Skills Active trainee delivering fitness that fits in with busy lives

August 4, 2020

Being a great personal trainer is all about giving your clients the best possible chance of success, and that means making them feel comfortable and supported, says Skills Active trainee Jacob Carlyon.

Jacob (pictured above with Skills Active learning support advisor Angie Gooch) recently moved from his hometown of Marton to Wellington. He is working as a personal trainer at Les Mills, and completing his New Zealand Certificate in Exercise (Level 4).

Jacob developed a passion for exercise as a teenager, when he was “the shortest and skinniest kid in school”.

“I wanted to do some strength training. So, the day I turned 16 I joined the gym. The manager there took me under his wing and trained me side-by-side for two years. We must have looked funny – he was a large bodybuilder and I was a tiny schoolkid.

“But if I hadn’t had that relationship with him, I would have given up pretty quick. I really enjoyed working out and I decided I wanted to be a personal trainer. I was given that help, and I wanted to give other people the same opportunity.”

Jacob strives to keep his clients feeling positive and encouraged, to support them both during and outside of training sessions, and help them to be consistent with their exercise, rather than perfect.

“I think health and fitness are such an important part of life, but there are so many other aspects. My clients have work, and families. So I work around their needs. If they are finding it really hard to get up in the mornings, then I will say, ‘Let’s try in the afternoons.’ It’s about keeping them comfortable but consistent. When you first start working out in a gym, you don’t need to be perfect – you just need to get started.”

Although Jacob has always felt at home in the gym, he says not everyone starts out that way.

“For a lot of clients, coming into the gym can be scary, and they worry about others judging them. But actually, it’s a pretty positive environment where everyone is trying to be the best version of themselves.

“So part of my job is to turn that mindset around, to show them that the gym is a nice place to be, where we can work on ourselves, but we can also feel comfortable and good about ourselves.”

The best part is that small, regular changes soon make a big difference, he says.

“I’ve seen it a lot, from when I first started personal training. I had a client with sciatica, and the pain had been affecting her for 10 years, right through having her children. We set up a programme and she stuck at it for a few months, strengthened her core and lost a bit of weight, and it really reduced her sciatica. That’s rewarding – being able to help someone with pain, or with feeling better about themselves.”

Jacob has been working through his Skills Active qualification, first at gyms in Marton and Feilding, and now with the support of his mentors at Les Mills in Wellington.

“A big reason I chose the Level 4 qualification was that I wanted to be sure I knew enough to be a good personal trainer – writing programmes, working with clients, running a business.

“I also scouted out a bunch of gyms and asked them what sort of qualification they looked for, and Exercise Level 4 was something they were after. I’ve seen a lot of other PTs who have done full-time courses to get the same qualification, for $7k or $8k. Through doing my training on the job, I have come out with no student debt, and I feel like I’m better off with this certificate because of the practical nature of it.”

Although his two siblings both went from school to university, Jacob says his mum and dad were happy for him to choose another path.

“I’m really passionate about business, and I always studied business throughout school. Being able to run my own business has been cool. When I chose to get into personal training, it was a bit different for my family, but my parents were super open to it, and they’ve supported me all through the process.

“One of my goals is that I’d like to build a business with a focus on working with young people and students – that 16 to 20 age bracket. That’s where I started, and I’m so glad I got into it at a young age.

“Keeping yourself fit is a life skill, so if people can get started early, that’s much better than letting life get in the way, and only coming to it later on down the track.”