Issue Date: July 2009 Web Features, Posted On: 7/15/2009

"Personal" Trainer or "Professional" Trainer?
By Mike McDaniel

Keeping a perspective on who we are and what we do is sometimes very difficult simply because of the nature of our business and how long we have been doing this. Because we work with one of the most intimate parts of a person's psyche (the way they view themselves), clients tend to open up and share personal details of family, relationships or even personal struggles.

Being professional and being personal is a thin line we balance. Career trainers know long-term clients usually become long-term friends, but the club is not the place to conduct ourselves as "buddies."

We have to understand that no matter how long we have trained a client or how well we know them, we are being watched by others in the gym who may not know that information. If a new member perceives us as being a little too friendly with a client, it may make them question our professionalism and rule you out from being their trainer.

As career trainers, we are a confident breed usually interpreted as being vocal or opinionated, which is fine - as long as our voice and opinion is about their personal health and goals. I have seen so many times where a trainer voiced an opinion or gave some advice that didn't work out and was dropped!

Allow me to make the following suggestions that should apply to all clients, regardless of the relationship or tenure they have training with you:

  • Never discuss your personal issues or frustrations with your club or management. The client is there to pay for your knowledge of how to better their health, not to be your personal Dr. Phil.
  • Never give advice on relationships, religion or politics. All of these things are totally out of your control on outcomes and can blow up in your face.
  • Touch the clients in a professional manner. I have seen a comfort in "touchy-feely" that has deemed many of trainers "inappropriate" in the eyes of others and made them uncomfortable with the whole training program.
  • If a client is upset because something is wrong with the club or another member, be empathetic towards the frustrations, let them know you understand, but do not adopt their battles. Your loyalty should be with your employer, and there is usually another side to every story.

It is great to laugh with your client and rejoice in the success of reaching goals with them, but always remember: This is your profession! Our goal is to be recognized as a leader in our industry, good at what we do and professional at how we do it. Basically, for a career trainer, your future depends on it!

Topic: Career Builder Web Column

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Monday, August 10, 2009 11:40:37 PM by Anonymous
Why is a "career trainer" working in someone else's club? If the trainer is professional wouldn't they be owning or managing the "club"? Not someone's employee!!
Thursday, August 27, 2009 4:25:10 PM by Anonymous
Hey this is Mike, the columnist. Good question, let me answer. I actually owned two health clubs with over 120 employees. The editor of this magazine ask me to write to the career trainers in a club setting specifically. Please understand also, just because you may be a great trainer that doesnt mean you posess the skills to manage a facility or have the resources to purchase, own and operate your own facility. Also, being an "employee" can be a benefit if you are looking to make your money and go home without worrying about payroll taxes, employment taxes, rent and all of the other stresses that come with ownership. I hope this answers your question regardless of the sentiment it was written in. Mike McDaniel

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