The Role of a Trainer – How Far Does It Go?

We made it to Nashville safely last night!  We are spending today with Chris’ extended family.  This is the first time they are meeting Emmalyne!  I am going to enjoy this precious family time and leave you with an awesome guest post by my FitFluential friend, Caitlin from Cait Plus Ate!  You might remember that she and I teamed up to write about what our wonder vitamins would be 😉


I am so excited to be blogging for Madeline today! I adore reading about her and her little family. I’m a sucker for Emmalyne photos, as well as her Sweat 2 Street updates! I wish her luck in her big move and hope that you enjoy reading what I have to say today.

            I heard a story from a friend recently that really bugged me. She doesn’t want me to give names, including the name of the gym where this experience happened, so I will not be doing so. But it made me ask myself the following question: How far does the role of a personal trainer go? In other words, does a trainer have obligations beyond those in his or her technical work description (the schedule followed, the types of training given, the gym’s rules and regulations, etc)?

My friend and her mom signed up at a gym that gave them each two personal training sessions for free with each membership. During the mother’s first session, her trainer asked her what her biggest problem areas are when it comes to working out. What areas got in her way the most? The mom came up with a response easily – motivation. She has major trouble staying motivated and it is very easy for one little slip-up or hiccup in a workout routine or plan to de-rail her for good.



It came time for the second training session, but something came up, and my friend’s mom had to cancel a little less than 24 hours ahead of time. The gym’s policy is that any personal training session cancelled in that window still had to be paid for – or, in the case of this free session, was forfeited by the new gym member. Mom attempted to ask for an exception and reschedule, but the trainer simply quoted the policy again and refused.

Discouraged but not completely done, my friend’s mother still went to the gym to get a workout in during the time she had tried to reschedule the training session for. She saw the trainer there that had refused her. What is the problem with that? While working out, she watched that trainer sit around and do absolutely nothing. Yes, the trainer was following the gym’s policy by not allowing the session to be rescheduled. But it was cancelled very close to the 24 hour deadline (i.e. not EXTREMELY last minute). And – this is the biggest issue to me – my friend’s mom had shared with the trainer that staying motivated is her BIGGEST issue when it comes to sticking with a workout routine. I don’t now about you, but the loss of my second personal training session and subsequently seeing my trainer choosing to sit around doing nothing during a shift instead of training me – in other words, using the gym’s policy as an excuse to slack off at work – would really put a damper on my motivation.




Remember, my friend’s mom is new to the world of fitness and really needs these sessions to learn effective and safe exercises. She’s not an experienced gym-goer just looking for a new routine, like many of the readers of Madeline’s blog may be. She needs some guidance as she’s getting started out, and the feeling that the guidance is inaccessible, and that the person who can give her access just doesn’t care, has understandably made it tough for her to get excited about going back to that gym and work out. All this leads to my initial question – does the trainer have an obligation, or should he or she feel obligated, to go beyond coming to work, going through the motions to get paid, and go home? I’m not suggesting an all-out disregard for gym policies. But perhaps a supervisor could have been asked for an exception. Heck, at least make an effort to search for something that can be done outside of the black-and-white rulebook!



It’s not just about physical training, though that is what a trainer’s certification is for. Like it or not, the mental stuff plays a huge role. There seems to be a serious flaw in a relationship with a physical trainer if that trainer is not providing emotional support as well. The problem is, the job description and the rulebook doesn’t certify the trainer in or state any motivational techniques. So is it up to him or her to go beyond the basics and be motivating and encouraging to clients, even if the gym’s policies don’t outright say so? I think the answer is yes. As soon as you take on the responsibility of training someone, you are there to do what you can to aid him or her in getting into an effective, consistent workout routine. A trainer cannot make a point of asking someone what his or her biggest obstacle is in getting to that point, and then not be expected to do anything with that information once it is shared.

I’m hoping at this point I’m making sense, and that you can understand my point of view on this.


What do you think, oh loyal readers of Madeline? Agree, disagree, or in between? 

