If you’re a fitness coach or a trainer — teach, don’t judge

One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing a bunch of personal trainers or coaches in a commercial gym checking out the members who’re trying to work out. Some comment on the form, tactics, reps or sets, gripping the barbell/dumbbell/machines or worse — the way they breathe.

What I fail to understand is how valuable is this approach?

Wouldn’t they be better off if they would just walk up to the client and either give them a suggestion or even better ask them what they’re trying to do? You’re the expert after all. And sure they would listen if your heart is in the right place.

I’m chatty with almost everyone at the gym. And whenever possible, I ask if I can share an observation. This helps me get them curious and hence open to a suggestion or an alternative point of view that may help them in their form, performance, and general health.

I’ve had many people thank me for the “neat tip” I shared with them before. And my response is the same as always, “I’m glad I could help.” Not trying to brag or impress you but make a point — what makes it so hard for these “trainers/coaches” to help? It seems they don’t want to unless they’re being paid for their “expertise.” And folks, that’s cheap.

Sure, some members will be rude, arrogant or just don’t want your advice. That is fine. But you do what you are supposed to do, right? Help them irrespective of what they think of you. And I think if that sounds like an inconvenience, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong profession.

Support professionals like coaches, trainers, psychologists, social workers and the like don’t wait for their paychecks to cash in before moving a muscle. That’s an insult to the profession.

And yes, one has to keep learning to climb their way to the top. There are no shortcuts. You can’t walk up to someone doing the low-bar squat and tell them they’re doing it wrong — bar too low in the back, using hip-drive et al — just because you don’t really know what’s going on. It’s important to be curious and ask what they’re “trying to accomplish” than judge them.

Heck, one of these “trainers” once told me that I’m not “supposed” to use the hip-drive while squatting. Because it looked like a “good morning” to him. I’ve asked him about the different “types of squats” one can do. He shrugged and said, “just one.” I turned my back actually showed him how to do a good morning and how it’s different from a low-bar squat and a high-bar squat. I swear I saw someone getting enlightened right in front of me!

Most support professionals take on a persona of an expert when they should be curious. Having a closed mind doesn’t help anyone learn from an experienced professional who may not be wearing a uniform like you or has a title of a trainer/coach but has been training for almost a decade. That’s one heck of a missed learning opportunity.

And I think the greatest learning opportunity comes to you when you see someone struggling and you reach out to them for support. Not hoping they would hire you but that you can learn something about them, their goals and what they’re trying to do. It’s a better way to learn about our fellow humans and serve them in a better way.

All you need to do is reach out.

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