Trainers – My Biggest Frustration This Week

You know what this world needs? Trainers who are realistic. Not all of us want to be fitness models. Or obsessed with working out. Or giving up ALL good foods. For some of us, food is a celebration. And we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for having a piece of cake for our niece’s first birthday, or pizza and beer during March Madness. Sure, eating less bread is realistic. But giving up all bread, and rice, and potatoes, and fruit isn’t really realistic for some people. In fact, I feel like you can eat everything in moderation. The problem is, trainers seem to be all or nothing. At least my experience with them. And many of those same trainers are hypocrites. Telling us, who struggle with weight, to give up all “bad foods” (we’ll get back to this definition shortly) all the time. When they indulge more than we do when we’re eating “just OK” by our standards. The truth is, many of us are eating very well all the time. But if someone asks what we could do better, of course there will always be something.

The problem is, if we want to develop a lifestyle, we have to be realistic. Sure I don’t need cake or cookies every single day. And if I don’t make the foods off-limits, there are often times I go without sweets for a week. But I don’t want to be made to feel guilty when I have a piece of cake. Or one of my mom’s oatmeal cookies. If you had her oatmeal cookies, you’d understand. Is it bad to associate food with happiness? Maybe, but it’s what I’ve done my whole life. My problem isn’t eating for celebrations. Well, except Chex mix at Christmas, I DO have a distinct problem with that. My problem is eating when I’m upset, or stressed, or my newest revelation: embarrassed.

And here’s the other problem. If you do everything in moderation, you aren’t victim of a fad. I try to eat as natural of food as I can, within reason. I have a hard time finding grass-fed beef where I live. So I limit my red meat because of that. But I can get hormone-free chicken. So I try to buy that about half the time. The other half, I end up eating the chicken I could pick up conveniently. Or was on sale for a ridiculous price. Same thing with organic fruits and vegetables. I know less pesticides is good. But I also know a lot of “organic” farmers who aren’t actually organic. So I try to go organic on some foods, like the current list of worst foods. But I also get those same fruits and veggies elsewhere if they’re on sale, or more convenient – meaning I wouldn’t probably go buy organic, and the non-organic fresh foods are probably better (at least according to me) than a box of processed junk. I rarely buy anything pre-made. I do buy whole wheat bread and pasta. But I try to make my own bread (about 1/3 of the time). I almost never buy pre-made dessert foods. It’s hardly worth the calories. But I will occasionally make something homemade and indulge in a few. Then freeze or pass them on to someone else. The problem is, every year the list of “bad foods” changes. And I feel like over-indulging in a food currently deemed good could be my undoing when it’s later found to be not-awesome. See: margarine.

But that’s not what this article is about. Well, not really. My problem is trainers. I used to wish I could afford one. Now I look at the services offered to me when I do splurge and wonder what the big deal is. First, they always, always, always under-estimate me. Even when I say I have been working out regularly for two years. Even when I tell them the thing I do, like 125 pound full form squats. For five sets of five reps. They gaze through me like I probably don’t know how to count the weight on my barbell, or how low a full-form squat actually is. They assume I can’t run for more than 20 seconds. Is my run slow? Yes. But it’s that slow even at 25 pounds lighter. Trust me. I ran at that weight, too. They assume I don’t know enough about weight lifting to do anything more than the machines. And they assume I’m going to clear my calendar for twice a week workouts, which they won’t commit to. Listen, I (emphasis on I) bought time with you. Tell me when you’re available. Let’s set some times.

This week I’ve had unfortunate experiences with two trainers.

First, I bought training time at a discount with a guy whose bootcamps I’ve attended. I thought I liked him. And I was impressed with his pre-training assessment. Until it became clear he didn’t read it. Or any of the emails I’d sent. Annoying.

Then I tried to setup times. He didn’t respond for three days. Then HE’S annoyed with me when he does respond and the one day he chose has filled up.

Look, this isn’t my life. I have social stuff going on. I’m telling you to tell me what my options are and I’ll block them off. And, honestly, my email last night was the last one I’ll send to him. If he doesn’t respond, I’m taking a loss on the time I’ve bought. I don’t want to workout with him. And I won’t give him a glowing review, or ever consider buying his time at full-price. If this is his career, he needs to be more professional, organized, and understanding. I have a life, I have friends, I have a job, I have family. I am NOT going to clear off every single night of my life for a night he MIGHT be free for training. No thanks.

The other trainer was the “free sessions” trainer at the gym I joined. I only accepted the free training because I was told it was required for access to their workout tracking system. Which was touted to be “SO COOL.” Yeah, it’s not that cool. It’s cookie-cutter. And impossible to manipulate. And can only be used at one location of their gym. Great purchase.

All I tell him is, “I don’t like machines. I don’t do weight machines, treadmills or elliptical. They don’t work for me. I’ve tried them. I feel more motivated and accomplished to run outside. Or to do an ACTUAL bench press or squat.” What’s he do? Tells me I should warm up on the treadmill. Then takes me to an EFFING MACHINE! I do not lie. Luckily that machine was taken, but he informs me, “Trust me, you’ll like it once you try it.” Do you understand I said I DON’T DO MACHINES!?!? We go on to do one actual free weights move. It was great. He watched my form. Got so much out of it. Then he takes me to ANOTHER machine. At this point, I say, “I’m not looking for isolation. I’m looking for better overall strength. Wouldn’t it be better to do REAL bench press?” He explains how actual bench is harder because you’re stabilizing, etc. And then he says, “Huh. I guess you’re right.” Shrugs and moves on. That’s my point, BRO. (He’s totally a guy who calls his friends bro.) I want to be STRONG. I want strength I can use in everyday life. I WANT that balance. I want that stability.