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Madeline @ Food, Fitness, and Family

Healthy living blogger sharing my love of yummy eats, sweaty workouts, and my sweet family!

16 thoughts on “The Role of a Trainer – How Far Does It Go?”

  1. As a trainer, I have to chime in and say there is a reason for the 24 hour cut-off. If you cancel and I don’t get anyone to fill your spot I don’t get paid. During busy times of year (like Christmas) there are tons of cancellations and I don’t make any money.

    Buuuut, I do let everyone have 1 “freebie” where they can cancel less than 24 hours in advance and I just make sure they know the policy for next time. Stuff comes up, I get it. I would rather train someone and help them then be a stickler!
    RunEatRepeat recently posted..Trader Joe’s TuesdayMy Profile

    1. I am also a trainer and I agree with Monica. There are things that come up with people and sometimes they should be forgiven, but when you get to work and have everyone cancel, you don’t get paid and that sucks! I also think that if the trainer was just sitting there and there was a potential client that wanted to see her, I would have definitely trained her again. I don’t know how the gym works there, but in mine, it’s like your own business and you have to go get the clients, so you would think your friend’s mom would have been a great opportunity. I can see it from both sides I guess.
      Ali recently posted..Food Sensitivity TestingMy Profile

      1. Thanks for responding you guys! I do totally understand the cancellations being a huge pain to trainers. It was the whole trainer-sitting-around part that got to me!
        Caitlin recently posted..Busy BloggerMy Profile

  2. I can see both sides of this issue. When I first started working out I got 4 free sessions at my gym. The trainer that I was assigned to all the sudden quit and no one was available to pick up the slack. The Manager of the Trainers took me on instead. We’ve been working together for 5 years now and I consider him one of my best friends.

    Through this we’ve worked together at a corporate gym, a gym where he pays a fee to train at and where I pay him, and now that I have a baby he trains me at home or the local track.

    All this backstory is for the sheer fact that my biggest issue was also motivation but that I have seen the real ins and outs of gym trainers and outside the gym trainers.

    I agree with Monica, it’s hard to just give away a freebie session, would your friends mom be interested in purchasing a traiing package? I think if that were the case she should go to the supervisor/manager and explain, that she was interested in purchasing but really wanted the 2nd session and if there was any way to work things out?

    The other side is that gyms give out a lot of theses sessions and a lot of times people never get serious, and I am the first to say never give up on anyone, but from my experience sometimes the trainers can get a little burned out by this.

    Lastly, maybe this trainer isn’t right for her. Maybe again talk to the supervisor/manager, see if there is someone else that she can work with. If she is interested in purchasing a package, but maybe try that freebie with another trainer that she might work better with.

    When I first started training with my trainer, some days he wouldn’t be able to be there because of corporate meeting, etc.. and those few times I trained with someone I got a long with that was a person at the gym, but as my trainer she and I did not work together well at all. I think it is really important to find that person that you can work well with. I just got lucky!

    Whew, that was long winded, good luck with your friends mom!
    Kelly @ Cupcake Kelly’s recently posted..April Photo a Day, Week 2My Profile

    1. Thanks Kelly, I love long comments! Don’t think of it as long-winded!! 😀
      I do definitely think there was a compatibility issue to start with my friend’s mom and this trainer. She said sometimes she felt like the trainer didn’t really understand her “newbie to working out” perspective. Maybe if she had, she would have acted differently about the cancellation to!
      Caitlin recently posted..Busy BloggerMy Profile

  3. I know a lot of trainers in the industry (and hope to become one myself) but it generally is a rule that trainers need to abide by for a various amount of reasons that others have pointed out.

    I also think it’s very dependent upon the gym/facility. If you are going to a trendy/commercialized gym, they stick to policy. However, if you’re going to a smaller gym that focuses on personal training, they’re likely more flexible with scheduling. A trainer can only do so much when they have to respond to a higher authority. While at home trainers or one on one gyms can be quite pricey – the trainee is more likely to get their money’s worth out of the experience. It’s a tough industry because while a trainer does want to encourage both physical and mental health for their clients, they’re often held back by the powers that be!

