bad personal trainers

Don’t Get Discouraged

Something happened at the gym recently that saddened and angered me. Let me paint the picture for you. I was working in the free weight section doing my routine and saw an overweight guy with a personal trainer. I overheard bits and pieces and it was apparently his first session. I smiled at him to be encouraging as he struggled to do a plank.

Later, I was doing my stretches on the mat and the same trainer was talking to his next client but what he was saying stopped me in my tracks. The trainer was making fun of Client #1 to Client #2. He was laughing at how the client couldn’t do a plank.

My workout was done and so I left. But as I was walking to my car, I was kicking myself for not saying something. In my mind I practiced what I SHOULD have said to the trainer, calling him out on talking smack about someone who was DOING HIS BEST.

Why do I bring this up? Because it really bothered me. You may wonder why I care. Well, I was that guy once upon a time. I was morbidly obese and totally terrified of people at the gym or pool making fun of me. I had to get my 250+ pound body in a swimsuit and walk to the pool with my thighs rubbing together, feeling self-conscious about my body, thinking that everyone in the pool was laughing at the “fat girl.”

You know what helped me? Encouragement from people. My friends and family were all supportive. My neighbor and close friend Star was enthusiastic about my progress. I also made a friend at the community center’s gym. Christian, a personal trainer there, was a true cheerleader.

Maybe I was spoiled. Christian was such an awesome trainer that I’ve compared all others to him and they have fallen short. But truly, I think he was great. For example, I worked out a few days a week in that tiny gym and every time I was there, Christian had a kind word to say. “Good job, Lisa” and “I’m seeing progress” and “Keep at it!” They may not be anything special, but that encouragement made me feel good about myself and good about what I was doing. It kept me going. It made me work harder when the scale got stuck. And you know what? I wasn’t even using Christian’s personal training services. It was over a year before I finally paid for 3 sessions with him.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad personal trainers out there. Be picky, ask questions, and if you don’t like the trainer find a new one.

Don’t ever let someone diminish your efforts. There are haters out there everywhere that are just waiting to tear you down. It could be a so-called friend, a jealous coworker, a family member; it could be an internet bully, or a complete stranger. (The event made me think of a post a blogger wrote, When People Say Mean Things.)

Discrimination against overweight people is nothing new. But it still hurts. And I may be 100 pounds lighter, but I still have the wounds of hurtful words and embarrassing memories somewhere in me.

It doesn’t matter if you have 100 pounds to lose or 10, if you are working towards your goal you should be proud of yourself and your efforts and never, ever let some jerk discourage you from trying!

QUESTION: How do you deal with the haters, the bullies, the Negative Nancys?

What NOT to Do as a Personal Trainer


Tuesday night after work I headed to the gym for my free personal training session. It did not go as I had hoped. First, I think the personal trainer I saw (let’s call her Misty) JUST graduated from school. I tried to be opened minded about that. If she’s fresh out of school, that means it’s all fresh in her mind right? She had the energy of a hyper 16 year old girl and was REALLY pushy about me signing up for more sessions. I had to bite my tongue so I wouldn’t say, “Listen sweetie, this is sort of like an interview–for you. If I like you MAYBE I will sign up for a session but so far I’m not impressed.”

I had a 60 minute session scheduled and she spent 35 minutes of it giving me an anatomy and fitness lesson–it felt like she was reading out of her textbook. The things she was telling me was nothing new either. I know that strength training is an important part of fitness–that’s why I signed up for the session to learn how to do the weights correctly. I basically just needed a refresher course on the weights and maybe some new ab exercises.

She took measurements and measured my body fat percentage. I’m not even going to go there. Let’s just say it was vastly different than last year’s number and I am in BETTER shape than I’ve ever been. I am skeptical of the tool she used and she didn’t seem to know how to use a calculator to figure out my percentage. I know the percentage is off and I’m extremely annoyed with the whole experience. (Which is ironic because of yesterday’s post.)

Moving on. She said this phrase several times: “I’m going to talk AT you a lot but I just want to give you some good information.” This is the part of the story where I kid you not–she said, “I want to be a doctor when I grow up.”

Um, what?

She proceeded to tell me that I need to lose 11 pounds in body fat. I should weigh 137.

I bit my tongue yet again. Then she started to tell me how to eat right to lose weight. I could no longer bite my tongue.

“Let me stop you here.” I said. She looked at me with big doe eyes and I continued. “We can skip this section. I lost over 100 pounds all by myself and I know how to lose weight.”

She quickly started stammering that I have a “GREAT body” and I’m in “FABULOUS shape.”

