Things Your Trainer Wishes You'd Stop Doing

I've been a personal trainer for going on 20 years and I feel like I've seen it and/or heard it all.  Like anything in life, there's always good, bad and ugly and, in the world of personal training, there's some ugly going on there.

While I love the good side of training - The results, the positive body image, the happiness when people figure out how to live a healthy lifestyle, there's often a negative side that makes me want to bonk people on the head.

With a towel, people, not a weight.

Here's what your trainer wishes you'd stop doing to get more out of your workouts and your personal training sessions.

Stop Being so Down on Yourself

woman resting on stairs
Getty Images/Jakob Helbig

Have you ever been around someone who's so down on themselves, you want to either punch them in the face or stab yourself in the eye with a rusty fork when you finally get away from them?

We all know a Debbie/Danny Downer, I'm sure, and those kinds of people tend to just suck the happy right out of you.

This happens quite a bit in the personal training world.

It's a cliche, but you really are what you think.  If you think you can't do something or that you're bad at something, then you are.  And as much as I try to convince you otherwise, you just won't listen to me when I tell you you really are strong!

It's beyond frustrating when I see a client who is genuinely progressing only to find that he or she doesn't realize it or celebrate it.

Here's a sample conversation I've had with too many clients to count:

Me:  Wow, you just did 6 pushups!
Client:  But I still can't do them on my toes.
Me:  Yeah, but you couldn't even do one when you came in here.
Client:  But, 6?  God, I used to do, like, 30 of them at a time!
Me:  Yeah, you suck. I don't even know why you bother.  You should just go home.

It's Okay to Celebrate Yourself

The more you celebrate your successes, the more motivated you'll be to exercise.  If you notice, and acknowledge, every time you do more, you'll want to do more just to get that good feeling...that I-did-it! feeling.

Try it 

The next time you exercise, notice your body, your strength, how you can do things you couldn't do before.  See how you feel at the end of your workout and if you feel just a little better about yourself.

It matters.

Blowing Off the Rest of the Week

woman eating a burger
Getty Images/Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

Personal trainers can be miracle workers, but we can only do so much during the hour we have with you.

Sure I can make you do tons of burpees, pushups, plyo lunges and other torturous exercises.  I can put you through high intensity circuit workouts to help you burn more calories, but that does not cancel out whatever happens the rest of the week.

It's kind of like eating a Snickers with a Diet Coke....Yep, the Snickers still counts.

Stop It

  • Out-eating your workouts - Yes, workouts burn calories but you can easily bypass any calories burned by going a little too crazy on the food.  And, it's a sad truth, but exercise really can increase appetite.  To avoid eating more than you realize, keep a food journal.  It's the only way to stay honest with your calories.
  • Skipping your workouts - One workout a week with a trainer is better than nothing, but if you want to get results, you have to be consistent.  If you're not following your trainer's workouts, talk to him or her about it and find workouts you'll actually do.  I know most of my clients won't work as hard as I work them and that's long as they're doing something.
  • Blowing it on the weekends - It's okay to enjoy what you love - Pizza, beer, a burger and fries...just not all in the span of two days.  It's easy to undo all your hard work with weekend eating frenzies, so make it a point to make healthy choices on the weekend, too.

Keep It Up

  • Try to get some kind of exercise every day - Try a FitBit or some other tracker to keep you motivated
  • Plan your treats - Don't wait until you're so sick of salads, you're ready to plant your face in a giant plate of lasagna.  Plan when you'll have that lasagna and how you'll fit that into your weight loss or fitness goals.  Maybe you'll eat less at your other meals or workout a little more that day.

Stop With the Unrealistic Expectations

barbie with a tape measure
Getty Images/Photographer's Choice

Here are a few things I wish every person understood about weight loss: 

  • It's hard -  I don't have to tell you why, because you already know this.  Our world is not set up for weight loss, so you have to fight every day to move and eat healthy.  That's hard.
  • It's not linear - Experts tell us if we burn 3,500 calories a week, we'll lose one pound, but that's not necessarily true.  Your metabolism is in charge of weight loss and, while we can do things to rev it up, it isn't the same every day.  Plenty of things affect metabolism, so even doing the same thing every single day - eating the same food, doing the same workouts - won't always garner the same results.
  • It isn't always within your control - There are some things we can control - What we eat and how much we exercise, managing stress and getting good sleep, but there are other things that affect our ability to lose weight.  Things like age (older = harder), gender (female = harder), hormones, body type and more.
  • It is slow - It's slow, not only because our bodies tend to hoard fat, just in case there's a famine down the road, but because we can't be perfect day in and day out.  We often workout and eat healthy in fits and starts, so we might lose some, gain some, lose some more and so on until we get a solid program down, which could take many of us up to a year.
  • You can't choose where you lose weight - Yes, you want to lose it from your belly or thighs, but your body decides where the fat comes off.  You can't change that, unless you visit a plastic surgeon.

