How & When to Leave Your Trainer

arrows-in-opposite-directionHiring and working with a personal trainer is a unique experience. You are paying a good sum of money to someone you don't know well who will stare at your body parts, poke at you, and order you around. And you'll be happy for the opportunity.  But what if it doesn't feel right?  When should you leave your trainer?  If you're new to working out... It's always easy to say you're trying out different trainers to find the best fit.  This way, if you don't like the person for whatever reason, you can just say, "I've enjoyed working with you, but I want to see what Donna can do for me. She looks tough, too."  The trainer should be gracious and you can easily move on to another person.   You should switch trainers if  . . .
  • You don't feel comfortable with them personality-wise.  There's no way to know this until after a couple of sessions, so if  your trainer is a die-hard Republican and you're a granola kind of girl, it's fine to opt out.
  • You do a workout and get hurt.  This happens more than you might think.  While it does take time for a trainer to get to know your body and its limits, there should never be an experience where you leave the gym in agony or wake up the next morning and can't move.  If this happens, discreetly let the owner/manager know.  Trust me, as an owner, I can't fix the problem if I don't know about it.  
  • You notice another trainer that intrigues you and wish to work with that person.  Once you get settled into the gym environment, you start to see what others are doing.  Perhaps you want to work with the guy who specializes in swimsuit models or the trainer who always has her clients in a big sweaty mess when your trainer hasn't even beaded up your forehead yet.   
  • You don't feel comfortable with their gender.  This happens a lot and it's fine.  You thought it would be fun to flirt with the male trainer, but instead you feel uneasy.  Or you thought female bonding would be cool but were wrong.  It is okay to switch trainers for any reason. I've had clients come to me because they just don't want to work with a man or woman and it's not a big deal to switch.  Again, you're paying good money; be sure you have a great experience.
  If you've been with a trainer for a while... This can be a more difficult relationship to sever.  But there are reasons to leave a trainer you've been with, even for a very long time. . . 
  • The routine is stale.  If you've done all the same exercises for a while now, the trainer could be on autopilot.
  • The relationship gets too personal.  Of course, you'll get to know your trainer well.  This happens and I have to be very careful when I become friendly with the people I train.  I've had clients celebrate my marriage, the birth of my son, and several other milestones with me.  But the trainer should not be halting the workout to talk about a great pair of shoes or their girlfriend's wicked ways.  When I'm in the room with them, it's about them. 
  • You want to try something completely different.  Maybe you've been weight training for years and you want to try Pilates, or maybe it's time for a break from the gym to try zen meditation.  That's perfectly okay.  Over the years, most people will drift from activity to activity.  If your personal trainer doesn't know anything about yoga and that's what you'd like to try, tell him you're taking a break for a while.  If you miss him or her, you can always go back. And if you like you're new activity, then your trainer should understand and be happy for you. 
Finally, if you're leaving a trainer you have some experience with, please do it in person and let them know how much you've appreciated their help over the months or years.  I was recently dumped by email after working with a client for 9 years!  He even admitted that he'd been working with another trainer for a while.  I felt like a jilted girlfriend.  Pick out one or two things that your trainer helped you with and let them know you value your time working together.  Then give 'em a hug or a handshake and move on to your next adventure.   It's your body, you should do exactly what you want with it.

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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5 Responses to How & When to Leave Your Trainer

  1. Teriss April 17, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    I do yoga with my dog since she was a puppy she came onto my yoga mat and joined in like a trooper. Whoopie now does stretches or shall I say downward dog each morning and night and when ever she can during the day. It’s great for her circulation and good health. I also give her massage which she now expects on a daily basis. Great blog here.

  2. M May 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    Lisa, I wish you were in NYC. My trainer is leaving — after having assured me, and apparently a few other clients, that he wouldn’t be, at least for awhile — and lots of people (including the owners) are in, to paraphrase a friend, in “some kind of state” about it.

    (Even though I’d also had some thoughts, recently, that it felt a little like he was on “autopilot”, as you put it … and so I had some suspicions even then about his assurances, which I’m afraid I couldn’t stop myself from reminding him recently. But it’s hard, when you finally find someone with whom you click, whom you feel isn’t silently judging you because even though you work hard, you don’t quite look like an ABT principal yet … and with whom you’ve made sufficient progress that you could even tell your skeptic orthodoc “I told you so” (or at least hint at it with your face, LOLsigh). It’s really hard.

    *little sob*)

  3. Lisa Johnson May 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    I hear you. As a studio owner I sometimes get surprised by an instructor leaving … but usually I have a clue when it’s coming and we try our best to transition clients to a new person. Sometimes it works great and sometimes it’s a nightmare (both for me and for the client!). The reality is quite a few trainers are transient and will come and go looking for the next thing or just living their lives (moving out of the area, getting married, etc.). You facility should give you a few free sessions to try out new people and hopefully you’ll find another match. Ask for you trainer for an honest answer too … hopefully he’ll give you one. :) L–

  4. devilish diva December 8, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    I appreciate a trainer’s point of view on this subject. I’ve been working with the same trainer for a few years now and I think it is time to move on. I just don’t know how to go about it! It should be SO simple — Hey, it’s not working out. Good luck to us both! — but it’s not. He’s become a friend. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Then again, I’m paying him to help me achieve weight loss and fitness goals, few of which have been met.

    It’s very upsetting. It really is like a break up!

  5. Lisa Johnson January 27, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    It really is like a break up …

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