3 Ways To Fail With A Personal Trainer

When you set out to hire a personal trainer, you probably have a few expectations as to what the experience will be like.  Maybe someone close to you has had a trainer and related their experiences to you. Maybe you’ve seen one on T.V (hopefully not) and developed an idea as to what a personal trainer is and what they can do for you. Or, maybe you’re completely naive to the prospect and just want to get in shape under the guidance of a fitness professional. Whatever the case, understand this – having a personal trainer DOES NOT guarantee your success.

I’ve identified 3 key reasons why many people fail to receive the full benefits from a personalized approach to exercise. Identifying these problems can help you and your trainer overcome them.

Let’s get started shall we?

1. You have completely unrealistic expectations

Most people are set up for defeat right out of the gate. This is thanks in large part to widespread media nonsense and over-hyped body changing solutions (that always under deliver). These “solutions” promote the fantasy that body transformation is easy, fast and that anyone can do it.  So, you are set up to fail by the very industry you look to for help.

Your expectations will also not be met if you don’t consider the multitude of factors that can influence your results. Lifestyle, genetics, age, gender –  you name it – all have an enormous impact on what you get from exercise.

What you can do

As most of us get older, the tight grip that fantasy and the media has on us begins to loosen. Call it maturity or the process of self-actualization, but, eventually, we stop believing in fairy tales – well, most of us anyway.  Nobody can guarantee you results from a fitness program. There are so many factors that can influence weight loss alone that I wrote an entire post on it here. The same is true for any fitness goal.  Avoid advertising that states the following:

  1. That it’s possible to lose a pound a day over a long period of time.
  2. That it’s possible to lose weight without diet or exercise.
  3. That you can eat as much as you want and still lose weight.
  4. That you’ll get twice the results with half the effort.


This list is by no means a comprehensive one but you get the idea. If you’re likely to fall victim to this type of hype, your expectations are likely to be WAY off base from the start. Setting the bar too high will only make the descent from failure that much harder. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t set high goals from for yourself , but your goals should be based in reality and a personal trainer can be a great help in this regard.

It’s also important not to focus on only short term goals such as “I want to lose 30 lbs for my wedding next month“.  Not only will this likely lead to failure (if it’s not achieved)  but what happens after you’ve reached your goal?  Do you go right back to your old lifestyle habits? Have you considering how you’ll maintain your results?  Regardless of your goal, it’s better to think long term. In fact, make a deal with yourself and agree to make it a lifelong commitment.  Those who take this approach almost always succeed.

What your trainer can do

Personal trainers who promote products and services that promise guaranteed results are either too inexperienced to know better or simply want your attention and your money. Helping you set your expectations from the beginning is the MOST important job your trainer has. Results can’t be predicted, much less guaranteed.  They should openly and honestly explain that achieving your goal is a process, and provide clear details on that process.  This will set you up for what’s really ahead and if you’re still willing to pay the price for success!

2. Your program is not personalized

It sounds ridiculous to think that your “personal trainer” is not “personalizing” your workout experience, but sadly, this is sometimes the case. These days, popular fitness “trends” have negatively influenced the methods that some personal trainers use with their clients. In an attempt to create a fun workout experience or to alleviate the trainer’s boredom, some fitness professionals have lost sight as to how to design an effective long-term program. Many of these trends are based on misconception and myth and ultimately fail to deliver any noticeable results.  Your workouts should not be done TO you, but done WITH you. Any program that doesn’t factor in your needs and goals, in each and every workout, will only result in disappointment , or worse – injury.

What you can do

Most people hire trainers, not for any specific expertise or knowledge but rather as a personal exercise station tour guide and rep counter. Expect more from your trainer and make an attempt to learn as much as you ca from them. Don’t fall into the trap of shutting off your brain for the hour because this really devalues the session and hurts everyone in the end.

Avoid programs that lump you into large groups if you want a personalized approach. Become savvy to what a “canned” workout looks and feels like. They’re always changing,they never seems to get easier and you feel no sense of progression. Some of the exercises hurt or make you feel uncomfortable and the sequencing seems to lack any “cohesiveness”.  If you feel that this is the direction that your workouts have taken, your trainer is likely not engaged in your goals or best interests.  Talk with your trainer about your feelings and if that doesn’t turn things around, look for another trainer.

What your trainer can do

The process of “personalization” begins with a comprehensive assessment of your abilities, limitation and needs. Without this initial assessment, how can a trainer possibly design a program based of your current stage of emotional, physical and psychological development? Your trainer also needs to understand that your program is not about them – it’s about you.  Their personal bias toward a particular style or level of boredom is no reason to knowingly sabotage your gains.  All forms of exercise can have their place in a program, but your trainer needs to keep your goals at the forefront of the program design process.

3. Your lifestyle does not match your goals

You can’t blame your trainer for your bad habits. You also can’t expect to lose much body fat or gain significant muscle if you spend your days eating, sleeping and partying like a lazy teenager. We all experience setbacks and stressful periods in our lives but you can’t rely on your trainer to fix them. Personal fitness trainers are exercise professionals, not therapists, nutrition experts or weight loss counselors. That’s not to say that some trainers don’t have expertise outside of exercise, but most don’t and these areas fall well outside the their scope of practice.  Your trainer is there to design an exercise program and map out an appropriate course for your goals and needs. But it’s up to YOU to take control of your life and do what needs to be done to stay on course.

What you can do

LISTEN TO YOUR TRAINER!  I’m sorry, I had to get that off my chest.  But seriously, do you really believe that 2-3 hours of exercise with a trainer each week is enough to offset the negative impact from the other 165 hours? Anyone who has ever enjoyed the benefits of lean, strong healthy body, didn’t get there by believing such nonsense. They got there because they bought into a lifestyle that they happily embrace 24/7.  You have to be willing to accept responsibility for your results if you want to make significant changes to your body and health. I’m talking about managing your daily activity, rest, nutrition, hygiene, stress and social patterns in a way that gets you closer toward your objective. Never assume that your trainer is going to do this for you because they can’t.

What your trainer can do

As a personal trainer myself, I wish I could be everything to everyone and be an expert in every area that threatens my clients’ success.  I’m sure other trainers feel the same way too.  You and your trainer have to work together to determine what factors are limiting your progress. If it turns out to be something outside your trainer’s expertise, you may need to look for additional guidance from an expert in that field.  Your trainer probably has a network of health professionals they can refer you to who are better suited to help you overcome nutritional, psychological, musculoskeletal and other obstacles.

I hope I’ve highlighted a few of the reasons why some people might have a negative experience working with a personal trainer.  Find yourself a good one and remember that you only get out of training what you put into AND expect out of it.

If you enjoyed this article, please quickly do me a favor and share with others and comment below.

Craig Simms

Craig Simms

Craig Simms is a personal trainer and weight loss coach in Vancouver, B.C. Craig has been a fitness leader for over 21 years and has amassed over 25,000 hours of personal training experience in that span. He specializes in personalized weight management programs.
Craig Simms
Craig Simms

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