But he didn’t relent. And was annoyed with me. So I did the dumb machine. And hurt my elbow. Great. Thanks for that.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to spend two hours a day in the gym like he’s suggesting. He totally discounted what I wanted to do and what’s been working for me. Instead of offering simple tweaks or small changes or upgrades to my workout, he wants to change it to 1. Something I don’t want to do, so I won’t and 2. Something drastically different than what I’ve been doing and like.

I told him the reason I was coming to him, honestly, was because I wanted access to the software. But he probably wasn’t listening to that, either.

Are trainers taught not to listen?

Look, I know I’m overweight. And I am TRYING to work on that. Honestly, I probably need counseling or something similar to help me deal with over-eating when I’m unhappy or stressed or embarrassed. I need someone who can help me verbally express how I’m feeling, instead of feeling like my emotions are “crazy” or not valid or over-reacting. Probably if I’d do that, I’d eat a lot less. The problem is, there are so many therapists out there, and it’s so hard to figure out WHO to pick. Or figure out if insurance covers their services.

And the people I’ve talked to act like it’s simple willpower. Clearly, they’ve never had food issues. I don’t WANT to be overweight. I don’t WANT to eat to make my feelings go away rather than express them. And I also don’t want to be the girl who yells and cries every time she expresses herself. I choose to eat instead of doing that. But it’s hard to change. There’s a reason I don’t want to express how I feel. Part of it is I don’t want someone to know when they’ve hurt me. I don’t want to give the satisfaction. Other times, I feel embarrassed I’m upset. Or embarrassed I’m embarrassed. I feel like embarrassment stems from insecurity, and I don’t want to come across as insecure. Eating allows me this comfort.

And these trainers don’t get that. Probably because they don’t listen to anyone, and are so self-involved, they don’t care about anyone but themselves. And that’s honestly how I feel. And I feel sorry for them. But I also won’t give them my money. Or be manipulated to believe their way is better than what’s working for me. Or what I enjoy. In fact, the research I’ve done says my way is actually better. And I know it. But I don’t feel confident saying so because I’ve been taught to not be haughty. And I’ve been taught that since I’m overweight, my ways aren’t working. Even if the exercise part IS. It’s an onion of issues. But at the core, I know what I need to do. I just need help doing it. With someone other than these guys. Or anyone who thinks it’s not OK to be satisfied being a healthy weight. And living a moderate lifestyle.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dan Westford
    Mar 22, 2012 @ 23:52:52

    “You know what this world needs? Trainers who are realistic.”

    I would have a problem delegating food choices to anyone else. I like to form my own rules based upon the experts that I trust most: Esselstyn, Barnard, Campbell, and Ornish. The only person I trust to make lifestyle choices is me.

    “But he didn’t relent. And was annoyed with me. So I did the dumb machine. And hurt my elbow. Great. Thanks for that.”

    Gina Kolata in her book about exercise described how many of the “givens” about exercise were often created and echo’ed relentlessly by the huge market for exercise studios, equipment, and programs. The reality is, a human’s need for exercise is minimal. Excessive exercise is not beneficial and may be detrimental to many people. Sure exercise correlates with health, but that is not causation. The only real benefit is to the profitability of promoters.

    “Are trainers taught not to listen?”

    Most humans are taught not to listen. Certifications don’t help.

    “And the people I’ve talked to act like it’s simple willpower.”

    The concept of willpower has its appeal and sells a lot of self-help books and programs, however, losing weight has nothing to do with willpower.
    This is explained clearly in a book titled “The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force That Undermines Health & Happiness” by Dr. Douglas J. Lisle and
    Dr. Alan Goldhamer. This book explains the scientific research about pleasure, pain, and human addiction. Food is an addictive substance and there are paths out of the pleasure trap as it relates to food.

    “… living a moderate lifestyle.”

    Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. repeatedly says moderation kills. He points out that consumption of even small amounts of refined oils is damaging
    to a human vascular system. Sadly, our environment provides us with all the wrong clues. This I believe is leading us all toward the path of obesity.

    I agree with your assessment of trainers, however, I would also apply the same criticism to the mainstream medical establishment and dietary standards
    that have been manipulated by the food industry.

    Please consider reading a book by Dr. Dean Ornish titled “Eat More, Weigh Less.” It helped me lose 90 pounds without feeling hungry or deprived.


    • stumbletowardhealth
      Apr 10, 2012 @ 14:07:03

      Thanks for your reply, Dan.

      I agree people aren’t generally taught to listen. But those whose careers are built for customer service HAVE to listen. It’s part of their job requirements. But, like you said, a certification won’t make a bad listener a good one. Or, I guess more accurately, a certification doesn’t make someoen listen well. Most people who are good listeners have always been that way. Partially because of the way they were raised, and minimally because of their personality. But, mostly becuse they have self-control and care about someone other than himself. I’ve found inability to listen is highly correlated with a selfish personality.

      And I agree I’m going to make most fundamental choices like diet and fitness on my own. Setting my own standards, etc. I had done this prior to meeting with either trainer. Unfortunately, rather than listening to me (again with the listening) and building on my goals, they both assumed they knew me before they got to know me.


  2. Trackback: Here I Go Again On My Own « Stumbling Toward Health

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