Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Most Unprofessional Trainer...

The most unprofessional trainer is the one that devalues their worth without even knowing it. We are involved in an industry that enables us to interact with our customers in many social outlets. Other than the medical community, we are in a profession that allows us to trespass the traditional "3-feet" of space Americans give each other in order to feel comfortable in a social environment. This is a privilege. It is also a liability. Not only a  liability in the traditional sense of legality, but a liability in the public's perception of your net worth.

With the many routes fitness trainers have to market and expand their customer base, sometimes it is easy to cross the line of professionalism and become simply a "trusted and learned friend who helps out someone else". By definition, a professional is one that is rehearsed extensively in their occupation and views it as a means for livelihood. Many trainers don't view themselves as professionals and that is where the perception changes. If you do not view yourself as a professional, your customer will follow suite. Believe that. On the other hand, not many trainers "make a livelihood" with their profession--by that I mean pay the bills (more than the one you owe Verizon)--and therefore, don't hold the position as a permanent stop. 

For example, a group of corporate employees that work together day in and day out suddenly converge for a few drinks after work. As the time goes on and the mood becomes more and more relaxed, each employee displays a different persona that is not usually expected from each other. The environment has changed, and without thinking,  most (not all) inhibitions and apprehensions have also disappeared--allowing some of the employees to speak or act more 'colorful'. The next day at work, do you think the opinions of each corporate employee have changed? If you answered "yes", my guess is with yours.

Sometimes, it takes an unforeseen event or change in environment to change our demeanor. In front of our customer (our clients),  this is more likely to happen the longer and more frequently we see them. As clients become closer to their goal,  it is highly likely that a relationship or trust begins to ensue between the client and the trainer. That is normal. As the mutual trust between the client and trainer grows, the more openness and comfort is experienced between the two. That is still normal.

However, something changes over the course of time and maintaining the line of professionalism bears on the responsibility of the trainer. Most clients will openly discuss topics that are personal to them; give opinions; and become more and more comfortable during the session. Bear in mind that the "line in the sand of professionalism" should still stay within sight.

With the online social networking and the powerful search engines of the Internet,  most employers-including potential clients--perform a name search to uncover any episodes or lapses in judgment on one's part. For instance, I personally,  have "Googled" a potential trainer for hire to see if I can find out some material other than what was recited to me during the interview process. Today, sites like Facebook and Twitter are used to discover photos or comments made that may disclose your true colors to a potential employer or customer. Forget three references, I have Google's algorithms do the work for me.

So with that in mind, here are a few points to consider what may be stepping over the line and reducing your value:

1.) Post photos of yourself drinking and binging recklessly at parties.
2.) Post photos of yourself in perverse situations.
3.) Make comments to your fellow clients that have nothing do to with your business, or expose a different side of you that they are not used to seeing.
4.) Post website addresses (URLs) that may be pornographic or inappropriate.
5.) Curse or use profanity in postings or comments.
6.) Sleep with or have sexual relations with your clients.

To maintain your net worth and value,  you want to do the opposite of what I listed above. Professionalism, along with your knowledge and tenacity to achieve results is your leverage in an industry plagued by inexperienced and sales-driven hacks that don't know the first thing about training others. If you haven't done so, make sure you pick up a copy of my FREE downloadable eBook From Personal Trainer to Fitness Professional.

I have also written extensively about professionalism in the new business development course offered by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.  If you are a NASM-certified fitness professinoal, you can find that continuing education course here


  1. .


    Excellent stuff on professionalism.

    One thing that turns me off is when I see fitness pros texting when they are training or when they are on the gym floor.

    I would say that is another no-no.

    Rick Kaselj


  2. Wow this is timely. I am studying the "Code of Ethics" portion of the manual right now.
    Also, while working out, just last week, I was standing next to a trainer with her client. The trainer was going on and on about being in an accident and having her physical therapy and then with out missing a beat went right into her new mountain bike she had just gotten and her and her boyfriend would go riding this weekend. The client was doing upright rows the whole time she talked. The trainer was probably 22 years old, the client was 40's. That was one point in my journey I realized just how much my customer service skills would benefit me in this industry.
    I realize it was just a snap shot of their relationship, but it felt wrong, the way she was relating to her, just listening to it.


  3. Lindsey: it is sad when I see young, energetic trainers that i know have the potential to become great---fall prey to comfort. They lack growth and eventually drop out of the industry.

    Rick: Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your input. Sad to say, this profession is filled with many flaws, but the bad ones will weed themselves out!


  4. At the beginning of the article, I thought it was just going to be a rant on how you shouldn't train your spouse or friends, etc.

    This I think is something particularly a risk for new trainers - they want some practice, experience, their friends and family have a mixture of wanting to support their loved one in the new profession and wanting a free service... and it's hard to say no.

    The Fitness Australia Code of Ethics says trainers shouldn't form intimate relationships with clients - I'm sure others say something similar. Perhaps they need to add the flipside, that you shouldn't train people you already have an intimate relationship with.

    I mean, if I'm close friends with or having sex with someone at the same time as training them, does it make it less or more unprofessional because of the date the relationship started?

  5. The most essential quality that cannot be over-emphasised when it comes to the personal training business is professionalism. Professionalism encompasses a wide range of qualities that include a thorough and deep knowledge of your craft, great interpersonal skills and the ability to get your worth – neither under-pricing nor over pricing yourself. It also includes knowing how to manage and promote your business by setting time bound goals and making systematic plans to help you achieve them.Unfortunately many aspiring fitness professionals do not measure up to the basic standards required of a personal trainer and hence fall well short of client expectations, thus not quite succeeding in their ambition of having a flourishing career in personal training. Here are some shortcomings to watch out for, which if left unattended to would most certainly ruin your personal training business. http://lovefitnesseducation.com/2013/04/25/the-top-5-ways-to-ruin-your-personal-training-business/


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