Trainer’s Corner: Chapter 1- The Introverted Personal Trainer

Tuesday, March 25, 2015

As a shy, somewhat introverted person who often prefers the company of books to people, I do not fit the profile of someone who would go into personal training as a profession. Yet, here I am.

But the type of training that I do – mind-body work – does not require that I “pump you up!” or yell at you to “give me 30 more!” I do not wish to “rip” or “shred” you. I am sure that type of training style works just fine for some people but it does not work for me.

In fact, mind-body work requires just the opposite. It requires use of the brain, not strain. It requires small movements, not big gross movement with momentum. It requires a connection to both the inner and the outer selves. It pushes you to find your potential, not strive toward a media-generated “ideal” image.

Mind-body training is directly aligned with healing and becoming whole in mind, body and spirit. Since I have always been interested in healing, perhaps it is appropriate that I find myself just where I am, socially anxious and all.

I have met enough people like myself at conferences to know that I am not alone, which is comforting. Our “type” is certainly in the minority and sometimes it can feel like a detriment to be the introverted, rather than the stereotypical extroverted personal trainer.

We often feel left out, quirky and alone. We can appear stand-offish – especially at a “networking at noon” Chamber of Commerce gathering – and as such, can be misunderstood. The truth is that we would prefer to discuss the latest book on neuroscience and brain healing rather than making small talk about the latest entry on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop site.

Our advantages are that we are more empathic and patient with our clients. In fact, clients often give up on themselves before I do. This is both good and bad.

A difficulty in being a introverted personal trainer is that often we can be manipulated by clients. By that I mean this: a potential client comes to see you and tells you what her goals are. She wants not only to train in your studio but also a home prescription so that she can work on her goals outside of her sessions. You, as the trainer, will begin to craft a prescription for her in both situations – in and out of the studio. At first, everything is hunky-dory; the client appears to be compliant with her program.

In a matter of weeks, though, the client does not appear to be improving. Or they display a habit of jumping from one “goal” to the next. They begin to make excuses for not doing their prescription: they don’t have the time, it’s not “fun, it’s too much work.

Here is where the extroverted, balls-to-the-wall trainer has the advantage: they will confront the client, tell them the relationship is not working due to their non-compliance and terminates the trainer-client contract.

For my part, I will try to make the exercises more fun, advise the client on how to put the exercises into a busy day and try to find ways to make the exercises not so hard. It never occurs to me that a client would tell me what their goals are but does nothing to achieve those goals.

No, instead I take it on myself that I am not doing my job; there must be something I can say or do to get this person excited about taking care of themselves.

As I write this, it is easy to see that I take on too much responsibility. Not so easy to see when you are living it.

I would never want to change who I am. I don’t want to be a Jillian Michaels-style trainer. I know that fitness and wellness have as much to do with how one feels about themselves in general in addition to meeting a physical goal. Those of us who have self-esteem issues need a little more loving-care; they need someone to believe in them. I don’t mind doing this little bit extra as it gives me a great deal of joy to see someone begin to love and take care of themselves.

It becomes a problem when I begin to care more than they do. I have had several trainer-client relationships end badly because of this. In retrospect, I am sure I am came across controlling but in my heart I felt I was letting them down and kept trying harder for them. It never occurred to me that they just didn’t want to work at their goal, lacked patience/consistency or simply wanted a quick and easy solution.

Since a situation like this recently happened, I had to take some meditation time to try and figure out how I could prevent myself from ever walking into such a ditch again. I realized that while I was trying to figure it all out mentally, I did not listen to my body.

For some months, my body would become fatigued when this client would come in for her session. After she left, it took me a while to get my energy back.

I began to revisit other times when I’ve had unpleasant trainer/client relationships and they share this phenomenon.

It makes sense. I am giving more energy than I am getting; or perhaps these people are just energy suckers. Who knows? Who cares? My goal here is not to feel like a used wet rag.

I am sure that I will run into such people again in the future but this time, I will not trust my mental faculties to tell me when it’s a good or bad relationship because I know my brain will tell me that I just have to keep working. I will put more trust in my own body’s messages of expansion (good) and contraction (bad).

If you are a softer, more empathic trainer like myself I encourage you to begin to listen to your own body’s signals when you are around people. Your heart may want to help all people but there are some that you just can’t. Your body will let you know.


Check back later for Chapter Two: Body Signals and Recovery Suggestions