Should a Personal Trainer have visible abs?

When you think of Personal Trainers, what images come to mind?

Is it a girl in matching gym wear with visible abs and a Kim K arse? Is it a lad with huge arms that can do a million pull-ups? Is it someone who talks to you in scientific jargon at 90mph while slugging cans of an energy drink? Maybe it’s someone else entirely.

When I started PTing, I for sure didn’t fit the stereotypical image shown in the above Google search. I knew I had a lot of the education, skills, traits and passion to be a great PT; and indeed, Business Owner; but I feared that it would never be enough unless I looked the part too.

My wake-up call came one day when I’d been on my feet for a solid 10hours (since 6am) with more of the day yet to go. I started to feel really hungry and consulted an app to see if I had enough calories spare to eat an apple…. Yup, AN APPLE!! It was as if I was checking my bank account to see if I could afford it!

Disappointingly, I didn’t have enough calories for it based on my macro calculator. I spent some despairing moments in the gym canteen wondering would that feeling of guilt which would come from “going over my calories” be worth silencing the hunger I felt?

I remember thinking how I was almost at my goal weight of 63kg, having dropped down from 75kg earlier that year to fit the “PT image”. Did I really want to start a habit of going over my calories and maybe never reach the golden number?

I also thought I was looking after myself well – I was getting seriously strong, I was the leanest I’d ever been with somewhat visible abs . I was instructing around 4 – 6 spin classes per week and strength training 3 to 4 times per week while ensuring I was taking 8000+ steps per day and eating 2400kcal per day. I thought I was was doing everything right and was really impressed at myself for being able to lose weight on such a high amount of calories. #MetabolismGoals

You’ll be happy to know that with the next rumble of my tummy, I went over to the shop and got the damn apple and a protein bar to go along with it!

Does this story sound crazy to you? If so, you may be surprised at how common a mindset that is for a lot of dieters – even those of us who are supposed to be educated in the field!

Let’s be clear here – I’m in no way saying that everybody experiences the negative psychological factors associated with dieting but in the same breath, I want you to know you’re not alone if you do – AND YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE IF YOU DO!

We, the custodians of the industry need to be better at sending you that message. We need to be better at giving you alternatives to dieting that will sustainably improve your Total Health – Physical, Mental, Emotional and Social. We need to stop equating “results” to Before and After pics and we need to start equating them to all of the other benefits you feel but don’t necessarily see or appreciate consciously.

Unfortunately for me, obtaining that outer physique had come at the expense of my own mental & social health. It also hadn’t cured my Imposter Syndrome; looking the part did not make me feel the part.

It was time for a change of mindset.

2020’s restrictive lockdown nature has given me a huge amount of time to reflect on myself, choose how I show up for my clients and decide where I want to take my business.

Being this clear on who I am and what I do is thrilling and terrifying at the same time because I know that not everybody reading this will agree with me – and to a big ole people pleaser like me that is nerve wrecking! I might do another blog post in time on this very subject: “How to let go of people pleasing, imposter syndrome and just be unashamedly ME” but I’m not quite there yet!

So in becoming a different kind of PT, this is what I mean:

I choose to move away from Diet Culture. I choose to put more focus on Total Health than physical appearance. I choose to help my clients build strong bodies, no matter if they’re 30 or 90. I choose to value fun and connectedness over visible abs. I choose to be curious about our “inner mean girl” voices and find ways of moving past fears and doubts. I choose to continually find creative and individualised solutions for my clients that hit the Sweet Spot. The Sweet Spot is that magical state of feeling strong, fit, confident and connected without letting go of life’s craic agus ceol. I choose to be inclusive, authentic and responsive – which means every now and again I’mma f*ck up. In those instances, you’ll be damn sure I’ll admit to it and share whatever learnings I have with those of you willing to listen.

Lastly, I choose to share buckets of my personal and professional learnings with you so that you know what it looks like to kick ass and be a normal human being all at the same damn time.

Thanks for reading,


Footnote –

The great thing about the Personal Training industry is that you can find amazing, knowledgeable, passionate trainers who really specializes in your goal type, no matter what you are looking for.

The bad thing about the Personal Training industry is that we tend to get hung up on “who’s science is best” thus focusing our content on telling you how wrong other PTs are which only makes Health and Fitness that bit more confusing for you.

My advice: remember YOU are the Chief Editor of your digital world. So feel free to unfollow us, ask clarifying questions or discard what we say and just go on doing you. Just keep it kind.