Does Your Personal Trainer Look the Part?

I have had my share of clients express reservations about working with me for many different reasons over the years:

  • I’m too strict/not strict enough
  • I put too much/too little emphasis on proper nutrition and diet
  • I’m too mean/not mean enough
  • I’m Asian
  • I look like I’m 16
  • I’m too “Zen” for a real, hardcore workout
  • I use the wrong protocol(s) – too few/many sets/reps/exercises/instructions
  • I don’t watch baseball/football/basketball/futbol/golf

…and so forth. Usually I am able to overcome whatever initial reservations they might have through my level of expertise. But in the years I have been a personal trainer, I have never been rejected on the grounds that I “wasn’t big enough.”

Although, in retrospect, I admit it is a tad unusual for that never to have happened. Read on.

One fine afternoon I found myself working with an older lady, who looked me up and down, and said,

“You don’t have a showy chest. I notice that you don’t have a particularly large chest. Now, I thought that trainers are supposed to have big chest muscles.”

She launched into a diatribe on what trainers should look like, which particular muscle groups she felt should be developed and the details as to what she meant by “developed.”

Now I’m all for trainers to “walk the walk”, and not just “talk the talk.” How can you teach the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle if you don’t engage in one yourself? There’s an apocryphal anecdote about Gandhi that I’m reminded of…

…but back to the subject. So I am very critical of trainers who don’t work out.

But what of the subset of trainers I belong to, those who do work out (intensely, even) but don’t look like they do?

Here is the closest thing I have to a “physique shot.”

Above: Ironically, I currently look “bigger” even though I am at a lower bodyweight. Amazing what that strength training stuff will do for you.

In this shot I am approximately 130 lbs at 7.6% bodyfat (I’m weighing in a little less nowadays since I’ll be fighting in NAGA this weekend – woohoo!). As my potential trainee noted, not a particularly showy physique. I certainly won’t be giving Jay Cutler or Ronnie Coleman nightmares anytime soon. But building tremendous size has never been my focus – performance, that’s my thing.

Back to the story, and the point. I was eventually able to win over this woman over using my utter lack of charm and charisma, and by demonstrating my knowledge. But I was not able to overcome her perceived notion of what “a personal trainer should look like.” But at least I was able to meet “what a personal trainer should know”, and “how a personal trainer should be.”

This should serve as a cautionary tale – personal trainers of the world, your clients are watching. Be prepared.

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