While I haven’t been in the industry as a Personal Trainer for a terribly long time, I have spent years dealing with them and talking to people who hire them. They, much like their clients, come in all shapes and sizes. They come from all backgrounds. But I’ve been noticing one thing that seems to be a little too common for my taste — the “salesman” mentality. Namely, these people worry a little too much about selling a product and not enough about helping their client.
“But Geoff, trainers have to make money, too! They’ve got to sell themselves… right?”
Yes and no. While every person has the right to pursue a reasonable income and to be compensated for their expertise, there are certain lines that should not be crossed. During most certification processes, trainers are taught to find ways to sell themselves and their services by being open and direct. I have no problem with this.
But some people are a little too aggressive about it. Certain trainers focus too much on stretching out the number of sessions from their clients in order to squeeze more cash out of them. That, in my mind, is crossing one of those lines I was talking about. When the transaction involves a person’s health and well being, we have an obligation to provide the best service we can to that customer. Doing any less is akin to a doctor’s constant referrals for extra examinations and continual future visits when he or she already knows the solution to the patient’s ailment.
In the medical industry, this would be seen as blatantly unethical and would cause a public outcry. Why not in the exercise industry???
Furthermore, some trainers commit an even worse violation. They may try to sell other products, often nutritional supplements and other related packages as a work-from-home scheme for more money (think the Mary Kay peddlers of the fitness world). Nutritional counseling is outside the scope of personal trainers’ expertise. Let me repeat that:
Nutritional counseling is BEYOND the scope of a Personal Trainer’s education!!!
By law, a trainer is not allowed to prescribe any sort of diet plan to a client unless that trainer also holds a license as a dietician. Many professionals get around this by simply “suggesting” certain products. While that might cover the trainer in a legal sense, it does nothing to protect the client.
Also, think about this — a client who already has invested money in a personal trainer is a POWERFUL captive audience! They might think it’s reasonable to assume that they can get diet advice from their trainer as well, since they have a paid agreement and the subjects seem to be related. The trouble is that many clients won’t see a problem with taking whatever their trainer tells them as gospel.
If a fit-looking personal trainer offers an impressionable client a bottle of “magical glacier water” for an extra fee, they might actually be able to sell it. That person may not know any better — if he/she thinks MJ’s Secret Stuff will help to get rid of those love handles, the credit card comes flying out! Too many trainers are not only fine with doing this, but they are encouraging other trainers to do the same to “increase their cash flow.”
A note to everyone out there: This is misguided. This is unethical. This is wrong!
Any trainer who willfully gives a client the impression that he or she has more expertise than he/she actually does is violating the trust established with that client. Any person seeking a trainer should be wary if they try to push other products on the side instead of focusing on just being a good trainer!
Sorry for the rant, but this is another thing that needs to be said. It’s important for everyone to realize that certifications, while not perfect, tend to exist for a reason. If a person cannot convincingly explain why he or she is a qualified expert in a field, then that person’s advice should be taken with a big grain of salt.
So take care of yourselves, and always make sure that anyone giving you advice has YOUR BEST INTERESTS at heart. Live well, and be smart!