This issue comes up often in lay magazines and other venues: how do you choose a personal trainer?
Actually, this could also be asked as to how you choose a massage therapist, a psycho-therapist, or even a doctor. In other words, any time you seek the any service provider from gardener to house cleaner to surgeon, most of us go by some version of a personal referral via a friend, neighbor, colleague, or trusted medical provider. Granted, sometimes you google ‘personal trainer’ or ‘yard man’ (in the old days you looked in the yellow pages but that’s so…passe.) Maybe you make calls and inquire about certain aspects – hours, days, cost, even qualifications. Sometimes the trainer even answers questions re the prospect’s fitness needs/goals/abilities. while we rarely if ever get to speak with a doc or lawyer prior to setting an actual appointment time, most other service providers often give away some of their time to establish a personal relationship early on as a form of soft marketing. So be it.
What inspired my blogging about this has to do more with the way I believe trainers should engage with clients, prospective or on-going. You see, it is our job to facilitate lifestyle change along the lines of our stated expertise – fitness – and to make claims beyond this – such as in diet, rehab, etc – borders on ethical violations that could be prosecutable. Now this is not to say a highly qualified trainer with lots of experience and training and education cannot help folks with their overall dietary plan or their post-injury recovery. We all do, even those less qualified to do so, but the ice thins out the further one walks toward the center of the lake. In other words, many of us start to reach the point of incompetence the more we strive to offer assistance and guidance.
Several times in my 27 yr career I have fielded a call from a prospect and even tho I’m not getting paid for it, I inquire about goals, interests, needs, etc much as I would during the for-pay initial assessment. I do so to engage the client in a personal manner and to get a beat on what the client is reallllly looking for. It is not unusual for me to refer elsewhere- to an RD or an ART practitioner or a doctor – prior to suggesting we have a more formal meeting for a price. I emphasize this for the following reason: while I am in this field to make a living doing what I love to do, I am also in this field to dispense reliable information based on the research. Thus, when a person shares something about their condition, it enables me to share some thoughts as to whether or not I can be of assistance, and where he/she might go to find the help they need.
Thus it was recently that a woman called with a very specific set of goals and some limiting factors that, with further questioning, made me suggest she join a big box gym. As I told her, I make my money training folks but you don’t really need that….at this time. She was quite satisfied with my frankness and agreed that a big box gym would more than likely meet her various interests and limitations. Did I lose a client…or gain a trusted future client and/or referral source?
All I know is, had I accepted her as a client, she would have persevered the length of her training package and never returned. STEPS is a great venue for personal training and trainers, but not everyone needs or really wants, let alone can comfortably afford, a personal trainer. We often don’t get a chance to try out a massage or psychotherapist; we probably can’t even get much conversation time with many of prospective providers; and some are all about the sale. If you are serious about looking, do the opposite of what i do and you ask the questions, share the info about yourself that is not sensitive, and get a beat on what the trainer can really do for you. It’s not about the money if the experience is beneficial on many levels; it’s about the overall experience itself. Fitness is the one gift that keeps on giving but it’s yours for the asking.