A note from Steve: I wrote this post last night at 2AM waiting for some videos to upload for work, and then the entire post was lost thanks to me accidentally hitting “save” on wordpress when the internet crashed. So, this post was re-written in a state of delirium this morning, so I apologize for the grammatical errors and sub-par quality. I’ll go back through and fix tonight when I get a chance. On with the post!
Every other morning, I go into my gym around 8AM. I walk past five or six trainers, each with their respective clients (generally overweight), either sitting at a machine or doing some crazy ass-cross training. These clients are generally beet-red and sweating like crazy, which means their trainers are doing their job, right? However, Despite meticulous planning, a carefully thought-out routine, and ‘peak fat-burning efficiency’ workout, the people that I see with trainers for a long period of time often stay fat. In fact, I see a few people in this gym that haven’t changed since I started working out there back in December of 2007. So what hell is going on? Why aren’t these people turning their lives around? I think there are a number of reasons, but a few stand out above others. Let’s see why most trainers aren’t successful, why they’re necessary, and then my experiences with a trainer and AS a trainer. Let’s start with the bad stuff:
You Can’t Outrun Your Fork
Think about it: let’s say you’re wealthy and insane and you spend 10 hours a week with a personal trainer (most people spend only 1 or 2). That still leaves 158 hours a week for you to screw it all up. If you have a really crappy diet, there probably aren’t enough hours in the day for you to burn off the excess calories. Secondly, I’m gonna guess that there are always emergencies that come up: you get sick, your kid gets sick, you need to take your dog to the vet, you take your sick kid to the vet and your dog to the hospital accidentally, whatever it is. Stuff comes up, life happens, and you miss a workout. If you’re used to eating 5000 calories a day and burning off 2000 of them in the gym in marathon gym sessions, your weight loss train will get derailed really quickly.
A Trainer Shouldn’t Be Your First Step
Developing a workout routine is probably the 3rd thing you should address when you want to get in shape. Your 2nd thing is your diet, and your first thing is your mental attitude. I realize this sounds really cheesy, but it’s true. If you show up to a gym with a crap attitude and crappy diet, that trainer is already wasting his time and your time. Luckily for him, he’s making money on your wasted time. What are you getting? It’s like hiring an awesome builder to come in and build on top of a crappy foundation. Sure the house might turn out okay, but most likely it’s gonna fall apart. Suck.
Once you decide you’re going to turn your life around, you need to decide what’s important to you: that extra donut in the morning, or the satisfaction being able to fit into your old clothes. Do you want to be able to play ultimate Frisbee for more than 5 minutes and not get winded, or is that Firehouse Sub really worth the 15 minutes of satisfaction? By the way, sorry Firehouse Subs, you just happen to be the Kryptonite for my friend Jordan. If you’re gonna turn your life around, you know that a change MUST be made in your diet first if you want to see long term results.
Most Trainers Aren’t Dietitians
If your diet accounts for 80-90% of your success, your trainer can only do so much for you in a one hour session every other day at the gym. Sure they can tell you how to eat right, strongly encourage you to eat right, but they’re probably not gonna help you with your grocery shopping and then force the right food down your throat. When I moved to San Diego I was fortunate enough to get a trainer who told me exactly what to eat and how much of it to eat. Of course, after that it was on me to actually stick with it.
Now, that’s if your trainer is nice enough to actually care about what you eat…which brings me to my next point.
Some Trainers Just Don’t Care
To borrow from Office Space, it’s not that they’re lazy, it’s that they just don’t care. With the economy in the crapper, everybody is doing everything they can to make a buck these days. In a chain gym, I’d guess that more than half the trainers there took the one-day certification, passed a test, and then started training clients with their limited knowledge. Before I started this website, I took a basic personal trainer certification to add some legitimacy to a a new fitness website. Of course, after getting that certification I continued to further my education by reading every book I could find, studying videos, watching other trainers in action, and subscribing to over a hundred fitness blogs that I read on a daily basis. I’m not an expert (as I’m still relatively new to the field of health and fitness compared to the guys who have been at it forever), but I like to think that I know enough to help people and I just care more than others.
After getting my certification, I immediately started Nerd Fitness and dumped all my free time into running this site. I could have started training clients and impacted a few lives (hopefully), but instead I had bigger plans, and wanted to create a place where I could influence others, who could then help and influence their friends, and eventually develop an army of super-strong nerds that could one day take over the world. Up until this point, I’ve made exactly $0 with Nerd Fitness, and I could care less. Every other day I get an email from somebody new that’s turning their life around, and that makes me happy.
Why Trainers are Important
Despite everything I’ve said above, I cannot stress the importance of what a great trainer can do for you, which is why I recommend that everybody go to a trainer at least once or twice when they start at a gym. All of the best athletes and weight lifters in the world have trainers, I’d LOVE to have a trainer (if I could afford one), and starting out years ago I wish I had one. This is why:
- If you’re brand new to a gym, you’ve already decided to turn your life around, and you don’t know what you’re doing, a trainer is invaluable (that means really valuable right? if not, that’s what I was going for). A trainer can assess your current level of fitness, hopefully give you some diet advice, and then teach you exactly how to do each exercise. Deadlifts and squats without proper super vision suck, as you can’t tell if you’re doing them right and you could develop some bad habits.
- A trainer makes you accountable. If you paid 50 bucks for a gym session with a great trainer, there is no way you’re skipping it because you’re tired.
- A trainer can spot you, offer words of encouragement, and push you just outside of your comfort zone to get results. I get 10-20% more out of a workout when somebody is yelling at me. It’s just how it works.
- A trainer can help you get through plateaus and mix up your routine for maximum effectiveness. When it comes to fitness, it’s much easier to follow somebody else’s plan (if you know it works) than it is to create your own.
Of course, all of this stuff above only applies to GOOD trainers, so make sure you shop around and find a good one. Go to your gym and ask other members which trainers are the best. If you see a fat guy with a trainer and he’s been using him for 3 years, maybe you should try somebody else. Don’t just go with whoever they give you, because I guarantee most gyms put very little thought into who trains who. It’s all about the benjamins, baby.
What About You?
Ever used a trainer? Was it a waste of money, or did it change your life? Let me know, and let others know how you went about selecting your trainer and if it worked out for you. I’m sure there are plenty of us you all in the same boat!
Thanks for bearing with me today guys, have a great weekend.