Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Are personal trainers intimidating?

I recently received an e-mail from a friend who had been considering working with a personal trainer and wanted to know what she could expect. She had some hesitations and concerns, all of them valid, but one of her questions took me by surprise.

"My perception is that personal trainers only want to work with younger, already fit, size-12-and-unders who are serious athletes," she wrote. "I am none of those. Are personal trainers willing to work with a wide range of body types, fitness levels and physical challenges as long as the client has a doctor's OK, clear goals and is willing to put in the work?"

The answer to that question is a resounding YES! A good personal trainer should have the skills and desire to work with a variety of clients.

Her question, though, got me to thinking about the image that personal trainers present. Like everyone else, personal trainers come in different shapes and sizes, and to generalize would be a disservice to all.

But there's a saying in the personal-training business that your body is your best advertisement, and clearly there are plenty of trainers out there who flaunt what they have. My friend's question made me wonder whether it's truly a good business move. Could some of those rippling muscles be turning off more would-be clients than attracting them?

The answer to that is impossible to know, but I do think people who are trying to make changes in their lives and behavior might be more likely to succeed if they have as a role model someone who has, to some extent, been through what they've been through. One of the reasons I decided to get into personal training at the age of 51 is because I sense a lack of older trainers, at least in the gyms, who might better serve that "aging boomer" population we keep hearing so much about.

This is not to say, certainly, that a young trainer could not work quite well with older clients, or that an older trainer could not serve younger clients well, or that a trainer with a Mr. Universe physique could not inspire and help a client who is obese. Like any other profession, there are good trainers and bad, whether young or old, "ripped" or "average."

I suppose it is ultimately up to each person who seeks the services of a trainer to find one he or she can work and communicate well with and achieve positive results. It might not always happen on the first try.

To those of you who, like my friend, might feel a bit intimidated, I would offer this advice: Keep in mind that you are seeking a service, and trainers are there to provide that service. They are beholden to you. Make sure that they live up to your expectations and treat you with respect, whatever your goals and current state of fitness.

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