It seems that as often as once a month I run into another article being published in relatively well known/respected forums and promoted by relatively well known/respected fitness professionals sporting the ever popular and infinitely provocative title “5 Ways To Spot a Terrible Trainer”, or something along those lines. Yes, the title may turn the head of every young trainer or coach out there eager to make certain that they aren’t committing one of these fitness coaching faux pas like texting during a session, or drooling over the finely tuned under-aged vixen doing downward dogs on the mat next to their client.
This, in my opinion, is a cop out. In a field so muddied by misinformation with nothing more than a trainers own desire to provide the best service possible governing quality, you can spot any one of these “terrible trainers” by simply walking into any fitness facility. Looking for the negative in an industry with little to no quality control is like shooting fish in a barrel.
Besides that rather obvious point, why so negative in the first place? We are supposed to preach a positive outlook on fitness to those who’s only experience with health/fitness has been slathered in negativity. Besides, how would you go about choosing the best mechanic? Would you first weed out every mechanic that got horrible yelp reviews in hopes of someday landing on a decent review? Probably not. Who has that time? Wouldn’t you, instead, go looking straight for the best reviews, by someone who is known for their quality and completely disregard the majority of the individuals providing sub par services…probably. Why? Because the others just don’t matter and while pointing a finger at every trainer that would probably never steal your business anyway may get you likes on Facebook, it doesn’t serve to help those who need it most.
You cannot simply tell someone what not to do (or to look for) and not give them a better alternative. So, here are a few ways you can ignore the obviously bad trainers and skip right to the one that will provide you with the most enjoyable overall training experience. Not as sexy, I understand, but much more valuable, I promise.
Number 1: They have a clipboard near by
Now, I know the negative rap the typical globogym trainer gets with his/her tucked in shirt, shiny smile, perfectly manicured hands with a clipboard glued to them. I am in no way saying that this individual is the greatest trainer in the gym, but he’s on the right track. A clipboard, more importantly what’s on the clipboard, typically means the coach has thought about your session outside of the 60 minute window you have allotted to train. He/she has prepared a plan in some way or another, and cares enough to stick to it and adjust as needed. Obviously the quality of programming, progressions and on the spot tweeks is not evidenced solely by the possession of a clipboard but you would be surprised how many trainers go into a session and just wing it. Of course, the clipboard must leave the trainers hands at some point for actually coaching to take place. I myself, lose track of mine multiple times in a session because I move around alot while coaching. That brings me to my next point.
Number 2: They are always moving
It breaks my heart when I see a trainer standing off to the side or worse, behind their client, arms crossed with a disinterested look on their face. Constantly moving around during a session has many benefits to the client as well as the trainer.
First off, moving around constantly keeps your energy levels up allowing you to remain more engaged in the session. Additionally, If you don’t think it is important enough to move around with purpose, how can you expect your clients to move around with purpose? Movement inspires movement. No one wants to be put on display in the middle of the gym alone.
Secondly, constantly moving around your clients gives you the benefit of multiple vantage points to observe technique and subjective feedback. I typically find myself on the floor during a movement looking upside down at a client trying to get a more objective view of the big picture.
Coaches Tip: I find that something as simple as moving to the level of the of the action you hope to observe and looking at it sideways often leads to seeing things that you wouldn’t otherwise see when observing someone right side up. It helps separate the objective view from whatever preconceived notion you may have about a movement.
Number 3: They are always talking
This includes cueing as well as normal chatter. A good coach can always find a way to better each rep of every session. Not many clients are as in tune with their bodies as their trainer so it is important to constantly cue both negatives and positives in regards to technique on the spot. If a set goes by without the trainer uttering something besides the number of reps, something is up. Either the trainer doesn’t know what he/she is looking for in technique or they just don’t care. Neither inspires confidence to current clients or onlooking potential clients.
When cueing isn’t necessary a good coach will use that time to develop their relationship with the client. It should be typical to hear a coach ask about their clients’ family, children, school, friends etc. Besides filling empty down time, the effort of getting to know someone beyond the confines of a given session implies that the trainer actually cares about their clients physical and mental well being.
Overall, if there is an aura of silence surrounding a session, that’s not a session you want to be a part of. Unless silence is your thing, of course, but maybe you should go do yoga then. This is not to say that a trainer should always be talking TO their client, rather, WITH their client. This brings me to my next point.
Number 4: They are always listening
While constantly cueing and speaking with your client is great, young eager trainers often get caught up talking just for the sake of talking. With all the great information a coach has to offer, it’s easy to get caught up dumping too much info on someone. It is important that they make sure the client actually understands it. A good coach cues and makes sure the client understands the cue. They ask for constant feedback to what the client is feeling physically and mentally throughout the session and adjust accordingly. They never lose sight of the fact that the client is the most important factor in a training program, not the activity at hand.
Additionally, when making small talk the trainer should actually listen to the clients answers not continue on to another subject. It is extremely hard to remember every detail about 20 different clients’ life but the effort to do so goes a long way in making the client feel comfortable. A good coach remembers that most clients just need someone to listen to them. To hear their goals and understand them. To hear their problems and empathize with them.
Number 5: Their clients are happy
Every article I hope to counter with this piece seems to focus solely on the trainer/coach. What they do during a session. How they program. How they approach continuing education etc. Let’s not lose sight of why we do this in the first place. A good coach understands that their ultimate duty is to help better the lives of those they work with. It only makes sense then, to look at the only variable that truly matters…their clients.
Like I alluded to before. A trainers responsibility is to provide the best experience possible to each and every client. “Experience” differs between each and every client as well. One may just want results. Another may want to just have fun. Yet another may want to just become more comfortable moving around the gym.
Watch how their clients respond to the session. Are they happy during the session? Are they happy with where they are headed in terms of results? Ask them what they think of their experience in the locker room. A good coach knows their clients are walking billboards for their product and understands how to cater each experience to what the client actually hopes to get out of each session or program. He/she will never lose sight of the ultimate goal…to keep their client happy.
I don’t necessarily view the “best” trainers as the most educated or best programmers etc. None of that matters if he/she is not keeping their clients happy. The best trainers have their clients interests in mind and do all that they can to keep them happy with their experience.
My only hope for this article is to help change your perspective on things. Bad trainers/coaches are easy to spot. Don’t pay them any mind. Don’t fall into the trap of constantly looking for the negative in people. Look first for the positives and go from there.