When we see a personal trainer in the gym, or on social media, what thoughts pop up? Most often, (if not being negative) the words strong, confident, fit and popular come to mind. But is that the whole truth? Or, are we fibbing ourselves, and falling into the trap of “seeing what we want to see?”
We will never know what is going through another person’s mind unless we ask; and in return, they are completely honest. When it comes to personal trainers/fitness professionals, they are likely the ones who hold it all in; acting as if everything is “ok.” On the outside, they have it all together; but on the inside, they are just like EVERYONE ELSE in the world. They struggle with unhelpful thoughts, and overwhelming feelings of having to be the one that has “the solution to all of life’s problems.”
How do I know that? …Because I am a fitness professional, with over a decade’s experience wearing a fitness-pro badge. As a fitness-pro, I am someone who is viewed by society as being strong and resilient; with an uncanny ability to take on any challenge (both my own and my client’s). It is not uncommon for someone to say to me, “If anyone can get through it… you can!” In some ways, that comment can be motivating, and even a booster of self-confidence. But, what it can also do is cause feelings of isolation and depression.
When you are constantly told that “You are the one person that can get through it.” or “If anyone can handle it… you can.”, you can become reclusive. Those, who know my story, are aware that I have battled and survived some pretty tough obstacles; whether they were health, personal or business related. The hardest part of all of those struggles was the feeling of being alone – and having no one to talk to.
You see, when wearing the fitness-pro badge, our minds create an unspoken oath – “I must show NO sign of weakness.” The result? We see asking for help, collaborating, or talking about our insecurities and struggles as breaking the fit-pro oath. Break the oath and lose respect. Call me crazy, but if you are a fitness professional, I hazard a guess you have felt this at some point in your career.
Let’s look at this from another perspective. Would you think …
- a psychologist is weak for having their own therapist to help them work through the tough cases they deal with?
- a firefighter is weak for talking to someone after having performed CPR on an infant that didn’t pull through and was the same age as their own child?
I would like to think that you would agree – the examples above support the notion that every person, no matter their career, is entitled to and deserving of mental health support. And, by no means does it make them a “weaker” person.
As fitness professionals, we have clients that share their deepest, darkest secrets. We have clients that open up about divorce, loss of a family member, body dissatisfaction, etc. Quite often, we feel as if we have to “solve” all of their problems. But as fitness professionals, we also have personal lives where certain conversations can trigger our own unhealthy emotions and/or ignite unhelpful thoughts and memories.
So, does it not make sense for fitness professionals to…
- talk to someone?
- have a support network that provides a place where they can be heard and feel safe?
Big corporations have systems in place, and provide health benefits that cover therapy/support. But as a fitness professional? — crickets. Just Google, “Mental Health for Fitness Professionals”… and see what comes up. The first three pages will likely show websites containing information on how fitness professionals can help their clients’ mental health.
Finding a website or resource that will focus solely on the health of fitness professionals? — almost non-existent.
Which brings me to the reason behind this blog post – I can either sit back and watch an industry that is close to my heart and fulfills my life’s purpose crumble to pieces; or, I can do something about it. If we don’t take care of the professionals that teach health and wellness, what are we really saying? The health and well-being of fitness professionals is not important.
Let’s take a stand. Together, we can make a real difference by creating something that will help improve the mental health of fitness professionals.
A daunting task? Only if I don’t have the support. But something tells me “That won’t be the case!” If you feel this post sparked something inside of you… and you would like to be part of this initiative, please comment below and share the post!