Guest Post: What is a Personal Trainer Supposed to Look Like?

Today’s post is by my friend Bree, a personal trainer based in Sydney, Australia. You can find her on facebook, and she’s a fixture in the Eating the Food facebook group. Thanks for your wise words, Bree!

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First things first- thanks Amber for even considering that this post was worthy of being featured on the Go Kaleo blog. I tried blogging, but I’m not very good at it. To be honest, I’m an absolute wuss when it comes to revealing too much about myself. Which is why I’m way too pathetic to post this somewhere like my own blog where only my family, friends and colleagues might see, because this is about something that is very personal to me and is a topic that I will do anything to avoid discussing ‘in real life’: my weight. And how my weight is perceived by the industry I work in, which forms the basis of the love/hate relationship I have with that industry.

I’m a personal trainer. I wanted to be a trainer for many years, but kept putting it off. I’d lost a lot of weight and had been on a personal journey (like most people who change their life habits) but never thought I had ‘the look’. For seven years I waited until I had abs. I was so worried about how I would be judged, and thought surely my training business would fail if I didn’t look like the model on the cover of a fitness magazine. The abs never came, despite my best efforts, but as I reached my 30s, I realized that if I kept putting certain limitations on myself, I might never get to have a career that I was passionate about.

This week I had a conversation with a fellow personal trainer that triggered every one of those insecurities that stopped me becoming a trainer for so long. It highlighted the judgement that can silence the voices of those in the industry who genuinely love fitness, health and exercise and want to share that passion. We were talking about the new Zumba instructor at our gym, and how much the class numbers had dropped. Zumba has never been popular here, but the old instructor had worked the floor and recruited as many participants as possible. The  trainer I was talking to saw the cause of the drop in participation as something very different. She blamed the new instructor’s appearance. “She is disgusting… Who would be inspired by someone who looks like THAT?”.

Despite the temptation to reach out and punch my colleague, I went silent. Why? Because this hit home.

The new zumba instructor is probably an Australian size 12-14 (US 8-10). She’s Latino, with a body that is built for shimmies and serious booty shaking. Damn it, even her hair whip has attitude. Every moment of her class is filled with a joy and energy that embodies the enthusiasm of Zumba (and having spent three days at a convention across from a Zumba stage, I know a lot about the enthusiasm of Zumba). I’ve watched this instructor dance and thought ‘that chick can move!’ Sadly, to some in the fitness industry, her skill is irrelevant. Skill alone is not enough to make her a good example for those she teaches. This hurts me. Because just like that Zumba instructor, I do not have the ‘right’ look. I am overweight, my thighs touch, I have cellulite.

This whole scenario has spun around in my head for a few days and has made me angry. I am angry at myself. My own paranoia, that not fitting the widely held stereotype of how a personal trainer should look, damages my business. It stops me from approaching people in the gym, because I often think ‘who would want to look like me?’ I am incredibly fit, healthy, and can lift like a demon. All inspirational things. And I am a damn good trainer who really cares about my clients and has helped them reach their goals. But I have gained seven kilos since December 2012. The judgmental element of the fitness industry expressed by my colleague this week makes it tough for me, every single day, to show that I have more to offer those I train, or could potentially train, than my weight gain.

It also upsets me because I know how hard it is to walk through the doors of a gym for the first time. You think everyone is looking at you. You think about how different you look from everyone else in the gym. You already think you are being judged because you don’t ‘look fit’. I’ve walked through the same turnstile for eight years as a gym member, and now as a fitness professional, and I still feel it. The last thing you need is some trainer staring you up and down, making you feel like you don’t belong. That is not what personal training is about. It is not why I joined the industry. And I don’t believe that most fitness professionals enter the industry to just train the so called ‘body beautiful’. We join it because we want all people to learn how much exercise can make you feel awesome, and help you lead a long, productive, quality life. I want those of us in the majority to stand up and outshine those who make you feel that you are not good enough, because you don’t have body fat under twenty percent, or your boobs jiggle when you run.

