I was in the locker room the other day and overheard two women talking in the next alcove over.
“You coming to spin class today?” asked one.
“No, I need to get my strength program done,” the other replied.
“I don’t know how you work out around the trainers,” the first one said. “I only do group fitness because I can’t stand being around them. They’re always watching everyone out of the corners of their eyes, judging and critiquing in their heads. Trainers are the worst.”
There was another woman in the alcove with me and up until that moment we had been quietly changing. She knew who I was though, and at that moment she leaned over and whispered, “for the record, I don’t feel that way.” I thanked her and she headed out to do her workout. I loitered in the alcove for a few more minutes so as not to pop out and embarrass anyone and make them hate trainers more…
But, okay, I guess this is a thing that needs addressing because it’s not the first time I’ve heard someone say something like that. I’m probably preaching to the choir here but hopefully this clears up some misconceptions.
Disclaimer: These are just my opinions, but they are based on working with a lot of other trainers over the last dozen years or so and I think my generalizations will apply to 90% of the trainers out there. (There are exceptions and that sucks, but that’s the reality in any field.)
- Yes, we are watching you. Being a trainer in a big gym, especially at peak times, is a little like being a lifeguard at a swimming pool. When you exercise, you are subjecting your body to a physiological stress that lots of people in the gym are not accustomed to, and the unexpected can happen in a hurry. I’ve been in situations many times where I had to react quickly to someone (not the client I was working with) fainting, greying out, or throwing up. It happens. We are also on the lookout for impending injuries – recently I was working out with my trainer and the guy on the next bench over accidentally loaded two plates onto one side of his barbell and only one on the other one. Had that guy tried to bench press that kind of lopsided weight it might have ruined his day. I didn’t notice myself because I was focused on what I was doing, but my trainer was paying attention to what was going on around him. So, while we are mostly focused on our clients, we usually maintain some degree of peripheral awareness to make sure everyone stays safe.
- We are not judging you. Let me say that again: WE ARE NOT JUDGING YOU. Everyone has to start somewhere and we see some bizarre things go down in the gym…but unless you are about to hurt yourself or someone else we usually keep a lid on it. If you’re in the gym and exploring and having fun and moving, all the power to you. If you have a question, we’re here to help and support and educate…you know, if you want us to. Which leads me to #3:
- Some people get upset that that guy over there has a crappy squat set up or she’s arching her back bench pressing or whatever, and we’re not stopping them and fixing them. But you know what? Unsolicited advice doesn’t usually go over very well because seriously who wants to get interrupted in the middle of their workout? I was working out incognito at a different gym a few months ago and a young trainer sidled up to me and gave me a 10-minute mansplain on how I could improve my deadlift…and it took some serious effort on my part to stay polite and thank him for his advice in hopes that it would make him go away. So again, unless someone is going to hurt themselves or someone else, usually we will let them be. That said, most of us establish some degree of rapport with the regulars where we work, and being on a first-name basis with you makes it way easier to offer assistance with cleaning up your technique if and when it’s needed…
- …but the other thing to remember is that most of the time that we’re out there on the gym floor, that person (or people) we’re working with is paying for our time and attention, so if we’re focused on them and not so much on everyone else, don’t be offended – that’s really what we’re there for. If you have a quick question or need help finding something feel free to approach us but if you want your form critiqued or measurements done or something that will take more than a minute or two, please book an appointment. We’re happy to spend the time getting to know you whether or not you are looking to train over the long term.
- Finally, almost all trainers do what they do out of a genuine desire to help people. Methods differ (wildly, sometimes) but those of us who end up in this field for years on end do it because we get great satisfaction out of helping our clients find a better quality of life. We’re not judging or laughing or critiquing or thinking any less of you for anything you’re doing. If you want help, we’re happy to assist in any way we can but if you want to be left alone to do your thing, that’s cool too.