As you walk into any community sweat box, you'll see the usual crowd: The readers and joggers that pace along the cardio deck, 19-year-olds with their cut-off high school football tees, the in-betweeners waltzing amongst the equipment and free weights and the macho personal trainers.
With all things in their "rightful" place, nothing seems too intimidating. You and hundreds of others will go about your hour-long internal exercise debacle of what to do, which is more a game of what you can do that you hate the least, if we're being honest.
Many people like to employ the services of personal trainers. Their main function is to help you reach your fitness goals by providing exercise regimens that will produce your desired results.
Your purpose might be to lose a few pounds, gain some, get ready for your best friend's wedding or just flat out be healthy. In order to achieve that a (hopefully) faster rate, you'll hire a trainer. And that trainer will tire you with their encyclopedia of exercises, and you'll think it's a damn good workout because you're bent over and huffing.
But why was it a good workout? How is this helping you reach your goals? Have you ever asked your personal trainer these questions?
The whys are imperative, but so are the hows. You see, you go to trainer and explain your scenario. It probably looks like this:
"I'm kind of nervous to talk to this really fit person. I wonder what they're going to think of me." You then explain your goal, be it your sister's wedding, beach season, what have you. Then you explain your injury history and personal preferences, and the rest is history. You've basically just spilled your soul to this stranger who's going to cradle your esteem with understanding and compassion, and simultaneously transform you into a wonder-kid.
After glistening, sweating and airing your personal hopes, you feel five pounds lighter already. Until you realize (and this realization may take several weeks) that the stereotype about personal trainers actually holds some truth. This is where you come back into play.
Progress can be fickle, and you know this to be true. You may show up for every pulse-pounding workout and eat so clean that dieting looks natural, but despite your best efforts, you still do not end up accomplishing your fitness goals.
And that's OK, under one condition: The trainer has to be able to explain to you why your goals haven't been reached, despite your valiant efforts.
Your trainer needs to address the hows, and not in some scientific jargon that will go over your head and that they're incorrectly stating. They need to be able to backup the decisions they made for you and your workout routine.
Not only should the trainer be well versed in the nuances of program design (aka periodization) and have an understanding of nutrition, but they also need to defend their argument for when things go awry. Again, this is where you come into play. Most clients settle for average or even not accomplishing their results, and therein lies the problem.
It's not about you accepting mediocrity. It's about perpetuating the unprofessionalism of the personal training field.
The reason why people think personal training is not a prestigious, high-end job is because no one is holding them accountable. In no other field could such ignorance and ineptitude be tolerated. And it's not your fault these trainers haven't been held accountable. Why would you think that they were anything but prepared? This is their career, after all.
But let's reframe this in other examples that do make sense:
What would you say if you went to your doctor and asked what your blood pressure was three years ago, and they didn't have those records? What would you say to your accountant if they didn't have your 2014 tax returns on record? And what you you say if your child's teacher didn't have a progress report or lesson plan you could refer to? How would you react if their responses to these questions were a deer in headlights look?
It would never be tolerated. Doctor's licenses would be suspended, a teacher's tenure ceased. And you'd be aghast at the stupidity of such behavior. You'd see egos and muscles melt like ice cream sitting on the top of a car in the middle of July.
In all seriousness, you should ask your trainer what the exact workout was in your third session, even if there have been 27 workouts since then. They should be able to pull up the record and give you a second-by-second replay of what happened. Whether you felt tired that day, what your weight was, the number of sets and reps accomplished, how long you rested for between each set and every other intricacy that can be measured should all be tracked and logged by your trainer. How else would you measure your progress?
If they can't provide all of this information, then you're not the one failing in this situation. But if you don't hold them accountable for keeping track of your progress, you're allowing them to fail other people and allowing an industry to rob people of their health, money and self-esteem.
Failing to achieve a planned result is not what you deserve. It's what you've been accepting, and what you think you're supposed to tolerate. Certifications or graduate degree aside, a plan needs to have a rationale and it needs to be accounted for.
Many personal trainers with degrees of their own train you the way they like to exercise, which is not necessarily conducive to your success. That's called not getting your money's worth.
What you should be looking for in a trainer is someone who has reputable certification. The big three certifications are NASM, ACSM and NSCA. A degree in a related field of exercise science, athletic training and even biology or chemistry are also completely acceptable.
Secondly, you want a trainer who is successful in whatever area your goal categorizes into. Whether that's fat loss, rehab or sports training, you want to know what the medical field would refer to as their “specialty.” If you're not making progress, you'll want to understand why by not only ask them, but also demanding that they show why through their records of your training. Then you know your money and esteem are in good, professional hands and you can begin making more progress.