As human beings, we have a primal drive for autonomy. Self-esteem is something that we guard only second to life preservation. We all like to be the boss of ourselves. When someone tries to tell us what to do or how we should change, we feel compelled to resist and control our own destiny.
This is the conflict between client and trainer. The client comes to the personal trainer because he is overweight, under-trained, and not-so-fit. He believes that he would like to look or feel differently; hiring a professional seems like the logical step. The trainer no sooner says “it’s nice to meet you” before he starts constructing a program and a “do this/don’t do that” list of nutritional guidelines. The client, who had been convinced that he wanted to change starts having second thoughts. It’s not that he wants to keep his lousy physique- he doesn’t- but it seems like a better option than taking orders. He truly does want to get leaner, fitter, and healthier, but he wants it on his own terms.
The drive for autonomy is so strong that it triggers a deeply wired response to being told what to do- resist, Rebel, RETREAT! This spontaneous aversion is magnified when it’s a “know-it-all” expert who doesn’t fully empathize, appreciate, or know what it’s like to walk in the client’s shoes. As a professional personal trainer, trust me on this: a trainer that begins forming a program and action plan without getting to know a client really does have the best of intentions. The client’s inventory form tells her what’s wrong and she knows what can make it right. She skips steps of counseling, because she’s in “go” mode and doesn’t want to waste any time getting the client from point A to point B. But she misses the point- she doesn’t know HIM.
A professional personal trainer, certified through a nationally accredited organization, such as ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine- the gold standard for training the general population), ACE (American Council on Exercise), NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association- the gold standard for training athletes), or NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), can help you reach your health and fitness goals. But, your trainer doesn’t know you from Adam right off the bat. Realize, too, that you don’t know your trainer, either. If she seems judgmental, bossy, or out-of-touch, you may be misinterpreting her behavior. Initially, you are both strangers to each other. If you are proactive in helping her understand you, your likes, desires, how you like to be motivated, what you enjoy about your current lifestyle, things in your current lifestyle that you are reluctant to abruptly change, and your short and long term goals, you enable your trainer to work with you on mutually developing a training program. If she gives you know-it-all attitude and/or refuses to listen to you, you should find a different trainer. Hiring the right trainer (for you) and equipping her with this unique information about yourself may enable her to customize a program to your liking, and allow YOU to lose weight without losing your autonomy.