I want every reader to understand, there are people in the fitness industry just like you. We don’t always look perfect, and we have factors in our lives that mean exercise and diet aren’t always our top priority. This year, my mother has been diagnosed with cancer, my father died, I suffered a major injury to my wrist that is going to involve a six month recovery period and I started a new business. The last time I gained a lot of weight it was during a time of major upheaval, just like this time. There are, quite simply, times when food prep and training aren’t especially important. Sometimes it is just about getting through the day. I’m sure many of you understand what that is like.

Please don’t think we look at you and think ‘lazy/not good enough/slacker’. Please do not think that all of us believe in the ‘no excuses’, train-until-you-spew model of fitness. Most of us believe in healthy balance, and that is what we want most for you to have in your life. Fitness is about something much more important than your appearance. Don’t be like me and allow the real and imagined judgement of others to limit you. There are many more fun, loving professionals like the Zumba instructor, than the narrow minded. Judge us on our passion, our experience, our empathy, our knowledge…just remember that our bodies, like yours, are shaped by our lives, and are not the sum total of our value as a trainer.

47 thoughts on “Guest Post: What is a Personal Trainer Supposed to Look Like?

  1. The gym I attend is huge. I see all types of trainers. Who wanted to reduce unwanted fat must do exercise daily. It helps to look attractive, get a shape of body.

  2. Great article! All of what you said you felt I’ve felt too (and still feel sometimes).

    I think you’re taking for granted the incredible ADVANTAGE you have over all these other personal trainers. You’re inspiring in a more relatable way.

    If you’re the only trainer there who doesn’t look like they stepped off the cover of a magazine I imagine that, exceptionally fit and aesthetically ambitious clients aside, you’d be the trainer of choice.

    (If what you’re even “selling” in the first place is a visual transformation. If that isn’t the case, how physically fearsome you look might not even be a factor at all.)

  3. Fantastic post and perspective Bree. I am also a Sydney-sider and having just checked out your Facebook page, an instructor in the same chain of gyms that you work at. I’m not perfect – particularly having just come back from a major injury – but can’t say that I’m really bothered by that or that it’s affected my class numbers.

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  5. This post quite literally made me cry. It struck home with me very deeply. I have wanted to become an instructor of Zumba and a couple of other classes but I keep finding myself going “Who would want to watch my fat jiggle.”

    Thank you for sharing, so very much.

  6. I have been a personal trainer for 18 months, and recently received some criticism through my blog for not looking “firm” or “muscular” enough. I am not overweight by any means, but I do not have a six pack. I have a hormonal condition which makes obtaining extreme leanness not only very difficult but also quite dangerous for my hormones and fertility.

    I have received a huge amount of positive feedback in my short time as a PT. I am told that I am an inspiration as I am real and honest about my journey, approach things in a healthy manner, and am in the profession for the right reasons as I absolutely love what I do. When I first started training, I was overwhelmed by the number of chiselled guys I worked with, and felt pressure to lose body fat to fit in. However, within only a short amount of time, it became clear that these buff dudes had no idea how to get ordinary people into shape. I became the most popular trainer in my gym, because not only were my clients achieving results, but they were loving it too.

    I became much more confident in my own body and its abilities, especially after going through some particularly difficult physical battles at the beginning of the year, and I wanted to celebrate that through my blog. Despite the confidence I’d gained, that single negative comment among hundreds of positive ones made me doubt myself as a fitness professional. It brought up all the old feelings I had when I first started my job and I felt incredibly self-conscious. I cried and I wanted to delete the pictures I had proudly displayed only hours before. Thankfully, this feeling only lasted a couple of days.

    I wish people were less judgemental in general based on first appearances, but especially more so when it comes to people in the fitness industry. You can’t know someone’s background, expertise or passion just by looking at them.

  7. You are a serious inspiration! I love your no-nonesense approach to this. It really is simple!

    I have to pass this on to some of my friends …

    Thanks!

