As a full time Health Fitness Specialist and Personal Trainer, I have the most amazing opportunity to work with a variety of clients.
But even as someone who LOVES their job, it doesn’t mean I don’t experience less-than-perfect days.
Oftentimes these struggles stem from misinformation or misconceptions surrounding what my role and expectations are as a trainer.
In an effort to clear the haze looming over the client-trainer relationship, I’ve put together a list of my top all-time tidbits that I wish you knew as a client.
*See disclaimer here
1) You don’t need to lose weight before working with a trainer
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had people come up to me and say that they intend on “getting back into the gym” before setting up a consultation.
As a personal trainer, I am fully aware that many of my clients are hesitant to jump into a new fitness routine for fear that they are so out of shape they may embarrass, or worse, injure themselves.
Hence the idea that they need to get “back into the swing of things” before coming to see me.
With that being said, my job is to help you establish a routine and make you feel comfortable and confident in the gym, even if your physique is not exactly where you’d like it to be.
Chances are, if you’ve fallen off track in the past and you intend on re-establishing your fitness routine on your own before seeking professional help, you will likely fall off the bandwagon once more and be caught in a vicious cycle of self defeat.
What’s more, you may be unknowingly developing a negative mindset because you repeatedly experience a sense of failure every time you quit exercising.
Why would you want to go back to the gym if it caused you to feel like a failure in the first place?
A trainer is there to help guide you back into a realistic, achievable weekly routine that you can feel confident about completing.
Trainers should have the knowledge to program only as much as you can realistically handle so you walk away feeling like a winner.
Don’t be confused, this isn’t to say they won’t push you, but they will help you gradually establish a long term habit that you can achieve in small doses.
So even if its been years since you’ve stepped into a gym, come see us. We’re here to help you reach that goal, not critique you for not doing it sooner.
2) Trainers are role models, not perfectionists
I hope to clear up the misconception that personal trainers are clean eaters and gym goers 100% of the time.
This may be true for some people within the industry, say Instagram models or professional bodybuilders, but for the most part our clients need to realize that being in the fitness industry does not warrant living a “perfect” life.
As a role model to clients, I think it’s important to incorporate balance and live by example.
This means being transparent about my daily habits and showcasing that I am not a perfect human being.
However, it shouldn’t mean being subject to critique and judgment from others who experience the same struggle with respect to diet and exercise.
Just because you see me eating a muffin from a co-workers birthday party doesn’t mean I’m a terrible trainer or hypocrite.
Instead, I’m openly expressing my commitment to living a balanced life and enjoying treats sparingly. It doesn’t mean I’ve messed up. It doesn’t mean I’m not healthy.
It simply means that I’ve chosen to incorporate the 80/20 rule into my lifestyle and lead by example.
I expect not to be shamed by my clients in the same manner that my clients are not shamed by me.
So next time you see your trainer eating a fudge brownie, consider having a judgement free conversation about it rather than jumping to conclusions about their lifestyle.
You might even learn something helpful or find a new approach that works for you.
3) A good trainer will not push you to your maximum boundaries
When I interview potential clients, the question always comes up:
“What has your experience been with personal training in the past?”
Unfortunately, the client usually has a horror story about some bootcamp instructor screaming at them until they vomited or felt like they were going to pass out.
Training should never be this unpleasant under the guidance of a fitness professional.
Unless you are training for a very demanding performance, a trainer should know when it’s unnecessary or unsafe to proceed with a training session.
On the flip side, don’t feel like you have to push yourself to the puking point just to impress your trainer or feel like you accomplished something for the day.
Sometimes, the most effective workouts are the ones where you didn’t feel overly exhausted.
Depending on your goals, a trainer should be able to provide you with a variety of training platforms that will challenge you but not kill you.
4) Be fully honest about any medical conditions
If you’re working with or considering working with a personal trainer, please please please be honest about your medical history, past surgeries, or any medications that might affect your heart rate or blood pressure.
It is very important that you don’t skip over the details, even if you think they aren’t important.
Sometimes, it’s the small details that have the most influence over your safety.