    I wish your friend’s mom all the best as she continues her journey to a healthier lifestyle!
    Maria @ Pappa Don’t Preach recently posted..The most Wonderful Adventurous Monday EVERMy Profile

    1. In every job we have conflicts between our values and what who we work for sets as “rules”. I find that every day at my job! Maybe this trainer is feeling the same exact thing. I’m sure when you’re a trainer who is self-employed, you can be flexible in your policies. But it’s hard to make it that way so being employed by a gym is often the most sensible thing. And in that case – you want to keep your job!
      Caitlin recently posted..Busy BloggerMy Profile

  4. Interesting! I guess it depends why the trainer became a trainer. In my opinion, they should take the extra step to motivate people. I LOVE when I see trainers on the floor of a gym helping out regular members not paying for private training. That’s their job, to be there for the members.
    Meredith @ DareYouTo recently posted..WIAW: Love Grown and the LibraryMy Profile

    1. I love that too! It gives me a better impression of the gym as well. I think it’s smart for a gym (from a business standpoint) to encourage that kind of behavior from their trainers because it really makes clients feel cared about.
      Caitlin recently posted..Busy BloggerMy Profile

  5. My trainer just today shared that they had a client no-show 3 times (!) for their initial free session. The client finally showed up the 4th rescheduled time, and my trainer put them through an extra hellish interval workout. THAT’s the way to train! :)
    Janene recently posted..Staying Safe: Recognizing Heat IllnessMy Profile

    1. HAHA wow! I can’t believe that trainer suffered through 3 no shows, I have to say I would TOTALLY understand a trainer not letting someone have their session even after one no-show, at least call first! Common courtesy! And I’m such a sucker for tough HIIT that I’d be tempted to no-show even more so that the trainer would kick my ass again…JK :)
      Caitlin recently posted..Busy BloggerMy Profile

  6. I agree with you completely. I am the same as your friend’s mother. Motivation is sometimes the hardest part of working out. It would be different if the trainer didn’t have this information. Since he did, he should have tried to work something out. I am sure that a lot of gyms want to make sure the person comes back. Maybe if they had done something, she would have paid for more sessions. Fitness is 90% mental. He should have at least tried to do something to help her out.

    1. Yeah I think it’s a good part of a long-term business plan to consider these types of things! Less money up front, but in the long run my friend’s mom may have paid for more sessions with this trainer. Now if she tries again she’ll prob seek out someone else. I do have to keep in mind that the trainer lost $ on this session, I know, but to just sit around and let her watch him/her do that isn’t smart!
      Caitlin recently posted..Busy BloggerMy Profile

  7. As a certified personal trainer myself, I both agree and disagree with this post. I do everything I can to get my clients on the schedule. We have cancellation policies at our gym, but we do make exceptions. The policies are there for the clients that abuse cancellations and no-shows, as these things directly affect our income and ability to schedule other clients, and my boss typically leaves it up to us to determine when we need to inforce the policy. Of course, the more you choose not to inforce the policy, well…whatever you do for one, you sort of have to do for another if they catch wind. Had I been the trainer in your story, I wouldn’t be sitting around. I’d be training your friend’s mom.

    Regarding your comment about trainers providing emotional support as well…I disagree with your emphasis on the absolute necessity of this. That’s not to say I don’t support my clients with encouragement and motivation, but I’m not trained to deal with deeper emotional struggles pertaining to weight loss and body image, etc. That’s what therapists are for. They’ll do a much better job of it than I ever could. I can, however, talk you through a basic lack of motivation and help you overcome frustration with plateaus. Remember, as a trainer, I am here to train you. It’s my job, and you’re paying me to do it. There are certain limits to my expertise, and asking me to go above and beyond those limits is setting yourself up for a potential disservice.

    We trainers can only be so responsible for one’s success in and out of the gym. I stress this to my clients as well. I’m here to help, but only you can do the work.

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