Thursday, July 24, 2008

12 Reasons to Fire Your Personal Trainer

1. Your trainer is a poor match.
Training is a personality-driven business. More important than credentials, or even knowledge, the trainer's personality must be a good match with yours. The trainer's job is to be upbeat, positive and always in a good mood. Mood management is a hallmark of the true professional. If the two of you fight like a married couple, it's a poor match.

2. You're getting injured.
Even with the best personal trainers, an occasional injury is unavoidable, but when you have constant, nagging, recurrent injuries, your trainer isn't paying attention to proper form and technique.

3. No results or poor results.
Some clients have unrealistic expectations about what they can or cannot do; however, if you feel like you're on that treadmill-to-nowhere, never making progress with your weight loss or strength goals, then it's a good bet your trainer is incompetent. Which leads us to number 4...

4. No record-keeping.
For fat loss in particular, it's very important to document progress with anthropometric measurements and before/after photos. Skin folds and other measures of body composition are generally inaccurate but can sometimes be useful in gauging the general trend of fat loss progress. If your trainer isn't keeping precise records, including recording each workout, then he's simply lazy.

5. Not paying attention to your stated goals and needs.
Goals should be hammered out during the first meeting and everything should be made clear. If the trainer doesn't keep his agreement and starts to veer from the agreed-upon path, then it's time to say adios.

6. You're in a constant state of fatigue from your workouts.
Included here is frequent colds and other illness, constantly aching joints, especially a "heaviness" of the limbs. This means your trainer is driving you into the dreaded overtraining. Working out is meant to enhance your quality of life and make you feel better, not worse. This doesn't mean your goals don't require hard work--they do--but a good trainer knows the difference between under and over training and should be able to figure out the proper dose of exercise for you, if he's any good at all.

7. Using negative reinforcement.
Most people feel bad enough about themselves already and don't need anybody else to make them feel worse. Personal training is to help you feel good about yourself and enforce positive habits and positive self-image. Some clients may seem to respond well to being berating and insulting in a boot camp/drill instructor style, but in my experience, people who like this kind of training have a masochistic disorder, enjoying emotional beat downs. Words are powerful tools and affect the subconscious mind. Using negative techniques does nothing to promote health and healing. As a young trainer, I used to fall into this pattern because I thought it was cool and macho but later I realized it created more harm than good...for them and me.

8. Your trainer complains about his own personal issues on your time.
Your trainer is paid to be there for you. Part of that entails paying all of his attention to the details of your workout and supporting you in your optimal performance. There's no room for sharing personal gossip. If he's a constant complainer, run for the nearest exit! I've also heard trainers engage with their clients in a gab-fest and end up talking more than doing.

9. Your trainer is always late.
This is an indication he has no respect for you or your time. Subconsciously, he's not looking forward to seeing you and doing his job. When people are late for appointments, they're avoiding and procrastinating the meeting because they don't want to be there--this includes taking cell phone calls and texting during the workout. There are times these things are unavoidable, but anymore than very occasional is a waste of your money. Find someone who's in the moment with you.

10. Your trainer is a Don Juan.
There's an old saying, "you don't sh*t where you eat". These relationships rarely work out. There's undeniably sexual attraction when two people meet and it happens in every professional setting. Casual flirtation is harmless. Letting people know you find them attractive can be a great ego boost. But when your trainer is a known player around the gym, you may do better with someone with a better handle on who they really are. Maturity on this level is a good indicator of professional commitment. The energy should be going into your workout, not titillations.

11. He's letting you get away with murder--and you know it.
Sometimes trainers put clients through ridiculously easy workouts (they don't push you, permit sloppy form, stick you on aerobic equipment while they just talk to you) just to make some easy money. They don't progress you or design new programs. Or they switch up your program so frequently there are no meaningful gains made. They don't admonish you for diet infractions or missed workouts or touch on any seemingly unpleasant topics because they're interested only in your money, not you and your progress. A true fitness professional will call you on your bullsh!t because he's about earning the money he's paid.

12. Poor personal health and workout habits.
If your trainer shows up for your appointment looking like he slept in his clothes, sloppy and disheveled, it means he has no personal pride in his profession or appearance. The same goes for fat trainers. If your goal is weight loss, how can you expect someone else's help if they can't discipline their own eating? Another old saying in the coaching business: you can't take someone else where you haven't been.

Fatties in the weight-loss business are something to be avoided like the plague.

Before the flames arrive, let me clarify: I'm not talking about a power lifting coach or someone training strongmen. Being heavy and carrying extra body fat can be an advantage in these types of events. I'm talking about people who work with the general public where weight control and increased health are the primary goals. In my opinion, there's no place for fat trainers. If you're a fat trainer reading this, have some pride in your appearance, follow your own advice and get the weight off, otherwise you're in the wrong profession.

