A Lesson to Fitness Pros: You’re Always Being Watched

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I felt like an asshole yesterday. And when I say “I felt like an asshole,” I don’t mean in the rhetorical “haha, I did something goofy and feel like an asshole” sense. I straight-up felt like a heaping pile of asshole.

HINT: I was an asshole.

To get right to the point: I let a client down. And it was 100% on me.


I hope this will be a lesson to every fitness professional reading that you’re always being watched and that you’re always making decisions – whether directly or indirectly – that will affect your business and people’s perception of you.

However, before I dive into my assholiness from yesterday, I hope you won’t mind if I take a second to butter myself up and break down a scenario where I was less of an asshole.

I think it goes without saying most personal trainers and coaches – at one point or another, have experience working in a commercial gym.

Admittedly, it can (not always) suck. One of the biggest drags is many trainers are left fending for themselves in terms of harvesting their own clients.

This can be a daunting task for those new in the field, are a little more introverted, and otherwise inexperienced.

Whenever I’m contacted by someone asking me advice on this topic, my immediate response is:

“Act as if you’re always being observed or judged.”

A great example would be how you approach floor hours.

Most (new) trainers at most clubs are required/obligated to accumulate “x” number of floor hours per week. It’s more or less the fitness industry’s version of hazing or probation/purgatory, where you walk around the club feeling like a tool picking up after everyone else’s mess.

If I had to liken it to anything, it would fall somewhere between preparing your taxes and jumping into a shark’s mouth as far as things I’d rather be doing.

Anyways, when I had to do it I used it as an opportunity to get in front of as many people’s eyes as possible. I’d say hello, make eye contact, and occasionally offer some advice on technique, unique core exercises, or maybe strike up conversation on favorite GI Joe characters.

You know, cause I was cool.

All told I used my floor hours as an opportunity to provide a service and to reel people in as clients.

And speaking of clients, when I was with one, I’d always, ALWAYS make sure to give them my undivided attention. I’d be on-time, had my programs ready to go, and always prided myself on being more proactive, giving cues and feedback at all times. You know, coaching.

As a result, on many occasions, I’d be approached by other people asking if I had openings because they had been watching and observing me throughout the weeks or months prior.

Little did I know – at the time – that I was constantly be observed and judged.

It resonated with me then and it’s something, still, that’s important to me now. It never gets old when, after working with me for a handful of sessions, a new client mentions how much they appreciate my approach compared to past experiences they’ve had with other trainers and coaches.

They’re being coached rather than babysat for.

I don’t say this to be vainglorious, but interpret it as you will.

But Back to That Me Being an Asshole Part

All of this to say: we all fuck up from time to time. Or, maybe more germane: have a slight lapse in judgement.

Most days I show up 10-15 minutes prior to clients showing up at CORE.

I had two clients scheduled to show up yesterday at 4 PM. 3:30 hit and I was still home prepping the day’s blog post and catching up on emails.

3:40 hit and, while I knew I was pushing my luck (my gym is only a mile from my apartment, but still a 10-15 minute commute that time of day), I had to post the article up on Facebook.

Priorities, right?

“Okay,” I thought to myself, “I’m probably going to be a teeny-tiny bit late. I’ll shoot my clients a quick email to let them know I’m on my way and that I’ll be a few minutes off.”

No biggie.

Feeling justified, I rushed out the door and headed to CORE.

I arrived at 4:03. Both clients waiting outside the side of the building trying to avoid the first oppressively hot day.

Joe, an accomplished businessman here in Boston (12,000 employees answer to him) who just started with me three weeks ago and has been an exemplary client – shows up on time every session ready to work his ass off – was the first to greet me.

“Hey man, it’s past 4 o’clock.”

“Yeah,” I said, “sorry I’m a little late.”

“Stop posting on Facebook and lets get to work.”

He saw my post. He called my BS.

What an asshole I was.

Joe wasn’t malicious or anything, or even that mad. I think. He didn’t even make me being late a thing. He said what he said, and we did, we got right to work. However, his matter of fact way of calling me out on my momentary hiccup really punched me in the gut.

And, honestly, it served as a nice wake-up call.

I’m better than that.

You’re better than that too.

Let this be a lesson: You’re always being watched.


Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

Comments for This Entry

  • Lenny Macrina

    I say this to every PT student...always being watched. Be careful what comes out of your mouth and what you do!

    May 18, 2017 at 7:25 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Christine

    Yesterday while I was focused on my client all of a sudden she says hey he's not even looking at her. I look over and instead of focusing on his client this other trainer was fixated on picking skin off his callous while the client was doing a plank. Moral of this story is just because your own client didn't see you not paying attention other people obviously do and probably will not hire you.

    May 18, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Reply to this comment

  • kathy ekdahl

    Tony you always show your humanity, and I love it. Thanks for being humble and sending a great message that we are always being watched and evaluated by others. Not only does this happen while training, it also applies to what we do outside of training. I live in a small town ( you know where) and people approach me daily outside of training to ask questions or get advice. How I treat them also matters. These are my "potential" clients, and my referral sources. A kind word, taking extra time to explain a food label at the grocery store, encouraging someone to start an exercise an program even if it isn't with me, all that adds up to good will, good karma and good business.

    May 19, 2017 at 7:22 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dave Degenhardt

    It's comforting to hear other professionals that take the same diligent approach, but even more so admittedly expressing a stress we all feel daily trying to squeeze it ALL in each week, each day, and each hour...the clock is always on watch as a trainer lol

    May 19, 2017 at 8:37 am | Reply to this comment

  • Erica

    Yes, this! I always tell the trainers who work for me..you're on a stage at all times when you're in the gym. People are always watching.

    May 21, 2017 at 6:42 am | Reply to this comment

  • Shane Mclean

    Great, honest post Tony. We live and learn mate.

    May 21, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Reply to this comment

  • John Dachauer

    There's a trainer at my gym, I really think he knows what he's doing. However, I think he's a tool and wouldn't give him any business because he does stupid shit like set clients up for floor exercises on the Prowler turf, even though there is 100's of sq ft of floorspace empty 10 feet away. Absolutely no regard for anyone but himself.

    May 21, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Reply to this comment

  • AbbeyDove

    I had to laugh at this. I'm a high school teacher, and we interact with at least 150 students a day. Talk about being watched! There's pretty much no doubt about it--at least once a week I will likely screw up in one of those interactions--and that's in a *good* week. On the plus side, being on both the giving and receiving end of human interactions "gone awry" has taught me a lot of humility.

    January 1, 2018 at 5:06 pm | Reply to this comment

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