What you don’t know about personal trainers

I am no longer personal training, but I did put in about 5 months at a large commercial gym chain that most everyone has heard of. I went in excited to help people get stronger and fitter and ended up looking forward to leaving the job, as it wasn’t what I had expected. At all.

1. The certification matters.

When you think of a personal trainer, you probably picture a hyper-fit burly dude whose knowledge does not extend much past the perfect ratio of eccentric to concentric motion during a bicep curl for max muscle gainzz. While there may be a few of those out there, most personal trainers are very intelligent and driven people. Most gyms will not hire you without a certification, and some are much better than others. NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) is the best certification and it is not easy to attain. With a BS in biochemistry under my belt, I thought the exam would be a cinch. It was fine, but I certainly had to put in a good amount of studying for it. The level of biochemistry, physiology, and anatomy is surprising – and necessary for the makings of a good personal trainer. There are definitely some good trainers out there without that cert, but if I was going to hire a trainer, I would make sure they had the NASM CPT. If you have a solid personal trainer, there will be a lot of science behind their programming for you.


2. They are under tremendous sales pressure.

I had no idea that personal trainers had to meet monthly minimums in multiple categories until I was actually in the position. 500$ a month in supplements, 3,000$ in personal training, and 5 new clients per month or you don’t get your commission. In order to meet these numbers, trainers often bump down the pricing of their training, which means they get paid less for each session. If you are paying 100$ per session, they are only seeing about 20 or 25$ of that. If they lower their price to 80$ a session, a “special deal for you” of course, they are getting even less. And it is not just the personal trainers that are under pressure. The membership team has minimums they need to make by the end of each month too, and the chain manager doesn’t get his bonus if everyone beneath him doesn’t meet their quotas, so he or she is on everyone all the time. If you want to get the lowest price possible for your gym membership, go at the end the month. If you want to take full advantage of the system, you can probably try the gym for free for up to a week during the month and sign up at the end for the lowest price. You will also likely be offered a free personal training session, which you could utilize. Having been on the other side though, if you know for certain you aren’t going to buy a package, it would be kind of you to not use that time with a trainer. They won’t be paid for it and they could use that time training a paying customer or trying to find new clientele.


3. A good training program may seem easy at first.

Everyone has muscle imbalances and asymmetries that need to be corrected before going hard and heavy. A responsible trainer will identify these weak spots and have their client begin their training program with a stabilization phase. This phase may be short or long, depending on how out of whack the body is and is necessary to correct the body’s alignment and bring it to a state that able to perform exercises with proper, safe form. The stabilization phase is light and repetitive and may not seem like it is doing much. It is, and it’s setting the foundation for a safe and maximally beneficial program to follow. You will never reach your max strength potential if you do not first achieve a base level of stability, flexibility, and muscular balance.

4. The best trainer in the world cannot make up for a shitty diet.

It is okay to not work out and eat tons of sugar and processed foods, just like it is technically okay to harm your own body in every other way. However, if you choose do these things, take responsibility for your actions. I think it is wrong that the government and media push false information about nutrition and health to the public and I want to help make the truth widely known so that each and every person can make informed decisions about their lifestyle. However, once a person has done their homework and knows the full story, whatever they choose to do or not do is fine with me. If you are not meeting your weight loss goals and are working out every single day with your trainer while eating cereal, sandwiches, candy, soda, and other crap – don’t blame the trainer. Your weight and the way your body looks is majorly a function of what you put in your mouth. Working out can alter what your body does with the food that you eat, but that has its limits. (In addition, of course, to the awesome health, mental, physical, and emotional benefits of exercise!)

5. I truly think that everyone can benefit from at least a couple sessions with a solid personal trainer.

Whether you are a seasoned lifter or fitness newb, spending some time with a personal trainer can help you. It is incredibly important to have proper form when exercising, and most people do not. Personal trainers can help you break through strength plateaus, lose weight, learn proper technique, and be there to support you and your goals. They want you to succeed! I know that personal training is expensive for many people, so if you want to get the most out of your 55 minute session, warm up and stretch before you meet with the trainer! These things are required before a safe session, so if you don’t want to allocate paid time to them, be sure to come early and gitterdone!

If you have any questions – leave a comment! 🙂

6 thoughts on “What you don’t know about personal trainers

  1. Hi Lauren, It’s Liz! I am glad you are updating your blog again and I sympathize with you. The reason I am pursuing a career in Campus Recreation is because I can work in Fitness without the tremendous pressure of sales. Working in the commercial fitness industry is absolutely brutal and personal training is the big money maker for commercial gyms. I 100% agree with you though with everything you said about working with a personal trainer… nutrition is VERY important. Anyways I just received my NASM and applied at the local YMCA because it’s not as cut-throat. I’m not ready to venture into the world of commercial fitness haha

    Email me with updates on your life!! What are you doing now? I want to hear about all of you SF adventures!!

  2. A lot of what you say makes my experience with a PT much more clear. I’m sorry to hear that your experience wasn’t great but hey, you’ll have that cert and the experience and you grew from it. Hope all is well with you and great to see you blog again! xo

  3. Have you heard of fitmob? It’s a new thing that’s starting up in SF, sort of like a flashmob but for fitness. People agree to meet in a park at a certain time through and app and each pay 5-15$, which goes towards the trainer who leads the group. Classes are capped at certain numbers. It’s direct and flexible. I don’t know what its like from the trainers side, but not sales and it cuts out a lot of the gym nonsense.

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