Walking Advertisements?

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NOTE:  I have to keep this one brief today because I’m about 20 minutes away from heading into a CPR/AED course that I’m as excited about as passing a kidney stone.

Today’s more of an “opinion” piece, but something I feel is relavent to many who read this site on a daily basis.

Many of our clients here at Cressey Performance train at other gyms throughout the week.  For most, they’ll train at their local commercial gym 2-3x per week, and then travel out to Hudson, MA to train with us, and to presumably increase the general level of badassery.

I also like to think that some make the trip out solely to hang out with me, talk about Star Wars, and to partake in Techno/Trance/Tiesto Tuesdays – but that’s probably not the case.

Whatevs.

Anyways, I was talking with one of our clients not too long ago – who’s a trainer herself – and she mentioned to me how, while working out at her other gym, she overheard a discussion another trainer had with his client to the effect where the trainer admitted that he doesn’t workout himself anymore.  Or, at least he rarely does because he never has the time.

She (my client) also added that this particular trainer doesn’t remotely look fit, which I guess isn’t surprising given he never has “time” to be physically active.

And that’s not the point.  I don’t necessarily feel that trainers or coaches HAVE to look a certain way.  I know plenty of very smart, competent, and very successful coaches who don’t fall into some societal “norm” of what a fitness professional should look like.

If clients are getting results and if athletes dominate on the field does it really matter whether or not their coach can cut diamonds with his pecs?

Sure, looking the part is never a bad thing, but just because someone has six pack abzzzzz, or has biceps the size of Arkansas, or looks as if they belong on the cover of a fitness magazine doesn’t mean they know their ass from their acetabulum.

As as aside, this is a topic that my friend, Jon Goodman, wrote about last year, and I highly encourage you to check out this post he wrote:  Should All Personal Trainers Have 6-Pack Abs?

My main beef was the notion that this particular trainer didn’t workout.  Like, at all.  Even worse, he mentioned this to his client of all people.

This is analogous to your lawyer admitting that he never took the bar exam, or that your financial planner just filed for bankruptcy, or that Mark Zuckerberg uses MySpace.

In either scenario you’d think it was blasphemous, no?

I don’t even care that the dude doesn’t workout. Maybe he has a legitimate excuse.  But I find it pretty hypocritical that he’d admit to a PAYING client, who’s looking to him for expertise and advice, that he doesn’t workout himself.

What’s that say to the client? F*** all if you ask me.

Maybe it’s just me, but no matter how busy I am writing programs, articles, assessing clients, running a gym, running an online business, rescuing kittens from trees, you name it….I find time to train.

Always.

As much as we may or may not realize it, as fitness professionals, we ARE walking advertisements.  Everything from how we appear (and this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with abs), and to a larger degree, what we do and say, matters.

Have a clue, will ya!?!?!

What is everyone else’s thoughts on this?  I’d definitely be curious if my thought process is on par with what everyone else thinks.

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  • Ben Pellis

    I definitely like where you are going with this. I think a big part of it is passion; if you don’t make time to train yourself regularly, I would assume you might not be that passionate about training which, I feel, people pick up on. You can tell if someone is just going through the motions, or is pumped and loves what they do. You’ll definitely get a better training experience working with someone who loves training and isn’t just watching the clock for the session to end.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Ben! Couldn’t agree more.

  • Dmoney

    I could go both ways actually. Yes, he may have his reasons, but rarely will you have a trainer (I think) that doesn’t workout/train for no reason at all. There’s usually an excuse or legitimate reason. One of the most successful trainers I know and have met in person doesn’t exactly scream fitness, and he easily one of the most influential fitness pros in the game. His name is Alwyn. You might of heard of him. I’m convinced people will have their reasons for choosing their trainers, whether it’s for looks or the results other people get from him/her. I”ll take people walking through my door wanting my business because of “how great of an experience and results” their friend has gotten, over how my physique looks.Sometimes when weight gets heavy for my clients on a lift and ask me to do it, jokingly I tell them “I COULD lift that for you, but no matter how much/what I do, it ain’t gonna help you look better.” HAHA

    • TonyGentilcore

      I NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT LOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy shit. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp?

