Monday, July 28, 2008

"12 Reasons to Fire Your Personal Trainer" by Steve Maxwell

It appears that Coach Maxwell is causing a stir on his blog again, and his most recent post could not have come at a better time. Last week, I was at my favorite park enjoying the sunshine, green grass, trees, abusing my sandbag, and trying to break my pushup board when I see a woman being trained (Boot Camp style) by this trainer who looked to be in his mid-20s.

Every now and then I would see the trainer and the woman glance my way while I was training. This really didn't bother me since I'm use to folks staring at me when I train because nobody else is out there bare-footed in the grass, with shades on, and an mp3 player attached to his ears. I'm not even going to tell you how the parents, who are taking their kiddies to the community pool, look at me when I'm doing my hip mobility exercises. Man, I think I need to get a t-shirt that says, "I'm not a pedophile, I'm a physical culturist!" ...

So, this young buck had this poor woman, who was obviously de-conditioned, doing the following circuit:

  • pushups
  • 30 yard bear crawls to a tree
  • jog around the tree
  • all out sprint for about 40 yards to the Fitness Cluster (the wooden workout stations in parks) near where I was training
  • 15 reps of bodyweight squats
  • 15 reps of step ups on a pretty elevated platform
  • run back to the starting place
  • repeat ...
I was floored when I saw this because she was clearly about to pass out after the first time through! Oh, and when she was complaining about how difficult this was, he had the nerve to tell her, "I told you that I was going to take things up to another level." This upset me, but what really pissed me off was that he worked out with her and was barking at her to keep up with him. Yeah, this de-conditioned, 40 something year-old woman, who probably needs to reduce her body fat by 10 percent, is going to keep up with a guy who was clearly an athlete in school judging by his build.

My blood was boiling a bit because it brought back very ugly memories I have of these type of personal trainers or personal abusers, as I like to call them. But, I didn't say anything because I go to the park to train and not socialize or get in other folk's business; however, when I could hear this woman panting so loudly that it was drowning out Bulls on Parade, I had to look back to see what was up. Well, as can be expected, she was on her second round of step-ups, and this poor woman had reached her limit. And, guess what her trainer was doing?
Checking his phone's text messages!!!!
When he noticed that I was watching, I guess he felt compelled to put away his damn phone and start doing step-ups with her, as if he was showing her how easy they were. He started to bark at her again about how she had to keep pushing herself. I was doing hindu pushups at the time, but I just stopped, shouldered my sandbag, and went for a walk across the field (a great leg and core exercise by the way) to get away from them before I couldn't hold my tongue any longer.

As I walked back across the field, they passed by me, and I could see the pain and frustration in the woman's face. Fortunately, her personal abuser chose not to make her do another round, as if she really could have. I watched as she limped, exhausted and sweaty, to her car. I really wonder whether or not she'll be back this week.

So, you can imagine how happy I was to read Steve's post on "Twelve Reasons to Fire Your Personal Trainer." I'm not going to post all of the pictures here, so I really encourage you to visit his blog to see them. Simply click on the article's title to read his original post complete with some pretty hilarious photos of Steve playing the part of the trainer who needs to be canned!

I hope you enjoy his post, and please leave comments about some horror stories you've had or have seen from these personal abusers.

* * *
"12 Reasons to Fire Your Personal Trainer" by Steve Maxwell
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.


Aparna Kar said...

I have been blogging for a while too and I came across your blog quite by chance. Needless to say that I subscribe to the mail feed and have been inspired by quite a few of the posts.

I have started working out at my university gym recently and have been doing leg, biceps, triceps and lower back exercises other than cardio and a little bit of weight training. My objective is fat-loss (not weight-loss anymore) and overall stamina enhancement. I work out three times a week for two hours on Mon, Wed, and Fri. Not quite pro. :)

But I think your blog is inspirational for both beginner and pro- physical culturists. Keep up your good work. And thanks a ton for your page.

nmburleson said...

Well I worked out at a co-ed gym and hired a PT for 3 sessions. I told him I'm looking for a 30 minute workout that I can do 3 times a week to keep me consistent. I'm very overweight and I just wanted something to get me started and to the gym on a regular basis. He looked at me and then proceeded to take me through this 45 minute upper body workout that I would NEVER attempt on my own.

So I come back for the next workout and I get pushed off on somebody else and they do the same thing. A very hard 45 minute lower body workout. It was intense!

So on my third and (thank God) final session I'm back with the original guy and I once again say "Can you please show me a 30 minute workout that I can do on my own? These workouts that you're showing me are great, but I won't do them on my own! I just want something that I can consistently do!" He actually scoffed at me. Then took me through another 45 minute back and chest workout.

It was such a waste of time AND money!

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Aparna Kar,

Thanks so much for your comment, and I'm glad that you found my blog. I'd suggest that you cut back on your workout time to no more than one hour because there comes a point where you are basically undoing all the hard work you're putting in. I'd also drop the isolation exercises in favor of compound exercises. If you haven't done so already, I strong recommend that you download this free pdf by Craig Ballantyne for a great bodyweight exercises only fat loss program. Maybe it's time to take a break from lifting weights for a couple of weeks ...

Thanks again for stopping by.

Mr. LowBodyFat said...


Thanks for sharing your story with us because I'm sure there are folks out there nodding in agreement with what you experienced. I remember watching this one trainer torture this lady on the lat pulldown machine. When the lady complained that the weight was too heavy, the trainer basically chastised her for not pushing herself. How ridiculous are many of these personal abusers! Thanks again for your comment.

Aparna Kar said...

Mr. LowBodyFat
Thanks a ton !I'm so glad to get some advice. :) But I don't seem to be able to access the hyperlink to the pdf :(

Mr. LowBodyFat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. LowBodyFat said...


I'm sorry, try this link:

And don't forget to join everone over at the new blog:

Adrian C said...

You are so professional, I'll learnt from you!


Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Adrian thanks but my blog has moved to -- come and check out the new look and posts!

jho87 said...

I definitely feel that it is important to have a trainer that respects you and wants you to achieve the goals you set for yourself. The idea of a personal trainer is for support and instruction not for putting you down and making you feel worthless! This is a great blog.

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Thanks for your comment; however, I've moved my blog to

See you there,