Stop It

Stop getting upset when your body isn't doing what you think it should.

I don't like it when my clients get frustrated and don't understand that even the smallest result - A pound here, an inch there, is a huge success.  It may feel like you're doing a lot of work for nothing, but all that hard work pays off in a number of ways that have nothing to do with weight loss.

Focus On

  • Health - Has your health improved with exercise? Even the smallest thing - Better sleep or less stress counts.
  • Feeling Good - Do you feel better?  Not just physically, but mentally, when you exercise?
  • Strength - Are you stronger in other areas of your life because of exercise?  That can be a big motivator to keep going.
  • Kicking Butt - You exercised.  That alone is worth celebrating.

Stop Overestimating Your Workouts...And Underestimating Your Food

Getty Images/Terry J Alcorn

Do you know how many calories you burn during exercise?  You probably get numbers from a variety of places - Your cardio machine, your heart rate monitor, maybe your FitBit or other activity monitor.

But they all have one major thing in common - They're not very accurate at calculating how many calories you burn during your workouts. 


Because, unless you're working in a controlled environment (read: A laboratory), these devices can't measure everything they need to be accurate - Things like your skin temperature and body composition, how hard you're working and whether you're a beginner or a more advanced exerciser.  All of these things affect calories burned.

Not only that, but we tend to overestimate how much we're exercising anyway.  In fact, researchers know that we give too much credit to small successes (i.e., finishing a workout) and not enough attention to set backs (i.e., eating too much pizza after the workout).

Stop It

The first thing we need to stop is giving exercise that god-like status - In other words, I worked out...Let's eat!  Exercise doesn't give us license to eat everything we want, although that's a lovely fantasy.

The second thing we need to stop is covering up just how many calories we're really eating.

Try This

Tracking Your Workouts

  1. Get a heart rate monitor or activity monitor
  2. Track your calories for each workout for an entire week
  3. At the end of the week, make a note of how many calories you burned with exercise
  4. Keep tracking your calories from week to week to get a sense of just how much you burn with exercise
  5. If you're not losing weight, consider adding more exercise time to your workouts or an extra workout day

This is definitely a trial and error process, but one that, if used over time, can give you a sense of how much exercise your body needs to lose, maintain or prevent weight gain.

Tracking Your Calories

Your next, and probably the most important step if your goal is to lose weight, is to track those food calories.  There are so many ways to do this, you probably already know where to go.  Here are some brief tips to get you there:

I tell all of my clients this:  If you really want to change your body, you have to work at it every day.  You have to track your workouts and calories if you really want to know what's going in and what's coming out. 

If you don't want to give it this level of attention, let's change your goal to something other than weight loss.  It's totally okay to do that!

Stop Taking Your Body for Granted

Woman recovering after hard workout
Getty Images/Yuri_Arcurs

We all do this, myself included...get caught up in getting the perfect body without appreciating the body we already have.

Sure, we may have belly fat or saddlebags, we may have cellulite and flabby triceps, but there are so many other things we have that matter much more than that. 

We have bodies that move when we want, heal wounds without us having to do much, carry us where we want to go and keep going, even when we're injured or sick.

Stop It

If you find yourself focusing on how your body looks rather than what it does, smack yourself in the face.  Okay, don't do that, but simply notice it and then...

Try This

Make a list of all the things your body does every single day.  It would take a long time, wouldn't?  I'll get you started.

Your Body:

  • Sleeps
  • Sits
  • Stands
  • Walks
  • Picks things up
  • Puts things down
  • Hugs
  • Kisses
  • Blinks
  • Breathes
  • Bends
  • Reaches
  • Smiles
  • Laughs
  • Grabs
  • Sweats
  • Sneezes
  • Moves!

Naturally, I could go on, but the body is pretty amazing and it's easy to get caught up in how we look and forget how our bodies take care of us every day, even when we don't do a great job of taking care of it.

Sometimes a reminder can change your perspective just enough to remember just how amazing you are.  Your trainer thinks so too.

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