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What Rugby Taught Me about Being a Personal Trainer


Last month we talked about how the personal training industry is growing rapidly around the world. It’s a great profession that I am proud to be a part of as an in-home trainer and Life Fitness Academy Master Trainer. But what does it take to be a great personal trainer? Many of the skills that make me successful today, I learned on the rugby pitch. 

Some of the most professional personal trainers I have seen operating on the gym floor have been present or ex-rugby players. It’s a sport where you have no place to hide! You are one of fifteen team players with a very specific skill. You might be a speedy winger or you could be a powerful front row player.

Why you ask is this relevant to personal training?

I believe the connection comes in two forms: teamwork and vision. More precisely, it’s all about peripheral vision. The definition of peripheral vision is "a part of vision that occurs outside the very center of gaze".

When you are deeply immersed in the emotions of a game of rugby you need to be very aware of your teammate’s positioning, the speed at which they are running towards you or away from you, where the ball is, the positioning of the ball on the ground, how hard to pass the ball to the player 20 meters away, and more.

You need to have the ball as your center of vision; but to be aware of your surroundings. When I’m training a client, I use those same skills to look for and understand a number of things:


In rugby, there is a lot of information to process to ensure you give your team the best chance of winning the game. The same goes for your client. You need to ask questions, monitor their ability and their physical capability, initially and continually.


On the field of play where are you? Do you need to be in different position to move forward or do you need to slow down or speed up? All of these directional decisions need to be processed to direct your client to the goal.


What happens if you drop the ball, give a penalty away or miss a tackle? Things happen. On your journey with your client they could pick up an injury or a cold, or something could happen in their personal life. The client is your focus so you must be flexible to their needs and situations.


In rugby, the ball has to be passed from player to player in a backward direction. You need to position yourself in the best place to support the player in front of you. You need to place yourself in a position where you can support your clients, physiology and physically. Whether it's reinforcing your client’s self-efficacy or spotting them on a chest press, you are there to support you client.   


This is the bit that matters above all. When being part of a team you have a contract between you and your teammates. You show up for training and do the extra work that is required for your own position within the team.

Your client is part of your team. Yes, they have to do their bit, but you must make sure that you do yours by doing your homework, being on time, and being ready to go.  Professionalism and integrity are the keys to success.

Desire to achieve

In all sports, you’re on the field to win and winning feels great! When your client hits their goal, whether it’s to lose weight, complete their first 10K run or walk unaided after an accident, there is no better feeling. But their own feeling of achievement will be even greater! Celebrate with them as you are part of the success.

An anagram that a friend and respected rugby coach Dermot McKee taught me remember is this:

TEAMS: Teach, Educate, Adapt, Motivate and Support

Do that correctly and you will be a great personal trainer.

Enter now to be named the 2013 Personal Trainer to Watch. 

personal training
personal trainers to watch
Life Fitness Academy


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