Common things that people forget in their consultation include:
Experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke at some point in their life
Excessive up and down movement that may induce vertigo
Any car accidents or whiplash
Diagnosed bradycardia or tachycardia (slower or faster heart rate than what is considered typical)
Digestive sensitivity or nausea brought on by exercise (if they’ve exercised before)
Response to heat during physical activity (if they tend to overheat easily)
You don’t want to put yourself in a risky position when the “triggering activity” could have been avoided altogether.
Always be honest with your trainer so they can help prepare for your safety.
And most importantly, if you do ever come across a situation where you know you are in the “red zone” and something’s not feeling quite right, never feel guilty for needing to stop your workout.
Whether you are nauseous, feeling an anxiety attack approaching, or skipped lunch that day and are feeling a little light headed, you are not expected to simply “push through it.”
If you can recognize the signs of your own medical condition, never allow a trainer to pressure you into continuing beyond your means.
A good trainer will respect your physical boundaries and let you take as much time as needed or stop the session altogether if there is any question about your medical safety.
Believe me, they are more worried about you being able to safely drive a car after your session than they are about you finishing your workout.
Be open, honest and communicative with your trainer right from the start so you both get the most out of each meetup.
5) You need not be embarrassed about your current physique or condition
If you are seeking the help of a personal trainer, you should be celebrating the fact that you’ve already chosen to redefine your lifestyle and work towards creating the best version of you.
Perhaps you’ve allowed yourself to reach a point that you aren’t exactly proud of, but remember, personal trainers want to help you and will not judge you for your physical appearance.
They want to share their knowledge in hopes of changing a life and making a positive impact for someone else’s self esteem.
And if they don’t, then you need to find a new trainer!
A trainer will always care more about helping you with your current situation rather than fixating on how you got there in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, trainers do need to analyze your previous habits in order to help you develop healthier ones, but they should do so from a purely analytical standpoint to help guide you along your journey.
Whenever you feel self-doubt creeping up on you, circle back to this post to remind yourself that your trainer chose this profession to help someone exactly like you, regardless of what size or shape you are.
Be proud that you took this step to a healthier, happier version of you!
6) You can’t expect a trainer to help you lose weight if you don’t make the effort
We’ve all got our own lives to manage outside of the gym, but if you don’t devote your effort toward your own goals, you can’t hold someone else responsible for when you don’t reach them.
If you’ve gone through the steps of consulting a trainer and attending a few training sessions but fail to commit to a regular routine, your goals (weight loss or otherwise) are going to be harder to attain.
You need to pencil in your daily fitness habits just as you do with everything else.
It’s not always easy or feasible some days, but the overall consistency in your routine is what matters.
We’re striving for progress, not perfection.
So if after 3 months of “seeing your trainer” hasn’t helped you lose that 5 lbs of stubborn belly fat, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your training frequency or restructure your eating habits.
If weight loss is your primary goal, but you haven’t even begun to tackle your diet, it is definitely time to nail down a meal plan, preferably with a registered dietician.
Additionally, as much as we’d love to cram in the most effective exercises into one training session, we can only help you so much if we only see you twice per month.
If you find yourself struggling, have an honest conversation with your trainer so he/she/they can help identify what’s causing the inconsistencies in your routine and develop a plan to fix it in the months to come.
7) I do not care what you eat
This is a huge one.
Please don’t be fooled by the title and think “my trainer doesn’t care about my food intake/my well being/my diet/my progress” etc…
Let me be clear.
Personal trainers DO care about your nutrition habits and your long term success, but are NOT judging what you eat for lunch.
We tend to focus more on the frequency in which you eat certain types of foods and if it has a direct impact on your lifestyle journey.
Trainers don’t simply walk around judging everyone for their food choices and imply that you should feel guilty.
If you, the client, happen to see your trainer during an outing at a restaurant or bump into them at the grocery store, please do not feel like we are judging your food selection.
As a trainer, I am not going to chastise you for ordering strawberry cream waffles for brunch when you could have ordered an egg white omelet with veggies.
What you do on your own time is your business, and if I’m being honest, I’d probably order strawberry cream waffles too, because life is about moderation.
Please know that we as trainers sincerely hope you are choosing healthy foods that will supplement all the progress you make in the gym.
But if you choose to eat some chocolate cake at your son’s 5th birthday party, just eat the damn cake.
Life is too short to not eat the cake.