  8. Fantastic post! And that Zumba trainer sounds awesome….

    Your reasons for becoming a trainer are very similar to the reasons I became a massage therapist. I didn’t do it because I wanted to make lots of money, I didn’t do it to keep myself healthy. I did it because I wanted to make a difference in peoples lives… I wanted to help people to be healthy, to help heal them, to fix the problems they have with their muscles.
    And that is the most rewarding part of my job.
    Yes I have physical issues with my own body (I have a structural scoliosis as a result of 2 fractured vertebrae or a start), but that just means that I can empathize with people when they have issues with their bodies as well.

  9. At the gyms I go to the best trainers are the old guys, they put more effort into it than the young trainers. They have a log book for each client. Also they appear to enjoy what they are doing, rather than just going through the motions.

    • Sadly, the certification systems in place mean that the slackers can make it through. Thankfully, they tend not to last too long in the industry. There is a reason why here in Oz, the average life of a personal trainer is under 18 months. Don’t look after your clients and do your job well, and the law of natural selection will weed you out of the business!

  10. The problem is that a gym is like a club for “body enthusiasts”.
    The “ideal body” of a gym junkie is a distorted image – normal people, or people who just want health and fitness, should not be heading to gyms. And they definetely shouldn’t be listening to the opinions of “body enthusiasts”

    It’s sort of like rocking up to a V8 car club and then being hurt when the bogans start picking on your tiny Ford Focus. In the car enthusiast world, cars with huge blowers, cranking engines and massive wheels are idealised. But in reality, it would be ridiculous for most people to drive around in a pimped up hummer.
    And more importantly, noone expects you to.
    How many women listen to rev heads when they buy a car? Did you choose your ideal car based on the liklihood it could do a good burn out, or that it had a 1000 horse power engine? Of course not! It’s only at the V8 car club that these silly notions of “perfection” are maintained. The average person doesn’t give a hoot what car you drive, and there are plenty of guys who will be more than happy to hang out with you in your shiny reliable ol’ mom mobile ;)

    So don’t head to the gym in the first place.
    And if you really must head to a Zumba class wth the fluro gym gear and the dance music, then realise that it’s not reality. It’s zumba.
    There are plenty of people who would want a normal, everyday personal trainer – your clients wont own V8′s and they wont want you to! Be proud to rock up with your track pants and fluffy dice ;)

    • I don’t see the problem with gyms. Usually the arguments against the commercial gym is directed at the people who are using the gym. I work out at two LA Fitness gyms (I travel a lot so it works for me) and I probably stick out like a sore thumb because I am twice the age of most of the guys in the weight room, but I’ve never had a negative experience there, I do my thing and everyone else does their thing.

      If you feel the need to be “perfect” at the gym the problem is not the gym.

      I’ve had the opposite problem recently with yoga. I decided to finally give it a try, and I love it, it’s a heck of a workout. But people ask “Where are you taking classes?” and I say “I’m not taking classes, I did a lot of research and reading and watched stuff online and I’m doing it at home.” They look at me like I am a special needs kid.

      I don’t know why you can’t do yoga at home.

      • It’s dangerous. You’re using your body as a weight and you shouldn’t lift weights alone either. I recommend getting a 4 pack or 8 pack of classes from a local yoga studio(groupon is great for this. classes nearby offer 8 packs from $80-100) and then use what you learn at home after that.
        There are certain things that we cannot see/feel that we could be doing to our bodies without knowing, but she is trained to know what to look for and most likely has done it a while.

      • Having an instructor with you is a good way to learn alignment and to help make adjustments in postures. The energy of a class is also really nice. That being said, I started doing yoga at home and only went to classes for maybe a year (out of the five that I’ve been doing it for, give or take). YogaGlo is a nice site that lets you stream videos from your computer and it’s only $18 a month for unlimited classes, as opposed to $10-$20 a session. I also really like Rodney Yee’s videos, which was my yoga gateway drug- they’re so peaceful and a great work out. I still do it alone sometimes without the videos or anything, and I think that listening to your body closely will alert you to adjustments you need to make.

