How to develop your authentic style as a personal trainer

Discovering your authentic style as a PT is essential not only for yourself but also for your clients’ success.

Let’s start from the beginning – when you decide to become a personal trainer. The courses we take to become PTs are essential, because they force you to understand human physiology. You have to read through the material, even if you have been an athlete all your life. There's a difference between being an athlete and being a teacher, and each has their own talents. That doesn't mean you can't be both, of course.

The courses we take are meant to give us the foundations, which are valid for almost any type of movement. Even though the qualifying courses and Continuous Personal Development (CPD) teach us all of us pretty much the same things, we each have our identities and, for the sake of your happiness and success you must find that identity and develop your authentic style as a PT. We each need to find the style we are good at, that we're passionate about, and maybe the one that we fully believe in because it changed our lives. That's how we change peoples' lives, teaching the style we are the best at, not the one we are average at.

Some PTs are great at lifting weights and teaching that particular aspect or style of training, while others may be extraordinary at spin classes. I could never lead a spin class –it's not in my nature. I spent my childhood in karate dojos, and that atmosphere is the one I feel comfortable in, to teach, train and coach.

Alexandra is a karate champion

As PTs, we often get caught up in what other trainers do and try to copy them. While it's fine to take inspiration from them, and learn from them, we need to find our style otherwise our business will flounder. How are you supposed to teach something that doesn’t match your personality? It won’t work, because you don’t feel it yourself, and your clients won’t either.

How I found my authentic style

I didn’t know what I was going to do when I arrived in London. I had a Masters degree in international business. Even though I'd been an athlete all my life – Shotokan Karate, now representing England – it had never occurred to me that I would follow a path in sports, health and fitness. I wasn’t even aware of the term personal trainer. I had no idea.

When I started learning about the industry and studying the PT course I found it, to my surprise, the easiest thing I have ever studied. Not that the information was easy, but I was able to learn and understand it. I could read a page once and remember 90% of it. While in the past I’d struggled to study other subjects, anatomy and body mechanics just made sense to me. That effortless learning told me that this was what I was good at, my passion, so to speak.

Combined with my love and talent for teaching and business studies it was a no-brainer.

Like any other PT I started with my Level 2, then Level 3, followed by several CPD courses and Level 4 a few years later. After I received my certifications it was time to find a place in a gym, so I could get some experience. I had no idea I’d eventually go out on my own; the plan was to work in a gym. I didn't have a vision back then.

I worked in a gym, and learnt a lot. Everything I’d hear from a PT or a client I’d go home and research it. At the same time I started training for Tough Mudder with my obstacle course race coach. He used natural movement fitness and the Pose Method of running to prepare obstacles course racers.

Man slips in mud at obstacle race

Obstacle racing is getting more popular

And the best part? It was all outdoors, in forests. That was it! I was a natural at it, teaching and performing the movements. It just made sense. And the technical side of natural movement fitness goes as deep as the training for Karate. It was my perfect style and it felt like me. It fitted like a glove.

I spent 2 years with my coach, training for myself, for obstacle races. Now he coaches too far away and, unfortunately, I can’t train with him anymore.

The next step was to create my own style. Because everyone teaches in a different way, I had my style, which I needed to discover and fine tune.

With the help of my business coach, Amanda, that’s exactly what we did, and The Merisoiu Technique was born. I’m still not sure “technique“ is the right term, but the elements that I brought together, the system I created is based on my identity, my style.

In short it’s natural movement in the outdoors environment, martial arts – the mindful, controlled fluid movements, and running mechanics – a blend of the Pose Method of running, Chi Running, and Natural Running technique.

Training outdoors

It’s been almost 4 years since I started working in a gym, and 2 years growing the business. The journey has been amazing, and there’s much more to come. We're talking very little money in the first year, 7-day work weeks, and 16-hour work days. Let's not speak about the non-existent personal life. However, I committed to this journey and I love the challenge as well as the results 2 years later. For me, all the effort was – and is – worth it.

It's important to have variety. I now run my own Karate club and am hosting my first retreat this year, called Dracula's Retreat – yes, it's actually 1km away from Dracula's Castle in Transylvania.

Closing thoughts on developing your own style

My advice to PTs who are just starting off is to leave the doors open. See what grabs your attention, like obstacle racing grabbed mine. Then pay for a coach. Every coach should have their own coach as well anyway.

Don’t worry, you won’t be stealing their style, you will make your own. No one can teach like anyone else. If you create your style you will be known for and by that style. If you are like everyone else, you will just be lost in the crowd (wise words from my business coach).

And continue your professional development. Attend courses and take exams. Every course shapes your identity, even if you decide to not use any of the concepts from a course. Keep studying and incorporate what you study into your coaching.

Good luck developing your own style!