A few years ago, I joined a quaint neighborhood gym here in Los Angeles. As a professional trainer, I enjoy seeing what other trainers are doing with their clients; it gives me ideas and keeps me sharp. It also reminds me how many lazy trainers there are out there.
Here are some warning signs:
Lazy trainers smile too much, (as if having a permagrin gets them off the hook from spotting you). Remember all the analysis about Mitt Romney’s “fake” smile during the Republican presidential primaries? Studies have shown that a genuine smile lasts two seconds or less. To tell if the trainer is truly engaged and happy to see you, look for “crow’s feet” around the eye, which indicate that the smile is genuine, according to Guillaume Duchenne.
Lazy trainers take themselves too seriously, getting caught up in methodology and showing off their encyclopedic knowledge of Latin anatomy terms (instead of handing you dumbbells). Last week, I actually overheard this conversation in the gym:
TRAINER: “You’re a ‘B’ list trainee on my schedule right now, but maybe I can move you into being an ‘A’ lister.”
CLIENT: “Really? That would be great.”
TRAINER: “You’re welcome. You know, I have really perfected the form on this exercise.”
A good trainer will have a sense of humor about him/herself, and you can test it.
They may say that their top priority is your body, but lazy trainers gaze at themselves in the mirror. This can be difficult to spot. If your trainer is a gazer, he/she probably stares while you’re grunting and groaning (mid-exercise) when they should be spotting. Be especially observant of the trainer during the “transition moments” of your workout: going from one machine to another, laying down on a bench prior to a set, or while you’re sipping from your water bottle.
You’ll rarely see a lazy trainer in the gym, working out. Prior to each session with a client, I ask what exercise he’s accomplished since I last saw him. I’ll never forget one 60-year-old client who, after dutifully reporting his exercise, reversed the question back on me! Don’t be afraid to ask your trainer what he or she has been doing lately to stay fit. Expect vague answers and little eye contact from a lazy trainer who’s put to the test. Beware if she doesn’t have clearly defined personal goals relating to her own fitness. Remember: your trainer is there to inspire you.
Lazy trainers take their clients for granted. Successful businesses known for service (such as the Four Seasons) follow rules of etiquette: saying thank you, following up, providing excellent service by keeping meticulous notes about their clientèle. Craig Reid, Four Seasons’ senior VP of operations, calls it: “having a healthy paranoia.” Ask yourself: When’s the last time you received a thank you note from your trainer? Do they show up at the agreed-upon time? Do they remember what you say from session to session?
Being a trainer means being physically active for eight, sometimes 10 hours a day. Everyone needs a break now and then, but lazy trainers sit all the time. Trainers shouldn’t be expected to work out with you, but they should engage their body with you at least once during your session, joining you for an entire set of situps or crunches, for example. An energized trainer will usually stand or take a knee (as we do in the Army).