Lemmings, Fitness Trainers, Bosses And Me…


It’s like gym class, only it pays…

A disproportionately large number of fitness trainers choose their profession because, from the perspective of a fitness enthusiast, it appears to be a fun job that looks easier and more rewarding than a typical office job.  To a young and active person, I can see why fitness training might appear to be a great career path.  Helping people change their lives has got to be better than moving papers from pile A to pile B, while all the while a boss is staring over one’s shoulder.

Douchesaurus Rex...

The boss, aka, Douchesaurus Rex…

I have often said that I feel like I’m on summer vacation year round.  I make my living in shorts and bare feet, my commute involves stepping over my dog as I carry my coffee into my studio, and I’m never far from what I love most in life; my pretty little weights.  I have a good gig and I try hard never to forget that.  Because I have always lived for the gym, I have built my life so that I now live in the gym – literally.

Shining Light On The Career Path…

I may refer to myself as self-employed, but I actually have 26 bosses – 26 people who trust me with their time and their money, and who have the expectation that they receive equal value from those investments.  I work very hard every day to try to give them value in my product.  My product is not my equipment, my knowledge, nor my planned workouts.  My product is the sum of all of those things, communicated well.

The reality is fitness training takes a great deal of work.  It’s a job like any other job, and a business like any other business.  Days can often be long.  Some sessions will go better than others.   At the end of the workweek it always feels good to be done.  At the end of the weekend though, it always feels good to get back to work – for me anyway.

That said, there are a lot of lemming fitness trainers out there – mindless and bored, and going through the motions as so many office lemmings also go through the motions of their jobs; moving papers about their cubicles, avoiding their bosses, sending and returning emails, and doing scarcely enough to keep a paycheck coming.

"And to think, I could be holding a clipboard and counting to 10..."

“And to think, I could be holding a clipboard and counting to 10…”

What to seek from a fitness trainer…

Most people I speak with in search of a fitness trainer look primarily for knowledge and education.  Clearly these are important components of a trainer’s skill-set.  I often think though, they are overemphasized.  Knowledge and education are only part of what is needed to be a quality fitness trainer.  Being a good trainer requires impeccable speaking and listening skills.

One can possess all the knowledge in the world, but if he can’t communicate that knowledge effectively, it will go unused.   Conversely, a strong communicator can thoroughly teach the fundamentals of exercise, which in many cases, is all a trainee will require.  Basic fitness skills, taught completely, can go a long way in helping someone take ownership of their body.

Would-be trainers take not:  To succeed, you'll need a whole bunch of these...

Would-be trainers take note: To succeed, you’ll need a whole bunch of these…

A trainer who possesses good listening skills will have a much better understanding of the trainee’s needs, limitations, mindset, and personal values.  Of all the qualities a good trainer must possess, in my opinion, being a good listener should be near or at the tip of the list.  With that, the trainer should seek most of all, to understand the trainee’s personal values, and gradually influence those values to include more mindful decisions with regard to personal wellness.

How he wrangles…

The number one priority a fitness trainer should have is to establish the threshold and capacity of his trainee in all aspects of fitness including; balance, strength, endurance, and flexibility as immediately as possible.  Only after these are established, can a trainer engage in his second priority; to slowly, and in small increments, increase those thresholds, while promoting safe but challenging exercise.

Cultivate.  Another primary responsibility of the trainer is to cultivate progress, not to force it.  Cultivating an increased fitness level is a process which requires planning, patience, consistency, and teamwork.  There’s no “I” in teamwork, but there’s meat work if you rearrange the letters.  To get the meat to work, both trainer and trainee must be on the same page and committed.

It requires teamwork for this meat to work...

It requires teamwork for this meat to work…

A few things to keep in mind when selecting a fitness trainer…

If the trainer is still wearing his diamond encrusted high school football number on a sliver chain around his neck, be leery of him. He is his first priority.

Uhm...., most every male trainer I have ever met...

Uhm…., most every male trainer I have ever met…

If on meeting a trainer, there is a cell phone in one of his hands, and a protein drink in the other, he may not be your guy.

If the trainer looks like he needs a trainer more than you do, run!

Sincerely, there is much to consider when selecting a trainer, far beyond the size of his arms, the shape of her ass, or the number of “certifications” they might hold.

What I encourage everyone to do who might be in search a fitness trainer is to remember first and foremost, you are going to be that trainer’s boss!  He or she will be your employee.  Don’t just look for a trainer, interview many.  Interview them as you would interview any potential employee in the workplace, always with the perspective that you won’t want to interview a replacement anytime soon.  Interview well…  rc

Have you seen my stapler...?

“Have you seen my stapler…?”  Having Milton in the office is harmless.  Having him as your trainer…

19 responses

  1. What a great post Roy!!!! All so true!!! When I did training years & years ago – it was hard work & yes, you have people’s health in your hands. So many bad ones out there. I was just talking with a friend in the gym this morn that said he came at a different time to the gym the other day & a trainer was next to him talking to his client.. well, let’s just say he was not impressed with the trainer! :)

    You know it & people are lucky to have you!!!!

  2. I always enjoy reading your writings. I got annoyed with a so-called trainer on twitter because not only were they out of shape and overweight, but also complaining that I burpee too often. It wasn’t so much there opinion that ticked me off. I’m just of the mind that if you’re gonna tout being a trainer and give advice, at least come at me without a muffintop. At least.

    • Thanks Josie. I do think it’s right to walk the walk. I fall from time to time, and fail at doing my best, but I win more days than I lose, and I never preach to anyone. I only suggest, and do so sparingly.

  3. “Office Space” is pretty much the best movie ever.

    I had a trainer tell me several years ago, when I complained about a flabby area, “Well, we’re just going to turn that muscle into fat.” I looked at her to see if she was joking; she was not. “You can’t turn one type of tissue into another type of tissue,” I said. “Oh, yes you can,” she insisted. “Extra lat pull-downs will turn that right into muscle.” Last session with her! I refer to her now as “the amateur alchemist.”

    • Love it Norma! A forearm to her chin would have straightened her out too! I always love when box gym trainers promote spot reduction too. I close my eyes, click my heels, and but remain there. Always frightening..

  4. For the most part, this excellent review and advice would apply to anyone in the health care field!

    I learned that valuable lesson about knowing and being able to convey knowledge with students and that eye-opener was key!

    For a moment I thought that picture of the mustached trainer was me, lol!

    I get to work in pajamas, :-)

  5. Roy, what a fantastic and insightful post! Before becoming a fitness professional, I was an academic research biologist. I taught classes, gave presentations at meetings and wrote a lot of papers. When people ask me if I miss my previous career, I tell them that I’m using the exact same skill set today. I believe that my educational background and communication skills are the reason why I’m a sought after trainer in the gym I work at!

    • Thanks so much for dropping in Tamara! Absolutely. I have never had to market myself as a trainer; no advertising, I hand few business cards, and I have always worked a full schedule. This has little to do with my knowledge, and everything to do with my communication skills.

  6. I used a trainer for a while about a decade ago. She had knowledge and skills, but, her blackberry was her boss, not me. Where she was, so was her boss. If she was spotting me on a movement, her boss was often in her mouth (yeah, so many punchlines waiting to be written)… So, I texted her boss and fired both of them.

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