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Should You Fire Your Personal Trainer?

September 18, 2015 by Ginger Hultin MS RDN

Have you ever had an incredible personal trainer? Have you ever had one that did harm? Just like dietitians, doctors, nurses, dentists and beyond, you need to shop around for the best fitness specialist for you. Some trainers are amazing and will change your life while some aren’t and can damage your body or emotional well-being. I want you to understand the difference here and answer a question you’ve got in your mind: Should you fire your personal trainer?

I have a very fit friend who is deeply committed to working out. She is beautiful and healthy and was working with a new trainer who was demanding of her, both in her fitness and in her eating. He was prescribing a diet plan (NOT in a trainer’s scope of practice) and one day when she came in he poked her arm and told her that he figured she wasn’t following the program because she “looked like a Twinkie.“ She fired him and hired someone that was more respectful, taking her own unique needs and goals into mind. Another friend of mine who was just getting started with a fitness routine hired a trainer and experienced something similar. On her first day, her trainer told her she was “skinny-fat.” This is a term that should not be used when you are describing someone’s body type, and is not the right way to gain rapport with new clients – it is judgmental and degrading. A male friend of mine was seeing a personal trainer and she told him that when he loses some weight, “the girls will come running!.” Again, saying this does not build your client up, but instead tears them down.

What do these friends have in common? Trainers who should be FIRED. Trainers should never call their clients names or poke fun at their bodies. A trainer should be there to support, not to put people down, and they should inspire people to push harder, not guilt them into it.

Should You Fire Your Personal Trainer?

Some trainers may also solicit nutrition or rehab advice, but unless they have qualifications to do so, you should seek out a physical therapist and a dietitian to be part of your team. Dietitians can help you create a personalized plan to fit you and your needs, in addition to helping you find safe supplements if you choose to use any. It’s within their scope to give a ‘nutrition prescription’. Unless a trainer has a degree in nutrition and credentialing, they aren’t equipped or qualified to give advice on food or supplements. It doesn’t matter how much they’ve read about nutrition or any other certifications they may have online or through a fitness program. Nutrition is a science (far beyond what macros you should eat) and exercise science is also a real area of expertise (far beyond how much you should lift for nice biceps). It’s important that these experts come together, support one another and refer back and forth as needed to best support the client. And, much like nutrition, every person needs an individualized approach to fitness, so if your trainer has you on the same program that they did because it worked for them, you may want to reconsider.

Please know that most trainers are absolutely qualified, kind, and provide excellent guidance when exercise is the topic. Working with certain trainers has changed my entire fitness routine, for the better! I enjoy working with someone I can learn a lot from – both in proper form, new fitness ideas, as well as exercise science. I receive newsletters from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) through whom I hold my own fitness certifications and love the articles they present – information on physiology, movement and kinesiology as well as working with clients who are overweight or obese, elderly, pregnant, new to the gym or have specific needs such as diabetes or arthritis. Attending their IDEA conference this past summer where I spoke about trends in plant-based nutrition was incredible. I’m so excited about the future of fitness.

I really enjoy trainers that work in group fitness settings as well. I’m currently doing F45 but I have posts up about my experience doing OrangeTheory, Soul Cycle, Tabata and Crossfit. In these settings, I love a trainer that’s constructive, funny, a stickler for form and keeps motivation high through authentic coaching. Too much yelling, cheering and “one more rep” just doesn’t work for me. I also feel really comfortable letting them know that making comments about earning food through working out and other disordered-related comments isn’t appropriate. And often, they agree and reflect on how they’re communicating with their clients. Trainers in the group fitness setting are so important as fitness trends move more in this direction. I’d love to know what you enjoy (or not) about group fitness instructors?

Should You Fire Your Personal Trainer?

People seek out trainers for help getting more fit and leading a more active lifestyle, so look for one that will support you, build you up, and make you feel awesome. Read on to find out if you should fire your personal trainer or if you have a keeper.

Should you fire your personal trainer? 

Yes, If:

  • They say negative things about your body or hurt your feelings
  • They are working out of their scope (prescribing diets and supplements or helping you with rehab if they aren’t properly certified)
  • You ever feel uncomfortable around them (for any reason)
  • They touch your body without permission
  • Their workouts leave you unbearably sore -OR- they’re not challenging you (after you have discussed either of these scenarios with them)
  • Your workouts are unplanned and “on-the-spot” (discuss this with your trainer as well)
  • Your trainer is late on the regular, talking to other folks, not paying attention or on their phone during your sessions
  • They keep you on their agenda, not your own
  • They’re not militant about form. Form is everything.

How to know you’ve got a keeper:

  • You look forward to meeting with your trainer
  • You feel respected by your trainer and you respect them
  • They refer out when needed
  • You are challenged and continue progressing and improving
  • You are treated as an individual and your goals have been taken into consideration
  • Your workouts are planned and organized
  • Your trainer pays close attention to you when you’re working together

What do you think? Do you agree? Should you fire your personal trainer? Have you had good or bad experiences with a trainer of your own?

Let me know in the comments!

1 Comment

  1. Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health on September 24, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    i have never really worked with a personal trainer but it bugs me when they start prescribing nutrition tips (without any evidence based practice). Definitely, not someone who is degrading you.

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Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO

An award-winning, nationally recognized nutrition expert and media spokesperson.

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