This is the one that will step on some toes, step over the line and generally piss some people off. Well they say that if everyone agrees with everything you say then you aren’t saying anything worth a damn… Okay, I know, I’m a Personal Trainer. I might even be your personal trainer … there are always exceptions. The first thing that you have to realize about a commercial gym is that they are a business like any other and their main objective is to make money. They could care less whether you use the membership, whether you lose that weight, get ready for that race, or anything else. Trust me, I make the gym a hell of a lot more money than you and they would kick me out in the street the moment I stopped!
The problem lies within the system that most commercial gyms use: it maximizes their profit while leaving the member and client with the least amount of value. Let me give you the quick run down of how it all works: You see getting a certification to be a personal trainer isn’t all that hard, honestly its pretty easy. People might blast me as there are some challenging certifications out there, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean to just be able to say “I’m a certified personal trainer” is a lot easier than it should be. Not even a couple years ago that wasn’t even required to be hired at some gyms!
So now you know that there isn’t much quality screening before hiring a trainer, there was actually an embarrassing situation at the gym I work at when a simple Google search revealed something about an employee that had been working with the manager for years! Suffice it so say that it wasn’t good and I think she may be jailed now.
So why would any gym hire just about anyone that walks in the door? Well that’s an easy one … they pay them next to nothing! Most trainers work on 100% commission while some may have a very low base salary with performance incentives. The bottom line is that it costs a gym next to nothing to bring in trainers and they let the bad trainers weed themselves out because they won’t earn anything without being able to attain and keep clients!
In the last two years there have been about 10 new trainers hired at the gym I work at and a total of two have stayed! Would you go and do business with a firm that hires a new lawyer every other month and there is a continual revolving door of employees? How much more important is the quality of your own health?
Most commercial gyms adopt this exact model because they have a very low financial risk in hiring new trainers with a tremendous upside if the trainer is actually able to generate revenue for them since the trainer is only paid a portion out of the fee the client pays for each training session. There is absolutely no loss for the gym! That sounds logical enough, simple economics right? But think about the past example … if 80% of the trainers hired didn’t work out what are the odds you will end up with a trainer that is worth the money you’re paying them, or even worse one that won’t end up injuring you!
So enough with my bashing on the industry, its a cold blooded profit seeking machine and good for them … how does any of this help you? Well since your gym is ready to sell you down the river here is my own list of what you can do to make sure that you avoid trusting your health (and money) to a less than qualified individual: Ask them what their background is … these days exercise science degrees are becoming more common. While this doesn’t guarantee quality at all it is still a good indicator. Ask them how long they’ve been working as a fitness professional … Of course every good trainer has to start sometime, but odds are that if they are less than six months into the job they suck! (just simple probabilities!)
Ask them how many other clients they have … this question works well because if a trainer is worth your money they are likely worth others’ money as well. If he or she can’t retain clients there is a reason for that! State your workout goals clearly to a manager and say you would like the trainer best fit to help you … this might not work, but if a manager sees you being proactive about your goals and your trainer selection they will pay more attention to keeping you happy.
Pay attention to how much they ask you and what they ask you about … are they probing into your health history, workout history, nutritional habits and any other indicator which might give them information on how best to serve you or are they interested in having you move around enough to sweat a bit and then send you on your way?
Now the point of this blog post isn’t to turn you off from personal training, but rather to make you aware of how the industry works so that you don’t just assume anyone that your local gym calls a personal trainer is adequately qualified to help you reach your fitness goals in a safe and quick manner. The better informed you are the easier it will be to get everything you want out of your experience with your gym and your personal trainer.