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No Sweatpants! Put the Professional in Personal Training

03/07/2014 12:01 EST | Updated 05/07/2014 05:59 EDT

There was a time where weight lifting and strength training at gyms was the domain of male body builders, boxers, and other serious athletes. During the late '60s and into the 1970s however, ordinary men and women started to become more body-conscious and according to AltMD.com, "[people] began to become more educated and interested in training and therefore the need for an expert emerged."

Enter the personal trainer.

People who frequent gyms have some experience with personal trainers, including me. I've worked with a few and during the training sessions, I've hated the guts of each and every one of them for putting me through such grueling and humiliating exercises and making me feel as though I'd been beaten with a lead pipe, but they certainly helped me reach my fitness goals. No pain, no gain really is true.

I didn't think any further about what personal trainers do besides help to make people leaner and stronger (and sometimes angry), and then I found out about niche training and how these specialties benefit all kinds of people for all sorts of reasons.

For instance, in the U.S., Bolt Fitness offers a guide to become a certified personal trainer in the following specific areas:

• American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified: focus on working with people with medical-related specialties (geriatrics, stroke and cancer patients, people with mobility limitations);

• National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified: training for athletes or anyone who wants to increase their fitness levels, combining form and technique;

• American Council of Exercise (ACE) Certified: based on science with a focus on fitness education, trainers teach and train their clients. With its emphasis on public education, ACE is a non-profit organization focused on improving quality of life through safe, effective exercise and physical activity";

• National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCSA) Certified: this type of training is for people with temporary or chronic injuries, and trainers are something like occupational therapists.

The more people I spoke to, the more niche training I discovered:

Canfitpro is the largest fitness association in Canada with a standardized training program that incorporates the techniques of ACSM and the ACE, and offers fitness certification accreditation programs;

Functionality training originates in rehabilitation and is used by physical and occupational therapists to retrain patients with movement disorders, the end goal being injury prevention and functional independence;

• Strength training and developing professional or amateur athletes involves building the physique, power lifting, and body-building;

• Muscular re-education, that is, breaking up scar tissue and correcting muscular imbalance, is a niche practiced by chiropractor Dr. Adonis Makris of Life Studio, Toronto. Dr. Makris' is a blend of several techniques including biomechanics, Paul Chek's function training, and Charles Poliquin's strength training techniques.

It is amazing how many branches the personal training tree has, but whatever the niche, this occupation has a uniform that consists of stretchy, comfortable clothes, but the uniform's casual feeling should not affect your professional image.

A trainer's professional image

If I showed up to work with a client wearing sweatpants and a ponytail, what would that say to my client? Would they have faith in me and my quality of work? Similarly, if you met a personal trainer with bad posture and a belly, would you believe he or she could help you? Looking the part and embodying your enthusiasm for your work is the best example of your passion and your capabilities.

When it comes to dressing, would you train your clients wearing the same clothes you wore to bed? Trainer and author, Rachel Cosgrove, explains the fine line between dressing for work as a personal trainer, dressing for her own workout, and putting something on for around the house.

"Your goal is to be seen as a professional by your clients and potential clients," she says. "Their doctor or physical therapist would never wear their pajamas when meeting with them and neither should we if we want to be seen as part of their health professional team."

Even when it feels like you're wearing lounge clothes, dressing in neat, clean, and appropriate clothes wins every time. Remember, your image -- how you present yourself and how you behave -- sells your services and you control this element, so please be mindful of what messages you send out to the world, no matter what training specialty you practice.

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