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The Unspoken Truths of Personal Training: What You Need to Know

personal trainer working with a client in a gym

Starting a fitness plan with a personal trainer can be a great experience, but there are often aspects of the process that remain unspoken. Let's peel back the curtain and explore what most personal trainers won't always vocalize but are crucial for you to know:

1. It's More Than Just Physical

Trainers understand the psychological and emotional components of fitness, serving as coaches, mentors, and sometimes even therapists. They'll push your limits, not just physically, but mentally, fostering resilience and confidence that transcends into every aspect of your life. So if you break down mentally during your workout, just go ahead and cry, it happens more than you think and it's always better to let out.

2. It's probably going to take longer than you realize

Most people think that getting a personal trainer is a guarantee of goals. While, we're here to help you, many factors affect your goals. In most cases I see, people have pain, illnesses, or disorders that prevent them from achieving goals quickly. People with chronic pains can take a year of constant (appropriate) exercise before they can workout at a higher level and their pain lessons.

I personally have asthma and it took me a year of working up to running a full mile without stopping. And even at the year mark, I was still huffing and puffing aggressively at the end of the mile; where as someone without asthma would likely take around 3-4 months to do what I did (starting from where I was at).

Very seldom do I have clients that don't have to accommodate something. But when I do get them, they are the clients who achieve quick results.

health professional helping someone with back pain

3. Most trainers don't know what to do if you have chronic pains

I am a trainer that specializes in chronic pain. I've had the life changing injury that set me to absolute zero. And unless you're there too (or have been), there's no way to describe it to someone who hasn't. To my knowledge, there isn't a way to get a certification in this. I simply had people ask me to try to help them as they'd tried everything else. With everything I'd been through, this made me much more successful in helping people with, and get out of, chronic pain. But I will always tell you to go see your doctor and get medical clearance to make sure we won't make anything worse by training.

If a trainer doesn't ask for medical clearance and you have chronic pain or take any prescription medication daily, for your safety - look for another trainer.

4. If you're over 50 years old, you're probably going to have your trainer for a few years (or longer).

Many of my clients are in a higher age range. That's for a few reasons, some just need activity and I help them do it safely. Some have been eating poorly and have been stagnant for so long that they've become overweight or unhealthy. It takes a long time for people to become this way, it also takes a long time to fix it and develop better habits.

fruit and vegetables, with different types of juices

5. Nutrition Matters Just as Much 

Exercise is only one piece of the puzzle. While personal trainers aren't nutritionists, they understand the significant impact of diet on performance and results. Many trainers offer basic dietary guidance to complement your workouts, emphasizing the importance of fueling your body with the right nutrients to optimize performance and recovery. You could be burning 300-400 calories with your workouts but eating over 3,500 in a day. You'll end up stronger, but weight loss is unlikely because of eating habits and calorie intake. There are some trainers (like myself) who are sports nutritionists that can offer meal plans and more elaborated guidance and habit training to help you transition your eating patterns.

6. It's a Two-Way Street 

Effective training isn't solely about the trainer's expertise; it's a collaborative effort. You're not just a passive participant. The more transparent you are, the better we can customize your workouts and provide the support you need. The more information we have, the better. If you ate poorly, it's okay; don't just give up or not tell us. We're here to help you and want you to achieve your goals.

7. Setbacks happen

No matter who you are, setbacks are going to happen. You may roll and ankle, strain a muscle, or just get too busy to keep up with training. Though trainers do all they can to prevent injuries while training, they can still happen. I had done nothing different with my workouts and a nerve became aggravated to the point of aggressive pain. I had to stop my training for months. I figured out the problem, addressed it, and slowly started up again. Setbacks are not fun, but you should NEVER workout through the pain. It will only make it worse and take longer to recover from.

a woman doing push-ups

8. You're Capable of More Than You Think

Perhaps the most profound truth personal trainers won't always vocalize is your untapped potential. They see beyond your perceived limitations, pushing you to discover strength, endurance, and resilience you never knew existed. Many times I'll do a timed exercise and say, "we'll go for one minute," but in reality we go for a minute and thirty seconds. After a few months of this, I'll reveal to the client they've actually been going much longer than they thought. They're generally surprised and slightly annoyed. But overall it shows them how much more they're capable of than they believe.

9. Some trainers are not certified

I've been training for quite some time now and when I first started apply to gyms I noticed this trend. They will higher you as a trainer as long as you're in the process of getting certified. But you could be in "the process" forever as there is no time limit to get your certification. Generally they give you six months to take the tests, but if you don't pass or just don't take it in time, you can ask for an extension or just pay for another test at any time.

You may notice another trend with uncertified trainers, they're more sales people than trainers. Many gyms offer commissions to trainers for any program or product they sell to you. And many of these trainers don't know if it's actually good for you or will help at all.


Unless you're a bodybuilder, professional athlete, or training for a marathon, supplements really shouldn't be something they push on you. The average person just looking to stay fit can get the protein they need from food sources and don't need to supplement.

So if you're looking for a trainer, ask to see their certification, what they're certified in, and where you can look up their credentials. You'll also be able to see how long they've been training by their certification.

10. Trainers are supposed to teach you how to workout

Trainers are supposed to educate you properly so you won't need a trainer years down the road. My average client stays for 6 months. That's generally how long it takes a client to fully understand how they specifically need to workout. I teach them structure, how to listen to their body, how much to add each week, etc. A lot of trainers don't do this to keep their clients and others don't know to do this. This is generally a difference in certifications, where my credentials tell me to teach my clients (National Counsel of Strength and Fitness), another may not.

So if you get a trainer and they're not explaining things to you, ask them to! Most are willing to give you as much information as you'd like.

a woman crossing the finish line tape

Considering all I just said, why get a trainer?

Knowing the unspoken truths of personal training will help you get the most out of working with a trainer. Trainers are a great resource, and most of us know what we're doing. Though not all trainers are created equal, we're still here to help. We have the knowledge to help you reach your goals and if you've tried and failed, then try a month with a trainer and see how you feel. Many trainers have options just to build you a plan that you can do at home if the cost of in-person training is too high for you. (I personally offer workout building that's completely personalized that you can do completely on your own, whenever, and wherever you want to workout. And it's less than 50% the cost of in-person training.)

Don't want to get a trainer for the next 3 years? It's going to take time no matter if you're with a trainer or not, so plan accordingly. You can start with one, learn how to workout, and continue on your own. Or have a trainer make a few months worth of workouts for you to do on your own and build on those. Worried you're doing it wrong? I have former clients text or call all the time asking questions about workout structure. I don't mind helping even if I'm no longer training someone. I'm always happy to see that they're still working out and have learned enough from me to be able to do it properly.


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