Does it Work? - Personal Trainer

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07-15-2002, 08:01 PM
Well I was not the one scammed in this situation, but my grandmother was...

My grandmother and I got a joint membership at one of the 24 Hour Fitnesses in Bakersfield. During our interview to get the membership, the woman was sweet talking my grandmother into getting a personal trainer. And my poor grandmother, as easily convinced as she is, said "Okay".
The personal trainer costed her $900 for 18 one hour sessions plus the starter kit that she was encouraged to buy. Altogether, this personal trainer costed her $1,000.00.
I didn't like her trainer from the get-go. All I saw him doing during her sessions was checking out other girls at the gym and yacking. And besides that, everytime when I walked in there with her, he made some comment about my weight (which I knew he was doing it so that I would hire him as a trainer too).
So anyways, on my grandmother's 16th session, he asked her if she was going to sign up for another 18 sessions. She told him no, saying that it was just too expensive right now. So he went ahead and set up their next session for a few days later. When she went back, he didn't show. No phone call, no nothing. He called her a couple of days later and said he was sorry, that he had gotten sick and forgotten to call her or let her know. So she said that that was okay and they set up another session. He didn't show up to that one either.
My grandmother was PO'd! She said that once was acceptable, that maybe it really was an accident, but twice was just too much. I think that he just decided to ditch out on her since she wasn't going to pay for any more sessions. So she decided not set up any more appointments with him. She avoided him when she went to the gym and just decided to let it go.
I, on the other hand, wasn't going to let it go. The two sessions that she didn't get to have were equivalent to about $50. So I went and told his supervisor what he had done. I told her to either refund my grandmother's money or to give her her last two sessions with another trainer. She said that she would find another trainer for her to work out with for her last two sessions.
A week later, the personal trainer that I complained about was fired. =D

07-16-2002, 11:44 AM
Oh how awful! My husband and I belong to 24 Hour Fitness and love it. Of course they tried to get us to sign up with a trainer, but we declined. They were fine with that. We even got two free sessions with a trainer. We still see the trainer at the gym and he has always been very nice and helpful to us even though we didn't sign up for the paid sessions.

I would of gotten the Supervisor involved sooner. That would of been my only suggestion. There is no excuse for the trainer slacking off checking out the chicks a the gym.

PS - How is your Grand Mother doing? That is awesome for her to get the gym. Good for her!

07-16-2002, 12:48 PM
I also belong to 24 Hour Fitness...been a member for 7 years now.

I'd NEVER use one of their trainers - did you know they only need to take an 8-hour training class to become a personal trainer? And their main job is to SELL supplements and more training programs. Actually they probably do have a few good trainers but they are few and far between IMO.

There ARE good personal trainers out there...the best advice I could give you is:

1) Ask for references...past clients...see how happy they were with the training.

2) Check qualifications. Rather than just the certification offered by the gym, look for other certifications from reputable organizations such as ACE or ISSA.

3) How long has the trainer been doing this? Do they look good physically? If you can observe the trainer with a client - so much the better. He/she should be paying attention to their client, making sure their form and rep speed is okay (form is SO IMPORTANT in weightlifting).

4) If the trainer has a college degree in nutrition, physical education, etc. that is a definite plus. Another thing you want to look at is if they have been involved in fitness/bodybuilding competitions. Many fitness competitors are fulltime or parttime personal trainers - and charge about the same as the 24 Hour Fitness trainers who are not nearly as qualified. Even if you're not trying to get into competition shape, a trainer who is involved in the competitive aspect of bodybuilding/fitness can be extremely motivating!

Take care!

07-16-2002, 12:54 PM
Mrs. Jim,

You are so right! Unfortunately this is true about most gyms (24 Hr Fitness, Ballys etc).

07-16-2002, 09:34 PM
My Grandmother is doing very well. Thank you for asking. She is also overweight and joined the gym to lose a few of those unhealthy pounds. She doesn't want to be skinny, but she would like to lose a little bit of weight just to feel healthier. She has lost about 8 pounds I think in just a few months. I wish that I could say the same. :lol:

07-17-2002, 11:25 AM
Well you give her a big <<Hug>>. Let her know we are cheering her on.