I nodded and said, “To be honest with you, I thought this session would be more about learning how to use the machines to achieve my goals. It’s been about 35 minutes now and I see we are running out of time and we haven’t done anything yet.”

Readers–you may not know me In Real Life but I am not a “Know it All” type. I take suggestions, I love tips and advice. I am open to almost ANYTHING someone has to tell me. I saw a Nutritionist to make sure I WAS doing it right. And guess what? She said my diet is awesome and that I know my stuff. I am not a dietitian or a doctor. But I LEARNED from my own experience of losing weight. There was trial and error but I learned and it WORKED.

I digress.

After that little interchange, she quickly moved onto the part showing me machines.

Five more words for Personal Trainers: DON’T LISTEN TO YOUR CLIENT.

Relationships are crucial. If I don’t like my personal trainer (or physical therapist, or doctor, whatever) it won’t work. I won’t go, I won’t do the session, I won’t get any benefit out of it. If I feel like someone isn’t hearing what I’m saying, that’s the quickest way to turn me off.

I explained my injury to her several times and she still kept calling it Tendinitis in my knee. My doctor diagnosed me with overuse of my IT Band. While all of those things are related, it just annoyed me and told me that she was not listening to me.

She talked a lot about what we “would” be doing together in the future.

A better way to try and win over a client as a personal trainer? Give them a freakin’ workout they’ll remember. When I had my first session with my old personal trainer, Christian, he kicked my butt so good that I could barely move for days. I knew it was working. It felt fantastic. I wanted more. I signed up for 3 more sessions with him immediately and he was my Cross-fit Guru. Misty–Tuesday night’s personal trainer–did not inspire any of that. In fact, I now feel awkward about going to my gym and potentially seeing her and having to have a conversation about why I am not buying sessions. UGH.

One Word for Personal Trainers: ASSUME

In the beginning of our session, she should have asked me what my background was; what my normal routine was, what my fitness level is. She just assumed that I didn’t know how to do anything and that I was starting from scratch. That wasted a lot of time.

If she had asked, I would have told her that I have a very disciplined eating and workout routine. I work out vigorously 5x a week. I would definitely say I am NOT a newbie when it comes to the gym.

She also assumed that I was there to lose weight. Not once did I ever mention that I wanted to lose weight to her. As you read in the above sections where she told me to lose 11 pounds of body fat, I think she just assumed that I wanted to see a personal trainer to lose weight. A valid reason for a lot of people. But I specifically said I was there because of an injury.

Four words for Personal Trainers: TELL CLIENT THEIR GOALS

She told me my goals should be to lose 11 pounds of body fat, work on flexibility, and run a half marathon next summer. All good goals but those weren’t the goals I had for myself.

Three more words for Personal Trainers: DON’T TEACH THEM

My goal for the personal training session was to learn how to use the “Scary Free Weight” section of the gym where the muscle guys hang out. She did not show me anything in that section.

In her defense, she did show me a few new Ab Exercises I could do. And we actually did them together. She told me to use the half ab ball to prop my back up a little then do crunches. These crunches were actually killers. She taught me the correct posture, how far I should rise, where I should stop, how to inhale/exhale, and how I should position my elbows and chin. It was a good lesson and I think the only positive thing I can take away from the session. She had me doing sets of them, and then included oblique turns left and right. My abs were freaking burning! It was great. That is definitely a new exercise I will add to my routine.

She also gave me some other stretches I can do for my IT band. That’s a good thing too.

She told me I should do three leg weight machines to rehab my ITB. The leg press, the hamstring machine and the hip adduction machine.

That specific machine will supposedly strengthen the inside of my thighs. She said not to do the hip machine that works my outer thighs.

I may have left the session feeling annoyed, angry, frustrated with the Universe, and bummed that I wasted an hour of my life…but the ab exercise and ITB stretches are definitely a good thing. It wasn’t a complete waste of time–despite the bad encounter.

The Workout

After the personal training session (snort), I then I had to workout. I’d burned maybe 50 calories during the hour with her and I was hungry, tired, and annoyed. And I still had to work out!

I did my normal upper body weight routine and incorporated a few of the new leg workouts–at a VERY light weight.

I focused the rest of my workout on the abs. I used the half-ab ball and did the crunches and oblique crunches she showed me how to do.

I also did some ab work with the medicine ball. This is one I do frequently.

I’m disappointed with the recent lack luster appointments I’ve had: physical therapy, acupuncture, personal training. It’s been a rough week of disappointments. Sheesh!

Gym Stats:

Time: 2 hours (50 minutes of working out)

Calories Burned: 315

QUESTION: What gym do you go to and why do you like it?