I have never been on social media – nor close to being a fitness influencer – until last year. When I created my account in November, my only purpose was to share my knowledge with my family and friends. However, the account grew to 50,000 organic followers in less than one year, without any paid promotions.
I have shown people what I do in order to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle, how I exercise; what I eat. I keep talking about absolutely everything that matters, from the importance of drinking water, to the actual reasons why sleep has such a beneficial effect on our health; about giving up drinking alcohol just to be in line with my healthy lifestyle and how I manage to work out six days a week even when traveling up to eight months per year. People seemed to like my approach and have been eager to learn.
Being a fitness influencer gives you a lot of power, but it comes with a lot of responsibility. I always think twice before posting. I always make sure the information I provide is free of bias, verified, and has value. It takes me a lot of time to prepare my posts in advance, to write the caption, and most importantly to be consistent.
People want to know the how-to. They want to see how I achieved a certain goal and what I had to do in order to achieve it. And they want all the details, a record of each step in the process, such as all the foods that I’ve eaten, how often, how many weeks did it take, how often did I train and how long the training was. People also enjoy seeing reality, which is why I often post photos of myself with no filters, so you can see my big pores, dark circles, or even pimples. I also write about these things in my posts captions sometimes.
Some fitness influencers create issues when they use filters or photoshop on their photos, or when they promote body types that can only be achieved through extreme diets. This can set unrealistic goals for the people that follow them, and to low self-confidence spread en mass. Personally, I am about having a healthy body, and I often talk about this on my account. I also openly discuss how you can sometimes look better with a certain light or after doing a certain diet, but that doesn’t mean you look like that 24/7 all year round.
Getting a personal trainer has become fairly common in Dubai, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world. If you want to build a career in the fitness industry, Dubai is the place to be. But there is also a lot of competition, so you need to be better than everyone else. Being a PT has evolved from a luxury: People want to see results and are keen to learn more about exercising and nutrition.
Each time I meet a new client my goal is to educate them to eat healthier, to understand the impact of sports on their body and to be mindful of the effects of being sedentary. I want them to be able to make their own healthy choices and ultimately to make a change in their life. I know from the beginning that I will spend a limited amount of time with them, and that at some points our roads will part. But when that happens, they will have the knowledge. Each time I gave them a list of foods or a set of exercises, I was spending a long time explaining to them the ‘why’.
And on the other hand, I was always keen to hear them out, to actively listen to what they were struggling with. The key to being a good coach in any field is to have empathy, to be able to work with people’s emotions. You can have the best list of exercises and the biggest smile in the world, but if your client tells you that they are petrified to enter the gym and exercise in front of others, you must be ready to use your psychology skills too. As a trainer, it is essential to be informed about the psychological patterns of people in relation with sports and healthy dieting.
You will face these every single time.
• Synthia Jacob is a personal trainer and health and wellness coach living and working in Dubai.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.