Monday, February 18, 2013

You Know More About Training Than Your Boss...But She Can Fire You

John, I work for a neighborhood fitness facility that houses racquetball, pool, and tons of group exercise classes. We also have a very busy personal training department. I am one of twelve personal trainers on staff and we have a good "vibe" between all of us. However, our fitness director also trains clients. She is in her late 40's and is very set in her ways. She trains people using single joint exercises, tons of machines, and nothing supports current research regarding fat loss or strength training. Most of us younger trainers on staff subscribe to the challenging circuits and complex exercises that you and others talk about. But whenever my boss sees me or the others doing an exercise that she thinks is "dangerous" or "too complicated", she mentions it to us in our weekly staff meetings; and suggests we "keep it safe" . It seems she is 'behind the times' in training information and her sessions look boring. What can I do or say to her without getting on her bad side?

- Mariann R.
Roxbury, MA

Answer: I know your situation all too well. The funny thing with personal training or any career where continuing education is concerned is most people get "too comfortable" or attend continuing education workshops simply because they "have to". They don't view continuing education or networking with others in the field as an opportunity to expand on their knowledge and learn new concepts. Many professionals become too complacent or comfortable in their jobs--which means in how they do 99% of everyday things. 

My first job in a commercial facility I had the same situation. My fitness director funneled and filtered most of the information on exercise to each staff trainer and we had periodic "in-house" training workshops. The problem with in-house training, is if the supervisors are not open-minded and are stuck in a box, the information disseminated to the staff is edited, water-downed, and influenced by sales and member retention. It is never centered around results.

In your case, it sounds like your fitness director is stuck in her ways and refuses to look outside the box she has created for herself. I know this is frustrating for you and the other trainers because you want to explore the human condition--you want to push people, you want to bring them to new heights, and mostly, you want to coach! But the leader of your pack is light years behind you and if you dare to outshine her, you may attract her mean-streak. Luckily when I was a manager, my staff trainers enjoyed the fact that I was a successful trainer and was opened minded to the works of such greats as Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson, and JC Santana. I encouraged my trainers to read their material, and frequently, I passed along my books for them to borrow. In  the end, it helped out the department as a whole. No one trainer shined. As long as there was a congruency among the staff and a "great vibe", each trainer reaped success. They learned more, and they attracted more clients. It was nothing personal. It was putting the department before myself.

There are two reasons for your dilemma:
1.) Basically, your boss doesn't want you to outshine her on the exercise floor.
2.) She is ignorant to the fact that fitness continues to evolve.

Reason #1 targets a personal problem she has with herself. Maybe she lacks self esteem and feels that if she (personally) can't perform some of the newest exercises out there (kettlebell swings, Turkish get-ups, etc), and that ultimately, she shouldn't show others. Keep in mind, that as the fitness director she views herself as the leader of the department. She has supervisors that appointed her this position for one reason or another, job security may be a very important issue with her. If this is the case, it would be significantly important for her to upgrade her fitness knowledge because it will help the department's bottom line. Don't go over her head and talk to her supervisors as this will be the beginning of the end for you. Rather, try to connect with her. Try suggesting some upcoming workshops or seminars and tell her you think it would be great if some of the staff attend.

Reason #2 really calls for zero tolerance. In this day in age, as more research and exercise studies exploit the most effective ways to lose fat and be healthy, it is paramount that fitness professionals learn more--especially the longer they are in the field. This is a competitive field and those professionals that remain stagnant will lose in the end. A certification may only be a piece of paper, but I believe it is the continuing education that follows that will nurture a professional's growth.

Try these suggestions to help bring your boss up to speed:

1.) Ask to exchange ideas in meetings and conduct a book exchange. In my years, after the initial "numbers" part of our staff meetings, we would end with talking about topics new in strength training, talk about new books released or research, or we would discuss each trainer's clients to make suggestions or encourage progression.

2.) Suggest exercise demonstrations. Ask your boss if you can have exercise demonstrations together as a staff and make recommendations. Ask her about an exercise first (this will empower her) and then share your thoughts. NEVER bruise your boss's ego--especially in front of others. Empower your boss first, then build upon her idea. You will achieve more if you build off the lowest common denominator.

3.) Have your clients praise you to your boss. Sure it sounds sneaky, but its really just asking for a testimonial. Suggest to some of your clients that they provide some feedback about their experience with you to your boss. Hearing it this from a customer, usually will force fitness director to do some 'self-inventory'.

4.) Ask your boss if he or she would like to train together during off-peak times or days off. This is great idea because it will allow you to communicate with your boss under different circumstances. Talking about different topics, focusing on training, and engaging in motivational techniques will allow your boss to "see your side of things" without showing off. Keep things equalized and he or she will be open to your concepts. This may take more than one training session together to achieve.

Hope this helps. Leave me some comments if you experienced the same situation!



  1. Yeah Lost a Job because of this issue, which was better for me in the long run GOOD READ YESSSSSSSSSSSS

  2. Under the best of circumstances, it sounds like Marianne will be responsible for improving the quality and money making potential of the entire gym and all she will get for it is the freedom to train how she wants. I've been in a similar situation and got cut in for a percentage of the whole gyms take for proving my methods were superior.

    Otherwise you are getting paid like an employee or contractor for helping build an entire business for free.


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