      Alwyn TRAINS. He works out. He actually practices what he preaches!!

      The trainer I was referring to – the one my client referred to – doesn’t even do that. He does nothing. Nada. DOES NOT TRAIN. Yet, he should expect a paying client to listen to him?

      THAT was my argument. Not how he looks. And yes, I realize I brought up his looks as a side comment. He’s out of shape and doesn’t look the part. Okay, whatever. Well, I think the fact that he actually doesn’t train – and he’s a personal trainer – is a relavent point to make.

  • Sean

    Key words in the previous comment by Ben were “make time” . Hell I MADE time to come up and see Tony this past weekend, a little for professional development and find out what CP is all bout, but more over, a different set of eyes to tell me what I may be missing.The short amount of time inbetween trainee’s and sessions that I have made for myself will now be will be enhanced. Sans techno(sorry Tony, can’t do it) my trip was extremely beneficial and I look to continue to do so as I MAKE time to allow.

  • FreakSammy

    One of my kids had a junior high PE teacher who was obese. That’s analogous to an English teacher who can’t speak with proper grammar. I think one should at least try to live his or her profession. Or give that impression. Maybe he doesn’t have to have six back abs, but a trainer should at least have a semblance of being fit.

  • Trevor

    Blasphemous indeed. I recall reading something on Mike Robertson’s blog about the strength coach for the Carolina Panthers wanting to be able to do all the core and oly lifts with 135lbs until he was 60. For this guy walking the walk was imperative, and it seems ludacris to me that other trainers wouldn’t want to hold themselves to a similar standard. Whats crazier to me is that people will hire trainers who don’t look remotely fit. Trainers don’t need to be American Psycho ripped, but they ought to be able to execute with precision anything they’d like their client to do.

  • Roy

    I used to work with a guy who used to say, “I don’t do it…I coach it”…made me laugh every time. How the hell can you teach someone something when you can’t do it, or have never done it, on any level at all yourself?

    You don’t value it enough to find the time to do it yourself…but I’m supposed to pay you to teach me…yeah, that’ll work.

  • thor

    I got a good one, I used to intern at Velocity sports performance and one of the STRENGTH coach who was also my supervisor DID NOT believe in weight lifting or strength training whatsoever…his idea of fitness was taking spin classes. Granted, this dude went to school for exercise science.

  • cinthia

    i don’t like seeing unhealthy looking doctors…

  • Justin

    I agree, What about the opposite, just because your trainer has big muscles/is “ripped” or is strong doesn’t mean they necessarily know what they’re talking about or can train someone unlike themselves.

  • Ben

    This is a good opinion, but there are too many variables to consider. Some of your examples are also… quite strange.
    I feel that if you experienced it or study enough about the subject, you should have the ability to be a good coach. Looking the part really has nothing to do with it except maybe help your credibility to the uneducated. If you do look the part, will you be a better coach? Not neccesarily. It can even be argued that since you dedicate time to your own training, you dont have the time that someone who doesn’t train has to focus on his or her clients.
    A football coach in the NFL is undoubtably at the top of their field. They study the game and are around the players all the time. But they don’t play. They are still arguably the best at what they do. Some of the best coaches in MMA never had a professional fight in their life. You can be a world champion and be a terrible coach.
    Look outside the fitness industry then return to the statement that you have to look the part to be a great coach. Seems like a weird paradox to me.

    • TonyGentilcore

      I never said you had to look the part, though. As I noted in my blog post, I know PLENTY of awesome coaches and trainers who don’t fit the societal norm of “looking the part” whatever that is.

      All I was saying was that I feel it’s pretty hypocritical for a trainer who doesn’t train himself to be taking money from someone to teach them about training.

      I still feel my previous analogies apply – albeit they were probably a bit dramatic. You would think it was pretty “weird” and maybe borderline fraudulent if you found out the guy you were paying to give you advice on your finances just filed for bankruptcy, right? How can you justify paying someone for advice on improving YOUR finances if he himself can’t keep his own finances in order?