You too! You can do this!

09-04-2002, 05:46 PM
I just wanted to add my two cents to this thread. I am a certified personal fitness trainer (ISSA certified). Just to add to Mrs. Jim's recommendations:

Most "big" gyms (24 hour fitness/Bally's etc) do not require their trainers to be certified. They attend a study course and then have to pass a test. If they have a national certification, then the gym will usually pay them more an hour. In my experience, no certified trainer would work at one of these gyms simply because they can make more money on their own. I'm not saying that these trainers are incompetent, just that USUALLY they are not nationally certified. Some trainers have two or three certifications and specializations. Also, I believe that all trainers in big gyms get a kickback from the food/supplements that they sell to you. You do not need fatburners or expensive supplements to have great results.

Also, I cannot emphasize enough that a decent trainer will always emphasize the importance of proper nutrition. Most trainers would never admit this, but looking really good and gaining lots of muscle or losing lots of fat is the product of good clean eating, not working out. All of my clients get the lowdown on good eating from the very beginning. This is not to say that you won't get benefits from lifting weights and not changing your diet, but that you will not get outstanding results if you do not change your nutrition.

Always ask for references!! And remember, any client that this trainer has worked with and is a referral should be thrilled with their results! If they're not, find another trainer. A reputable trainer should be able to provide you with a good reference.

Do not put up with a trainer who isn't watching you like a hawk when you're performing an exercise. They shouldn't be hovering over you or touching you (unless you need a spot) but they should be paying attention. Do not pay a trainer to look at other women or to talk to their friends about football.

Most personal trainers do not have a degree in something fitness-related. (I have a degree in literature, of all things.) But they should be able to tell you the latest in exercise research. A good trainer keeps up with new research and passes that knowledge onto their clients.

I cannot stress this last one enough--if you don't think a trainer looks AMAZING, then don't hire them. They should have the look that you want. If they can do it for themselves, then more than likely they will be able to motivate you to do it for yourself as well.

Hope this helps!

09-04-2002, 08:14 PM
and saying jeeeeez, another long boring dissertation from MrsJim... :lol:

Today I was messing about on the Net and came across this great article...called "So you Wanna Be A Personal Trainer?"

It was WAY too long to quote here in its entirety, but definitely worth a read - here's the beginning of it.
Hiring a personal trainer is becoming the new status symbol. So what? It would be a fair assumption that Testosterone readers are, for the most part, war-torn gym rats who know their way around the various exercise techniques necessary to build a better body without hiring an expensive training partner. It's more likely that an experienced weight trainer like the people who read Testosterone might be interested in giving a few personal training sessions to make some extra money. Why not? The public is more "body image" conscious than ever and that image is no longer just looking "fit." Have you seen the ads for the various health clubs lately, catered to appeal to the general public? The models look, dare I say, steroidal! If someone is willing to pay for advice on how to achieve that look, who better than a bodybuilder for knowing the most efficacious methods toward building muscle and burning fat?

Not so fast. Don't forget that we live in a society where one's knowledge is of little concern and even less importance. People want "credentials." Documents, diplomas, certifications, and titles, all designed to assure legitimacy and professionalism. It's amazing how much trust someone will put in another as long as they have a few letters following their name. As Grandpa Montana was known to say,

That fellow said he had a BS and a PhD. Well, we all know what the BS stands for, I guess the PhD means, "Piled Higher and Deeper!"

Nevertheless, "formal training" in the area of exercise effectiveness, physiology, and nutrition has become something that is now "institutionalized." In order to work as a personal trainer in most places, you must become certified. But by whom? And who governs this information? Just because someone takes an eight-week course designed by God-knows-who, does that make them an expert? Evidently.

