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Factors in Fitness

By: Justin Walker



Table Of Contents 1) Dedication - Page 5

2) Foreword - Pages 6-7 3) Introduction - Pages 9-11 4) Chapter 1 “Athletic Attraction” - Pages 11-15 5) Chapter 2 “Prosperous Personality” - Pages 15-20 6) Chapter 3 “All Brawn, No Brain, No Success” - Pages 20-26 7) Conclusion - Pages 26-29 8) Works Cited - Page 30



Dedication This book is dedicated to Freestyle Academy, Phil Dao and the rest of the El Camino’s YMCA’s amazing staff. In addition I want to thank Sam Hacker and Rachel for supporting me during this documentary unit.



or a year now I’ve been actively working out and training for strength at the El Camino YMCA under the programming of Phil Dao, who is a personal trainer at the gym I am lucky enough to work with. Working with Phil has completely turned my life around and has also given me a greater purpose in life. I wrote this essay because I wanted to examine what attributes lead to a great personal trainer; more specifically what makes Phil so enjoyable to work with. From the start I wanted to write this paper on gym etiquette, but I could not find anything substantial or legitimate enough to support the topic. 6

From there I moved onto examining the history and origins of the YMCA out the recommendation of my english and design teachers, ultimately after digging into the topic I found it uninteresting and potentially boring for someone to read. I wanted more specificity in my topic; thats when I moved onto examining the characteristics of a successful personal trainer, which I found much more interesting and had solid research to back the topic. A secondary reason I was set on writing about my topic is because I have a good amount of connections to those who are involved in the field of fitness because I know many of the staff members at the YMCA, including Phil, who I knew would be willing to help me out. 7


Introduction Serious fitness training dates back to the ancient Greeks when they held the

first Olympic games in 776 B.C., although the profession of personal training did not come around till centuries later. Trainers from centuries ago were traditionally religious or military leaders. One of the more notable ancient trainers was Chinese philosopher, Confucius, who encouraged physical activity through the spread of Kung Fu (Gauthier). Nowadays personal training is a popular career path with many hopeful trainers hailing from a wide range of backgrounds, all of them hoping to make a name for themselves and succeed in the field. While there are many factors that can lead a trainer to success, there are a few select attributes that can lead to successful personal trainers. Phil Dao, a certified personal trainer working both at the El Camino YMCA as well a locallyowned gym in Sunnyvale, California called “Catalyst Athletics”, has many of these key factors. One of these critical factors comes from his childhood. Phil recalls: “I came from a very stereotypical storyline in that I was a chubby child and being chubby at such a young age limits you to what you can do and even making certain friends. It wasn’t till I got to college I started learning how to exercise and almost doing a total 180 on my own life...I believe a lot of individuals, my clients included, feel the same way. They want to exercise but may not have the knowledge or know where to begin with that. That where us personal trainers9 come in and help out.” (Dao)


Phil personally knows the many disadvantages to being overweight and the challenges you face when you are unhealthy. Today Phil works with many clients that are in a similar situation as himself when he was a child. Through his past experiences with health and staying physically fit, he has become capable of sympathizing with his clients who want to learn how to exercise and stay in shape. Although being overweight during your childhood generally does not foreshadow or predispose everyone to a career in personal training, it was an uncontrollable factor that led Phil to his career and success in the field of physical education. However, favorable uncontrollable factors are best when they are combined with a good foundation of knowledge of physical science. This begs the question, when in tandem with knowledge, what other factors, uncontrollable or not, can lead to one’s success in personal training?

Chapter 1: Athletic Attraction Genetics, like it or not, play a huge role in our lives. It is the recipe for our

body type and determines our physical and also some of our mental characteristics at birth. From Phil’s perspective as a child he may have thought he was cursed with a predisposition for being overweight. However, he did not know that fifteen plus years later he would be an impressively muscular and fit-180 pound personal trainer who has found success in the field and currently trains many clients from a wide range of backgrounds. While Phil was more vulnerable to being chubby as a child, he was also extremely gifted in being able to put on pounds of muscle that have given him a great physique that many other trainers and gym goers may never achieve. Do not be mistaken, I am not saying that his hard work, dedication, as well as knowledge of the physical science and diet did not get him to the physique he currently has, or that others can never achieve their dream body, but it is impossible 11 to say that genetics do not play a role in the physique of a person.

For example, America’s ever growing obesity epidemic is not to be attributed to the possibility that all Americans have bad genetics; it’s the result of an unhealthy lifestyle, which plays an understated role in the physique of a person. The build of a personal trainer has been revealed to play a crucial role in how potential clients select which personal trainer they want to work with.

