“I wonder how they sleep at night, when the sale comes first and the truth comes second.” Price Tag by Jessie J.
Despite my frequent Planet Fitness jokes, I believe all gym models serve a purpose.
In my case, I’m happy they exist for three reasons (1) Gyms are available at every price point (2) Everybody could use a good trainer and (3) They keep the majority of the D-Bags out of the places that I like to train.
My very short history of commercial gyms…
At some point 25-30 years ago, a gym owner figured out that personal training was a potential income stream. Eventually the industrial age model of hiring the lowest level of competency took hold and people with minimal skill were hired as trainers.
This wasn’t particularly difficult to do since a high amount of the training was performed on specially designed machines. Instruction (when based only on an external view) required a relatively low level of ability, essentially the ability to get someone to sit down and for the trainer to count to ten three times.
Machines also made it easy to get someone in and out of the gym fairly quickly.
Later came the creation of personal trainer credentialing organizations and countless specializations, which continues to this day. While I will state that the certification itself doesn’t make the trainer, I will also state that some organizations provide an education, while others simply sell you a pretty piece of paper.
As an example of the latter, I once semi-seriously tried to bomb an online test and I still managed to pass the exam. I could have been titled as a Golf Specialist had I just sent in the $100 payment.
Later came the ultimate business goal of having members pay for a service (a low monthly gym fee) without ever stepping foot in the gym.
Commercial Gyms have served as the entry point for the overwhelming majority of personal trainers. The high-volume/low cost/continual drive to sign new clients model has produced some stellar trainers, as well as burning quite a few potentially promising ones out.
“All the client really needs is to have their ass kicked for 30 minutes.” was the singular bit of professional advice I was given from a fellow commercial gym trainer back in 2012. I don’t know about them, but I didn’t become a trainer to kick someones ass.
How does someone even form that training philosophy, much less give it as professional advice? My immediate thought is the person doesn’t know what they don’t know, or they themselves are un-coachable. Then again, The Biggest Loser TV series had already been on the air for 8 years. Perhaps this is where the trainer found their influence.
I’ve come up with a few thoughts….
Eighteen months is the long end of the average commercial trainers career at a single location. Many leave within six months or less. This indicates that the average person viewed personal training as a gig, or something easy to do until something better comes along. In fairness, some of these people were minimally qualified (or even failed to meet the minimum job standards) and were given the job based on their ability to sell training packages and supplements. The fact that they never took the job seriously should come as no surprise.
The same 6-18 month period also includes trainers with higher levels of skills and qualification that either burned out or found greener pastures elsewhere. Attempts to retain them on staff are often non-existant. Some trainers manage to exceed 18 months and maintain financially lucrative positions with a good balance of quality instruction.
Some gyms pay all starting trainers the same wage. I’m not entirely against this idea when taking the high turn-over rate into consideration, however there needs to be some financial incentive to retain the better qualified applicants.
While I am all for learning the sales and business end of things, trainers with high monthly supplement sales or training package quotas (which turns trainers into part of the sales force) can result in trainers delivering less than their potential in the actual training of clients.
Gyms that invest in their trainers (in house education being an example) tend to acquire, and retain higher quality talents. Unfortunately, there will always trainers that don’t take advantage of the opportunities in front of them.
My advice to young commercial trainers (as in newly certified, not necessarily your chronological age.) Save your money, build yourself to your best potential, learn and continually develop your craft. Know when it is time to move on.
Remember that clients are more loyal to a GOOD TRAINER than they are a particular gym.
Remember that ANY JACKASS TRAINER can kick someones ass for 30 minutes, but only so many can improve someone life in 30 minutes.