It reminds me of when I was 16 and working at my first job in a department store. A woman approached me and asked my opinion on a car safety seat for her baby. Why was she asking me...a stupid kid? Well, I was employed by the store and wearing an orange smock, so apparently I was an expert on the subject. At times, it seems that people will trust any opinion but their own, as long as that opinion has been verified by someone else. The organizers of the various personal training associations know this. That's why they developed this cookie cutter approach to fitness education for profit. Think of it as the "Pizza Hut" of bodybuilding. Vince Gironda must be rolling over in his grave...

And from the Krista Smash website - which I WILL quote in its entirety:
how to choose a personal trainer

Often the first question people ask when starting out on a fitness program is, "Should I hire a trainer?" I should stress right now that you don't need to hire a trainer. But, beginners and experienced trainers alike can indeed benefit from skilled coaching and motivation. If you know you're someone who does better when someone is guiding you, if you would like some skills instruction and don't feel you can learn yourself, if you would like specialized services like bodyfat assessment or the development of a training program, then you might consider finding a personal trainer.

If you decide you would like a trainer, the next question is invariably, "How do I find a good one?" Well now. That is a big ugly minefield. I work myself as a personal trainer and I am shocked at the level of ignorance displayed by trainers. Approach the search for a trainer as you would a search for a used car: buyer beware. Some things to think about:

Certification. Because the training industry is unregulated, just about anyone can call themselves a trainer. There are a variety of certifications that one can get in North America and few of them really demand a high level of expertise, experience, and/or education. Many certifications can be obtained from certifying bodies that are years behind on current research, and will provide you with a shiny certificate after you write a short test. What you want to look for:

-ASCM, CSCS or another NSCA certification, ISSA, CK (Certified Kinesiologist) (the OKA site explains what a CK is and who may call themselves one)

-a university degree in an applicable field (Physical Education, Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, etc.)

Experience. Many trainers are fly-by-night, students trying to make an extra buck, people filling time till they get a "real" job. There's nothing wrong with working part time as a trainer but often it results in people with minimal hands-on experience. If possible, find someone who has experience working with various types of people, and if you get really lucky, someone who has powerlifting or Olympic lifting experience.

Adaptability to your needs. This is the big one. Lots of trainers have prefab plans that they hand out to everyone, regardless of who clients are, or what their needs are. A good trainer will consult you about your needs before you set foot in the gym. I personally sit down with clients for a 30-60 minute consultation before starting any activity. A trainer should ask you about:

-your medical history in detail, not just a cursory, "Are you healthy?" A trainer should ask about past medical history and current medical status. They don't need to know about the yeast infection you had at age 14 or the time you had nose warts, but they should get a clear picture of things like any problems with heart, respiratory, and circulatory system, structural system (bones, joints, connective tissue), balance and coordination, fatigue and energy levels, chronic conditions, medications taken (including oral or injected contraceptives), injuries and surgeries you have had. I also ask about family history but that might be a little detailed for most folks. I just try to get a sense of what susceptibilities I'm working with (so for example, if I know that the trainee's entire family has diabetes, I'm going to be on the lookout for possible blood sugar issues with the trainee).

-past physical activity. Are you a fit person, formerly fit person, former competitive athlete, former couchwarmer, etc.?

-your daily activity, including work practices, day-to-day home tasks, etc. This often reveals naggy little injuries, owchies, and bad movement habits which I can help alleviate.

-other physical activities that you do. Do you play other sports? Do you engage in physical labour on the job, or around the house? Are you training for something else?

-current diet and eating habits; what do you eat in an average day, how do you eat it, and why? Some people have food issues and it's wise to ferret them out before you go anywhere near putting them on a diet.

-workout goals, both short and long term. Of course everyone wants to lose fat and gain muscle (well, not entirely true; I do have people who want to lose muscle and gain fat). Your trainer should gather more specific information than that. S/he should also pay attention to how you frame your goals and talk about them. This will give clues about how to achieve those goals. For example, if someone says they just want to be fit and they say it in a way which indicates that they're a little timid or a newbie, I don't launch into being a drill sergeant because I know I'll probably scare them away. On the other hand, if I have someone who says they want to get huger than Andre the Giant and they want to be hardcore, I get out the megaphone. Finally, the trainer should also be able to assist you in developing and refining your goals.

