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Idiots in the Gym – My Challenge to Personal Trainers

by Jonathan Goodman | Follow on Twitter

Do you laugh at some of the stupid exercises you see at the gym? Do you get frustrated by “idiots” who workout at your club? Jon challenges you to change your thinking about these “idiots”. It might just be the final piece to make you an unstoppable personal trainer.

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The Idiots

I was walking through my gym yesterday when I saw a couple idiots.  There were two to be exact and they were both being idiots irrelevant of the other one.  One of these idiots was walking on a treadmill while doing shoulder presses with 2 2.5lbs weights.  The other idiot was doing 1 lateral raise, taking a side step, and doing another lateral raise for a whole set.  Since I work at the gym and am privy to private information I can say that both of these clients goals were to lose weight.  One was male and one was female.

I’m lucky to work in a small gym where most of the clients have instruction from our great trainers.  Every once in a while though I step into a big box operation and my jaw drops.  IDIOTS! idiots everywhere.  Why are all these idiots doing squats on the BOSU ball?  Why are all these idiots doing 3 exercises for biceps? Why are all these idiots doing the plank for 3 minutes trying to beat their high score?

My question to other professionals

Yesterday I posed a question to my Facebook friends (if you’re not my friend already please add me


The answers

Needless to say that the results were astounding.  I’ve listed a couple below:

idiots-in-the-gymIt’s obvious that all fitness pros are frustrated by people doing improper exercises in the gym.  The above list is a very small sampling of stories I received.  The list goes on and on.  These are fitness pros from all over the world, not just North America so I can argue that idiots in the gym is a Worldwide epidemic.  I’m here to challenge you as personal trainers and fitness professionals.  I ask that you please take time to digest this post and think carefully about how you act.  With this info you have the ability to not only enhance your career but change lives.

Step 1.  THEY’RE NOT IDIOTS! (kids)

I cannot stress this point enough.  These people are not trying to exercise incorrectly and are not trying to act like idiots in the gym.  They are the result of either a lack of information of misinformation.  You laughing and making fun of them will not do any good and it de-values our profession so please stop.

Joining a gym is a daunting task and being successful in a gym is even more daunting.  A lot of fitness pros grew up healthy and active and seamlessly fell into the gym.  We are not the majority and have to realize how difficult it is for new clients, members of the gym, and even seasoned but not knowledgeable exercisers.

I always take the example of music because it’s an area that I’m completely illiterate in.  Let’s say that I wanted to learn to sing and had a horrible teacher so I constantly missed the notes.  Instead of music-literate onlookers helping me they snickered in the background and made fun of me on their forums.  I might never try to sing again for fear of embarrassment.

I was 15 when I first stepped foot into the local YMCA.  My armpits were sweaty, my legs were shaking, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how all of the big dudes at the gym thought I was an idiot.  My dream was to be able to lift the 20lbs dumbbells so I could lift in the “real man” area of the gym.  I was an idiot.  I did stupid things in the gym.  We all did.  Lucky for me I met some great mentors in those early days who helped me out and showed me the way of the iron.  They didn’t laugh at me and I stayed.  Now my goal is to help as many young kids feel confident in the gym as I can, anyway I can.

I challenge you to take the young kids in your gym and help them. If they’re doing an exercise improperly, teach them how it’s done and show them proper resources to help them grow.  Don’t laugh and snicker and don’t write about them in your blogs, forums, Facebook posts etc.  Our job is to motivate and empower.

Step 2.  THEY’RE NOT IDIOTS (adults)

Adults are just as, if not, more insecure than anybody else.  I’ve had clients who, at 65 years old, start exercising for the first time.  Can you imagine the lifestyle change?  What about the anxiety?  All it takes is one person looking the wrong way or saying the wrong thing to ensure that this person never steps foot in the gym again.

A phrase I hear all too often is “I need to work my way up to the gym”.  How A** Hat backwards is that? Have we really created an environment where the stated goal is to enhance fitness that people feel they are in too poor shape to take part?

I challenge you to treat every single person who walks through your door with respect.  Smile at them and ask them how their day is going.  Ask them if they need any assistance, not because you want their business, but because you want them to succeed.

Step 3.  Provide the best and most positive information you can.

I am lucky enough to have gotten to know some amazing infopreneurs in the last while.  Great info is available is massive quantities if you look in the right place.  The PTDC has a book list which is a good start but infopreneurs like Dean Somerset, Eric Falstrault, Nick Tumminello, Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore, Brad Schoenfeld, Bret Contreas,  Sam LeaheyNia Shanks provide weekly free info which rivals any book you can buy.  There are tons more and I apologize for missing people (I know I did) but please help out these great coaches by sharing and passing on their materials as much as you possibly can.  They are the good people.  They are the guys (and girls) who care enough to work tirelessly attempting to write (pun intended) this sinking ship we call a fitness industry.

