One of the things I learned early on in fitness training is the fine line between business and friendship can get a little stressed from time-to-time. It’s one thing to help someone out and give them the tools and information needed to become healthy. It’s another to collect payment for doing so. Many trainers have a big problem in this area. They feel ‘bad’ for taking money in trade for their passion.
Some people skip the trainer and go straight into the gym. Not long ago, gyms displayed membership sales in such an aggressive manner that it was more of a turn-off than enticing. As time went on, gyms began to see the error of this method and evolved.
The caveats of signing a gym membership are pretty well known. Most gyms that remain go month-to-month and don’t require any contracts. That’s actually a great program to be on if you like the gym atmosphere. There’s a reason why the contracts are so easy going now. The corporate gyms rely on other sources for profit. Enter the next generation corporate trainer.
If you are new to achieving fitness or need a few helpful hints to get back into shape, trainers are available. And if you don’t like the way they train you, maybe they can sell you a used car after hours.
When I first got into fitness training as a profession, I applied at quite a few gyms. I was called back on almost all of them and I had just received my training certification. What luck! None of them cared how much training experience I had! They just wanted to know if I could sell and if I could schmooze my way into a conversation with someone at the gym. They wanted a salesperson first, trainer second.
It was heartbreaking for me to realize it is a sales game…until I saw the bonus structure for getting someone to sign up for long term training. Ka-ching! You wouldn’t believe the perks that come along with taking a person who needs six months of training and selling them a year’s worth. And you probably would have a hard time choking down the fact that you are probably being trained by a very inexperienced trainer with tons of sales experience who is feeding you lines straight out of a corporate training manual.
During a few interviews, I was asked to demonstrate selling long term packages, but was never asked to demonstrate my training prowess. I was asked how I approach people, not my philosophy on safety and methods of training. I was never asked about my previous clients, only my previous bonus structure.
I didn’t spend much time at the corporate setting environment. It didn’t agree with me at all. I wanted to train, not sell. And my experience and testimony from many other trainers say it is a numbers game (and nothing else). It is an uncomfortable game for the trainer and they find themselves out of a job if the numbers don’t provide a profit no matter how educated or capable. The bottom ten to twenty percent of trainers are constantly being purged to make room for the better revenue maker.
Trainers at corporate gyms are pushed hard to sell and that constant purge is always on full speed ahead, so much so that trainers will make after hours sales calls to existing clients for referrals or additional sessions. Many trainers feel the corporate struggle and find themselves poaching clients from the gym into a private arena for the added income.
Yes, there are solid trainers with great experience who work at gyms. They do a great job and provide their clients with top notch service. They are usually a little older than the rest of the trainers and have a steady following of clients who have been with them for a long while. They also cost you insane amounts of money and you sign your name on the line for thousands of dollars worth of training. As great as a trainer is, they should be teaching you so you are able to workout and develop your own programs. Chances are that is not the case despite the excellent training. Eventually, at some point, no matter how good the trainer in the corporate setting your best interest becomes secondary to their commission. It’s a shame it has to be that way, but it is.
Beware of the conversational trainer. This is the trainer who will walk up to you and just give you some pointers to, you know, just help out; maybe ask you a few questions about your fitness goals and think it is ‘cool’ no matter what you tell them. That is the one who is given two to three hours a day to ‘mingle’. They’re paid to seek out and find the most vulnerable client and sell to them via friendly conversation.
The hungry ones go in for the kill right on the spot by trying to get you to sign up within twenty minutes of talking. This trainer will tell you all the things you’re doing wrong and how you can make massive gains by letting them train you. Promises are made, the word ‘ripped’ and the phrase ‘Whoa….you don’t even know’ usually come into play. They try and stir excitement and will answer your questions by flexing their arm and asking, “How do you think I got these?” You can also find that type of trainer by having them interrupt your conversation every five seconds because they have to high five someone on their way in or out of the gym.
There’s the real sales warrior that will catch your name and get you on the next visit when he/she says your name and asks how that workout is going. They’ll ask you what you’re doing about other areas. Then….it’s dog n’ pony show time when they casually say, “You could take a session or two with me and I could give you a few pointers. Tell you what, come see me tomorrow and work out with me.”
In reality, trainers need you half as much as you think in order to get the results you want. Once a trainer has done their job, you should not need one for anymore than once a month. If you find yourself six months into training sessions at once a week or more, re-evaluate whether or not your progress is dependent on your trainer.
Gym trainers will give you machine techniques or put you in front of a mile long set of free weights with instructions on each weight, isolating muscles working towards a sculpted you. They will will put you on programs that cost thousands that goes on for so long that you will be on a senior program before you reach your goal.
They will tell you how they know how tough it is, how you got to have the discipline and you got to have the time to get into the gym and get the proper training. They will tell you about their other clients who don’t have anywhere near the fight you do. You will be told how you remind them of a friend they have who was in a similar boat….all learned dialogue from a manual.
They use scripts. They get pointers from their corporate employers on things to say that make you feel good and want to sign up. They rely on corporate lines and quotes to win your heart on behalf of a commission.
And if you feel as if you have the capacity to start working on yourself, best of luck getting any money back or encouraged to support your own goals. Neither one will happen. You will see the retention game set in. The questions of, “Did something happen to make you feel differently about fitness?” or, “Would it help if we broke up your future payments into smaller amounts?”
My advice, stay away from gym trainers. They are salespeople with Adidas shoes and Champion sweatpants.
Depending on your goals, training shouldn’t be a lifelong journey ending up in burnout. Training is a stepping stone between you now and the person you would like to become. Real trainers train, teach and encourage healthy living standards long after their exit. They should have at least one or two certifications in nutrition, not a salesperson of the year award in their desk drawer.
Make sure if you have a trainer at a gym, you make it absolutely clear you are not in this to be fed a line of sales talk, but to learn. Give your trainer a set date that you would not like to see them any longer. Tell them you want to learn how to help yourself, not be reliant on a trainer until you can not afford it anymore. Communicate your expectations and hold them to it.