An open letter to all those crappy personal trainers who make the rest of the fitness industry look bad.
A lot of you are my friends, and even more are co-workers, so please realize that what I’m about to say isn’t necessarily directed at you, but at some of the weasels with whom you share your profession.
We realize that personal training is a semi-important and sometimes necessary function, but a lot of you are a pain in the ass to the people in the gym who don’t employ personal trainers.
What’s more, many of you don’t honor your profession. And those same people don’t appear to know a goddamn thing. But let me get more specific. Here, in no particular order, are some of the things you do that make the rest of us want to foam roll your faces with cinder blocks.
We see you going through the motions with your clients. We see you spending inordinate amounts of time trying to hatch Swiss balls with the warmth of your butt cheeks and checking your phone more than you check your clients’ form.
You hardly even take any notes or even write down how much weight they’re using or what exercises they’re doing. You look disengaged, particularly when you’re working with someone who isn’t hot.
Maybe this personal training thing isn’t what you imagined. You need to come to grips with the fact that you probably can’t be like T Nation contributor and personal trainer Ben Bruno, who was training fishermen (I’m assuming) in Boston and would go home stinking of scrod and haddock, and then, urged on by his kin who said, “Ben, move away from here, Califor-ney is the place you oughta be,” loaded up the truck and moved to La La Land.
Now he’s training Kate Upton and Victoria’s Secret models and swimmin’ in cee-ment ponds and goes home stinking of Shalimar instead of scrod.
Maybe that kind of glamorous existence isn’t in your cards. Maybe you’ll never train a professional athlete, either. Accept it. Devote yourself instead to training people of the land, the common clay of trainees. You know, ordinary losers.
It won’t be nearly as exciting, but that’s just too bad. Have some integrity. Honor the ordinary people you work with and maybe someone “exciting” or famous will take notice of you, if that’s what you really want.
Most of us don’t employ personal trainers, but without us, there’d be no money and there’d be no gym, and you’d be training people in the Wal-Mart parking lot, pushing grocery carts instead of sleds, having clients do box jumps onto used clothing bins, and using the distended bellies of homeless men as impromptu BOSU balls.
As such, have a little respect, a little courtesy. For instance, don’t use equipment for some stupid exercise that has nothing to do with what it was built for. We know most of you are obsessed with those brightly colored stretchy cords, but please realize that the power rack isn’t just a stable structure to which you can attach them so your clients can work their rotator cuffs.
It makes the rest of us feel like we’re in WWII, racing along in the forest on a stolen Nazi motorcycle and trying to dodge the piano wire stretched across the trees so we don’t get our heads cut off. Don’t make us cut our heads off.
And please stop putting your personal effects on the nearest flat surface of any kind when you’re pretending to help your client. The bench press is not your living room end table.
We wouldn’t expect it to be decorated with the porcelain kitty your aunt brought you from Nova Scotia or the picture frame with a photo of your gopher-faced family, and neither should you put your water bottle, smart phone, or Kramer-sized ring of keys on it, which makes us think the bench has been claimed.
Neither should you monopolize large swaths of gym territory by setting up obstacle courses or circuit training routines for your clients. This is a public facility, not your private studio.
You don’t go to Chuck E. Cheese and rope off a big section of the ball pit so only you and your friend can play in it, do you? No, of course not, the ball pit is for all the kids. So is the gym.
We know a lot of you simply want to get certified by the cheapest, easiest organization you can find so that you can quickly start working at a gym, but some of you don’t know anything going into your certification class and you don’t know much coming out, either.
It’s as if there were a couple of hundred organizations that existed to teach wannabe lifeguards and they all taught them different theories. And then, when presented with a half-drowned man, one certificate holder tried to resuscitate him by jumping up and down on his stomach, another tried to bring him around by hanging him upside down and whacking him in the belly with a baseball bat, while the third, an “ACE” certified lifeguard, tried to revive him by attaching a bicycle pump to his pee-pee.
Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but if you have to get certified, you might as well learn something while you’re at it and get certified by some reputable organizations like the NSCA or ISSA.
Too many of you are caught in a time warp. Even if you did get a respected or reputable certification, it was years ago and you haven’t bothered to read any new research or attended a single seminar since. How would you react if your cardiologist hadn’t kept up with new developments and when you needed a new heart valve, he glued in part of a Chobani lid?
And reading Men’s Health isn’t enough to keep you abreast of modern exercise science, just as reading Star Trek fan fiction isn’t enough to keep you informed about rocket science.
Yeah, we get it. Clients watch “The Biggest Loser” and come in expecting to see Jillian Michaels, whose withering gaze alone can make fat want to skulk away into the nearest grease trap. Your clients want to, or at least they think they want to, be trained like the fatties on reality weight-loss TV.
You feel like you’ve got to play to form, so you make them sweat by forcing them to do a virtually non-stop succession of exercises, most of which are bullshit. Besides, any a-hole can make a client sweat, but sweat doesn’t correlate with fat loss.
Oh, and why do you always have fat people do triceps kickbacks? Could anything be less effectual for weight loss and/or conditioning?
We have to assume you’re either too cowardly to tell them the truth about weight loss or you don’t know it, which is that virtually all of it will come from monitoring their eating habits. Instead, you give them the false promise of weight loss, neglecting to tell them the things they need to learn or coach them on the things they need to do.
Besides, the invariable result of that stupid Jillian Michaels crap is that fat clients get sour on exercise real fast, and who can blame them? This ain’t the army; they’re with you on their own volition. You work them too hard and they’re gone, back to the sweet, sweet, welcoming arms of their beloved TV-watching chair.
If you had any integrity, you’d plop them down on a treadmill, set it to a slow to moderate pace, and spend the hour talking to them about their diet. As they gradually built up some endurance, you could introduce them to bodybuilding and body-strengthening techniques instead of a hop on this, do 50 reps of that, leave behind a Lake Ticonderoga of sweat workout that burns up maybe 200 calories in an hour that’s rapidly replaced by a corn fritter once they leave the gym.
We get it, most of you are trying to make a buck, to feed and clothe yourself while having some money left over for spandex tops and bottoms with slits in them. Still, you don’t have to be a fitness whore and strap on a ball-mouth gag, drop your professional pants or skirts, and let the client use you like a lonely shepherd uses a sheep.
Yes, clients are a pain in the ass and they often come to the gym with some hackneyed ideas about how they should be trained. They saw something on TV, read something online, or listened to Jimmy, the office fitness expert who does Pilates two times a week.
But you’ve got to be the boss; don’t let their misguided notions influence you. They may want to spend most of their time training their core or doing stability ball work because that’s what Jimmy does, but set them straight. All the core training in the world isn’t going to make them fit, give them a good body, or excavate their abs.
And neither should you play the role of bartender, hairdresser, therapist, or confessor. Sure, hearing about how a client paid a couple of thugs to kidnap his wife and how one of them ended up feeding the other into a wood chopper probably beats counting out dumbbell curls, but it does little to further the client’s fitness goals.
Likewise, you shouldn’t treat the client as your buddy so much. You’re presumably a professional. And yeah, you may have some really solid theories as to why Biggie and Tupac were murdered, or how you think Tyrion Lannister is going to end up on the Iron Throne, no doubt sitting atop one or two King’s Landing phone books, but talking about it doesn’t help your client.
In closing, let me remind you that personal training is the job you signed up for. Maybe it hasn’t turned out to be what you thought it would be, but the only way you’re going to squeeze some satisfaction out of it is to do it well.