You see them in every gym in the world: The gaggles of vivacious, bubbly extroverts issuing directives to exhausted gym-goers. “You can do it, man!” “Come on, push, push, push!” Yes, we’re talking about personal trainers. But even though they all somehow seem to preternaturally exude irrepressible and constant enthusiasm, at the end of the day, they’re mere professionals—just like you or me. And that means they have thoughts and feelings of their own. So read on, because we’ve compiled the 15 juiciest tidbits your personal trainer won’t tell you directly. And for more great fitness advice, check out The 7 Major Everyday Exercise Killers You Need to Avoid.
They don’t all have washboard abs.
A personal trainer is supposed to get you in shape; their own physique has nothing to do with how qualified or unqualified they are, and as such, not every trainer rocks a set of abs that you could climb. So judge a trainer on their work history, their attitude, and their reputation—not their musculature.
And if you want some of your own, they’re made in the kitchen.
Here’s one thing personal trainers don’t want you to know, because if you did, their job loses relevancy: Abs aren’t made in the gym. They’re made in the kitchen. You can build all the core muscles you want, but they won’t show if you’re not eating right. So be sure to alter your diet to include the 10 Greatest Carbs For Your Six-Pack.
They’re not nutritionists.
When a trainer becomes official, they’re known as a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS). Passing a CSCS program doesn’t make somebody a certified nutritionist. So, sure, take fitness advice from your personal trainer. But get your diet advice elsewhere—from, say, a nutritionist.
You’re their product.
A personal trainer’s “job satisfaction comes from seeing you succeed,” says Jonathan Goodman, CSCS, the founder of the Personal Trainer Development Center. “Because of this, it’s frustrating when you don’t show the same commitment outside of a session that you do during it.”
They see through your charades.
“We weight loss trainers see through your stall tactics,” says one trainer. ” ‘I think I need to fill my water bottle.’ ‘Let me get a dry towel real quick.’ … Nice try.”
You can score discounts by teaming up with friends.
Unless your personal trainer specifies that they only do one-on-one sessions, chances are, you can bring a friend or two—and yes, bulk personal training sessions will result in discounts for the whole group. According to Traci D. Mitchell, the creator of the 40 Day Shape Up Plan, you can sometimes score up to a whopping 50 percent discount.
Stay away from the steam rooms!
A lot of gross stuff goes down in there. “At the place I work now, the steam room is pretty regularly stained with semen,” says Ryan Menezes, the host of The Gimwits podcast. “It’s most likely the result of pre-workout [masturbation], which supposedly drops your blood pressure and relaxes you.” In other words: Avoid the steam rooms!
Not all of them are certified.
According to Menezes, a certified personal trainer, not every personal trainer knows their stuff. “Some take multiple-choice online tests and use that, plus their visible muscles, to get hired.” Again, be sure to ask about a trainer’s qualifications before signing up with them.
Gym overbook members.
If every person who signed up for a gym on January 2nd went to the gym every day, every sports club in your city would have lines out the door. According to an episode of Planet Money, one Planet Fitness location, for instance, signed up 6,000 members in January 2014. Their capacity? 300.
They’ve got a copy of your workout.
Keeping a pen-and-paper copy of your workout—the exact moves, the specific weight, the precise number of reps—is a surefire way to track your progress. But in this digital day-and-age, it’s not always so easy to keep track of printed paper. But, according to Goodman, good personal trainers keep backup digital copies of their trainees’s workouts.
Gyms are filthy.
A study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine posits that, in the average gym, 63 percent of the machines have so-called rhinoviruses—compounds that are responsible for more than half of all common cold diagnoses. (For what it’s worth, weight equipment was more of a culprit than cardio machines.)
Motivation is tough for them, too.
“I don’t always wake up and think, ‘Ten miles! I’m going for it today!’,” says Lauren Williams, the head coach at Tone House. And if you’re looking for some motivation of your own, check out the 11 Ways Smart People Get Themselves to Go to the Gym.
They’re not always right.
“I used to tell clients doing bench presses to touch the barbell to their chests,” says Menezes. “Then I learned this was shredding up their shoulder joints, so I stopped.”
You’re doing sit-ups wrong.
“The biggest mistake—and a lot of people make it here—is putting your hands behind your head,” says Katie Barrett, lead instructor at B/SPOKE Cycling Studio in Boston and a certified personal trainer. “By putting your hands behind your head and using them to pull yourself into the sit-up, you can strain your neck.” Instead, keep your hands crossed over your chest. Or forgo the sit-up altogether and try The Single Greatest Flat-Abs Exercise You’re Not Doing.
They can smell you.
“Keep in mind that the gym is a closed environment, often without much air circulation,” says Jenn Zerling, the author of Breaking the Chains of Obesity: 107 Tools. “Your outdoor running group may not notice if you wear the same tank for a week, but odors are magnified inside.”
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