Sam Hacker, a Foothill Community College student who also actively coaches Mountain View High’s boy’s lacrosse team reflects that if he was being personally trained by a trainer whose physique resembled that of someone who did not actively train for fitness or strength, he would be unmotivated as well as unconvinced that everything he was instructed to perform would actually bring in the physical results that he sought. 12

Researchers Deana I. Melton, Jeffrey A. Katula, and Karen M. Mustian accede Sam Hacker’s viewpoint. This study investigated the question of “What qualities are important to be a successful personal trainer?” The study utilized a selection of eleven personal trainers from various races, ages, genders, and certifications. All other participants, who when choosing which personal trainer to work with, agreed that physique was a critical consideration in the selection of personal trainers. 13

Even the trainers themselves concurred that personal trainers should look fit. One trainer who was part of the study stated that:

“Now if somebody’s coming in to make a serious transformation in their bodies, they’re well suited to find a trainer who has transformed his body and others’ [bodies] as well. A lot of times, you may have some of your geriatric, rehab-type clients. It’s important that the trainer look fit, again, but it depends on the client’s specific goals.” (Melton, Et al.) Clients want their personal trainer to reflect how they are going to look as the final outcome of their training.

Larger, older personal trainers are at a disadvantage because of the fact that most clients are going to choose their personal trainer off first impressions and looks rather than researching into what certification and knowledge that trainer may actually have to offer. The study also revealed that race played another role in the selection of trainers. 14

One trainer commented that when he first started working at a new gym, many perceived him as threatening due to his dark skin combined with his muscular physique. Many potential clients were turned off by false notions of him being a threatening individual. The trainer even went as far to say “that being a large, fit, muscular, African-American male was intimidating to some people and possibly aversive to business.”(Melton, Et al.) Genetics determine all of these physical characteristics, which can lead to the success of one personal trainer, or the failure of another. Physique is a key characteristic that can lead to a favorable personal trainer and is left largely uncontrollable behind the mastermind tha is human genetics. However, this is not the only characterist that can lead to the success of a personal trainer.

Chapter 2: Prosperous Personality Personality is another key factor that can drive the success of a personal

trainer. Our first 5-10 years of our lives heavily develop our personality because we are influenced by a variety of environmental and genetic factors. One personal trainer, in the same study conducted by researchers Deana I. Melton, Jeffrey A. Katula, and Karen M. Mustian, observed that: “Personality is huge. I mean, I’ve seen [clients] stay with [trainers] with, you know, they’re caring, considerate. They have them do the worst exercises! They’re wasting their time, talking about the movie they saw last night while [the clients are] doing their triceps

press-downs, but they love working with them because they’re not really interesting in having a trainer and getting results—but they know 15 they’re going to see their friend for $35 an hour.” (Melton, Et al.)

Personality is so important to a personal trainer to the point of where it can be harmful to the goals of a client, a client can be really good friends with their trainer to the degree in which they no longer care about their original goals they had in mind when they first hired their personal trainer, they just want to hang out with their friend for an hour a day and will gladly pay to do so. Although, by no means is the trait of having a great personality always a bad thing. Generally it is a great asset for a personal trainer to have in his/her arsenal. A key part of becoming a successful personal trainer is to become more than just a personal trainer. They should be friends with their clients, possibly even their best friend. Personality governs this ability to interact with others on a deeper level. If you have a flat or characterless personality as a personal trainer, you may find yourself losing clients who were not interested or entertained by what you socially had to offer them. In the primarily “word of mouth� profession that is personal training you can lose business fast when no one recommends your name to their 16 friends or family.

Rachel Bagnani, a mom of two young children, is currently being personally trained by Phil. When it comes to the subject of trainer’s personalities she states:

“Well I know for myself, since I’m kinda a silly person and I like to joke around a lot, I enjoy a personal trainer that can kinda interact with me on my level and laugh at my mistakes or laugh if I’m doing something wrong and, you know, having him correct me versus, I think I would feel more self conscious if they weren’t kind of approachable or laughing or, you know, goofy friendly.” (Bagnani)


Rachel finds that she would only approach a personal trainer who is like her, a bit on the silly side. She doesn’t want a trainer who treats their clients too seriously; Rachel wants a trainer who can take their clients mistakes in stride and joke around about them afterwards. Being too serious or silly is ultimately left up to the trainer’s personality. Rachel probably would not have chosen to work with Phil if it was not for his energetic and carefree personality; in this case, Phil’s jumpy personality was the key attribute that lead to his affiliation with Rachel. While you can certainly be successful without a great personality, many clients will be looking to work with someone who can offer them entertainment in addition to an exercise routine.



