Richard Cross: Why I Became a Personal Trainer


Despite being incredibly passionate personal trainer the fitness industry is not where I had planned on working in, in fact, quite the opposite. Most of my working life was spent in sales and business development, and I mainly got into this area of work as it didn’t require many qualifications which was useful to me as I left school at 16 with a handful of GCSEs and not much else.

However, as with most things in my life, what I lack in other areas, I tend to make up for with eagerness and childlike level of enthusiasm. I soon found out that sales wasn’t for me, but didn’t acknowledge this for many years and spent most of my time as a square peg in a round hole trying to convince myself that I enjoyed what I was doing, when I really, really didn’t.

As you can imagine, this wasn’t particularly enjoyable and forcing myself out of bed in the morning to be somewhere I didn’t want to be started to take its toll. This, along with some other factors in my life, meant I started to slip into a low mood. Then from a low mood into depression, and from depression into suicidal thoughts. I was miserable, apathetic and downhearted, yet just like my job, I also didn’t acknowledge this for many years, preferring to keep my head firmly placed in the sand rather than recognise my own problems, and the power I had to change them for the better.

However, I did have one bastion against these negative emotions: fitness.

As I found myself becoming more and more low spirited, I found keeping fit and going to the gym became a keen area of focus for me. While everything else in my life seemed to be going backwards, I found comfort in seeing progress in the gym, whether it be running faster and longer, becoming stronger, or noticing my physique change and grow. Now my enthusiasm and interest became focused on learning as much as I could about fitness. I pored over books, read blogs, asked and answered questions in forums, watched videos online and used myself as a guinea pig for the new information I had learned. As I didn’t know a great deal at this stage, I just purchased the books that had the best ratings or were ‘best sellers’ which more often than not lead me to misinformation rather than facts, but I soon started to know which names to trust and good sources to learn from.

As anyone who’s met me will tell you, I’m a pretty social and chatty person (aka I never shut up). So as I would spend a lot of time in the gym, I came to know the staff and other regulars by name and talk to them about anything and everything. One day, noticing my desire to help others and share the information I had learned a member of staff said to me ‘you know what, I think you’d make a good personal trainer’. Up until this point, I had never considered a career in fitness, but considering I didn’t enjoy my job, what did I have to lose?

I enrolled myself on a course, and 6 weeks later I was a qualified PT. I began working at a gym in Mayfair and remember training my very first client. I made a lot of mistakes early on in my career, although these have always lead to the greatest steps forward in my skill, application and knowledge as a trainer.

Helping others with their fitness journeys also helped me with my own problems, mainly my mental health. Clients soon became friends who I could talk to and confide in, and after taking some great advice from these friends, I took the step of seeking counselling for depression, which looking back now, is something I wish I had done sooner.

This was just one of the many positives I have found from working in the fitness industry. I’ve worked with hundreds of people, and have clocked up thousands of hours on the gym floor training clients from all walks of life and all with different goals: training unemployed individuals from impoverished backgrounds to billionaires, helping the overweight become healthier (my heaviest client was 162kg, losing 23kg in eight weeks) to aiding the drastically underweight in gaining muscle and strength.

I’ve also had the privilege of working alongside and learning from some of the most intelligent, talented and experienced coaches the industry has to offer such as Dr Mike Israetel who holds a PhD in Sport Physiology and is a professor of exercise and sport science (@rpdrmike). Sebastian Oreb, a renowned strength coach and educator, who trains some of the strongest men and women in the world. Andy Edwards, head of strength and conditioning for Saracens Rugby and England Saxons. Brett Gibbs, IPF world champion powerlifter, and many other seminars and educational platforms.

”If you suffer from feeling low or depression then it’s always good to talk. Ben is therapist based just outside of the city

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