Gym Joke or Fitness Professional: How Do You Measure Up?

Jessica Botte | 10 Apr 2018

This is a real advertisement running in NYC Subways... and it’s infuriating.

The work we do as fitness professionals is so important. As fellow trainers, you know training is so much more than hanging in the gym, shirtless guys with giant muscles and working out. This is a real career and a hell of a lot harder than it looks. Over the years, I’ve seen countless lives improved by fitness, including my own. I’ve watched my clients grow first hand, observed the wins of my colleagues’ clients and read some truly inspiring transformation stories. Yet, I find myself constantly defending my profession in an attempt to overcome people's misconceptions and  disprove the dumb-jock/hot ditz stereotype. So, what do we do about it? I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED...

Changing the perception of the masses starts with you as an individual. Reflect for a minute. Do your words, actions and social media posts support the stereotype or fight against it?


Personally, I feel like the term “Fitness Professional” better describes my business and all the hats I wear. I’ve stopped calling myself a trainer. Making that distinction has been truly beneficial and it’s an easy place to start. Unsure of how you measure up? Take this quick quiz and I’ll tell you.

  1. Why did you decide to become a trainer?
    1. Because I look hot in gym gear
    2. Hanging out at the gym all day sounds like a dream come true
    3. I love analyzing client data and troubleshooting until we solve a problem or hit their goal. IT'S SO REWARDING!
    4. Being a personal trainer is all about creating positive change in people’s lives. I'm fortunate because my skills/talents and my passion for service intersect here in the gym. I love my career!
  2. Are you a people person?
    1. I avoid interaction at the gym whenever possible... Actually, I avoid interacting with people everywhere.
    2. I am not good with small talk. I often stop myself from interacting with others out of fear.
    3. I love interacting with people at the gym! Bring on the locker room convos!
    4. I ALWAYS introduce myself to new people in social settings. I can talk to anyone about anything at any time.
  3. Do you enjoy motivating others?
    1. I don't like to stick to a routine. I barely motivate myself most days.
    2. I enjoy motivating people to get the best out of themselves, but I'm not always sure how.
    3. I struggle with self-discipline, but I make it happen anyway. Clients like to know I'm human too and it motivates them.
    4. I'm good at motivating myself so I lead by example! I live by the principles I share with my clients.
  4. Are you an effective communicator?
    1. I feel uncomfortable telling people hard truths, so I don't.
    2. It annoys me to have to repeat information to a client when I've already explained it,like ten times.
    3. I always use facts, figures and logic to explain exercise concepts, but sometimes I lose my patience when someone doesn't listen to my instruction. Working on that!
    4. I can easily adapt my communication style to different people, which makes them feel comfortable sharing with me. This instant rapport is priceless.
  5. When a client throws you a curveball, do you adjust and respond to those different situations effectively?
    1. I'm not a very good with multi-tasking. Let's train more and talk less.
    2. Sometimes I find myself exaggerating the benefits of what we are doing or just making things up if I'm unsure of an answer.
    3. My energy is infectious to those around me, so I just keep it positive and keep them moving!
    4. Absolutely! I am good at focusing on the important things and highlighting the positives. Typically, that will diffuse tense situations.
  6. Do you love taking additional education/training seminars to continue growing as a personal trainer and leader?
    1. NO WAY. School was never my thing.
    2. I'd like to attend more seminars, but I have some financial restrictions, so I can't afford any continuing ed.
    3. YES! Originally, I attended a workshop because it was a required course for recertification. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was hooked after that live class.
    4. YES, YES! A THOUSAND TIMES YES!!! I usually attend one work shop per month. I also aim to learn something new every day.
  7. Do you keep your clients on a safe, well designed program and record their progress each session?
    1. Huh? A program?
    2. Yes, of course. Those folder things are around here somewhere ... Organization isn't my strength.
    3. Well, everyone has a custom program, but sometimes I fall behind with documenting the actual sessions or updating the plan based on progress.
    4. IT'S A MUST!!
  8. Do you keep your finger on the pulse of your business by reviewing your major metrics?
    1. I'm a trainer. Why can't I just train? The business will run itself since I'm so good at this. I'm not worried.
    2. That sounds far too scary. I haven't checked my bank account balance in weeks. Ignorance is bliss!
    3. Wow - that's a great idea! Can you teach me how to calculate those?
    4. I wouldn't have it any other way! This is MY business and I'm responsible for bringing success. I'll nurture my new business every step of the way.
  9. Can you empathize with people’s feelings?
    1. I am not interested in other people’s problems. Come in and lift or just leave.
    2. Feelings? YUCK.
    3. I am good at reading people and they feel comfortable opening up to me about their feelings. I'm happy to listen if it helps!
    4. For sure. I'm an extroverted empath, which means I'm extremely sensitive to other people's emotions. This insight allows me to connect with my clients on a personal level.