Further, I'd like to state that in over 36 years of working in the personal training business, I have violated many of these rules at one time or another...and I later regretted it. I've lost both clients and income and--worse--people's trust in me. Luckily, I'm a fast learner and corrected these mistakes and became a better trainer for it.

** Model/personal training client Bernadette Buckley puts up with Coach Steve's nonsense for the benefit of all. He was promptly fired.


I think a person who is in such a great shape at your age commands respect. It makes me want to know more about your techniques.
I'm now hesitating between 2 of your DVDs...300 Kettlebell Challenge and Cruel and Unusual 2. What's the difference between the 2 videos? I'm interested in learning some joint mobility movements. Does that mean I should go with 300?
My general goal is to bulk up my upper body a little bit (especially the shoulders) and shed some body fat to get a more ripped look.

A: Between the two DVDs, Cruel & Unusual 2 is is better for your goals...but Ultimate Upper Body Pull-Up Workout is better still.

I want to lose weight and get in peak shape using kettlebells. I have the kettlebells but I want a progressive training program.
Would getting the Cruel & Unusual 2 be the way to go? Are those four workouts progressively tougher or just different?

A: Cruel & Unusual 2 is four different workouts that are all about equally tough.
For training progression and fat loss go with KB300. Your progressions will be decreasing your times in getting through the routine. KB300 is a specific fat-burner as well. Consider my online training services for a personalized program.

Thanks for writing, everyone and thanks for reading!



Mich said...

Hilarious Blog! The pics are even better! Keep posting.

john said...

Another thought-provoking entry!

Although you blog on a wide spectrum of topics, the unifying voice that I hear in all your entries is the voice of experience.

And it's precisely your ability to articulate that experience that makes your words solid gold and your advice invaluable. This is what sets you apart as a trainer and teacher.

p.s. In the final photo it looks like you've found a unique way to achieve bullet-proof abs ;-)

Steve Maxwell said...

Thanks Mich and thanks John!
Thanks for reading, it just encourages me...

Justin Goff said...

Great post Steve. Just came across your blog today, never knew you had one.

I have your Spartan 300 workout and love it. One of the best instructional vids Ive ever bought. Keep up the good work!

I'll be following along!


Steve Maxwell said...

Thanks, Justin! Sign up for the RSS and follow along, I've got a headful of ideas...Steve

Israel said...

never had a pt, never will. such a waste. i know one that just recently quit because the club wanted him to go against his morals. they wanted him to grossly overcharge the middle aged, and other women that came in, yet not provide any real fitness advice. crazy.

hilarious posts btw, but it rings true.

Steve Maxwell said...

Israel, Personal training can be very helpful for many people but bad and otherwise unprofessional trainers give it a bad name.-Steve

Buffedstuff said...

Thought provoking,witty and true, so many people hire the first trainer they come in contact with and this can be a recipe for disaster. Thank you for such a well written article.

Anonymous said...

As someone that has been on the receiving end of number 7 from trainers, the emotional beat downs is in some ways worse than a physical beat down. Even worse when it is done in front of others...and they beat down where you are most vulnerable about your self image...

I enjoy your blog, and thanks for another thought provoking post.


Steve Maxwell said...

Thanks, Regina! - Steve

Anonymous said...

Amusing and helpful post! I hired my first ever personal trainer four months ago, realizing that having to show up for was the only thing that was going to get me moving again. The results have been great (in fact, working with him has me thinking about becoming a trainer). And, as you point out, it's the personality that really makes a difference. My trainer is upbeat, sincerely encouraging, and fun to spend time with.

I appreciated what you wrote about sexual attraction, too. It's nice to know that the crush I've developed comes with the territory. And, since he has a girlfriend and I am 15 years older than him, I just enjoy the feelings as further motivation to show up and work!

Anonymous said...


I just bought your cruel and unusual kb workouts 2. I was wondering I only have two mismatched kbs a 52lber and a 105lber, any suggestions for doing the bear crawl in the walking the bear workout? I was thinking alternating the kbs, just looking for your thoughts. Thanks.

Steve Maxwell said...

Yes, here's my suggestion: Buy another kettlebell!
Don't be tempted to do the bear crawls with mismatched weights, too much potential for injury.
Bear crawls are easily done with dumbbells, too. - Steve

jleeger said...

Great post Steve! Well-said! Your sense of humor makes the message even more effective!

dailymuscle said...

This is very good stuff. I wish every client out who has ever hired a Personal Trainer has the opportunity to read this.