  11. I am guilty about choosing who does my eyebrows based off of what an esthetician eyebrows look like. I understand the judging by appearance it is a natural defense mechanism we have developed as humans, however it has been skewed over time into irrational judgement and bias of other human beings. Often times we are our own worst critic when it comes to these judgements, especially within the fitness industry.

    A number of years back after the birth of my son, a fractured pelvis and working a sedatary desk job for the time in my life I gained a lot of weight and lost a ton of muscle mass. As a former competitive athlete the emotional pressure I placed on myself sent me down a spiral of insecurities and depression. One day I caught my reflection in a storefront window and knew I had to make a change as my eyes filled with tears. I spent the next seven months not only losing weight, but toning muscle. Although I was proud of what I had accomplished this far, I focused on the negatives. My thighs touching, looser skin, no six pack and I still hadn’t hit my competitive weight. I decided to train for a marathon, even though I hated running (I am more of an adrenaline sports kind of gal). One year after I cried at my reflection I ran my first marathon (nope, still don’t like to run. However, I love they way I feel afterwards and that is my motivation). It was around this time I came to the realization that I wanted to help people with thier fitness goals. Although I still wasn’t satisfied with my appearance, I felt amazing.

    When I approached a local gym about a fitness certification seminar five months down the road the young man behind the counter actually looked me up and down and let out a guffaw. He proceeded to tell me I would be too old (36 at the time) and that if I really wanted to pursue a career as a fitness instructor or personal trainer I should attempt to actually loose another 15 to 25lbs. I felt deflated. I had worked so hard, wanted to share my successes and continue with my personal fitness goals and this young man whom I had never met killed my dream and surprisingly my motivation.

    I tucked the idea of being a fitness professional away and have continued my desk job. Although I still work out I have lost the ferver and drive I once had in a cloud of self doubt. I realized I will never look like the firm athlete I once was in my late teens and early twenties and I allowed that realization dictate my avoidance of pursing a career path within the fitness industry.

    Two weeks ago I was on a business trip and had to get my brows done before a large presentation. I went to a salon next door to the hotel I was staying in and the gal who did my brows had very little to now brows at all and had penciled some thin lines in for brows. I immediately became skeptical of her abilities, however I needed to get my brows done and I hoped for the best. While she did my brows we chatted briefly and I learned that she didn’t have any hair anywhere on her body. After a long fight with cancer she prevailed after much chemo, but her hair never grew back.
    I judged her and ability before I even sat back in the chair based off if her appearance. She did a fabulous job waxing my brows and she also reminded me that although I believe myself to be non-judgmental, I to am guilty of being bias based upon appearance. Most of all myself.

    After reading this blog I am motivated to look beyond the smile lines on my face and the stubborn chub on my inner thighs. I am choosing not to judge based off of societal visual definitions of what fit and beauty looks like. I thrive on helping people succeed and I am emotionally balanced and more confidant when I am active. I know I am a fantastic candidate to work within the fitness industry. If I can change at least one mind to be more open to what fitness and health actually looks like then I will have succeeded.

    Thank you for sharing and “cheers” to getting back on my desired path.

    • Chase that dream! It WILL be worth it! Such a reward to see the change you can help someone make, especially when they get the confidence to exer use without you by their side.

    • Wow! Inspiring. All of what you wrote sounds like me. I just gave up a 15 year career behind a desk to be a personal trainer at 39. It scares me to apply at the gyms. Personally, I would hate to work at a gym who told me I was old or overweight. My life experience is far more valuable to the typical man or woman at the gym. You and I know what real life is like and how to show clients compassion. Please please please don’t let that little man stop your dream!

  12. Just want to say it’s entirely possible to be larger and still have abs. I’m 5’4″, US size 16, and because of my Cherokee ancestry I’m very thick in the core. I come out at about 19% body fat right now even though I weigh 180 pounds. I bench press 250 pounds and leg press 400.

