The unfortunate truth about personal training

I already see this ruffling more than a few feathers.

Mandatory Preface

I loved being a personal trainer (PT). Educating and watching my most loyal clients grow was exactly why I decided to become one. I will forever hold them close to my heart and it provided me with invaluable experiences. I have seen them blossom into butterflies and it was thanks to them I remained motivated to keep learning more.

However…

It was once I started reading and seeking knowledge on topics of strength training specifically that I became overwhelmed with how much I still had to learn. So I started learning and I can say my breadth of knowledge has expanded enormously in the last 2 years.

They say true wisdom is knowing what you don’t know. I can unfortunately say many personal trainers choose to ignore what they don’t know and adopt a false sense of credibility.

I slowly started falling out of love with the title of being a PT once I opened my eyes to the industry of false claims and promises from highly under qualified “professionals”.

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Gotta start somewhere.

Being a personal trainer means nothing.

Anyone can become certified. It’s not rocket science.

Generic biography of every personal trainer:

Becomes determined to reach “x” goal, reaches “x” goal, becomes self-proclaimed gym rat, pays to get a certification, gets paid to listen to unmotivated individuals with goals that can only be achieved through personal growth and not personal training.

Assuming your personal trainer actually understands the principles of progressive overload, muscle growth, fat loss, strength or endurance training is like assuming everyone with a driver’s license is qualified to be an F1 driver.

Many PTs are not up to date on relevant literature

I am constantly seeking new information and still barely skim the surface. Exercise science and nutrition literature is constantly shifting. If your trainer only sticks to what they learned in their certification handbook 10 years ago, or through instagram fitspos, they are not credible authorities.

Those spreading information about booty blasting donkey kicks, crunches for core strength or form advice like squatting with knees behind the toes should have their “certification” revoked.

Further, promoting poor advice on eating only lean protein and vegetables, never eating sugar, or saving “unclean” foods for cheat days is not conducive to creating sustainable lifestyle solutions.

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If you still think aspartame will give you cancer you should probably start reading more.

Personal Training or Glorified Babysitting?

Clients want to do the most possible exercise in an hour

They want an immediate return on investment without realizing that won’t produce them any long term results except for perpetual exhaustion.

Personal babysitting is not cheap. If their muscles aren’t sore the next day, they think nothing is working. They think if they aren’t repping anything over 8 their muscles won’t grow or they won’t lose 10 pounds. They are so very wrong and unfortunately bad trainers will feed into these expectations.

Clients expect results through methods that don’t produce them

They want to be both a marathon runner and a bodybuilder. They want smaller waists, but insist on doing ab exercises. They want to get strong, but don’t want to rest between sets. They want to look “toned”, but freak out if the scale goes up.

I had to come to terms with the fact that 90% of people who looked for personal training just needed to move for an hour. They had little vested interest in improved strength or endurance. I continued educating those with potential for salvation, but for others it was 3×15 for 3 rounds. I started hating myself for it because I knew better and as a result was no longer getting satisfaction out of doing my job.

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What exactly do you mean by “I don’t care if I get stronger?”

Hard pill to swallow

Dear personal trainers of today,

Humble yourself and realize there is a world of knowledge you are missing out on. Stop spreading misinformation. Stop feeding on your client’s insecurities and promising them big booties via 3 sets of 10 squats with 25 lbs dumbbells or huge biceps with once a week bicep curls.

Ask yourself, “how have I improved my physical abilities in the last year?” When is the last time I improved my strength on a lift? When is the last time I cut my 5K run time by 2 min? Has my muscle mass actually improved and grown in the last 2 years?

If you can’t answer that question with confidence, you have no business promising anything to anyone.

Dear clients of today,

The bodies you idolize on social media are the bodies of athletes. They are bodies that have been under progressive overload for 5+ years. If you do not continue to place stress on your body, it will not adapt.

If your goal is to run better start by getting a trainer who competes as a runner. If you want to get stronger go to a trainer who trains for heavy lifting. If you’re looking for a social group that happens to increase your heart rate… then most gyms will probably cater to you.

You can do better. You can go heavier. You can go farther. You can do an extra set. You can show up an extra day. But only if you care to.

With that said, doing more exercises doesn’t always mean better results. Sweating more doesn’t mean more fat burned. Being sore doesn’t mean muscle growth and never taking a day off is not something to aspire to.

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I have learned to train smarter not harder. I take days off when I’m tired. I eat sugar daily. I am the strongest I have ever been.

My career path is now heading in a slightly different direction, but I will never stop educating myself on exercise, nutrition and wellness. It is an integral part of my life, but simply no longer feel like being a personal trainer is the best use of my knowledge or my time.

You may not agree with me or you may get defensive about some things I mentioned. However, before dismissing what I have said try to take it as an opportunity to make a positive change in either how you view training from a client perspective or how you view your role as a personal trainer.

It is a shared responsibility. Both clients and trainers need to step up their game. So how will you be different this year compared to last year?

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