The Personal Training Industry is (Mostly) a Minefield of Sleaze

There’s plenty of benefits to hiring a personal trainer but watch where you step. You’re about to walk into a minefield of sleaze dominated by commission-based sales sharks posing as fitness coaches.

Finding a personal trainer that genuinely cares about your goals and takes the time to design personalized programs is a rarity these days. Why? Big commercial gyms have corrupted the fitness industry.

Luckily, between Campbell River and Comox/Courtenay, BC, we’ve got plenty of independent gyms with big hearts and decent trainers. However, as this town continues to grow, larger chain gyms will inevitably move in and crush the smaller ones.

Look, I get it – that’s capitalism. But what you might not get, is that the quality of service and the experience of the personal trainers and staff in these larger gyms are typically garbage. We’re talking the McDonald’s of fitness here.

Don’t believe me? It’s already happened in Nanaimo with the arrival of Planet Fitness and their aggressive $10/month plans. The smaller gyms have lost a lot of their members to them, despite their rookie trainers with certifications that may as well have come out of a cereal box.

We already have one brand name gym in Campbell River. It’s only a matter of time before even bigger gyms move in to compete and corrupt the local fitness industry.

Having worked at commercial gyms early in my career, I want to expose the sleazy sales tactics they use to help educate you on how to find an experienced, well-educated personal trainer that genuinely cares about your success. Pay attention so you don’t become a victim.

How Big Gyms Survive Charging $10 Per Month

First of all, no gym can survive charging ten dollars a month for memberships. To make up for it, personal trainers work under tremendous sales pressure. All commercial gyms depend on their trainers’ success as salespeople, less so as health professionals.

In such a sales-dependent environment, even the most well-intentioned trainer doesn’t have the time or skill to nurture you with customized care. The priority is to lock you into a personal training contract which often pits trainers against each other to earn commissions and sales quota bonuses.

Acting more like used cars salespeople, these so-called fitness professionals use high-pressure sales tactics and psychological warfare to lock desperate out-of-shape people into expensive, long-term gym contracts with substandard service.

Leveraging Your Insecurity and Vulnerability to Make a Sale

Let’s talk about those free consultations gyms offer. What should be an hour of exploratory discussion, empathetic listening and a thorough physical assessment often becomes a quick body-shaming session.

A sales-focused trainer will look for the first opportunity within the conversation to exploit your vulnerabilities of feeling fat, weak, and/or depressed. Trainers commonly manipulate potential clients with elaborate promises, embellished success stories, and getting them to envisioning a miserable future unless they sign that contract.

Here’s another manipulative trick: point out all your movement flaws as if you’re the only person in the world who can’t squat properly or move a joint through its full range of motion. The reality is, most people off the street can’t squat perfectly or demonstrate 100% range of motion in at least one of their joints. There’s nothing like making you feel like a freakish monster to get your signature on the dotted line.

Some trainers may even treat you to an excruciating intro workout. By making people feel horribly out of shape in front of other gym-goers, clients will often sign up for personal training out of shock and embarrassment. The post-workout endorphins and emotional high also helps put the pen to paper.

That Special Offer Isn’t Special. You’re Getting Played.

Gyms expect every potential client to object to the cost of personal training. So trainers and managers often dramatize a pricing negotiation to make you think you’re getting the deal of a lifetime.

Here’s how it works. Once you’re shown the price and freak out, the trainer leans in and whispers that he can try asking his boss to make a special deal. After disappearing for a few minutes to seemingly argue behind the glass, the big boss comes over and reluctantly knocks off hundreds of dollars. But there’s a catch. You can’t tell anyone what a great deal you got otherwise head office will find out and everyone is in trouble.

Next thing you know, you’re bragging to everyone and they’re suddenly running in to get the same deal too.

Sales Over Quality

The majority of the personal training industry is focused on sales and less on the quality of the coaching.

Big gyms devote a lot of resources to train their trainers on how to manipulate the sales process. These same gyms also tend to invest little in their trainer’s fitness certifications. The ones that do, typically offer self-serving, self-branded courses and certifications. Any legitimate degree, diploma, or certification a trainer wishes to pursue is their own financial burden.

At most franchised or commercial gyms, the quality of the trainers is secondary to their ability to make sales. That’s why you’ll find a lot of jocks and high school kids with entry-level personal training certifications in these environments. With little education and experience, they’re easy to groom and control.

Your Personalized Training Program is a Sham

In order to save time and stay focused on sales at big commercial gyms, many personal trainers take shortcuts writing exercise programs. Some will use downloadable, generic templates or just reuse old ones from previous clients. If you’re new to exercise, this approach can still provide results because any exercise is better than no exercise. However, in terms of providing the best possible service, it falls short.

Some of the big gyms won’t even let their trainers write fitness programs for clients. Instead, they provide pre-written exercise plans from head office. This is because their trainers aren’t qualified or knowledgeable about how to write even the most basic exercise program.

At the very worst, the laziest of trainers will improvise their workouts based on what a client says they feel like doing when they walk through the door. Unbelievable, and yet I’ve seen at least one trainer like this at every gym I’ve ever worked.

By ignoring your unique goals and abilities, these generic one-on-one training sessions are no better than joining a group fitness class or using an exercise app where everyone does the same workout. You’re just paying quadruple for it so you can talk to someone about your weekend between sets.

In my opinion, selling personal training without genuine personalization is a breach of trust and the contract.

Where To Look for a Good Personal Trainer

Want the best personal trainer in Campbell River? Shop around! Look for independent boutique gyms or personal training studios run by passionate health professionals with lots of experience and credentials. Not sure if their qualifications are legit? Look them up. A diploma or degree takes a hell of a lot of effort and brains to earn versus a weekend X-fit certification. 

Research potential trainers on social media. Do they post valuable health and fitness tips and celebrate their client’s successes? Or is their Instagram full of vain selfies and gimmicky promos? Are their 5-star reviews legit or written by friends and family? Use your common sense.

What a Legitimate Consultation Should Include

A thorough consultation should start with a two-way discussion about your goals and challenges and the trainer’s abilities to fulfil them. A competent personal trainer should ask about your health history, nutrition, and lifestyle. He should assess your gait, posture, body composition, blood pressure, fitness level, and joint functions. Anything he discovers that’s less than optimal shouldn’t feel like body shaming.

Use your intuition. Does this trainer actually care about helping you or is he gung-ho to make a sale? Is he listening empathetically and taking notes?

Ultimately, you have to determine if your new trainer is capable and willing to write a custom program that accommodates your unique goals and abilities and fits your schedule and budget. So ask him how he plans on writing you a unique program based on everything he’s discovered during your assessment.

Don’t sign any contract unless you’ve been given a solid game plan. If anything feels off, move on. You’re not obligated to pay for anything after a consultation.

Trainer’s That Demonstrate Value Can Sell Without Selling

If a personal trainer shows value, the sale will happen effortlessly – no sleazy sales tactics required. Pressuring clients into personal training contracts just leads to misery for both parties. Just as no client wants to feel stuck and obligated, no trainer wants to get stuck with clients who are half-committed or resentful.

If you’re looking for the best personal trainer near Campbell River, shop around carefully. Look for independent gyms with self-employed trainers that have substantial experience, education, and reviews that demonstrate their passion and skill.

Good luck in achieving your health and fitness goals!

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