8) It’s okay to speak up, even when its awkward
Exercise can make you very vulnerable and will greatly test your comfort zone.
It’s okay to speak up and let your trainer know when you are getting close to a personal boundary and need to adjust your body position or change a movement that you fear may make you uncomfortable.
To describe what I mean, here are some common concerns that may arise during a session:
For the ladies:
Unshaven armpits during overhead movements
Inadvertently wearing light colored leggings during menstrual cycle
Breasts and/or tummy prevent flexion at the spine or laying prone (on your stomach)
Fear of working out in front of other people in the gym
For the gents:
Performing prone movements that might smush the goods
Being overly conscious about excessive sweat
Feeling the need to lift ridiculously heavy weights to uphold a “macho” status
For all clients:
Forgetting to wear deodorant
Wearing ill-fitting gym clothes that might reveal more than intended
Feeling uneasy or intimidated by working with a trainer of the opposite sex
While these examples may sound foreign to a few of you, these are very common, very real issues that trainers see on a daily basis.
There is nothing to be ashamed about and it’s always better to speak up rather than proceed through your session while feeling uncomfortable.
You can simply ask if there is an alternative exercise if the one you are doing puts you in an awkward position.
A personal trainer should always respect your concerns and help you shy away from any personal discomfort.
If anything, you’ll both have a good laugh and move on with your day.
9) Get off Instagram. Go read a book.
Exercise science is a fact-based, constantly evolving field that comes with new discoveries and advancements pertaining to human movement and biochemistry.
Over time, we learn new things about the body and the mechanisms it uses to perform, recover and adapt to new stimuli.
However, despite our digital age being able to provide us with vast amounts of information in the blink of an eye, it seems our world has lost the ability to be a skeptical consumer.
The fitness industry is teeming with Instagram influencers, Netflix documentaries, and Fitness Youtubers who are widely publicized, oftentimes without having any sound credentials.
Just because something works for them doesn’t mean it will work for you, or is necessarily safe or proven to work.
So, when a client approaches you saying that they are suddenly going to do a keto diet because a documentary on Netflix showed promising results, us trainers tend to roll our eyes.
We love seeing our clients get hyped about food, gains, drop sets, and other fitness jargon…the list goes on.
However, for our clients, that’s usually where the excitement stops and the lack of research begins.
The unprecedented number of fitness influencers that shovel out new content on a weekly basis tends to heighten this sense of urgency to “better oneself the quickest way possible”.
And before we know it, our clients are taking new vitamins or drinking celery juice without even understanding why.
If you’d like to make any changes to your current lifestyle, please do your research before you jump into anything new.
What “research” am I referring to?
Reading a peer-reviewed article or research paper that utilizes a reputable experiment design (Independent Measures/Repeated Measures/Matched Pairs, etc.)
Looking up individual ingredients in supplement bottles and researching what purpose they serve in the body
Researching documentary filmmakers and source funding for films
Reviewing social influencer backgrounds and current sponsorships
If you are ever unsure about something you’ve read or heard, you can always refer to your personal trainer for additional guidance.
They too should be engaging with new information as it presents itself, and this might be a great way to have a conversation about each of your findings so you can make confident decisions on your own.
10) It’s your session, do what you will to make the most of it
When you sign up to work with a personal trainer, you choose what kind of client you are going to be.
Do you want to put in the effort? Or will you half-ass today’s session?
As a trainer, there is nothing more exciting than when a client finally achieves a goal after weeks or even months of hard work.
On the flip side, it is hard to feel mournful when a client complains of not seeing progress, yet they’ve been AWOL for months and when they do show up, they only put in about 50% of the work.
I want to see you succeed.
I want to help you feel your best self.
But please understand that as a trainer, it can be exhausting to watch someone go through their own self-inflicted highs and lows.
That’s not to discredit the chaos that comes with having a family, a job, a sick loved one, so on and so forth. I understand. We all have our battles.
But please know that if you can only attend a few sessions here and then, the effort you put in and the way you spend your time in the gym is completely up to you.
You are totally in control and have the option to make the most of your time.
So no matter how often you can get into the gym, whether that’s every day or twice a month, kick ass, rinse, and repeat at your own pace.
I’ll be rooting for you every time.