In my experience, the best trainers nail these five areas:
(In no particular order)

  1. Coaching & Communication Skills - You must be able to take your thoughts and express them in a way that your clients can understand. You will benefit from sharpening your communication skills in all aspects of your profession. It starts with building rapport and asking the right questions at your initial consultations, then you need to cue effectively out on the gym floor, provide feedback and even send out professional emails. Oh, and you need to keep counting reps (and keep your cool) while you answer crazy questions about acai berries or whatever the new fad is. This is a great segway to the next point...
  2. Emotional Intelligence - I think EI boils down to your ability to handle your own emotions as well as recognize and manage the emotions of others. Empathy, compassion and a general fondness for others all fall into this category.
  3. Analytical Skills &/or Business Savvy - Fitness Professionals are entrepreneurs and they own it. Check out this article I wrote on the subject here: Strength In Numbers. That sums it all up. (Yes, that’s a math joke ... sums it up ... numbers ... you get it, I’ll stop now)
  4. Personality - Don’t get me wrong with this one. You don’t have to be the Big Man on Campus type. I’ve seen all different personalities succeed in this field. The trick? Know your personality type and play on that. Be genuine and be you.
  5. Technical Training Skills - This is an obvious one, but you need to know how to train a client and deliver results. Additionally, you need to be constantly learning and put a real emphasis on education. Specialize, keep questioning everything and learn something new EVERY DAY.

I hope the questions and answers above got you thinking and uncovered some areas that you can improve on. If you chose mostly A’s and B’s, you have some work cut out for you. Any C’s you selected are worth a review, so you can bump them up to D’s. You don’t know what you don’t know, but once you’re aware, progress can be made!

We have a real chance at leaving that misrepresentation of our profession from above behind if we all work to elevate the field individually and come together with that common goal.

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Jessica Botte

About the author: Jessica Botte

Jessica Botte has a unique perspective on the fitness industry. In the last 10 years she has transformed from an overweight desk jockey to a top ranked fitness professional and entrepreneur. In 2011 she quit her corporate job in construction management to pursue a career in fitness as a NASM certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. After a year of independent training, she began working at an Equinox on Manhattan's Upper East Side. She quickly became one of the most sought after trainers at the club and a mentor to her colleges. Her professionalism and past experiences made Jess a great candidate for her current role as Fitness Manager. Jessica has been "training trainers" in that position since 2015. Most recently, Jess has branched out into public speaking and developed her own Corporate Wellness Program, JBeWell. Her goal is to use all these channels to help as many people as possible create lasting change in their lives. Jessica received her BS in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from Stony Brook University, holds a Behavior Change Specialist certification from NASM and is Precision Nutrition Level 1 Graduate.
Photo credit: Rula Kanawati

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Comments (2)

Reynolds, Percy | 01 Jun 2018, 00:51 AM

The article points out some of the very glaring issues within the industry. The continued flood of under qualified gym bodies. Most agencies failing to make the connection between theory and coaching adults from extrinsic motivation to being intrinsically motivated and empowered with knowledge to make health and fitness a lifestyle. Final point is the gap in EQ for some people who are highly technical, yet "wired for research" and companies try to undo their hardwired personality types

Schmigotzki, Cassandra | 10 May 2018, 15:53 PM

Assuming i=A, ii=B, iii=C, and iv=D...I scored 2 Ds, 6 Cs, and 1 B. I went with the B on #6 solely because it discusses seminars and live classes. The continuing ed I participate in is home study and my own research.