Why Do Gym Trainers Interrupt When You Are Working Out?

Why do gym trainers interrupt when you are working out?

What you see -


A rude, pretentious, muscle-bound douche of a trainer walking up and interrupting your workout. They start by telling you everything you're doing wrong and then launch into a sales pitch on why you need them or you’ll never be successful.

I can see why you’d be upset. You're just going about your business trying to get a workout in and then Bam - unwanted social interaction. Worse - an unwanted solicitation of services. This likely isn’t the first time you’ve gone through this ordeal, and it may not even be the first time THIS workout.

I feel particularly qualified to answer this question as like many people in the fitness industry I began my career in that position of solicitor. Forced to walk up and approach people who didn’t want to talk, with services they didn’t want to buy.

While most people reacted cordially if still uninterested other would respond hostilely. I understand, no one wants a sales pitch they didn’t ask for.

However, I’d like to provide an insight to the trainer's side of the situation which should explain why trainers are constantly interrupting people.

For context, I started in a large gym chain in NYC. My location was the chains 2nd largest on the east coast in terms of PT revenue. We had 40 Trainers on staff and a PT revenue goal of about 230–250 thousand dollars each month. It epitomized the large commercial gym experience as both a trainer and a member.

What you should know about the career of trainer -

Theirs a very low barrier to entry

 It doesn’t take more than a few hundred bucks, an interest in exercise and a pulse to become a trainer. In fact, it may only require two of the three.  The result of this is that the labor pool is flooded with many low-skilled trainers that may lack technical skills, social skills, or be in it for the wrong reasons. The combination can make for less than graceful exchanges.

Trainers operate essentially as independent contractors

Trainers only get paid for the sessions they service. No sessions, no money. Now consider that most new trainers will lack a client base and hence income. As a trainer, it means you desperately need to find business if you want to put food on the table.

Gyms Mass Hire

A surplus of labor combined with the fact you don’t have to pay them means that it cost little money to hire and keep staff.

This is why many commercial gyms follow an attrition model of employment. They hire lots of trainers, throw them into the gym, see who brings back business and then wait till the others quit from not making money.

It’s Their Job

Most clubs provide a period where they pay between 10 and 20 hours a week for the first 2–3 months of employment. During this time your JOB is not training. Your job is to go out on the gym floor and find people to sign up and hopefully train. Often clubs won’t give you any clients till you ‘Prove yourself’ by signing up new members off the gym floor.

If the approaches seem obnoxious in both their abruptness and frequency, then it’s likely that lots of pressure from management, combined with the pressure to pay rent and put food on the table are driving the trainers to approach and interrupt your workout.

It’s a Matter of Survival

Some clubs may also distribute leads inequitably leaving trainers under-used and further contributing to this desire for more sessions.

A month ago there was a cougar that attacked a pair of cyclist and killed one. An attack like this is rare. So rare that there has only been one other instance of a cougar killing a person in the last 100 years in North America. The reason the cougar attacked in this manner is that it was starving. Trainers can be put under similar constraints leaving them no other option than to harass you.

You're most likely to encounter this experience in a big chain commercial gym beholden to shareholders. Smaller clubs, studios, YMCA’s and health clubs often tend to be under less pressure and need to resort to aggressive or distasteful business practices.

I hope this look behind the scenes helps you get a better understanding that trainers are often under many constraints. Many understand that you don’t want to be interrupted but they do so because they have to. Also, remember that many trainers enter the field because they genuinely want to help others and many times if a trainer approaches you it’s because they want to help. I implore you to handle it with grace and do your best not to snap on the messenger

A Personal Note

My personal story involved many of the hardships above. It made it worst that I was a terrible ‘prospector’ - what it’s called to get business off the gym floor. I offered help to the people who came in or those in need and I couldn’t in good conscious walk by someone doing an exercise incorrectly that I could see would seriously injure themselves - such as a round back deadlift.

With those exceptions I refused to rudely interrupt people unless they needed it. I refused to do anything that wasn’t in the best interest of my clients, such as selling supplements they didn’t need. It numbered my days at the gym.

Instead, I started my own business with a goal of teaching people to be independent in their health and fitness. Success for me is measured not by the results I get my clients but the results they get once they're done seeing me.

With this goal of education and building independence, I started Fitness Made Clear. I encourage anyone reading to subscribe (at the bottom of the page) and share to support the cause and spread the simple, informative, and actionable information on this site to others.

Stephen GriffithComment