Personal Fitness Professional - Spring 2018 - 24
Training 10 years, or 1-year, 10 times?
s a personal trainer, do you fail to update your knowledge
and skills, being content to train the same way year-in
and year-out (1 year, 10 times)? Or do you constantly
strive to improve your knowledge and skills to be sure
you are doing what works best for your clients (training for 10 years)?
The key difference is your commitment to increasing your knowledge
of training principles and methodologies and honing your skills in
coaching movements for motivation and understanding. There are
several theories for mastering the learning process. It is believed
that there are four phases of learning (mastery), which are most often
represented in a hierarchy.1,2
THE FOUR PHASES OF LEARNING
In the first phase, unconscious incompetence, you are not yet aware
there is a skill to be learned and no realization of the mastery of it.
For example, there is a new technique that would work well for your
client, but you do not know it exists. This happens often for the trainer
who trains the same way year-in, year-out. They are always at the
unconscious incompetence phase as they remain in their silo and do
not seek out learning opportunities. It usually takes an external event
to trigger the realization that change is needed. Perhaps the trainer
sees another trainer using an exercise with which s/he is unfamiliar, or
a client asks him/her about a certain type of training.
To be the best trainer you can be,
continued learning to transition from
incompetence to competence is
In the second phase, conscious incompetence, you become aware
that you need to learn the skill or program, yet do not have mastery of
it. You begin looking for solutions to learn the skill, such as workshops,
online learning and mentoring. In continuing education, the learner
needs to be engaged in the learning. This is very much like when you
are working with a client - unless the client is an active participant in
learning and doing the exercise program, benefits are unlikely. Find
the method that works best for you.
As your awareness leads you into action, you enter the third phase,
conscious competence. In this phase you practice what you have
learned so that you become competent, but you still need to think
about it consciously to make it happen. After learning and practicing,
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doing and coaching an exercise as part of your professional development, you share your knowledge of a program with a trusted client and
build your confidence to share it with another.
The final phase in unconscious competence, where you have practiced it so much that your competence has become automatic - you
no longer need to think about it. The exercise you learned is now second nature to you and you share the exercise with clients with whom
you know will benefit from performing the exercise. You may even
consider sharing it with other professionals at clinics and workshops.
To be the best trainer you can be, continued learning to transition
from incompetence to competence is necessary. There are many
learning formats from which to choose. Select the format that best
matches the way you learn. Once you have reached unconscious
competence, share with your clients with whom there is a benefit and
consider sharing your mastery with other trainers who could improve
their consciousness from the information.
Rick Howard, M.Ed., CSCS, *D is completing his doctorate in Health Promotion
and Wellness at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. He has been
training athletes of all ages and abilities for more than 30 years. He currently is
the Director of Fitness at the Wilmington (DE) Country Club and a college professor at West Chester (PA) University and Rowan (NJ) University.
1. Camm, Barbara. The four phases of training. Retrieved from https://www.dashe.com/blog/
instructional-design/four-phases-of-learning/ January 17, 2018.
2. Richens, Melanie. The conscious competence ladder. Retrieved from http://mbscoaching.
co.uk/2017/01/12/conscious-competence-ladder/ January 16, 2018.