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What Do Personal Trainers Deserve? A Beating?

November 5, 2015

I considered titling this article, “The Threat of a Beating with a Toilet Plunger and a Loaf of Bread,” or “Trainer Gets His Ass Kicked by a Senior Citizen.”  I thought “What Trainers Deserve”’ might be more appropriate.

I met a 72 year old man in the checkout line in Target last night.  I was buying organic raspberries (for my new favorite probiotic smoothie . . . but I digress . . . . ).

The man looked at my item and studied my Under Armor shirt.  “Raspberries.  Is that your dinner?  You must be a fitness nut or something.”’

“I do love fitness, and I have earned my living as a personal trainer, but no, I have never eaten raspberries for dinner, and as far as the “nut” part, it’s certainly open for discussion.”

His face took on a Jack Nicholsonesque quality as he grunted his disgust.

“A personal trainer?!?  You know what you deserve??  A beating!”

There was a moment of elevated heart rate inside my thoracic cavity.

Yes he was 72, but he was 6 feet tall, had perfect posture, and was wearing a motorcycle club jacket (with a label on the chest that said “Cal” which I assumed was his name but later thought it might have been an abbreviation for California), and I noticed he had a toilet plunger in his cart (not sure what relevance that has but if you let your imagine go it gets ugly).

“What did I ever do to you?” I asked.

“Not you, but my no good rotten personal trainer.  Because of him I have joint pain.  I never had joint pain until he started telling me, a 72 year old man who’s been in the navy, had physical jobs my whole life, and never took anything more than an aspirin and a shot of whiskey how important it was to lift weights.  Four days a week I paid that idiot to come damage my joints . . . “

He went on and on as the cashier rung (rang?) up my raspberries and asked me for three dollars and forty nine cents.

“After three months he got tired of my complaining and stopped showing up, but he didn’t’ give me back my money . . . ‘

As I inserted my card (it’s the new thing with the chip so you insert instead of swipe), I tried to defend our profession.  “I wish two things for you.   One is that you live a long, healthy, and fulfilling life.”

Cal(?) smiled.

“The second is that you meet a personal trainer who can redeem my field, who can help you see and feel the true value and virtue of a health professional who understands how to meet you where you are and get you to where you want to be.”

“OK, young man,” he said.  I liked him a bit more.  I thought our conversation was complete, but as I stepped away he verbally grabbed me.

“Do you have a minute to talk to me about the gluten?”

“The gluten?”

“Yeah.  I gave up the gluten and lost 30 pounds.”  He held up a loaf of bread with a gluten-free label.  “Is this good?”

“Did it help you lose the 30 pounds you wanted to get rid of?”


“Then it’s good.”

“Better than that rotten trainer.  I think I’ll use the bread to beat his ass.”

I knew I had to escape as I was either talking to a lunatic or was at risk of a plunger and loaf of bread beating.

The cashier grabbed Cal’s bread to scan it and I asked him for his email, promised I’d send him some info, and ran off with my organic raspberries.

Something stuck with me.  The thought of “what personal trainers deserve.”  In many cases, I’d agree, if there were a judge and jury assessing the value they provided, many would be sentenced to one of two punishments:

  1. An overbearing workout where they are coaxed to exercise beyond their body’s recovery ability
  2. An ineffective waste of time being taken through movements without purpose or strategy

Those personal trainers who do operate from a place of excellence, who understand the concept of meeting the client where the client is, and who take responsibility for client education, guidance, and progression may make up a minority, but it’s a subset of an industry that operates without regulation.  It’s becoming increasingly important for that subset to self-regulate, to rise above the mediocre standard, and to position themselves as health practitioners with a vital skill set.

Here’s the crime.  Most of the “good ones” I’ve met struggle to earn anywhere near the earnings bestowed upon lesser health practitioners in more medically recognized fields.  What do those extraordinary trainers deserve?  Ah, that’s a different question with a very different answer.  Of course, you can answer it for yourself, but I’ll take a stab at it.

They deserve prosperity.  They deserve financial and emotional reward.  They deserve to acquire the things and emotions they most want in life as they’re committed to providing those ideals, at least from a physical perspective, for others.

Tomorrow at 1:15 PM Eastern Time, I’m kicking off my next Be Better group, and this one is unlike any other.  If you are a trainer, and haven’t heard of Be Better, it’s an 8-month program that has shaped the careers of scores of the world’s leading fitness professionals.  It empowers you to be extraordinary, to rise above, and to operate from a place of ethics and morality without ever sacrificing the rewards you deserve.  It reignites lost vision, connects innate passion to new action, develops new habitual behaviors, and literally transforms you and your business in ways that are dramatic and measurable.

Why is it unlike any other Be Better group?  Because years ago I pursued a vision of doctors and fitness professionals sitting elbow to elbow, learning together, understanding how their complementary approaches can “fix” the greatest health challenges we face as a nation and a planet.  This really is a last chance to act.  If you want in, email me immediately with the Subject, “Make Me Better.”  I or a member of my staff will reply and if this program is for you and you’re ready to go, your life is about to change at any entirely new level.

Whether or not you have interest in joining us for this 8-month experience, consider that the word de-serve, at its root, means “to be of service.”

What do you deserve?  Are you getting it?  If not, it’s time to think, regroup, and pursue your heartfelt dreams with full engagement and all that you’ve got.  Ultimately, it’ nice to believe we all get what we deserve.

Phil Kaplan

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