written by sean hyson
I’m a marked man. Being a fitness editor at Men’s Fitness (and, as of late, Muscle&Fitness) has made me somewhat of a target to trainers who are hungry for publicity. You wouldn’t believe what they’ll do to get my attention and deliver their pitches.
They call. They e-mail. They show up at my office unannounced. They’ve even followed me into the men’s room and told me ideas through the stall door.
Jeez, you’d think I was in The Beatles. Or The Monkees. Or maybe The Jonas Brothers?
So, for anyone out there who’s stalking me, let me make it clear what kind of trainers I’m looking for to contribute to these magazines. (I’m sure you’ll find the policy is the same at many other fitness magazines, such as Men’s Health.) Here are my criteria:
#1 You Have to Actually Train People
Thanks to the Internet, trainers who have had only one client (or even none) can make a name for themselves in a short time and sell programs that aren’t battle tested. I try to steer clear of them. My friend Jason Ferruggia once told me that a trainer should have at least five years of experience working with clients before he writes an article, and he should have at least 10 years of experience before he writes a book. I think that’s fair.
I just don’t see how you could give solid advice on building muscle and losing fat safely and effectively without having practiced that advice yourself for a significant period of time. Again, thanks to the Web, an “expert” can easily regurgitate good information he got somewhere else and take credit for it in a magazine. But take it from me that the best ideas always come from guys who have a dense client base. And I can usually tell who they are.
#2 You’re Not A “____” Guy
If you’re 30 or younger and you already have a branded system of training, with T-shirts made up to advertise it, I can’t take you seriously. If you ONLY use kettlebells, clubbells, body-weight training—or you propagate some other fad at the exclusion of using common sense—I’m deleting your e-mail.
The best trainers all have at least this in common: they get results, no matter what. They look at what the client can do, wants to do, and will do, and they design a program with all those considerations. Kettlebells aren’t the end-all, be-all. Neither is the Westside Barbell method. Everything has its place and a great trainer knows how to pick and choose from many methodologies to make a successful workout routine. If you’re young and you tell me you already know the perfect workout system, you’re wrong. Having your own trademarked program with an acronym (say, C.H.I.S.E.L.E.D., and it stands for Can’t Hardly Imagine how Super Extremely Large and Exceptionally Diesel you’ll be on my progam) only tells me that you’re a good self-promoter. If you spend that much time and effort selling yourself, you probably haven’t spent enough time learning your craft.
It’s supposed to be training people, remember?
#3 You’re Not Already World Famous
You rarely see reality show trainers in the magazines I work on. Our featured workouts of the month will never be written by Richard Simmons or Tony Little. One reason why falls under #2, but the main one is that we don’t want to look like a joke. Like we’re cashing in on the latest trend just because it’s the latest trend. Our audience is mainly men between 18 and 34, with a lot of older guys included as well. They want to get big, strong, and ripped, and they’re not afraid to lift heavy weights and train hard to get there. This puts them outside the mainstream, to some extent, and that means these mainstream coaches can do little to help them. Also, guys in this demo tend to be very suspicious, weary, and even hateful of celebrities, and I don’t blame them.
Most of these “trainers to the stars” and other TV infomercial gurus aren’t any more qualified than the guy who teaches the “butt blast” class in your local chain gym. He or she just happened to know someone, got lucky, and wound up on TV.
A certain reality show trainer I know won his first celeb client at a party. He had just moved to Hollywood, and was drinking a martini talking to some new friends. This celebrity happened to be there, migrated over to him, and said, “I heard you’re a trainer, but you’re drinking a martini.”
“Well, then you’re the kind of trainer I want to have.”
Sometimes it’s that simple, folks. She didn’t ask what kind of education he had, what certification he had, or whether he’d trained anyone before. Celebrities are, deep down, average people, and they make the same dumb decisions as the rest of us. Just because they COULD get the best experts out there to help them doesn’t mean they do.
I’ll come back with a part 2 next time.