I posted a picture of an indolent trainer at one of my local gyms and it got all kinds of buzz on my Facebook page. My friend and fitness business owner Michael Munson wanted to share his two cents. He recognizes that typical health club trainers do not offer as strong of a service as an independent trainer or small studio owner….BUT…he does offer his advice on how gym owners can fix the problem and have a solid training staff.  Enjoy!  –Curtis



 We’ve all seen it, but most of us don’t know what to say or how to approach it. It sends shivers down my spine and annoys me to no
end. I see it every day and it seems to be spreading like wildfire. We wish we could ignore it but it’s everywhere. What am I talking about? Walk into any mainstream gym and you will know exactly what I mean.

They wear stop watches and whistles around their necks. They carry clipboards and hold onto their smartphones like it was an appendage. I’m referring to the proliferation of personal trainers (young and old) who spend $200 on an online PT course with one weekend of hands on training. Then, after taking a test my nine year old niece could pass, they are now “certified personal trainers”. But there is a big price to be paid when you hire one of these poorly educated fitness trainers. Below are just some of the ways these trainers are ruining our gyms and the reputation of the fitness industry. These are complaints and concerns heard by gym owners and people who hired inexperienced and overworked trainers in larger commercial gyms.

The trainers often look bored, overtired and lost. They never really listened to the needs of the client. They use the same machines and exercises day after day to train their trusting yet desperate clients. Most don’t have the important skills of assessment and functional training and put their clients in jeopardy every time they train them. They are busy checking their Facebook account or texting while their clients have way too much weight over their heads or are performing the worst exercise for their needs. Since there is a low level of accountability, they often overbook their sessions. They cancel sessions on clients too often.

They sit on a bench next to their client instead of spotting them. Most have no CPR or First Aid certification. They tend to dress like they are at a dance club with their designer jeans and many tend to look less fit then the clients they are training. Many have a “Biggest Loser mentality” which includes using outdated exercises and equipment and screaming at their already intimidated clients.

I must add that this can also be seen with trainers working in the field too long. They get burnt out and lose interest. The good thing is, both examples tend to be found in mainly big box gyms, although there are plenty of seasoned and highly trained fitness professionals there as well. The differences between large mainstream gyms and smaller private fitness centers can often be staggering. Obviously, the experiences and results had by members working with the trainers in these gyms can vary greatly too. I had the opportunity to experience working between two such environments only one block away from the other a few years back.

The larger gym boasted 5 levels of fitness rooms and over 35 “registered personal trainers” with a variety of training specialties. The smaller, private gym had two main rooms used for group cross training and although less than 10 trainers, they were all highly training and educated in fitness and sports medicine. The majority of trainers in the commercial gym had certifications from very small training companies. Those who focused on a niche market were pretty successful. Many people reported feeling lost in the immense gym and overwhelmed when faced with choosing a trainer.

I think it’s safe to say that many of the smaller private gyms, including those who focus on bootcamps, cross-training and personal training tend to be owned by active fitness professionals and tend to put a lot more emphasis on quality over quantity. Many tend to be more niche specific and clients can find what they are looking for easier than in many of the larger commercial gyms. Most private gyms expect their trainers to have a higher degree of education along with continued education. And to keep updated on CPR and First Aid.

I think it is so important that we as fitness business owners and trainers keep our selves physically and mentally fit and active and always open to learning. We are representatives of an incredibly important field.  How can a gym owner fix the problem?  How can a gym personal trainer separate themselves and stand out in these crowded gyms as a leading personal trainer and make a killing doing it?  Here’s a good place to start:

  • Don’t short change yourself on your education or certifications. Go with a reputable organization such as The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), or The National Personal Training Institute (NPTI). As a few examples.
  • Continuously educate yourself. Learn the latest relevant tools in assessment, program design and marketing. Never stop learning. Keep that hunger for personal growth alive!
  • Look like a professional. Look like a trainer. No ripped jeans and work boots. Invest in clean, pressed sporty attire. Wear shirts with your logo and consider giving them away to your more committed clients. Let them be a walking advertisement for your brand and business.
  • Set up a table at your gym or local business near the gym and have a “ask the expert” day. Give advice on fitness and offer free body fat screenings. Have them sign-in and send them special offers. Become the “go to guy/gal” and have confidence as you speak with people.
  • Be friendly and supportive all the time. Be approachable and maintain eye contact. Connect with as many people in the gym as possible. Remember names!
  • Keep up with your own fitness routine and nutrition. There’s nothing worse than an overweight or weak looking trainer. Again, look the part!
  • Pick a niche or two and market yourself as the expert in that area. “Weight loss for women over 40” and Strength training for men over 50” and “Speed Training for athletes” are a few examples.
  • Train the customer service staff at your gym for a reduced rate. Let them get a taste of your talents and they will be a more apt to mention you to new members looking for a trainer.
  • Hire someone to design a professional looking flyer and business card. Keep your business cards handy at all times.
  • Get a website with a blog and a good monthly newsletter. Have all your marketing material mention your website and newsletter. If you don’t have time to write your own blogs or newsletter, look into www.ultimatefitnessmarketing.com. and have it done for you for a great price.
  • Ask the gym manager if you can put your marketing material and special offers in their monthly mailers. Most gyms send out reminders to members whose memberships are about to expire as well as welcome packages to new members.
  • You need to constantly over deliver. Knock their socks off with not only great training but offer nutrition support and ongoing motivation and encouragement. Send them thank you and birthday cards.
  • Connect with other fitness professionals by connecting with them online with resources like Youtube, Facebook and fitness blogs.
  • Write articles for local publications.
  • Offer your discounted services to local hair salons, massage parlors and other businesses.
  • Connect with and create relationships with local doctors, including your own. Ask to put your newsletter in their office.
  • Join a Master Mind group with other gym owners and support each other with ideas and encouragement.
  • Invest in as many products you can that relate to bettering your knowledge and skills in the area of fitness and business. If you cannot afford to go to a fitness or business conference then take advantage of all the amazing digital programs online. They are cheaper and you can learn while in the comfort of your home.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to marketing and educating yourself and promoting your business and to help as many people as you can.

Personally, I love my job as a fitness trainer. I have been doing it full time for 12 years now and I have been in the health industry for 25 years. What trainers need to remember is that their client’s success is also their success. I’m constantly learning. And new information is coming out almost weekly regarding health, fitness and ways to market your business. Every year I focus on a new certification or a new style of fitness training and ongoing marketing skills.

You need to be passionate about this business. You need to wake up and feel excited about the opportunities it can bring. I think when you get to a point where you dread waking up or going to the gym, it’s time to take a break or re-think whether this is for you.

If you love this field and if you keep yourself physically, mentally fit and healthy and keep the momentum moving by always learning and keeping your mind and heart open, there are no limits to where we can take your personal training business or where we can go as a whole in the fitness field.

– Michael Munson

Owner, Thrive Fitness and Wellness