When people ask me my occupation, I would tell them I am a personal trainer and strength coach. Upon hearing what I do for a living, many people tend to revert to a pretty common stereotype. They think of some guy who is fit and walks around high fiving everyone telling them what a great job they are doing and to “feel the burn”. While I appreciate a well timed high five, the 1990’s version of your supposed typical trainer seems to mislead people into what myself and many other highly educated professionals actually do. As of recently, I have changed my response to that question in order to hopefully mold a new mind set of what trainers really do. I tell them that I take a select group of highly motivated individuals who strive to improve their physicality and lead them through specialized training programs in order to get them to where they want to be. Pretty awesome right? It’s the exact same occupation but with some elaboration on the details.
Some people tend to get the wrong idea of personal training and I get it. Stereotypes don’t just pop out at random. There is always that one person who tends to make the rest of us look bad. It’s like back in your elementary school days when the teacher would ban cards or marbles because that one kid (everyone knew who he was) would always throw them at people. The same can be said of personal trainers. The handful of passive, uneducated meatheads who throw the same garbage program at every single client that approaches them have tarnished an underappreciated profession. The truth is that the lack of regulation puts up a guard in society and results in undervaluing a trainer’s worth. People have this idea of what personal training is and have seen the worst of the worst perform it. What results is skepticism and misconception. I am here to try to clarify some of these notions and perhaps provide better insight into the matter. After all, the whole idea that Exercise is Medicine makes it a primary resource in preventative health care. So here we go.
1) We are just paid to count reps and motivate
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, we are good for keeping track of your rep and set counts but what we are actually doing is analyzing your form in order to ensure safety. We are trying to make you better at the work you are doing in order to get closer to your goals. After a set we should be able to provide feedback to correct any in errors and improve your abilities. The handful of poor trainers that just sit there and count are just that. Poor.
To say trainers are just paid motivators is an extreme depreciation and illusion. Of course many trainers are extremely enthusiastic as they want to see their clients succeed. If they happen to encourage them along the way then that’s great. The truth is that if you are coming to me for help, you should have some motivation already. Remember my earlier statement? I train motivated individuals looking to get better. That doesn’t mean you can’t have doubt or feel under confident, but the minute you decide to initiate change you are all in.
It’s perfectly natural to feel nervous or scared but to walk into my office with no motive is the beginning road to failure. I will help to clarify your goals and set a plan in place but I will not make those goals for you. A well designed program built by a professional to get you to where you want to be should be motivation enough. That is not to say I won’t encourage or assist you along the way but what drives you to succeed is on you. I am here to guide you there. When people start looking for someone to motivate them they usually don’t set any value to it. Why should they?! People prioritize what’s important. If losing fat, running faster or gaining muscle is what’s important you can bet people will find a motive. When people seek assistance to make a change that is meaningful to them, that’s priceless. Trainers can be motivators but they shouldn’t have to be.
2) Trainers and strength coaches are only for athletes
Many trainers and coaches work with more advanced people however that’s not to say we don’t work with the average person. The same principles that help improve athletics work identical for regular people as well. In fact, many coaches may enjoy working with regular people more than athletes sometimes. With the right attitude any coach will gladly train you. The program may just be a little more simple in order to progress you properly.
Some people assume that only elite athletes and teams can afford to hire a trainer. Although some trainers are quite expensive per hour, this isn’t always the case. Many trainers are reasonable and offer combined offers in order to better serve their clients. Options like group training and online coaching are very popular as it makes training affordable and more convenient. The one-on-one experience is logically the best choice however it does cost more. What it comes down to is the importance of what you are trying to accomplish. Like any preventative health care option, they are valued high for a reason. If you are looking to experience success, it’s worth the investment.
3) We know everything about fitness
It’s true that many of us are well rounded in knowledge however the field is constantly evolving. What may have worked two years ago may not be what science supports today. A good trainer is constantly updating their knowledge base with continuing education. Many certifications require it. Some trainers may be comfortable with being stagnant but the majority of professionals are doing what our job requires. Staying current while increasing knowledge. I recommend looking into a trainers background history and seeing what education they have. It’s a good indicator as to how dedicated they are to staying at the top of their profession.
4) We only care about making a quick buck
This is a major issue that needs to be addressed. Yes, the handful of trainers that are slimy and try to weasel your money in order to get a sale are snakes. They manipulate information and promise results without any plan in order to meet quotas and get commission. More often than not, they exist at big box gyms and commercial franchises (read my article Big Box Gyms: Are You Really Living “The Goodlife”). These poor examples of health professionals are what lead people to under value the true worth of training.
