hey, guys! i am in hood river for work and so i have a special guest tonight. you may remember neil from the last time he posted (on three tips thursday)–well, he’s back!
i asked neil if he’d like to post here on meals & moves every once in awhile. i promised him i’d think up a catchy, alliterative slogan for his guest post series. still working on that… the creative juices just aren’t flowing at the moment!
today neil is going to talk about trainers. i have recently adopted the GPP trainers as my own–i have been going to neil’s gym since april. I LOVE IT. neil, meg, and lizz (two lovely ladies who are both pictured below!) are the trainers there and they are all fantastic. they are everything trainers should be. and this post is going to talk about everything trainers should not be. and neil also adds in some good stuff at the end–because ending on a positive note is always good, right?
There are a lot of sucky trainers in the world. In fact, most of them are. For some reason, my profession draws into it some of the most self obsessed, holier-than-thou, power trippers in the world. More so than other professions. To be fair, it also pulls some of the most giving, passionate, earnest and gifted humans ever. Unfortunately, the bad seem to outweigh the good. I don’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with standing in front of mirrors all day. Maybe who you look at the most has to do with whom you love. Sorry, did you think this was going to be another one of those useless “how to pick a trainer” articles? I hate those.
The point is, trainers with certs are a crapshoot. But there are other ways to know if your trainer sucks other than just looking at a cert. There are a couple shyster trainer types that I’ve noticed and named over the years. I did it “list” style, because Janetha likes lists. Alliterations Are Awful – for me. WAY over my head, unless they happen by accident. In which case, I still want credit. (janetha here! i love alliterations! how dare you call them awful. you get full credit, though, because of the three As. extra credit would have been changing that “awful” to “awesome”, though!)
You’d think that the training profession would attract the type of person with a burning desire to help others. Nope. Sometimes, trainers (shysters) think this is the best profession for showing off. So, they do. For this trainer you, my friend, are just someone to emulate them. Someone to feed their ego. They want you to think they are smart. They want you to think they are fit. They want you to think about, talk about and promote them unceasingly. No, this training session isn’t about you. It isn’t about your needs, wants or desires. It’s about worship.
It’s easiest to spot this type of trainer the second you walk into their office. Does your trainer have pictures of himself on the wall? Expired certs? A trophy or two? If so, you can bet this experience is going to be all about them.
You can also tell if this is going to be all about them in the first couple of conversations you have with him. Do they talk over your head? This type of trainer has learned a bunch of big words and philosophies and will pour them over you thick and often. He figures if he talks above you, you’ll think he’s smart. So smart. In fact he’ll pour it on so thick that by the time he’s done telling you how to get fit, he hopes you’ll be convinced that without him, you are nothing. He’s actually hoping you’ll pledge your life to him in a very formal way. Maybe move to South America. Start a commune. BTW, if this happens – I wouldn’t drink the Kool Aid.
2. The “Hater”
This trainer hates you. Actually, she hates everyone. Seriously. Hate. She will say the meanest things AROUND you. Not TO you. No, this trainer is far too wise for that. But, if you ever happen to be (un)lucky enough to be present when she and her friends are having a conversation – cover your ears and head for the exit. Mean is coming. Coming hard. Not mean like, “pick that up now, dammit!” More like, “Did you see what that fat chick was wearing?”
It is my opinion that there is no context EVER where “FAT” and “CHICK” can be used together in anything less than a hateful manner. Any person who can say that about ANYONE will say that (chickenheartedly under their breath) about EVERYONE.
This trainer will also belittle you in sneaky ways. Screw up your diet a bit and their response will be something very judgemental like, “Gross. Why would you put THAT in your mouth?” Instead of something helpful like, “DAMMIT! Knock that off!”
Be careful of this type of trainer. Even if you get physically healthy while working with this one, you’ll be far from ACTUALLY healthy.
3. “Form Nazis”
Nothing is more important than good and proper form when working out. It will lead to more efficient and effective workouts. It will also prevent injury. However, many trainers take this too far. Instead of teaching you skills that can help you get a workout and increase your health and fitness, they have wrapped their own personal identity into the completion of “perfect” movements. These trainers have it all backwards.
Health does not lie within the perfect movements you complete. It lies within completing these perfect movements.
Form Nazis aren’t concerned with your health and fitness anyway. This is secondary to the “rules” of exercise. Somehow the rules of exercise are more important to this type of trainer than the exercise itself. Which is pretty silly when you consider that the rules of exercise seem to change pretty often. Like, constantly.
Meg hates this pic. I totally staged it, now I post it all the time to tease her. hehe.
