Standing outside her apartment door, after the second ring of the doorbell, I decided to call her just in case I had got the date or time of our meeting wrong. After a few rings she picked up. Moments later the door opened and there she was, with her bright red hair, kind eyes and slightly nervous smile. She led me to the living room and we started talking about her goals and current health and fitness status.
Whenever I take on a new client, I first meet with them to establish their frame of mind, what their short and long term goals are and what their current levels of activity and their diet are like.
On this particular day I was meeting my new client and during our discussion she told me that she had tried to go to a few of the fitness classes in the gym in her building (where we would be working out together) but the personal trainer in situ had told her…
Wait for it…
“You need to lose some weight first.”
Never in my life have I had a first hand account of the way someone’s words can truly affect someone’s life. That simple, LOADED, sentence had, in effect, discouraged my client to such an extreme that she had almost given up. Months later, after working together, she lost her goal weight, felt less pain due to a chronic illness she suffered from and transformed before my eyes into a confident and happy woman, who even started wearing her sexy lingerie again.
Thank the heavens, that when she saw my advert on Facebook offering a Summer Special, she got in touch. To this day, I am convinced she didn’t come to the door that day because she was scared.
A part of being a personal trainer is having at least a general understanding of the state of the human mind and especially the insecurities that come with body image and confidence. Walking into a gym is no simple task especially for someone who has no prior experience, let alone physical ailments holding them back. Even if you are not a personal trainer, human beings as a whole need to be more empathetic towards others, for you can never know what effect your words may have on someone’s life. Sticks and stones are nothing in comparison to words.
There have been occasions when I have been working out, and someone (usually a man) comes to tell me to be careful or that I should rather be doing something another way; most of the time they are wrong. More often than not, I have actually just witnessed them doing something totally incorrectly. My husband is convinced it’s just an excuse to talk to me, but I take huge offence to it.
1. You could scare me away from the gym because of your comment
2. You are not qualified
3. There are people employed by the gym who are qualified (myself included)
4. I could be having a bad day from hell and you could make it worse
5. I could be shy and never come back or never try that exercise again in case of ridicule
There is also a way to speak to someone when addressing sensitive subjects, if you absolutely have to.
It’s like walking into a clothing store and being told “sorry ma’am, these are petite sizes only”. (True story)
The one time I was happy to take advice from someone was a man I used to see in my gym all the time either by himself or with clients, who would greet me every time he saw me. The one day he said to me “do you mind if I help you with something?”. I was putting too much tension in my traps so he taught me a nifty trick to stop doing it. Now that, although I felt a little embarrassed, I could get on board with. He was qualified and we already had some sort of relationship. He wasn’t some totally clueless, condescending, random, who felt the need to come tell me, 30 minutes into my workout, that he saw me doing something at the beginning, which I shouldn’t do, because he read it on a Facebook post or something.
You may think, that if someone you don’t know is doing something incorrectly or that could potentially hurt them, you should help them, but I disagree. You can cause more damage by making someone feel insecure, than by them doing a dodgy squat. There is a reason people are employed by a gym; to help people. It is also most likely the person will figure out their own error without you embarrassing them.
I used to instruct at an all ladies gym and 95% (at least) of the women came because they felt insecure and scared of mainstream gyms.
Simply put…The gym should be a safe place for people to go to to better themselves, free from judgement and criticism. Health, fitness & wellness is as much mental as it is physical and no one has the right to get in the way of somebody else’s journey.