Professionalism means different things to different people. However, having worked in this field for so long, I have seen amazingly professional trainers and unbelievably unprofessional ones too.
In this post, I will highlight unprofessional behaviours in trainers that I have seen:
- Talking on a mobile phone when a client is exercising. How much value is the trainer giving the client when having a conversation with someone else? How safe is that? I’ve seen this too many times over the years and frankly it is my pet hate. If you see a trainer talking on the phone (or indeed to someone else in the gym) during an exercise or indeed you call a trainer and can hear them training someone else, find another trainer.
- Untidy or unclean uniform. If a trainer is unable to take care of their own appearance or hygiene, then how much care will they give you? There is an old saying, “The way you do anything, is the way you do everything”. If they are sloppy with the way they dress, it is likely they will be sloppy in most things they do.
- Being out of shape. If a personal trainer is out of shape, what does that tell you about their programme? In my opinion, to be professional, you must walk your talk. This means eating well, getting the right kind and amount of exercise and getting enough rest. Do you think it would be right if your trainer told you to exercise 3 times a week, eat organic food, get to bed by 10pm and cut down on alcohol when they don’t exercise, eat junk food, get to bed after midnight and smoke and drink?
- Working ALL hours! Some trainers, sometimes understandably, work very early in the morning to very late at night. In fact, back in the 1990’s I did this, but I learned my lesson very quickly. Whilst this might seem like dedication to the job, in fact it is quite the opposite for two reasons. Firstly, a good trainer will be telling you to not over-do it and get adequate rest so you can recover from your workouts. Yet, if they are working from 6am to 9pm, how well do you think they are recovering? Secondly, when tired, how well do you think they can do their job? Will they be giving you their optimum care and attention? Again, how safe will your workouts be?
- Giving all their clients the same workout. This totally blows my mind! We are all very different and have different goals. So why then would you put everyone on the same workout? Often times, trainers put their clients on the same routine as they are doing. We all have different genetics, different postures, different training histories and different sporting backgrounds. It just doesn’t make any intelligent sense. You won’t get the best results if you are following someone else’s programme. Would you go to your Doctor and be happy that he gives you the same medication as everyone else, regardless of your condition?
- Following a menu workout. Some trainers take ‘workouts’ found in a magazine or an online article and give it to their clients. Again, you require your own specific workout, based on your goals, assessment results and medical and training history. This just indicates a lack of understanding of the body and a lack of creative thinking.
- Not carefully periodizing clients’ programmes. Periodization is a process of planning workouts over a period of time, so different aspects of fitness can be focussed upon at one time, whilst other aspects are maintained, whilst reducing the likelihood of injury. Unfortunately, many trainers just stick to the same types of workouts, week in, week out. This will minimise progress and increase the likelihood of injury. Even worse, some trainers don’t plan their sessions at all and just make it up on the spot.
- Giving everyone the same dietary advice. We are all biochemically individual. This has been known for 60 years. As with exercise, we all require a specific individualised diet. What will make one person healthy, lean and fit, will make another person unwell and fat. If your trainer suggests you need to follow a balanced diet (which means nothing) or you need lots of whole grains and need to keep saturated fat low etc, find another trainer with more up date, accurate knowledge.
- Failing to take part in continual education. The human body is the most complex organism known to man. To be a good trainer, you need to be proficient in human anatomy, biomechanics, exercise physiology and program design as an absolute minimum. Many experts have studied just one of these areas for their whole lives and felt they barely scratched the surface. I know some trainers who haven’t studied for 20 years since they took an entry-level qualification. Qualifications on their own don’t ensure good knowledge and ability. However, it does show desire to learn and develop and to keep up to date with the latest information.
- Failing to refer to other professionals. In addition to the above knowledge required, a trainer should be referring you for other important areas of health and fitness, such as dietary support or sports massage (if they don’t do it themselves). If they are just focussed on exercise, then your results will be limited. We can’t all be the best at everything. Trainers should understand what they are good at and do that really well. Trainers also need to understand their limitations (we all have them) and have a network of allied professionals to refer out to. I have found many insecure trainers who don’t want to refer out as they think they will lose the client. This can often be caused by a lack of self-confidence in their own ability or a need to ‘own’ the client financially.
- Failing to put equipment away in the gym after use. Again, if a trainer doesn’t have the courtesy to take a few seconds to put equipment back after use, what does that tell you about how much they care for other people? If they have no regard for other gym users, members and other trainers, how much do you think they really care about you and your goals? What does that tell you about their views on health and safety?
- Just counting reps! If a trainer just counts your reps during a workout, ask yourself, are you getting value for money? Do you really want to pay someone to count to 10 for you? The most important thing a trainer can do is coach you through an exercise giving you feedback on your performance. In particular, cueing you to correct faulty technique. This is what most of the communication between you and your trainer should be during a set. If your trainer just counts reps, they’re not a trainer, they’re a Rent-a-Friend!
- Working you as hard as possible, every workout. Back in the 1990’s, I made this BIG mistake. Many trainers believe that their job is to train everyone as hard as they can every time. This comes down to a poor education. It is imperative that you have your Physiological Load assessed prior to having your exercise programme designed. This gives us a good indication of how much exercise stress your body can handle. There are a lot of people out there being trained too hard by their trainer and wondering why they are not losing weight, why they are tired all the time or injured.
- Just giving encouragement during an exercise. Motivation is a key benefit of a trainer, but if they are encouraging you to do ‘just 3 more’ when the weight is too heavy and your technique is poor, then they are not helping you! They are just leading you down an inevitable path of pain and injury. If your trainer’s main focus is always encouragement, then it probably suggests that they don’t know what good (or bad) technique is.
- Not interviewing you before taking you on to see if you are truly ready for change, to discover your goals and core values. Without this step, your trainer will NOT be able to motivate you when things get tough. They’ll probably just shout at you like they do on most of these ‘Reality Fat Loss Shows’.
Some of these behaviours listed above can be observed in the gym if you are looking for a trainer at your local health club. However, a number of the above listed behaviours are not detectable before you take on a trainer.
Therefore, in Part 4, I will highlight questions you can ask a trainer before taking them on to see if they are the real deal. So stay tuned…