a scene in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie "The Running
Man" in which "Captain Freedom’s Workout"
comes on TV, and Jesse Ventura yells, "Are you ready for
pain? Are you ready for suffering?"
trainer behaves like that, start running — away.
to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 250,000
fitness trainers and instructors in the U.S. That’s a lot to
choose from. Some of their clients have horror stories; others
refer to personal trainers as lifesavers.
have club feet, and my trainer tried to get me to do things
that were impossible for me," said Sara Ross, 34, a
small-business owner in Lawrenceville, N.J. She’d had
surgery as a child to synthetically lengthen her Achilles
tendons and was looking to improve her body’s functionality
and flexibility. But the trainer at a country club gym wasn’t
a good listener.
told her my ankles didn’t have the flexibility to do a full
squat," she said. The trainer pushed her to do it anyway,
with added weight. Ross heard a pop in her Achilles. The
trainer asserted it was all in her head. Ross stormed out of
the session, never to return. She had trouble walking for
is something you do for someone, not to someone; You’re
looking for a facilitator, not a dictator," said
Florida-based trainer Nick Tumminello, who was named the 2016
Personal Trainer of the Year by the National Strength and
Conditioning Association (NSCA).
people away from "push through the pain"-type
description of a good trainer? "They make it about you.
Good listener. Someone who asks you questions about what you
want rather than say what they want to inflict on you." A
trainer needs to understand a client’s goals and devise the
safest and most effective method of reaching those goals, he
of the hard sell. Monica Weber, a 39-year-old midwife in
Ontario, Canada, said it happened to her twice.
had a membership at the GoodLife Fitness chain since 2002,
doing basic workouts on her own. In 2010, she inquired about
hiring a trainer. The introductory sessions, she said,
"were all a big sales pitch. He made me feel like I had a
lot of problems he needed to fix. It would take a year and a
half and cost $10,000."
balked at the cost and said no thanks. Three years later, she
tried another GoodLife trainer. "She gave me an even
harder sell," Weber said. Again, it was $10,000 to
Fitness personal training divisional manager Kelly Musovic
said the average personal training package costs $4,000 and a
single session can be had for $39.
they say no to a particular option, we would advise them of
other options," said Musovic, who was dismayed to hear
about Weber’s story. "We don’t want anyone to feel
insisted both trainers made her feel as though it was the
$10,000 route or nothing. She ended up leaving the gym.
Rousseau, 39, is a retail worker in Bryce Canyon, Utah. She
recalled a trainer who was pushing her toward a smaller dress
size. At the time, the 5-foot, 4-inch tall Rousseau weighed 93
pounds and was recovering from an eating disorder that had
almost killed her. Her goal was to gain muscle and strength
and go up a few dress sizes, but the trainer told her she
should drop to a size 6.
Rousseau: "He insisted I had some fat to lose" — a
dangerous thing to say to someone who’s battled an eating
though the trainer knew about her condition, he "pushed
no carb." Rousseau said. "I told him right off the
bat that nutrition coaching was unnecessary because I was
under the care of a registered dietitian."
trainer also pushed supplements — ones he wanted to sell
her. Rousseau bailed after three sessions.
Cotton, who is national director of certification for the
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), said his
organization "does not support any supplement sales
within the client-trainer relationship." He added that
trainers should refer to a registered dietitian when it comes
to clients’ meal planning.
horror stories make personal training seem like the Wild West.
But Cotton said it’s not as wild as it used to be.
has been self-policing to improve standards and develop best
practices," he said.
trainers have some form of certification — ACSM and NSCA are
two well-respected groups — but that doesn’t guarantee
Tumminello and Cotton recommended seeking out a trainer with
relevant experience. Seniors, for example, should look for
someone who understands how to work with older adults. Cotton
is a big fan of word-of-mouth referrals.
how Ross finally landed a good trainer: from her cousin’s
recommendation. Her new trainer had the relevant physical
adapted the exercise to my ability," she said.
warned against any trainer who insists exercises be done a
certain way, saying it shows a lack of understanding of
variations in human movement.
told me I didn’t need to do squats," said Ross, who’s
been with her current trainer for three years. "He’s so
knowledgeable and nice to work with."
found a better trainer too. "He would push me just enough
where I would gain confidence," she said. "He was
more about good form. Working out is more about feeling good
the ultimate goal of working with a trainer: to feel good.