It’s a tell. A mark of their insecurity and true intentions. When your trainer is more obsessed with the rules than the effect there is obviously something else going on here. Can you say – God complex? Maybe the endless hours they put into learning the extremely complicated intricacies of movement had nothing to do with helping others. Maybe they are using this knowledge as permission to bully and intimidate people. I’ve been in rooms with these guys and gals before while they were ripping on people who were exercising out on the floor of they gym they train in. Not, “Oh, man! That dude is going to blow up their back. I’m going to help him.” It was more like, “Look at that stupid A$$. He doesn’t even know what he’s doing. [yelling] IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOUR ARE DOING GET OUT OF MY GYM!”
Great trainers “cue” their clients. They don’t demand mastery of a movement before letting you attempt it. They realize that lifting is a process. And form gets BETTER with experience. After you grasp one concept, they will add another, then another because they know no one can be responsible for all of that info from the get go. They will let you feel your way through this experience and do their best to help speed this along. They also realize that each person has his/her own interpretation of an exercise. Many times, these “interpretations” are safer and more effective than supposed “rules” written for general purposes and populations. An expert can help you develop movement patterns which suit your specific build and experience level. She also has the confidence, experience and wisdom to change this as you change. In the end, a true expert will help you get a workout – YOUR way, not theirs.
4. The “Salesman”
Maybe the suckiest of them all. This guy does all of his talking behind a desk.
Any trainer worth her salt will grab a bit of info from you in an office, then it’s off to the workout floor. That is where the real info is to be had. Watching you do a workout (scaled appropriately) will tell him where the holes in your fitness are. This is his job. Find the holes in your strength, endurance, flexibility, experience, nutrition, habits, etc and PATCH them using his own techniques & philosophies. How can he know what to fix by sitting in the office for an hour?
If you find yourself sitting in the office for a 1 hour “assessment (it’s really a sales presentation)” with a trainer, you should know – the dude is hiding from you. See, out on the workout floor is where his biggest weakness shines through. Out on the floor is where YOU will glean the most info about HIM and his methodology. Trainers that have no methodology, no philosophy, and more importantly, NO experience will keep your backside in a chair throwing “hail Mary” sales closes at you over and over again. Once he gets your name on the bottom line, at that point it really doesn’t matter what his philosophies are, right? Which is good because his only philosophy is to get you signed up and then it’s on the next soul impose said philosophies upon.
Where The Real Trainers Are
Not all trainers are bad. Just most of them. It’s important to shop around a little before you commit to multiple sessions. The best way to see if you are going to gel with a specific trainer is to conduct an interview and have that trainer take you through a workout or two. You might have to pay for this, but it will be WAY worth it. During this interview process, be looking for any signs of what I was discussing above. Passion is key. If you can find someone passionate about helping you, you will have found someone who will do everything it takes to become qualified to do so.
The best way to bring the crappiness out of them (anyone can fake a couple of sessions) is to ask a couple or all of these questions. It’s better if you sneak them into a conversation.
Q1 – “So, how did you get into personal training?”
What you are really asking here is “Are you really here to help me, or is this just a job to you?” Look for someone who mentored in a very formal way. It shows passion and sacrifice. A guy who says, “I sort of stumbled into it.” Will generally be less effective at helping you than someone who says, “I love helping folks.”
Selfless – Check! Expert – Check! Can put the hurt on you despite cute outer appearance – DOUBLE Check!
In general, if their answer to this question has more to do with you and your success and is less about them, you’ll probably have a winner.
Q2 – “What is your definition of health, and how will you help me achieve this?”
HA! This will set most of them back on their heels. Let the stammering begin! Believe it or not, most trainers, gyms, professors and etc. haven’t got a working definition of health (especially not their own). Neither do they have a specific program outlined for achieving this definition (that they don’t really have). I mean, think about it, what is Gold’s Gym’s (or really, any other successful fitness facilities’) definition of health? They are one of the oldest and most well-established fitness places on earth. And what is it? Weird, right? How can they help you get healthy if they haven’t put the time and effort into defining this term. BY ACCIDENT – is how.
Be open to different interpretations and answers of this question. You’ll find brilliance out there. What you are really looking for is someone with a well defined (listed and maybe alliterated) philosophy for WHAT health is. Theirs should closely match yours. And, just as importantly, she should have a well defined plan on HOW they plan to put it on you.
Q3 – “What is Fitness?”
Again, watch them fumble for words. Most will make it up on the spot, or hum and ho you to death. I’ve been in a conversation where a guy talked for 20 minutes on the definition of fitness and said absolutely NOTHING. It’s a tell, for sure. If you sit through an entire conversation with someone who is explaining their definition of fitness and 20 minutes later (hell, five) you still haven’t got a clear answer, they haven’t got one. Move on, my friend.
If you are looking for change. The REAL and LASTING stuff. Don’t be afraid to get some help. It is a rough enough experience without having to spin your wheels a bunch. Although, trainers seem like a dime a dozen, the good ones are worth their weight in gold.