      The same goes for fitness I feel. I would like to think that if I am paying someone for their advice and expertise on improving performance, getting healthier, whatever, that they too would actually practice what they preach. Looks has nothing to do with it.

  • Jennifer Blake

    I think you’re right on with this. While I don’t think every trainer needs to be totally ripped, I do believe they need to be able to do, and have experience doing, anything they ask their clients to do. Besides, how well can you coach a movement if you don’t know what it feels like? The biggest pisser for me though, was the trainer admitting to his client that he doesn’t train anymore. If you’re going through an exceptionally busy time and if you choose to let your training slide for a while, that’s your business; but keep it to yourself! As a trainer it’s your business to motivate and hold accountable people who are ALSO very busy. Doesn’t sound like good business practice, to me.

  • Speaking as client, the message that would send to me is “It’s ok not to workout.”, which would be a deal-breaker for me. One of the things I expect from a trainer is someone with a higher work ethic than I have to help me get to that level. They may have all the knowledge in the world, but if they aren’t willing to put that knowledge into practice for themselves, then I’d think what value do they place on their knowledge?

    • TonyGentilcore

      Ding ding ding!!!!!

  • Great post. I would like to think that all trainers/coaches do what they do because a) they love helping people and b) they love training. I could not imagine not training, no matter how busy I am. Dave Tate said something along the lines of training being the only constant when everything else in your life is in the shitter. So when everything else seems too hard, too stress, too whatever, training is always there to keep me grounded.

  • FreakSammy

    I think the football coach-fitness trainer analogy is
    flawed. There is a very limited opportunity to play football and only the elite
    can turn it into a profession. Fitness is a lifestyle and there is no excuse,
    short of a physical limitation, for a trainer to not at least be reasonably
    fit.

    • Ben

      freaksammy,

      That analogy may not be perfect but neither is using lawyers and financial advisors as examples. Your example of the english teacher not speaking proper grammar and PE teacher who is obese is actually quite flawed. Because someone spoke using improper grammar doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what proper grammar is and can’t teach it. Same goes for the PE teacher who is obese. Because he is obese does not mean he doesn’t know how to get fit and teach kids how to get fit.

      For my NFL example, just because there is limited opportunity to play at the highest level doesn’t mean the coach did not play earlier in his life at lower levels. Also, you don’t have to play at the highest level to coach at the highest level. It also doesn’t make someone less of a coach even if he never played. He may be, but how would you know?

      “Fitness is a lifestyle and there is no excuse”

      Well.. thats your opinion, and its a harsh one. Just because you think there is no excuse doesn’t mean much. We are not all cut from the same cloth. For some people, fitness could be the industry they have the most knowledge in and are passionate about teaching it to others. Their own fitness program may not be important to them or something they focus on.

      Why is it only in the fitness industry that you have to “look” the part? Once again, other than to increase your credibility to people who think looks correlate to teaching ability.

      The reason I workout has nothing to do with looking the part or being a walking advertisement. Personally I care about performance. Looking good is definitely not a bad thing, but if I chose tomorrow to stop working out it would not make me a lesser coach. For example, take Lyle McDonald. He looks nothing like a bodybuilder but I’m fairly certain he would be a great bodybuilding coach based on what I’ve seen from his work.

      Now if you look terrible, disheveled, fat, skinnyfat, whatever and its hurting your business because people never even give you a chance, then thats another topic. But bottom line is that you can be a great coach without looking the part. But looking the part does not make you a great coach and should not be a prerequisite.

      • TonyGentilcore

        Potatoes – poTAHtoes. Fellas. Maybe my “examples”of using a lawyer and financial advisor were flawed, I don’t know. My thought process was that you’d probably think twice about working with a trainer who DOESN’T workout himself, just as you would probably think twice about hiring a lawyer who didn’t take the bar exam or an advisor you just filed for bankruptcy.

        I “guess” we could sit and argue over semantics, but I wasn’t even making an argument over how trainers look!

        I was just making a case that I feel it’s pretty shady to think that a trainer, who admittedly doesn’t train himself, is taking money from someone paying him for advice on training.