    Yes, I realize I’m a rarity. But that’s not to say that women over a US 8-10 can never look slim.

  13. Thanks for voicing this Bree! You raise important points about working out for the love of fitness versus slogging it out to change our naturally healthy bodies into the same prototype that social culture has labelled attractive. We are not all the same, and having only one body type represented by the fitness industry is a sure way to perpetuate the belief that we can and should all look the same.
    What you represent as a personal trainer is a realistic outlook on health and fitness. You challenge your clients and provide them with an opportunity to learn to love a fit and healthy lifestyle.
    I know that some people in the fitness industry represent themselves as a product “this is what you can look like if you work out with me”. However this is unrealistic for people who have a balanced lifestyle involving work, family, social events, and a mindful appreciation of delicious food. The misrepresentation of healthy bodies goes beyond the fitness industry and into the media… But that’s another blog for another day!!
    Good on you Bree for your inspiring PT work. Don’t let that trainer get you down- she’s just grumpy because she hasn’t had a burger in 10 years

  14. Wow…this hit home for me. I am 45 years old and in the process of getting certified in personal training. I have literally talked myself out of it for the last 7 years, but finally decided to go for it. I really desire to help people achieve health…whatever that looks like for them. My health was threatened a few years ago and I became suddenly aware of what a difference it made in everyday activities. I want people to realize there is so much more to it than vanity. I have no idea where this will end up for me or if I can even get hired at a gym….but I have to try. Thanks for writing this…it helps put it in perspective.

  15. Oh man! This just kills me. Frankly, I’d prefer a trainer that was in the size 8-10 range US. I’m scared shitless of the tiny little trainers running around my gym – for exactly this reason! If this beautiful woman who is built to move and obviously passionate enough about fitness to be a ZUMBA instructor is “disgusting”, what must this trainer think of me and my tummy and size 16 pants? I’ve only done personal training a handful of times because of this attitude. It’s hard enough being a heavy girl without being judged by the people who are supposed to be helping you.

  16. My trainer is a 4’10″ woman in her twenties, built like a boy, and has bleached blond hair. She is all muscle. I, too, am 4″10 and I weigh 210. I think I am the fattest person at the gym, height to ratio-wise. I am 55, and I will never be a super model. My naval officer daughter who is also 4’10″ and built like marble statue says not to worry about being a model, and that she is very proud of me just for showing up because to be honest my showing up at a gym is freaking amazing.

    My trainer is great. She also is very proud of me just for doing anything on my own, without her. I am going to tell you what amazes me the most about my trainer: She talks to me as if I am her equal. She does not talk to me like I am fat or lazy or useless. Frankly, I go to the gym even when I don’t want to because she has such faith in me that I would hate to disappoint her.

    I would like to tell trainers that while it is important that you look like you have been taking care of yourself and exercising, it’s even more important that the person you are training believes that YOU think that they are worth your attention and that YOU have faith in their ability to improve their fitness level. Nothing is worse than having a trainer that is aloof, looking around the gym and who rushes to finish your session before your time is up. Frankly, its demeaning. I would rather have somebody who is not a sculpted goddess, but who genuinely is engaged in helping me, than somebody who is sorry they were assigned to my fat ass.

  17. If I could walk into my gym and find a trainer like you, I would have one! I have only found the super judgmental trainers you talk about here, and it makes me sad because I do feel like there are many people that feel the same way we do. We just don’t speak up! Keep doing what you’re doing Bree. You rock!

  18. Thanks everyone for all your support!

    And SLC Girl, I get your point too. It’s actually one of my beefs with the industry. The people in those promotional pics don’t usually follow the programmes they promote. They are hired models. And what a lot of trainers do to achieve that chiselled look quite simply isn’t realistic for most people with kids, parents to care for, a full time job, etc. Not everyone wants to do what is involved to look that way because it isn’t especially close to their own goals. They might want to lower their blood pressure, train to help with mobility, general health or (in my case) it could be another goal such as strength and powerlifting. All are valid.

