If your relationship with your fitness trainer is starting to become a “toxic” one, don’t be afraid to walk away, says Denise Li.
Having worked with my fair share of fitness trainers over the years, I can tell you one thing: Finding a good trainer is as hard as (or even harder than) looking for a relationship partner. I have had some truly awful ones over the years. One particular trainer I worked with at a muay thai camp in Phuket somehow thought I could learn a thing or two if he kicked the shit out of me. I’m not exaggerating: He kept on kicking my inside left thigh without giving me pointers about how to defend against such kicks. It truly felt like he had malicious intent, though I’m pretty sure I had done nothing to offend him. By the end of the session, I could barely walk and suffered bruising larger than the surface area of a small loaf of bread that took more than 10 days to subside. When I switched camps, another trainer I worked with noticed the ugly purple bruising and thought I had been in a fight, and was horrified when I told him what had actually happened.
That is one of the more extreme examples. But I’ve also had more than my share of middling trainers who are just more concerned that I’d pay him at the end of the session than really being invested in my progress. But just like dating, I quickly learnt to spot the warning signs of a lousy trainer and I’m sharing them here because I believe that bad trainers shouldn’t happen to good people: Especially when you’re paying him good money for it.
1. He checks his phone all the time
I’m not a complete Nazi. I won’t fault the trainer for checking his phone during my water break or in between sets. But it is not cool if he walks away from you for more than two minutes while you’re trying to finish a set. A good trainer should ALWAYS be there to help you track your reps and sets.
2. He doesn’t bother to correct your form
Most of us will need some minor adjustments when we’re trying a new exercise or machine for the first time. A good trainer should be able not just to show you the proper form, but also to talk you through the exercise as you do it. This will ensure that (i) you don’t get injured and (ii) you get as much benefit from the exercise as possible.
3. He flakes out on you all the time
This is definitely a red flag especially if you’ve signed up for personal training. I’m not saying you have to be completely unreasonable and demand that he be at your beck and call all the time. But being able to cater to your schedule is part of the service you should be expecting. While you can excuse the odd last-minute cancellation (people do have emergencies after all), you are definitely NOT obliged to put up with an unreliable trainer.
4. He makes unwarranted comments about your body
In my early 20s, I was a member of a fitness gym near my home and as I usually went during off-peak hours, I’d usually be the only working out. I’m not sure if it was because he was bored, but the trainer used to stand on the treadmill next to mine while I was running and make comments about my “cyclist’s calves”. Not only is it SUPER annoying when someone tries to have a conversation with me when I’m running, his remarks made me feel scrutinised, objectified and very uncomfortable, and I didn’t bother renewing my membership after it had expired. Yes, a trainer is supposed to help you track your progress (especially if weight loss is one of your goals) but making pointed remarks about your body is unacceptable and borders, I think, on sexual harrassment.
5. You stop seeing progress
A good trainer should be knowledgeable enough to identify plateaus and tweak your workout plan accordingly. But at the end of the day, it is a two-way relationship, and it would help your trainer a lot if you are clear about your workout goals from the start. Weight loss is a common goal, but there are also people who want to become stronger, rehabilitate an injury, etc. The more specific you are, the better. Also, if you’re prepared to to work hard, tell your trainer as much! A lot of people find exercise torturous, and as a result, a lot of trainers prescribe easy workouts to keep their clients. Being pointed about your determination to achieve your goals will subtly cue your trainer not to slack off too.
The above are just broad guidelines to help you identify when a relationship with a particular trainer is not working out but as I mentioned earlier, looking for a trainer is very much like looking for a relationship in that you need a certain “chemistry” with him/her in order for it to become a successful relationship. Do you thrive on constant motivation or encouragement, or are you motivated by tough love? Personally, I love exercising and learning new things, so I need a trainer who doesn’t just know a lot, but also displays a certain enthusiasm to share that knowledge. Whatever it is, you need to feel that the money you’ve invested into a personal trainer is well-spent. Most important of all, don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel that the “relationship” is no longer working for you.
About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.