If you are mentoring a young kid just starting out on their journey please show them the light.  Help them discover proper resources and appreciate researched material as opposed to marketing hype.

If you are working with an older adult I can promise that they have heard it all.  Help them separate fact from fiction and take your time to answer all of their questions in their entirety.

I challenge you to first understand what is fact and what is fiction.  Once armed with that knowledge spread the information to whoever will listen.  Show a child the way and clear up any misconceptions that an adult may have.

My solution

I didn’t stand by and laugh at the client doing a shoulder press on the machine and I didn’t snicker at the guy doing walking lateral raises.

Case 1: Once the women was done on the treadmill I caught her on her way out of the gym and made eye contact.  At that point I made sure to smile and introduce myself.  I asked her what her goals were and if she had a minute to chat.  Keeping the conversation very light I explained the concept of TEF (Thermic Effect of Exercise) and EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption) as clearly as I could.  I then explained the importance of getting the most bang for your buck during a workout and gave her a couple suggestions that would help.

At this point she became apprehensive.  She thought I was going to try and sell her personal training.  I shook her hand again and thanked her for her time.  I then made sure that she knew she could always ask me any questions she ever had and gave her my card as I walked away.

Case 2: After the man had finished his set of lateral raises I approached him and asked him about the exercise saying “I’ve never seen that before and I’m curious, are you training for anything in particular?”  He responded that he wanted to lose weight and was told this was a metabolic exercise.  I explained to him that “metabolic” is a term thrown around loosely and gave him a brief overview of calorie expenditure.  Again, I suggested a couple exercises and, after demonstrating them, gave him my card and told him he was welcome to ask me anything at any time.

What can you do?

First off, make sure that this client isn’t working with a trainer at your club. If they are then contact the trainer and speak with them. Usually the client feels insecure about their exercise and is ecstatic for your help. SO HELP THEM.

Approach them softly and gauge their reaction. If they are standoffish, leave them alone.

Always ask them what they are training for or what their goals are. I like to give them confidence when starting the conversation. Two of my favorite lines are:

“That looks like a really interesting exercise, are you training for anything in particular?”

“Cool exercise, what does it work?”

After making initial contact give them a brief lesson on exercise physiology pertaining to their goals.  It can be basic but shows that you’re a different type of trainer.  From there, offer a couple short suggestions to their routine.  They may ask you for more info or may not.  If they don’t make sure to give them your card and let them know that they are always welcome to ask you anything at any time.  Walk away….

How do I make the sale?

I’m not a salesman.  I have never made a hard sale in my life.  If that’s what you’re looking for then you’ve come to the wrong place.  Lots of sites on the internet will charge you a lot of money to teach you how to sell any client.  The PTDC is not one of those.  I do however have an incredibly dedicated clientele, constantly generate referrals, and have great relationships with all of my clients and a ton of members in the gym.  I make very good money, take great pride in what I do, travel often, and have the respect of my peers.  So if that’s what you want, here my advice:

Make relationships. Remember the clients name that you helped and make sure to say hi every time that you see them.  Introduce them to other members and staff.  Your success as a trainer hinges on Metcalfe’s Law (the value of a network increases with the number of nodes on that network).  By building great relationships with the client you helped you develop a reputation.  Over time (quicker than you think) those people you helped will approach you and ask to train.  No selling involved because they are already sold.  They like you and have been privvy to your value.

I challenge you to approach these clients and build a relationship.  In doing so you will not only be helping them but also be creating a dedicated client army ready to spread your gospel.

Be the change you wish to see in the world

Stop laughing, snickering, writing about, and making fun of “idiots” in the gym.  They are not idiots and you making fun of them will only drive them out of the gym into sedentary behavior.  Help them by offering advice and answering any questions.  Don’t push the sale as many potential clients will immediately group you in with the ‘evil fitness empire’.  Create relationships and develop your army.  You will be unstoppable as a trainer.

Have I changed your thinking?  Are you going to change your actions?  Please comment below and let me know your thoughts and, as always, please share using the buttons below.

About the Author
Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is the creator and head coach of the PTDC and has a distaste for third person bios ... Hey, I'm Jon and I'd have to say that this site is pretty awesome. Thanks for being here. If you're interested in my brand new book, it's called Ignite the Fire (revised, updated, and expanded). My team and I have also created the first Academy and certification for online trainers. Click here to check out the Online Trainer Academy.