    It is also irresponsible and lazy of the industry to promote nothing more than the aesthetic benefits of exercise, because they really are the least significant. The mental and physical health benefits are the real benefits of moving.

    • “It is also irresponsible and lazy of the industry to promote nothing more than the aesthetic benefits of exercise, because they really are the least significant. The mental and physical health benefits are the real benefits of moving.”

      This. Exactly this.

    • “It is also irresponsible and lazy of the industry to promote nothing more than the aesthetic benefits of exercise, because they really are the least significant. The mental and physical health benefits are the real benefits of moving.”

      Do you think that most people come to the gym desperate to improve their aesthetics? If so, perhaps personal trainers feel pressured to a) make sure their own aesthetics are bulletproof, i.e., marketable and b) make sure that they’re advertising being able to improve how you look?

      Or do you think it’s the other way around? That the industry / trainers themselves are creating the demand?

      I mean … is it the industry’s fault or that of the masses that fund it?

  19. Amen! I am a trainer and lately turned off my fellow “trainers” who post pictures or putting things out there making them sound like they are Gods who never make mistakes or are human. I am a 40 yr trainer with bad stretch marks and excess skin from pregnancy yet I am a caring trainer who will push their clients to their goals. Yet I tend to compare myself to these trainers who I think have image issues anyway. makes me mad that I do that. It doesn’t mean I am not a good trainer or wide knowledge of fitness. Great post!

  20. I love this post. I want to be a trainer some day. Why? Because I want to help others like me to get healthy. I am glad I have a non-judgemental trainer. The judgement of people like the trainer you mentioned, is what is wrong with society and why so many people are afraid to go through those gym doors. This is a great post. Don’t let ignorant people ruin it for you. You are doing something you are passionate about. And being REAL and RAW is what is going to make you a great trainer. Not being judgemental.

  21. I am a forty seven year old man. I have been actively pursuing physical fitness for nearly twenty years, mostly as a means to improve my mental and emotional health. I would love to help others experience the myriad benefits a fitness oriented lifestyle, but I have been reluctant to do do, as I tend to think I ain’t “good enough” what ever the hell that means. Thank you for sharing your own, very real, and human emotions around your profession. Sigh. People. We are often so judgemental, so devoid of empathy and awareness of anothers plight, that we fail to see what we can offer one another. Hmm. Maybe one doesn’t have to be a twenty-something to be a trainer.

  22. Saw this post and am much older now, still striving for health and fitness. I loved the one about WW11 women, who predated the media-driven craze for celebrity beauty. Thanks for that. Regarding the values placed on the fitness instructor by his/her class participants, I share this: When I researched for my Master in Nursing degree, looking for help for my rehab patients who face such huge physical limitations while trying to improve function, I met (through his work) Dr. Albert Bandura. A key element of Bandura’s self-efficacy (how I learn what I CAN do) theory is the role modeling of someone like “me”. So my perfect instructor is one who is enthusiastic and clear in her instruction, and perhaps has a little extra softness. She will improve while I do in achieving her goals.

  23. Wow. So powerful, intelligent, insightful, and moving. Thank you for this amazing and amazingly thoughtful post, Bree, and thank you for being good enough to share it, Amber! All the best to your mum, Bree.

  24. Thank you for sharing this! We are so appearance driven, aren’t we? I saw some photos of WWII wives the other day, and thought to myself that most of those women would be single in the world we live in today. They would be being judged on appearance only, not on the wonderful contributions they made as wives, mothers, workers, homemakers. Their personalities would be ignored. Their talents would be ignored. Their strength of character would be ignored. How sad that the media and shallowness and greed control our viewpoints to the degree that our grandmothers, mothers, and great-grandmothers would be deemed valueless today. Thanks to you and Go Kaleo for setting an example of what really matters and the way to be. XXOO!

