From the outside looking in, you might think being a personal trainer seems like a fun job — they get to perfect their athleisure vibe and work out all day. Except that’s not the entire picture. There’s a lot more to being a good personal trainer or group fitness instructor than working out — and most trainers need to schedule their own workout sessions so that they don’t miss them.
Turns out, trainers are more like the rest of us than you might think. Here are five common beliefs about fitness instructors — and why each is a myth.
MYTH #1: TRAINERS DO NOTHING BUT WORK OUT ALL DAY
Reality: Trainers have to squeeze in their own workouts most days.
Trainers work with clients all day or often travel from studio to studio to teach classes back to back to back. But that doesn’t mean they are exercising all day long.
“There are so many trainers who are at the gym from 5 a.m. until as late as 11 p.m.,” says Sami Fanik, Tier X coach at Equinox Summit. “Between working with clients, programming, preparing and keeping on top of your business, it’s hard to find time to work out.”
Plus, giving so much of themselves to clients and having the energy to lead classes often leaves them worn out.
“You have to be diligent and treat a workout like work,” says fitness professional Rachel Nicks, a trainer at Flex Studio and NYSC Lab. “Scheduling and booking a class in advance helps me so I’m committed to the workout.”
MYTH #2: TRAINERS ALWAYS WANT TO WORK OUT
Reality: Trainers get bored like the rest of us.
There’s this idea that exercising is to fitness professionals what candy is to a kid — dangle it in front of their face and watch their eyes light up as they start to jump up and down. In reality, that’s not always the case.
When she taught barre classes all day, Nicks found herself bored and fatigued. “But now I do so many things, that no longer happens,” she says. “I vary it during the week — Pilates, yoga, HIIT. And I take days off. I don’t find my body is as happy if work out every day.” Lesson: Have a well-rounded fitness program and challenge yourself to take classes you may not totally love but don’t hate.
If you ever find yourself unmotivated for a workout, consider whether you are stuck in a rut, she suggests. It may not be that you don’t want to work out — it might just be that you don’t want to do that workout. “Your body is over it and your mind is over it,” she says. So do something you want to do.
Having workout buddies also helps. “In the morning, I have no trouble finding time to work out. The evenings are definitely harder for me,” Fanik says. “Luckily, I work with a community of trainers who agree that working out is always easier with another trainer.”
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MYTH #3: TRAINERS CRUSH EVERYTHING FITNESS-WISE
Reality: Trainers generally have a specialty.
You don’t expect an Olympic lifter to excel at running. So why think every trainer is great at everything?
“I have clients who started out as cardio junkies and can whip my butt in any group fitness class. I’m a master of the weights, above average with cardio, and I’m average in everything else,” says Fanik, who tries to hit both spinning and yoga once or twice a week because those are his weaknesses.
“Staying well-rounded is most definitely a challenge,” adds Shana Verstegen, fitness director at Supreme Health and Fitness in Wisconsin. “I have a love for resistance training and functional training, can tolerate cardiovascular and interval training, but still have to literally drag myself to yoga classes. Once I am there I am very glad I did it, and my body always thanks me for days after.”
She encourages everyone to step outside your comfort zone from time to time. You’ll be glad you did, too.
MYTH #4: TRAINERS EAT ONLY CHICKEN BREAST, VEGETABLES AND PROTEIN SHAKES
Reality: Trainers eat more reasonably than you think.
Most trainers do eat healthfully. But it’s not all steamed and bland. “I don’t believe in starving myself and I don’t not eat anything,” Nicks says. And since she likes wine and prefers that to dessert, she typically avoids sweets and goes for the vino.
Both Nicks and Fanik focus on real foods rather than processed ones and lots of protein. But not shakes. “I stopped taking protein shakes last year — I’d rather eat my calories,” Fanik says.
MYTH #5: TRAINERS ONLY PROVIDE WORKOUTS
Reality: Trainers end up influencing clients’ lifestyles.
Another misconception that people have about trainers is that they just work clients out. This is far from an accurate job description.
“At Equinox, we take a holistic approach,” Fanik says. “We learn as much as we can about the client’s lifestyle and work from there. We want our clients to move better and live longer.”
Nicks takes a similar approach, saying the job is a passion. “Being a trainer is about helping people along on their journey, physically and emotionally. It’s about helping them find what works for them rather than giving them one prescription,” she says.
One-on-one sessions can be almost therapeutic, and you form relationships with students in classes, she adds. “You are completely involved in someone’s personal life. How you look is great, but how you feel about yourself and how you feel after a workout matter a lot to me,” she says.