stuff. I’ve got more than my share of personal anecdotes about amazing successes that people have had through exercise and basic, sensible diet principles (the kind that you *don’t* need a dietitian to learn). Health and epidemiology research supports this as well. So in other words, a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach may be EXACTLY what they need!
If people have medical needs, they need to address those first. THEN we can worry about sets and reps :)
The key is in figuring out those needs so we can take the right course of action. If there’s any suspicion that something is broken/torn/dislocated/etc., then a medical/clinical professional is the way to go. The same goes for anything where someone’s health may be in jeopardy (e.g. a heart problem, difficulty breathing, illness, etc.). Even in cases where exercise is needed for such individuals, it should be carried out in coordination with (if not under direct supervision of) a medical professional as part of a team effort. Furthermore, exercise professionals who work with such populations typically hold a higher-level, more specialized education and credentials to go with their position.
So too is the case with specialized dietary prescriptions, psychological counsel, or anything that’s health-related but not exercise-related — it’s outside our scope of practice That means we shouldn’t be giving advice on it (and in many cases, it is illegal to do so).
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that fitness professionals have a narrow (but still important) skill set. We use exercise and related health principles (basic dietary knowledge, psychology, etc.) to improve people’s health and/or performance in some meaningful way. We don’t set bones, diagnose ailments, “prescribe” diets or cleanses, or do anything else that goes outside of our scope of practice.
And we don’t have to!
Exercise is an absolutely incredible thing in itself! When we have benefits like potential management of osteoporosis, disease risk reduction, and a number of other goodies under our belts, we shouldn’t need anything else to make us feel adequate.
So if you’ve got clearance from your doctor and are coming to me to improve virtually every area of your life through exercise AFTER the stuff I’ve already talked about is taken care of — Then you’ve got the right guy.