  25. Oh wow!
    I love this post so much!
    I’m a personal trainer, as well, based in Utah. And while I haven’t really ever struggled with weight, I have always wondered if I’m in the right industry because I don’t have the 6-pack abs or the bulging biceps. I’m fit and strong, but still have a little fluff around the middle (Two kids!).
    I wonder, “Should I be working out harder to get those (abs and bulging biceps)?”
    Naw. I know how to help my clients and I do have a fit body, even though it’s not 5%body fat. I exercise so I can just be strong and fit, not necessarily to be ripped.
    I love what I do and I love helping people.
    Bree, you sound amazing!
    Best to you,
    Kjell

  26. A million times, yes. “I’m not fit enough to be in this gym…” I know that.

    Here’s the weird thing.

    Do you know what fitness videos inspired me the most, back in the day? It wasn’t the Cindy Crawford or uber-fit videos. It was Richard Simmons. Why? Because he populated his videos with real people of all shapes and sizes and ages — and I do mean ALL — and I would think, as I sweated to the oldies, “man, that guy can do it, that gal can do it, they look like me, I can do it, too!”

    I would appreciate a fitness instructor who wasn’t physically perfect. It would inspire me to continue the workout because at some point you don’t look at what you think you should or could be as inspiring, but you imagine what you are. I am becoming more inspired by real people making it happen, and when I look around the gym, I am encouraged by the “imperfects” sweating on the weights and machines. They tell me that I am OK, too, and to keep going.

    • “Man, that guy can do it, that gal can do it, they look like me, I can do it, too!”

      That’s a really good point!

      I’ve never found myself overly inspired by guys who were lightyears ahead of me on the fitness spectrum – guys whose physiques and lifestyles felt totally out of reach. That just felt totally irrelevant to my situation.

      There’s a lot to be said for coming from a little further behind someone’s current situation and managing to get a little bit ahead of their goals.

      A couple years back at 6’2 and with my all-time heaviest weight being 130 pounds I couldn’t find ANYONE who had been as skinny as me in the fitness industry. Their after photos were all way more extreme than my goals too – I just wanted to not stand out as the skinny dude!

      Seeing all these fitness icons go from pretty fit to super jacked wasn’t inspiring to me because it still made my own goals seem totally unachievable – I never got that “if they can do it I can do it” vibe.

      I eventually managed to gain 40 pounds and make it up to 170 – still thinner than most BEFORE photos – and posted my modest results on our little graphic design business blog.

      All of a sudden I started getting emails from guys who were 140 pounds and hoping to make it to 160. I mean hey, if a 130 pound nerdy graphic designer dude can make it to 170, they sure as hell can make it to 160, right? All of a sudden there was hope ahaha.

      And that slowly launched me into coaching guys into how to build muscle.

      As weird as it sounds, had I either started off more genetically gifted or only started documenting my progress when I was much further along … none of that would have happened (at least not that organically).

  27. As someone who has also dropped classes due to instructor appearance, I’d like to state the reason why. We’re force fed by the fitness industry that if we do classes and follow the lifestyle, we’ll look fit trim and sexy. If I see an instructor that is the opposite, which is pudgy, curvy, jiggly, etc. the first thing I think is “this class is b.s. because if it worked, she’d look like what the class creators promise”. The same applies with the trainers at my gym. The ones in good shape are popular and hard to book time with. Why? Because from their obvious appearance, they know what they are doing! Why on earth would I want to book time with a flabby guy that has a gut or a “trainer” that’s got dimpled thighs and flabby arms??? If someone is going to live and breath and preach fitness, they MUST reflect it to keep people motivated.

    • There’s a really popular class at my gym, the instructor has a near perfect body. Fit, sculpted, taut, curvy in all the right places. The class uses light weights (2-3 pounds) and dance moves.

      The instructor powerlifts on her own time.

      • The point to my comment is that if a person, regardless of what class they are teaching etc. does not look fit, they give the impression that they don’t know what they are doing. ANYONE can earn a trainer certification by simply taking a course….doesn’t mean they should be doing it or attempting to teach others. But if they reflect what they have learned, then it not only inspires others, but also confirms that they are well versed in what is needed to be fit. Sorry, the truth hurts to read sometimes, but I’m not alone in this thought. It’s very evident by the lack of people signing up to train with the chubby instructors and trainers at the gyms I go to.