        I don’t expect everyone to agree with my opinion, and that’s cool. But I think we can all agree that hugs are awesome, right?

        Hug it out!……;o)

  • Its simple. Any idiot can make you tire out. But in terms for proper exersize regime is the regime sustainable for long term and can then the trainer Walk the Talk?

  • Kyle Schuant

    Much of the confusion on this issue shown in the article, the comments here and similar discussions elsewhere can be swept away with Dan John’s distinction between HEALTH and FITNESS.

    Health is the optimal interplay of the organs. Fitness is the ability to do a task.

    What is “fit” varies according to the task. An obese weightlifter may be fit for weightlifting, a scrawny marathon runner may be fit for running marathons; they are not fit for each-other’s tasks.

    More than a certain amount of fitness is unhealthy, just look at the shoulders of champion discus throwers, the hips of champion squatters, the knees of champion runners, etc. In the process of becoming fit for their task, they became unhealthy.

    PT clients like to think that their PT is healthy. Most don’t care if you’re fit for this task or that, but they do like their PT to be as healthy as possible.

    Lastly, there’s the issue of being lean, which in the popular mind and media is confused with both health and fitness. One can be lean and unhealthy but fit for the task, fat and unhealthy but fit, lean and healthy and somewhat fit, or lean and healthy and unfit. They’re different things. Clients vary in how much importance they place on their trainer being lean, Goodman’s article referred to above talks about this.

    Once you get clear the distinctions between health, fitness and being lean, these issues become a lot clearer.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Excellent points all around Kyle – thanks for that! But as I’ve noted in other comments, my argument wasn’t the fact that the guys wasn’t lean. My main beef was that he didn’t even train. Just seems a little hypocritical in my eyes.

      Either way, it’s been a solid talking point all around.

  • TonyGentilcore

    I think, too, people are missing the larger picture here. Sure, the title of the blog post is Walking Advertisements, which has more of a physical appearance connotation. My bad. But I think the main point of the post can be summed up at the bottom where I wrote:

    As much as we may or may not realize it, as fitness professionals, we ARE walking advertisements. Everything from how we appear, AND TO A LARGER DEGREE, WHAT WE SAY, MATTERS.

    I capitalized the important part. What we say matters. I don’t really care that the dude doesn’t workout, whatever. But why, then, is he collecting money from people asking him for advice on training? What kind of message does that send to the client? You’re paying me to give you advice on training, yet I don’t do it myself??????? I’d be rip shit.

  • Pete Mc

    Since you’re a movie guy, I’ll quote FMJ: “You talk the talk, can you walk the walk?” One of the better movie lines of all time.

    While you’re absolutely right, we are walking advertisements it’s also important to realize the we also model living an example. Personally I’m not a “situation-six pack guy” but I train 6-7 days/week, walk and bike for transportation, and generally accept the fact that as a fit pro (and educator) then it is my duty to role model living a physically active life. That is the point of your blog – for better or worse, we ARE the role models our clients look to for behavioral cues. A client would rather hear a trainer talk about riding his/her bike to work than admitting “I don’t have time to workout”

    BTW my mtn bike is in the back of my car and I’m chomping at the bit to do some trail riding after work…

  • In my case I train at 5 am, I make the sacrifice and get my shit done to be ready for the day. The other aspect that as fitness professionals we must assure is that if we ask the clients to do a particular exercise or circuit the trainer better be doing it as well. I´ve seen far too many pounding clients to the ground and have never in their life done something remotely as difficult.

  • Matt H.

    I do agree with the fact that we are walking advertisements. Its pretty plan to see but to me honest question, would you give a trainer a second look if they were “heavy?” Maybe they are the smartest person you’ll ever meet when it comes to exercise science, but come on most people would say “I want to train with that guy, he’s jaked!” Now I’m not saying you need to have 9% body fat but you should at least workout. Like you said Tony, “This is analogous to your lawyer admitting that he never took the bar exam…” would you hire him? would you hire a trainer who never works out?

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  • i wish my gym had techno/ trance/ tiesto tuesdays !

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