-workout availability and commitment. What facilities will the trainer/client be using: home, commercial gym, company fitness centre? What equipment is available? How much time does the client need/want? The trainer has to be able to train clients in everything from a super fancy loud gym to a home situation with two dumbbells and 4' x 7' of floor space (yes, I do have one client like this; we work out in his little apartment sandwiched between the TV and the couch).

Empathy and awareness of psychological state. This one is a hard one to quantify. Basically it means that the trainer has your number, behaviourally and psychologically speaking, and makes good choices about what things to do to motivate and encourage you. Sometimes I can figure this out right away. Other times it takes a few sessions to really get inside a client's head. Not all clients will require the same teaching approach, and a good trainer should have a lot of hats that s/he wears in order to adapt him/herself to your psychological needs. Some clients want a shrink, some want a confessor, some want a mommy, some want a shoulder-punching workout buddy, some want a jackboot-wearing Ilsa of the SS, some don't actually want to work out; they want to socialize and no amount of coaxing on the trainer's part will change this. Some want all of these things! Within the workout a good trainer will know the precise moment to push and the moment to hold back or throw the client a doggie treat.

Ability to work with a diverse clientele. Sure, it's a trainer's dream to get a client who is a former athlete, super coordinated, jacked up on injected testosterone, super motivated, etc. They pretty much get results with nary a finger lifted by the trainer. But a good trainer can work with all kinds of people. I personally love working with "plain folks". Training 20 year old male collegiate athletes isn't much of a challenge. Watching a middle-aged woman do her first pullup, now that's entertainment!

Ability to teach the exercises. First, this requires knowing good form for the exercises, which is sometimes a problem with trainers. If the trainer tells you that full squats are bad for the knees and deadlifts are bad for the back, find another trainer. If the trainer tells you the Smith machine is safer and s/he doesn't see why anyone would ever want to squat, run screaming. Second, this requires pedagogical techniques that communicate the exercise clearly and effectively. I like to try to give clients a conceptual understanding of why and how the exercise works, rather than just telling them to do something. Understanding is crucial to mastery. They don't need to know the complicated stuff, but it's helpful to comprehend things like why we put our back into a particular position before we lift heavy things, for example. Third, this requires an ability to correct poor technique, and reinforce good technique. I use a multi-stage process of teaching in which I first briefly explain the exercise, and outline the conceptual basis behind it. Next, I demonstrate it, explaining throughout the movement what I am doing. Then, I take them through it slowly, with either no weight or light weight, giving verbal and touch cues (if required). Finally, I point out what they did well, and what needs correction. With difficult exercises, there may be many things to correct, so a good trainer should be able to focus on one improvement at a time instead of overwhelming you with new information. You should also feel as if you are always learning within your limits. I had a trainer tell me that she had just tried to teach a client to squat (incorrectly, I might add). She was disappointed when she put the 45 lb. Olympic bar on the client's back and the client couldn't squat it. Well duh! You don't teach someone a new movement then immediately load up some weight on them! You run the risk of hurting the client, plus the client feels like a loser when they can't immediately execute the exercise perfectly under loading. All of my clients, from hulking young man to tiny old woman, get the same treatment: they learn a new movement with no weight first, master the movement, then add small amounts of weight, always working within their capabilities. There is plenty of time in future to push their limits. Learning a new skill is not the time to do it.

Knowledge about how to adapt a training program to special populations, and to work around injuries. Minor injuries such as low back, knee, and shoulder problems are quite common. A trainer should know how to make adaptations in the program to assist rehab and/or to work around them. A trainer shouldn't take the place of a physiotherapist, but should have an awareness of common injuries, how they're caused, and some modalities for treatment. If possible they should be able to speak with physiotherapists and doctors for guidance on how to proceed. A trainer should also know how to adapt programs for older people, adolescents, the disabled, and common chronic conditions such as high blood pressure (or at least they should know where to look to find that out).