        • Yeah, I completely understand this as-well. Except I think the point of this post is that people need to understand that NOT everyone will look like a supermodel even if they train super hard and eat a balanced diet. AND that people who do not look like supermodels can still be sexy, healthy and fit. Also just because your trainer looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger, this doesn’t mean you ever will no matter how hard you train… I don’t think that the Zumba instructor being referred to in the post had a fat gut or was out-of-shape at all. They probably had hips and thighs, a butt and maybe boobs bigger than that of a supermodel, but probably still appeared mega fit. Everyone should be able to love their body and be sexy no matter what shape they are born with. I also think if everyone was able to appreciate other peoples bodies for what they are, it would probably make appreciating their own a-lot easier and would hence make them a happier person.

          • The gym I attend is huge. I see all types of trainers. What I don’t see is out of shape ones. I see different shapes. Some women get lots of muscle in their thighs, some don’t. Some trainers are taller and tend to look leaner, some are shorter and tend to be more stocky. But when I watch them they all seem to know their stuff. I lift weights. Heavy. I don’t do things like Zumba. Why? Because I have fun with weights. I can now bench press almost my body weight. I can do sets of pullups. I like the challenge. My friend is a runner. She competes in marathons. Standing side by side, I look more athletic. No I don’t have a 6-pack, because I like to eat. If I lost 10 pounds I would show a lot of hard earned muscle, but I don’t care about that, so I’ll keep my layer of fat. We are both fit, strong, sexy women. We have both had 3 children. Women need to be nicer to themselves and each other. There are many more aspects to being fit and healthy, than looking like Barbie. And remember no trainer is going to perform some miracle on you. It’s on you. Fitness models you see online or in magazines sacrifice a lot to look like that. And that sometimes can include photoshop, and even surgery. As I said I attend a large gym. I can count on one hand how many women I have seen in the last 2 years look like a fitness model. Pick something you like to do and have fun with it. Eat healthy and you’ll feel better. Put your ego down some and enjoy the life you have. By the way my friend is 48 yrs, and I am 52.

    • Hi SLC,

      As a personal trainer for 7 years I’ve worked with people who are exceptionally fit who come in all shapes and sizes.

      Many people do not fit the image force fed by the fitness industry. People also suffer from illness, mental health problems and life issues from time to time (even those working in the fitness industry) which affect their training and dietary regime sometimes.

      It’s best to understand where someone else (a-la walking a mile in their shoes) before you judge them, just as I try to do with lazy and/or overweight clients who ask for help.

      I’m wondering if you buy into what you’re force fed, or if you hold a different opinion?

    • If you’re a skinny guy looking to gain weight, would you want to train with the trainer who looked like Adrien Brody, Brad Pitt or the Rock?

      … I’d probably go with Adrien Brody. He’s thin in an appealing way and that would seem achievable to me, especially if he had come from a similar place as me.

      Now if you look like Brad Pitt and you’re looking to get gain weight … maybe it’s time to sign up with the Rock, because he knows how to get to that next level.

      If you’re 300 pounds and not feeling too well, perhaps you sign up with the 250 pounder who’s full of energy and who once weighed 350 and felt even worse, right?

      For all you know there are other people out there with jiggly guts thinking “maaaaan I really want to learn how to dance but I’m too out of shape and totally don’t look like your typical dancer” and all of a sudden this Zumba instructor rockin’ a jiggly belly becomes incredibly inspirational, right?

  28. Beautiful post! I have been thinking of hiring a trainer, and you’re just the sort of person I’d want.

    I think there are lots of people out there looking for trainers who don’t look like the front of a fitness mag, cause honestly, how intimidating is that!

    There should be all shapes and sizes of people in the industry, because there will be all sorts of clients with different goals, too!

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