Chapter 3: All Brawn, No Brain, No Success.

If genetics and personality is the key to unlocking the door to success

in the line of personal training, then the knowledge needed to utilize the benefits of attributes such as a good physique and personality is the door itself. Personal trainers cannot get by on good looks and a great personality alone; they also need knowledge of the entirety of the human body to be the foundation that supports their charisma and looks. If clients notice they are not getting the results they wanted, 20 then they might think their trainer is just for looks, all brawn, no brain.

In a study conducted by researchers Moh. H Malek, David P. Nalbone, Dale E. Berger and Jared W. Coburn identified thirteen core courses they considered important that all personal trainers should be recommended to take before becoming certified.

These courses included:

(a) anatomy (human); (b) biochemistry; (c) biomechanics; (d) care and prevention of athletic injuries; (e) exercise physiology; (f) exercise prescription; (g) exercise testing; (h) ďŹ tness programming; (i) nutrition; (j) nutrition, exercise, and weight control; (k) physiology (human); (l) sports medicine; and (m) weight training ( Malek, Moh H. Et al. 2) It is of great importance that personal trainers have a solid understanding of health screening, testing protocols, exercise prescription, and knowledge regarding clients who have special needs.


Potentially personal trainers have to train clients with genetic limitations or special needs, people’s whose bodies do not respond the same to exercises as of a person with no disabilities or physical limitations on their body, or if their bodies have trouble performing certain exercises. Personal trainers have to understand the plethora of different body types people can have in order to train their clients effectively. 22

Phil has experience working with clients with special needs,

“For example, teaching the push ups, squats, lunges, can be quite difficult for someone who doesn’t know their body very well. The same can be told for someone who is much older may have the motor connections to do these exercises but may be going through a rehab or certain injuries for their body that limits their ability.” (Dao) 23

Personal trainers need to have extensive knowledge of the human body if they are going to assist someone who is interested in taking on a body transformation, whether it is losing weight, or putting on muscle mass. While some people may seek help from a personal trainer with a good physique, that’s not what is going to change your body; it’s the trainer knowledge that is going to really matter in the end. While knowledge is another great tool for a personal trainer to have, hands-on experience is also a game changer. In some cases this experience comes from interning under well-known coaches, which was the case for Phil, who interned under Coach Sierra at Santa Clara University and Coach Roll of the Oakland Raiders in which he learned how effectively interact and treat athletes. 24

His internships also influenced how he motivates his clients to push through and endure more mentally taxing parts of their workouts. He has learned to balance negative and positive enforcement in order to convince clients that their physical efforts are of no waste, that they will get the results they seek if they keep pushing themselves out and beyond their comfort zone.



When the knowledge of physical science and favorable attributes such

as a good physical build and a jubilant personality meet, a successful personal trainer is born. An impressive physique is useful and a carefree personality will draw in others to trust you and enjoy your company.




However, If you don’t actually have the knowledge to adequately train others, then clients who were once charmed by your charismatic personality will begin to stray off and find a trainer who can actually make a change in their lives. Former clients will seek a trainer with the know-how of diet and training who can prescribe a routine that will fit their individual needs and transform their body to how they envision themselves to look. 29

Works Cited Bagnani, Rachel, Personal Interview, 12 March. 2013

Carroll, Dennis. “Blame It On Your Genes: Personal Trainer In Exton Explains The Role Of Genetics In Fitness.” Http:// Premier Personal Training, Web. 19 Mar. 2013. Dao, Phil, Personal Interview, 7 March. 2013. Gauthier, Michael. “Personal Trainer History.” LIVESTRONG.COM. Livestrong, 31 Mar. 2011. Web. 08 Mar. 2013. Hacker, Sam, Personal Interview, 9 March. 2013. Malek, Moh H., David P. Nalbone, Dale E. Berger, and Jared W. Coburn. “Importance of Health Science Education for Personal Fitness Trainers.”Http://www. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2002. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. McClaran, Steven R. “THE EFFECTIVENESS OF PERSONAL TRAINING ON CHANGING ATTITUDES TOWARDS PHYSICAL ACTIVITY.”Http:// Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 01 Mar. 2003. Web. 08 Mar. 2013. Melton, Deana I., Jeffery A. Katula, and Karen M. Mustian. “THE CURRENT STATE OF PERSONAL TRAINING: AN INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE OF PERSONAL TRAINERS IN A SMALL SOUTHEAST COMMUNITY.”Http://www.setantacollege. 30 com. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, May 2008. Web. 08 Mar. 2013.