Fitness is FUN: How A Bad Trainer Can Make You Think Otherwise

I had an experience the other day that gave me a total “aha!” moment. It was one of those moments where I literally stopped in my tracks and said to myself “oh my gosh…I get it.”

Part of my job as the manager of a high end gym is to ensure that we have highly talented and knowledgeable personal trainers on staff. This is a big deal in any gym, but especially in this area of town and in this gym. Our clientele is mostly fit people that are serious about their fitness. Many have worked with a personal trainer before and will immediately know if someone doesn’t know what they’re doing. As such, part of our interview process involves a 30 minute practical, where the potential personal trainer puts me through a training session, while our Personal Training manager observes. This is helpful because we both get to put our heads together at the end of the training session to talk about what was good vs. what was not good. It’s changed our entire staff for the better and is a really great practice.

Last week, we were interviewing two potential new trainers to hire. We had set up a practical with both of them. One no-showed (well, there’s your answer!), and the other showed up right on time. He was well-groomed, looked the part, and was extremely nice. That’s about all the good I have to say.

We started our training session with some static stretching. I equate static stretching before a workout to the low-fat diets of the 80’s. Irrelevant and not smart. Strike 1.

From there he took me to the Smith machine to do front squats and back squats. Now, knowing my background and my current training, this wasn’t a very bright idea. I have a good working knowledge of front squats and back squats, and this application wasn’t useful, in my opinion.  I use the Smith Machine for the following 3 reasons:

1. Someone is new to squatting and/or very weak

2. Someone has injuries or has other limitations

3. Things I’m unable to do with a standard barbell (certain glute/quad exercises)

(This doesn’t mean other applications are incorrect, but if you’re able to properly do front and back squats using a barbell and plates on your own, no use downgrading to the Smith Machine!)

Smith Machine

Smith Machine

Anyways, I asked this trainer why he was having me do front squats and back squats on the Smith machine rather than using a barbell. Had he given me a decent response to this, I could have accepted it. I am constantly learning new tricks of the trade and was hoping he would have something cool to tell me. But no. The response I got was that it was to “up the intensity.” Really? I can show you 500 ways to “up the intensity” using a barbell. Not a very good answer. Strike 2.

I gave it a shot anyways to give the guy a chance to see what he would have me do. He explained the front squat and back squat and told me to start. The result? It felt awkward. My range of motion was limited. The movement was uncomfortable. I felt the movement in all the wrong places. The experience was not fun. Moreover, the trainer didn’t help me get into the proper position, he didn’t make sure my form was proper, he just stood by and told me what to do. (There’s always a chance my form wasn’t right, making the movement feel awkward. After all, I don’t use the Smith Machine for squats. Ever.)

It was then that I had this realization. I am someone who LOVES working out. I love to sweat and work hard in the gym. For the most part, you can put me in any situation at the gym, and I’m game! Not everyone feels this way, and that is perfectly okay.

But had this been my first time in the gym and that been my first time with a personal trainer???? I would have walked out that door and never come back. I would have thought working out was not fun, uncomfortable, and didn’t feel good. I would have thought “well, that’s not worth it!”

I wonder how many times that has happened to someone who claims they “hate working out”…..when really they just haven’t had a good experience? I’m sure it’s very common and that bums me out!

With that said, I challenge all of you that have tried working out and deemed it as something you hate, to try again. Try something new, try something that look fun to you. Working out does not have to be barbells in a gym. The whole point is to do something that makes you feel good, requires your body to work hard, empowers you, makes you strong, and makes you sweat it out! For some, that might be rock climbing, for others, that’s lifting weights, for the next person, it’s taking an adult gymnastics class. DO WHAT YOU LIKE. And if you have a shitty experience either on your own or with a trainer? TRY AGAIN.

Fitness should be FUN, and inevitably will make you feel like you’re on top of the world. You can’t buy that feeling! I promise, there is something for EVERYONE.

1. What new fitness adventures have you been on lately?

2. Have you ever worked with a trainer that made you think fitness sucked?