Sunday, August 17, 2014

Personal Trainers – Worth the Money? Tricia Duffield

I love being a personal trainer. I believe in what I do, I enjoy the pride my clients feel when they get results, reach personal milestones and overcome hardships or barriers. I enjoy seeing them transform themselves and becoming confident in their abilities. It is an extremely rewarding profession.

The PT industry does have its pitfalls, however. The first is that young people coming into the fitness industry see it as a way to get fast cash. The advertisements on job seeking sites are disgraceful, with gyms promising upwards of 80 to 100 thousand dollars a year. In your dreams, sunshine. The ads send out an often spurious and dishonest message and I suspect attract the wrong sort of person to the industry.

You have to be extremely empathetic, compassionate, patient and mature to be a personal trainer. The relationships you build with your clients are often deeply personal and require a high level of trust and discretion. That relationship in the wrong hands can be destructive for both trainer and client. By promising what cannot realistically be achieved, the industry attracts the wrong type of trainer and sees a lot of them leave the industry, bitter at their lack of success and with a trail of disappointed clients behind them. That process gives the entire industry a bad name.

It is a two way street, however. There are many clients who are as abusive of the relationship with their trainer, who believe that by employing a PT they have relinquished personal responsibility for their health and well-being. I have a tough love approach to clients who fit that profile. If you turn up late or continue to engage in unhealthy lifestyle habits while paying me to clean up after you in your training sessions, we are not going to last very long. I am past thinking this is a business that will make me wealthy. I am in it for the end game – the results in my clients. That's my pay-off and that's what makes me proud of my work. If you mess around and don't keep up your end of the deal, well, it's No Deal, I'm afraid.

Underlying the client/trainer relationship is the uncomfortable notion that it is the money that makes the difference, that without cash changing hands, the client wouldn't take their health and fitness as seriously. I think there is truth in that notion and in a way, it disappoints me. I would love to think that the average person who engages a PT would be just as dedicated to their health and well-being simply on a promise. Isn't it funny that it is money that will most often elicit loyalty, dedication and discipline?

In fact, the fitness industry is built on the guilt of the financial transaction. Part of the motivation for gym members to continue their commitment is because every month, the gym is deducting a sizeable sum from their bank account. But what if it was free? What if I said I will train you three times a week for a year, for absolutely nothing? Would you turn up and bust a gut three times a week for a year? I can almost guarantee you wouldn't. I encourage people to find a training buddy to keep them on the steep and narrow but rarely does that partnership last. There's just not enough at stake.

It seems we are comfortable letting people down, breaking trust, reneging on agreements but not so happy to have to pay upwards of $50 for a missed session. We're more likely to turn up to save the $50 than to uphold a promise.

I am not cynical about people but I am realistic. I make sure my clients know that missed sessions must still be paid for, just in case the bond we have formed through our training doesn't withstand the vagaries of human nature.

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