To help put it in perspective, let’s break down the facts. A trainer typically gets paid hourly and has no benefits, retirement, etc. What they make is what they make. A high quality trainer has some sort of post-secondary education which can include a Bachelors Degree, Masters Degree or maybe even a PhD. On top of that, they become certified through (hopefully) some sort of national governing body that requires an extensive background check (asks for university transcripts, proof of degree) and a passing grade on an exam (or exams). The education alone is years and years of intellectual value many people forget to acknowledge. A good trainer isn’t some high school meathead doing it for a summer job. Quality trainers are highly intellectual people who are passionate about exercise science.
I appreciate the value of money and understand why people are strict with their finances. It’s a great quality to be firm with budgeting and spending. However, when something is of value to me I understand the age old saying “you get what you pay for”. Value is worth spending on especially if it means getting what you want. I find it hard to believe people when they start bashing trainers for their prices or try to haggle them down for a bargain. What a good trainer charges typically is what they believe their intellectual knowledge and abilities are worth. Of course some trainers may over value themselves but just like anything else you spend money on, you do diligence and check them out first.
If a trainer is in high demand, they can be valued even more. What people don’t necessarily think about is that the hour you pay for requires two or even three hours of work. A trainer must analyze your needs, formulate a plan, design you a program and then implement it efficiently when they meet you. Some free lance trainers must also cover gym fees and memberships for their clientele. Good trainers value themselves based on their education, experience and abilities. You wouldn’t bargain with your barber over a haircut would you? What about your physiotherapist or chiropractor? You want a good looking hairdo or an aligned spine so you pay them to do it right. They charge what their time is worth and so do trainers. So when I refer back to my previous statement of training motivated individuals, this is another reason why. Motivated people can appreciate your value whereas unmotivated people tend to look for a cheaper option. Don’t try to haggle with your trainer. It reflects poorly on you and on them.
5) It’s ok, I can cancel
This is a rather irritating point. I’ve been rather fortunate to not have to had deal with this problem regularly however it can be quite bothersome to trainers. I completely understand certain situations where life happens and you have to cancel unexpectedly last minute. I get it. Sometimes life happens. But sometimes people take advantage of a trainer’s kindness and begin to feel comfortable cancelling sessions when they do not feel like working out. This is an issue.
First off, you are putting the trainer in a bad position. They scheduled you in and may have turned others away for that time slot. They lose money and the chance to train other clientele. To protect themselves, many trainers put a clause in their contracts stating 24 hours notice or sessions will count or fees applied. Although many people may not agree, I feel this to be quite fair. You cancelled last minute without valid reasoning? It counts. You cost the trainer their time and therefore it is only fair to pay for it. To my fellow trainers, do not be bullied. After all, you are a serious business therefore should be taken seriously. If a client is insistent on not paying, they probably weren’t a good fit for you anyway. It goes back to how the client values you and your time. If they cancel for no good reason, they should understand and accept the consequences of which they signed on for.
Second point to this is that it hinders the client’s own successes! Let’s be honest, how successful do you think you’ll be at losing 20 pounds of fat when you miss two of your workouts every other week? Probably not successful at all. Late fees and expired sessions are not meant to punish you but to instead help hold you accountable. We trainers want to see you succeed and we know that every missed workout is a step backwards. We understand that sometimes life happens but when it happens too often it’s time to reassess how important your training is to you. Talk to your trainer. They can sit down with you and help make a routine that works for everyone.
6) All trainers do is help you lose weight
This point may be true but trainers are capable of way more than that. Ya, we can build a fitness program to help lose fat mass for you but that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Every trainer has a specialty and personal flare that makes them unique. Some prefer body building, others prefer strength. Some enjoy athletes, others enjoy injury rehabilitation. The best part is that the majority of trainers are knowledgeable in most areas of program design and can help get you to where you want to be. It doesn’t mean they will put you on a rehab program to lose weight. It’s that a trainer is CAPABLE of much more than what people give credit for. If nothing else, we are a great listening ear after a hard day.
There you have it. I have found these six to be the top misconceptions regarding trainers and personal training. Many people are just misinformed about what we do so it is our job as quality trainers to reeducate them about our services. After all, marketing oneself as a trainer is essentially demonstrating why you are valuable. Trainers take many forms. Some are counselors, sports coaches or preventative health care professionals. Either way, the work of one-on-one training should not be underestimated and certainly not undervalued. Like any career, there are always a handful of individuals who we discover are a bad representation of the job. Don’t let those poor examples ruin what is a necessary profession in health care and performance. If you want more information, send us an email and we’ll take care of you.
Matrixx specializes in adolescent athletic development. He coaches some of the top athlete prospects coming out of high school in the Niagara region. He also works with dedicated members of the community who are passionate about improving personal fitness. Matrixx is also the author of The Iron Guide to Building Muscle.