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/ May 2019
Maureen Quirk, Reebok

Harley Pasternak Shares Six Pieces Of Wisdom That Will Take Your Career To The Next Level

Stay focused, stay educated, and work on building strong relationships.

If you’re a trainer—or aspiring to become one—chances are that you’re already familiar with Harley Pasternak. And if you’re not familiar with him, you should be!

For over two decades, Pasternak has been viewed as one of Hollywood’s go-to fitness professionals, serving as the personal trainer and nutritionist to many of the A-list actors and musicians we all know and love. But, Pasternak was far from an overnight sensation. He got his start at a regular gym like any other trainer, and it took years of education training client after client, and putting in hard work to garner the credibility and reputation that now precedes him.   

Pasternak is now departing his wisdom on the newer generation of trainers. Here, he shares six keys to success trainers of all disciplines should keep in mind as they look to establish or grow their business. 

Educate Yourself—And Then Consistently Seek Out Continued Education

“I think what a lot of fitness professionals today are missing is the fundamental foundation—understanding the human body, studying the human body, understanding anatomy, biomechanics, psychology, physiology.” Pasternak himself spent tenyears at universities where he earned multiple degrees in exercise science and nutrition. While he’s certainly not saying every trainer should go to school for as long as he did, he does stress the importance of understanding the human body before taking on clients. “Before you can learn and understand and comprehend and either endorse or critique, you need to really understand how the body works.”

“Can you confidently walk into a room and say ‘I know at least as much or I know more than anyone in this room at my craft.’ You have to have that confidence and that foundation of knowledge.”

The Key To Success Is Fundamentals—Not Your Following 

These days, it can feel like anyone who has over 100,000 followers has to have a certain amount of credibility to have so many eyeballs following along. But that’s not true, says Pasternak. “Social media’s about entertainment,” says Pasternak. “It’s entertainment, and there’s a big difference between entertainment and education, entertainment and being an authority, entertainment and being a master of what you do.”

When Pasternak got his start as a trainer, social media   didn’t exist yet. His reputation was built on results—and those results were earned from client after client who benefitted from his expertise.   While he does now have social accounts that he posts to a few times a week, he has never prioritized growing or impressing his social media followers. But unfortunately, he thinks many trainers today are falling on the opposite end of that spectrum. “Today, it’s more about social media, and so there’s a lot more sizzle and a lot less substance than there’s ever been,” he says.  

Pasternak wants new trainers to be reminded that you do not need to be an Instagram fitness influencer to be viewed as a credible trainer. He brings up a personal example to drive this home.   I hurt my calf two years ago. I tore my calf and I was looking at who’s the best   doctor to help treat my calf and then who’s the absolute best Physical Therapist anywhere in the country that I can work with to make me better. The best   doctor in   does not have an Instagram page. The best physical therapist in the country, if not the world, she does not have a social media presence. Because they’re too busy being the best at what they’re doing, they don’t need to be active in a social media world.”  

Marketing yourself is important, but never forget that you’re doing that day in and day out by prioritizing your clients and their health. Your social media should tell that story if you want it to, but it doesn’t need to be the thing you spend a lot of time on.

Don’t Get Distracted By The Glitz And Glam 

“When you’re seeing something being posted on social media, it’s about an interesting looking exercise, not necessarily a safe, efficient, accessible exercise,” says Pasternak. He advises trainers to not be distracted by the allure of these interesting -looking movements. 

It is your job as a trainer to provide your clients with the most effective, beneficial exercises; if that means keeping movements simple, there’s no fault in that. In fact, he goes as far as to say, ”There’s a simplicity in my approach.” And look where it’s taken him. Don’t let social media lead you to believe you need to be programming more unique, complex movements to maintain a client base.  

It’s All About Building Relationships Through Trust And Support  

Many of Pasternak’s clients have been working with him for years. One of the keys to building these lasting, long-term client-trainer relationships, he says, is to show your clients that you’re genuinely committed to helping them achieve their goals. To do this successfully, a trainer must be in tune with a client’s lifestyle—which extends far beyond the confines of the gym. Is your client getting enough sleep? Is your client eating sugary foods for dinner?  While theymay be working hard during their one-hour personal training session with you, these other factors can prove the difference between achieving and not achieving a goal. 

“Because my clients live all around the world—we work with clients in Europe, the Middle East and Asia—I have a five daily habit program where every morning I wake up to at least 20 client emails,” says Pasternak. “On that email, it shows how many steps the client took the day before, how many calories they burned, their average heart rate throughout the day, what they ate and a sleep analysis. Going to bed an hour earlier to making smart eating decisions where you replace one thing for something else to taking the stairs and not the elevator, all these things add up.”

Set Limits For Yourself

“My time has to be organized in a very thought-out way,” says Pasternak. “I need to triage my priorities.” Pasternak believes that setting limits for himself is one of the factors that has contributed to his success. He continually evaluates his priorities in order to remain realistic about how much he can take on at one time.  

A prospective client may approach you and while you may really want to help them, before immediately taking that person on as a client, Pasternak recommends taking into account whether this will sacrifice the amount of time you’re able to dedicate to your existing clients. “Before anyone will refer you, they have to know that you’re good.” To be a good trainer, you must be able to give each client your full attention and focus. Taking on too many clients at one time will make that difficult to do. People are perceptive; they will be able to detect if your head is in 10 places at once. 

Know When Something Is Outside Your Scope —And Tell Your Clients 

“Your gardener can teach you how to keep your grass healthy, but they’re not going to tell you the key to healthy hair.” Pasternak uses that metaphor to explain the importance of trainers knowing their knowledge set, and moreover, their knowledge gaps. He says that nowadays, he frequently sees trainers who have no schooling or certifications in physical therapy or nutrition, giving clients advice on how to rehab from an injury or how to eat healthier. And that’s a problem.  

“Be the master of your trade, rather than the jack of all,” says Pasternak. “I don’t lead people on that I can help them beyond my knowledge set. So if it’s sports injury, I refer them to a great sports injury person. ” Just because you have some expertise, don’t mean that you’re an expert in everything a client needs.  

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/ May 2019
Maureen Quirk, Reebok