Creativity and positivity. A trainer should be able to "think outside the box", not give you a one-size-fits-all program. If you present your trainer with challenges, such as having to work around injuries or training for a particular activity, s/he should be able to solve them in productive, creative ways. They should also have a sense of fun about training. Sure, you can be serious in the gym, but there also a place for playfulness and enjoyment. Fartlek, for example, isn't exactly always fun to do, but was developed as a playful counterpart to rigid, regimented training.

Professionalism and courtesy. This should be self-evident, but from the trainer stories I've heard, it's not. The trainer should be presentable physically and personally, on time for sessions, and courteous and attentive while training. I've seen two different trainers talk on cell phones while they trained clients! Trainers should also not make you feel like crap. When I first signed up for a gym a few years ago, I politely declined the "free personal training session" (Translation: we show you the machines and then attempt to sell you more sessions) because I knew I didn't need or want it. The manager of the gym took this as a personal insult. "You think you know everything?" he asked, rather aggressively. Then, he looked me up and down with a critical eye and said, "So, are you happy with the way you look?" (Translation: you fat ugly cow) At that moment I would not have cared if he had Ph.D.s in biomechanics and physiology and had trained Olympic gold medallists, he wasn't training me. Lucky for him that his was the only decent gym in the area at that point, otherwise I would have torn up my membership in front of him and told him to jam it into his upper colon. There is no excuse for making any gym member feel shitty about themselves, and it is unacceptable business practice to sell people training sessions on the basis of their perceived physical inadequacies.

Availability. Ideally you can work out a good schedule with your trainer, and this depends on your needs. You might just need someone to set you up with a program, show you a few things, then wave bye-bye. You might wish to have periodic check-ins. Or you might need someone to meet you at every workout. You might want to work out first thing in the morning, at your lunch hour, or in the evening. Hopefully a trainer can accommodate your needs for availability, and not push anything on you that you don't require.

Professional development. Does the trainer keep up with recent developments in the field? Reading muscle comics doesn't count. Do they read research journals like the Journal of Applied Physiology? Do they attend instructional seminars, workshops, and other events? Do they have plans to consistently upgrade their skills and knowledge base?

Cost. Do some homework and find out what the going rate in your area is. Depending on your needs, this may vary. Active rehab programs (programs which are developed post-physiotherapy to incorporate previous injury needs) may be more costly than a basic program for a healthy person, for example. You may be able to get a deal by buying a few sessions as part of a package, but it's wise to have one initial trial session before you commit. Don't allow yourself to be pressured by hard sales tactics, and if a trainer insists on pushing stuff you don't need or want, don't hire them. You want a trainer, not a cult recruiter.

Personal connection and responsiveness. Sometimes you just don't get along with people, regardless of how good they are. If you don't hit it off with a trainer, then you won't want to work with them. No harm, no foul. Ideally, find someone you like. You don't have to be bosom buddies, but you should at least work well together.

Feedback and assessment. Trainers should give you regular feedback and "progress reports". Feedback can range from moment-to-moment guidance on exercise performance, to postworkout "debriefings", to periodic "state of the union addresses". Assessment can include things like tape measurements, weigh-ins, bodyfat caliper measurements, taking 1RMs, etc. There is no universal standard for assessment; it will depend on your goals. Ask what kind of assessment protocol the trainer will provide for you.

Phew! And you thought you just wanted a hunk or hotty to talk you through some inner thigh machine work! Best of luck with finding your Mr. or Ms. Miyagi!

09-04-2002, 10:05 PM
Mrs. Jim--
As always, you provide such good information!


09-23-2002, 05:05 PM
AS a personal trainer, I find that story appalling. However, it is unfortunately very common. Especially at money mills like 24hr fitness. While I have met some trainers from 24hr that are good, on the whole they are are pretty much worthless money grubbers. Who only care about making the sales, not about the progress of thier clients. I see nothing wrong with making good money as a trainer, as long as you provide a good service and only sell sessions and supplements that the client wants or you honestly beleive that they would benefit from.

Well at least you got some satisfaction. You should get at least a partial refund, but corporate gyms/trainers are less likely to make concessions due to company policy. Though if make enough noise they always will.