Personal Trainer Of The Month: Nick Barr

Personal trainers must fit the client's needs. Adapt or get passed by. Nick chooses to take the lead, and his clients choose to follow.

Active people need advice and a guiding presence in their fitness careers. Many people work just fine on their own, but some of us need outside guidance to get where we want to go.

That's where personal trainers, like Nick Barr, come in. They advise and guide, motivate and inform clients on new training regimens, intensities and variations. They spot you in the gym and in life outside it. If you need that extra push, a personal trainer will give it, for a price. Join us in congratulating Nick Barr, as this month's Personal Trainer of the Month!

Name: Nick Barr
Age: 23
BS in Kinesiology from University of Maryland, NSCA-CPT
Location: Central Maryland
Contact Info: (443) 970-0934,
Number of Clients: 31
Rates: varies depending on services, one-on-one and group sessions

Could You Tell Us a Little About Your Background—Personally and Professionally?

I am a lifelong athlete. I played baseball and football, as well as recreational tennis and basketball. More recently I started doing mud runs including the Warrior Dash. I have a degree in kinesiology from the University and Maryland and turned that into a career in the fitness industry as a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. I enjoy working with clients and helping them reach new performance and physique goals. In 2012 I was named one of the best personal trainers in Howard County, Maryland, by Howard Magazine.

When and Why Did You Become a Trainer?

I first got into fitness while training for high school sports when I was a 15-year-old. I noticed that many athletes at my school were injuring themselves lifting weights because the football coaches weren't properly instructing us how to perform exercises correctly. I started studying anatomy and physiology and became fascinated with the human body. I still remember sitting in front of the computer for an entire day watching videos on proper exercise form and reading about the different muscle groups. That was the day I decided I wanted to be a personal trainer.

What Is Your Training Style? What Methods Do You Use?

I try to incorporate athletic movements with almost every client that I train. I try to keep an open mind and learn how to use many different training styles to keep clients interested. I found it helpful when clients forget they are working out—things like ropes and sledgehammer work usually accomplish this. The important thing is making sure that clients maintain proper form for each exercise. I don't like injuries!

Do You Have Examples of Success Stories From Clients Using Your Methods?

I trained a client up to and through her first half marathon and it was a rewarding experience for both of us. We ramped up the intensity leading up to the race and she was able to live up to all of the challenges I laid out for her.

While I love stories like this, one of my favorite client success stories is a client in her mid 70s. She has been teaching preschoolers for many years but noticed that she was no longer able to get on the floor with them to read, or to pick them up anymore. Since she started training with me almost two years ago, she is constantly telling me new ways that exercising is making her job and her life easier. She now turns down the workers at the grocery store when they offer to help her put her groceries in the car—she tells them "I don't work out for nothing!"

Can You Please You Give Me an Example Diet and Training Program You Put Together for Your Clients?

I don't set up my clients with full diet programs. I try to give them some guidance regarding their eating habits, but because I am not a registered dietician, I do not give them a full eating plan. The training programs are so dependent on the client's body type and goals that it is difficult to list a sample training program.

What Are the Most Common Mistakes a Client Makes?

"I know how to eat properly I just don't do it." This one drives me crazy! I must hear this in at least half of the consultations I perform. I see clients who try to change too much about their lifestyle too soon. I understand that everyone is usually excited to get started, but it's easy to get burned out when they try to overhaul their diet and add in exercise and even do some workouts on their own—usually without getting enough sleep to support all these changes.

What Are the Most Common Mistakes You Believe a Trainer Makes?

A common mistake for trainers is to switch up the programs way too often. It is difficult to gauge progress when the client is doing something completely different every single workout. I like to have clients consistently perform certain major compound movements, like squats, on a regular basis so I can see how they improve. The supplementary exercises can change a little more often.

Do You Set Your Clients up with a Full Diet and Training Plan for Them to Follow by Themselves?

I do not set my clients up with a full diet plan because I am not a registered dietician. I also am not big on major dietary overhauls in most cases—I've noticed that most clients will not stick to this kind of diet. I'd rather have a client make a few small healthier tweaks to their diet and maintain that for a few weeks at a time before making other changes.

I prefer that my clients don't do much in terms of strength training on the days that they are not training with me. I set up their training program based on the amount of sessions that I see them per week. However, I do recommend that they get some sort of physical activity in every single day. Even if it is as little as walking the dog, it is important to always stay active.

How Do You Keep Your Clients Motivated?

The easiest way to keep clients motivated is for them to see results. It is also important to give an entertaining yet effective workout that will have the client looking forward to exercising. I also try and connect with each of my clients on a personal level. I've found that they respond better to motivational tactics during a set when they actually like training with you!

Do You Train a Male Client Differently to a Female?

I train clients based on their goals and body type and physical limitations, not their gender.

How Have You Changed Your Approach to Clients Over the Years of Experience?

When I first started I had little practical experience in personal training—most of what I knew came from the books and study materials I had read. As such, my programs at the beginning were pretty lame and static. I since adapted my training style to become much more dynamic to keep my clients interested in coming to their sessions every time. I've also learned the importance of building a stronger rapport with clients. They want to work harder for you when you have built a strong relationship.

How Do You Start a Client on a New Program? Do You Do Some Kind of Assessment?

My recommendation to new clients is to go out and get a full blood panel within the first two weeks of working out with me. I ask them to follow up with a second blood panel about six months later. I am always thrilled to see major improvements in clients' heart disease risk factor categories—particularly cholesterol and blood sugar. It helps to remind clients that the changes going on inside their body are just as important as the outside changes.

Other than that I do typical anthropometric measurements such as a 3-site caliper test and body part measures. I like numbers—they keep me and my clients accountable.

Do You Prefer to Train Male or Female Clients and Why?

I don't have a preferred gender to train—I just want somebody who is willing to work hard and be consistent. A fun personality certainly doesn't hurt either.

Do You Feel Just as Much Like a Psychologist as You Do a Personal Trainer?

Absolutely I do! So much of this job is listening to clients and trying to connect with them. When people begin to open up to you, you start to learn about what motivates them and you can use that to push them even harder. When this point is reached they are a client for life.