Personal trainers are supposed to be the cheerleaders of the gym. Their role is to guide us through our weight loss journey by challenging us to work harder, demonstrating proper technique, answering questions, and giving the all-important pep talk. Unfortunately, they can also be overzealous, insensitive, inappropriate, and downright rude.
If you have a bad experience with a personal trainer but love your gym, it can seem like an inequitable fitness divorce. The personal trainer gets to keep the house (gym) with the pool while you sulk away with your bag of funky sweaty towels and workout clothes.
The Bored Trainer
After the birth of my second daughter I joined a local YMCA to get back in shape and eliminate my “bingo wings.” I was a tired mama looking for a beacon of weight loss hope. Instead, I was introduced to my personal trainer, the apathetic chubby lady babysitter. I talked about my goals. He yawned. I didn’t know how to turn on a stair climbing machine. He told me to get on, pushed all the buttons for me, and then watched Judge Judy on the gym TV while I tried not to pass out.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger
I’m not alone. Diana from California said she merely requested a Q&A session from her trainer, along with a light workout. At the time, she was barely a year out from back surgery and knew she wanted to make it strong again, but at a slow pace so as not to re-injure it.
“I knew I needed to listen to my body carefully,” she said “but the trainer ignored everything and kept telling me it was important to get in a good hard workout.” Diana felt pressured into a tougher workout than she wanted and within 24 hours she checked into the emergency room with severe back strain.
In Chicago, 29-year-old Hollie was happy to have a chatty personal trainer until he took the conversation to an awkward level. “He relied on techniques that included picking on me and my body, and making me feel guilty for skipping a day at the gym,” she explained. “In addition, he constantly talked about sleeping with other trainers and his weekend conquests. Totally inappropriate.”
After the buff Casanova made comments about women at the gym who enjoyed using a vibrating device called the Power Plate, Hollie cancelled her membership and went somewhere else.
What to Do
Even though Diana, Hollie and I all had different experiences, the one thing we had in common was the fact that we didn’t tell anyone about our disappointment, irritation, and embarrassment. CrossFit Coach Ben Sweeney, says next time, “Speak up!”
Ben’s advice – Before you bail on the gym, try these solutions instead:
- Tell the trainer specific things that bothered you about the session
- Share your feelings with the club manager
- Ask the front desk to be transferred to another trainer
Before he was a CrossFit coach and personal trainer, Ben struggled with his own weight loss, so he gets it. After several years in the industry, he’s even heard his fair share of bad personal trainer stories from clients who found him after leaving another gym. He admits he’s not without his own foibles.
“I had one client who didn’t think I was funny,” he admitted. “She told me she’s heard enough jokes and just wanted to work out.” Instead of taking the comment personally, Ben used it to make himself a better trainer. “If a trainer can’t take feedback, then they are not good at their job,” he said. “If you don’t have a good fit with your trainer, speak up and get the change you deserve.”