Do you know what the hardest part of my job is…seriously? It’s biting my tongue and not telling grown adults to grow-up, nutt-up, or get the hell out of my gym on a daily basis. I don’t say that to be cruel but it is an honest representation of my chief complaint with being a trainer. I also believe if you want to experience an honest accurate representation of everything that’s wrong with America these days: spend some time working as a fitness trainer. Before you try your hand at being a trainer there are a few things you need to be aware of. The stuff that comes out of people’s mouths will blow your mind. The endless parade of excuses and justifications people use for being lazy, eating garbage, and generally committing slow suicide through a variety of blame shifting, avoidance, and denial would be comical were it not so tragically common. After over a decade in this field I can say with utter conviction to all the inspiring trainers out there: YOU DO NOT WANT THIS JOB!
Let’s talk about the biggest problem with being a trainer. It’s not the clients its you. If you’re sitting there reading this and thinking to yourself “I’m great at, whatever it is you enjoy doing to workout, I should be a trainer” you could not be more wrong. I run into this more often than I can count and its usually in CrossFit boxes. Being a good athlete does not automatically qualify you for a coaching job. I really don’t care how much you love it. If you cannot articulate to an inexperienced, nonathletic person, how to move a body they have no awareness of in a certain way to achieve a certain result: you will fail and you will fail your clients. Athletic skill and ability are certainly important in this field but empathy, communication, and personal relationships are far more important. As a trainer you are in the business of building relationships and getting into your client’s head. It ain’t all holding a clipboard and counting reps. Several local gyms are failing and suffering for all the reasons I just listed.
If you don’t like working hard and spending 12-16 hours a day dealing with other people’s issues this career is definitely not for you. Any experienced trainer will tell you that the majority of the time spent with a client is about getting them to perform by overcoming all their emotional and mental baggage. If you can’t change the way a person thinks and get them to see the truth on their own you can hammer them with Met-cons and lifts all day but they will soon get bored or tired and leave. My psychology degree has been a huge benefit to my training career and also a curse. Maybe I give off that fatherly vibe but people are always wanting to tell me their problems and after awhile it gets mentally exhausting for me, especially 14 hours into my day when I just want them to focus on not killing themselves with a loaded bar and get this workout done. Even after the workouts are over though it doesn’t end there. Next up before bed time or early the next day comes data recording, tracking, planning, programming, answering emails and Facebook posts and somehow or another getting your own workout in and eating something healthy. Some days I want to hire a stunt double just to live my life for me so I can focus on the training business.
Related to all that is the next big issue 99% of new trainers will not understand coming into this field: this is work! This is a business new trainers, not a club where you and all your buddies hang out and work out. If you come into this with that mentality or that this will be “fun.” Your future will soon include bankruptcy and an ulcer. This is fun and there are many times when its deeply gratifying and fulfilling but it’s a business first and you must run it like a business which means among other things letting go of troublesome clients that are bad for business and a bad representation of your business in the community. When a client does not commit to regular attendance and adopting a healthy diet they will not see results. Unfortunately for you as a trainer their friends, family, and acquaintances in the community all potential clients and new members will not blame them for this but you and your gym. On the other side of this when something in your gym, a trainer, a class, or a program isn’t working then it has to go or change. Beating a dead horse just tires you out. You need to be honest here. If it’s not making money, furthering your goals, or fulfilling your chief principals and ideals as an owner then it needs to be cut.
Here’s my final reason why this job probably isn’t for you. Media and the internet have set you up for failure and an uphill battle from the start. Anyone who has a computer can now post on the internet and call themselves and expert despite having zero experience or knowledge in any field. You will spend most of your time trying to persuade people who have no understanding of fitness and health that you are right and that they need to listen to you. The reason being that everyone else they know from family and friends to Dr Oz will promise them an easier way to get it done that does not require sacrifice, discipline, and hard work. I have never understood why overweight people will take weightloss advice from their overweight friends but not fit healthy people, but its true and it happens everyday. I have never understood how a grown adult can seriously believe that there’s no cost to eating garbage all day when the true price is staring them in the face from the mirror either but its also the norm. I could blame TV for this and shows like the Biggest Loser and daytime talk TV. The truth is that many people are just in denial. Most overweight people will go on telling themselves they just need to lose a “few” when they’re a hundred pounds over and battling heart disease, sleep apnea, and pre-diabetes.
I’ve had a lot of successes over the past decade and more. I can say that I’ve helped scores of people change their lives. I can also say that I feel that my time in this industry is coming towards its end. I really just do not have the stomach for it anymore. I have sacrificed my own health and mental peace to help others and its taken its toll. Your job as a trainer friends is to deliver results. Unfortunately for you the majority of your clients will first step through that door looking for excuses and someone to pat them on the head and say “you did your best but it was just too hard.” Let their parents and spouses lie to them you have to break that cycle. Some you will reach, some you will not. Some will suck the spirit right out of your soul. Others will make you as proud as a parent watching their children grow. You will have to learn to be tough with people that have probably never had anyone give them the cold hard truth about anything in life. You will need to learn to motivate people who are actually looking for any and every reason to quit. You will have to reign in thoroughbreds so they don’t hurt themselves and slowly teach grown-ups to crawl and perform the most basic of human movements. Our population is increasingly obese and elderly friends. Child births are at an all time low and health in our nation is rapidly deteriorating. If you really want to be successful you had better learn to deal with, appreciate, motivate, and work with these growing populations. That’s what will determine if you end up as just another owner and coach or someone spectacular that changed people’s lives. If that’s not your real motivation for doing this then this job is not for you.