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Is Your Personal Trainer Unethical?

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Every weekend, while downstairs in our building’s fitness center, I see this one personal trainer with his client.  I have seen them there every weekend for the better part of 6 months.  The client is a woman who is probably in her mid to late 30s, is extremely overweight and seems to lack genuine interest in exercise.  I say this because she tends to do more talking than exercising.  Further, her discussions are one way conversations, consistently involving her asking her personal trainer about newly released diet pills, exercise pills, weight loss surgery, plastic surgery and the latest and greatest gossip of the most recent face lifts, liposuction, miracle diets, etc., of the stars of Hollywood.  Even with my iPod at full blast, she is so loud and distracting, that it is quite difficult to tune her out.

The reason I am bringing this up, however, isn’t so much to discuss the client, but rather to discuss the personal trainer.  Having been a group fitness instructor and personal trainer myself, I am always interested in how personal trainers work with their clients.  In this specific case, I’m especially bewildered.  I have to believe that this personal trainer isn’t really doing his job.  Granted, his client seems to be a difficult case at best, but if a personal trainer is being paid money to help someone get into better shape, then certain standards should be met.  As a follow-up to my entry on Top 10 Ways to Know if Your Personal Trainer is Worthless, I wanted to use this case in particular, to highlight what you should expect from an ethical and capable personal trainer.

  1. You Should See Some Change: The woman in this case hasn’t made any progress over the six months that she has been working with this personal trainer.  Not that I have personally weighed her or taken measurements to know exactly what changes her body has or hasn’t undergone, but it is visually apparent that no strides have been made.  It is a personal trainer’s job to ensure that you get results.  If what they have put together for you isn’t working, then they need to modify the program.
  2. You Should be Challenged: The fact that this woman has the ability to talk none-stop the whole hour of her session (and no, I am NOT exaggerating) says that she is not being challenged.  She is never out of breath and from what I can tell, she exercises at a very low intensity and at a snail’s pace.  Her heart rate should be raised high enough that the conversation becomes physically difficult.
  3. The Personal Trainer Should be Involved: In this case, it is clear that the personal trainer has ‘checked’ out.  To let the client go on and on about whatever topic she finds entertaining, while he just stands there and listens, means that he isn’t engaged in the session, the process or for that matter the progress that she should be making.  Your personal trainer should be doing more of the talking then you.  He should be actively explaining things to you and helping to guide you through exercises.  Further, he shouldn’t be standing on the sidelines, he should be part of the program, physically working with you to get you to do exercises correctly and to address misalignment etc.  He shouldn’t just be putting the pin in the weight rack.  You could do that on your own.
  4. They Should Give you Perspective: I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: there is no quick fix.  This specific personal trainer should be telling his client that all the pills in the world will not ‘fix her.’  Nor will any type of surgery.  He should be firm and state this simply and clearly.  If anything, your personal trainer should be educating you on proper diet and nutrition.  He should be explaining how to boost your metabolism naturally.  He should be explaining how you can get more results out of your workout through effective workout formats and he should be educating you as to how to be safe with your exercise.  Popping pills should not be in his repertoire.
  5. Conversation Topics Should Be Relevant: I’m sure that the client thinks that her topics of discussion are relevant to her program, but if you look at #4 above, they really aren’t.  I’m not saying that every word that you or your personal trainer utters should be about exercise, but the majority of the discussion should be around getting you to understand the proper form you should be using, the muscles you are using and the benefits of the exercise in general.  If you find that your personal trainer doesn’t explain anything to you, he isn’t doing his job.  You are hiring them for their knowledge and expertise.  As a result, they should be imparting both to you so that you can learn.

When you spend money on a service, you should be getting what you paid for.  In my mind, this personal trainer isn’t doing his job and instead, his client is becoming more and more delusional about how to be healthier.  Personal trainers should be giving their clients the information they need to be healthier and to make positive change in their lives.

Have you had any personal trainers that seemed unethical or lacking in ability?

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  • http://www.Joe-Cannon.com Joe Cannon, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT

    Excellent points! As a personal trainer myself who also teaches personal training, I am always stressing the importance of being professional, knowing boundries and understanding what is within and outside the scope of being a personal fitness trainer.

    It is good to know others out there like Brett, who are also discussing this often neglected topic
    Keep up the great writing!!!
    Joe
    Joe Cannon, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
    My website http://www.Joe-Cannon.com

  • http://www.insception.com cord blood

    what is a good rate for a personal trainer? how often should you train with them? once a week?

  • http://www.sheerbalance.com Brett

    cord blood. It depends on where you live and where you go for your personal training. If you are new to exercise, you might want to start with 3 – 4 times a week to get you on track. Once you know what you are doing, you could back down to 1 to 2. If they are good, they should guide you. Rates often reflect how good the trainer is. You often get what you pay for…