Confessions of a Middle-Aged Personal Trainer

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I’m currently in Europe.[/footnote]Nah, nah, nah, nah, nahhhhhhhh.1

I had a speaking engagement Bonn (Germany) this past weekend, and I’m doing a 2-day workshop in London this coming weekend.

Before that, though, Amsterdam is on the docket starting tomorrow. Figured it would be a good idea to queue up this guest post from personal trainer Shane McLean today rather than wait till any shenanigans and debauchery take over.

Which is to say: I’ll still be in bed by 9 PM. Who am I kidding……;o)

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Personal Trainer

If you’re thinking this is some old dude ranting, who longs for the good old days, then you’re partly right.

I’m not yet 50, but I love stepping up to my soap box and offering my opinion.

Although gyms have been around for a while, personal training is still a relatively new profession that has a (reasonably) low barrier for entry and has seen its fair share cowboys come and go in the attempt to make a quick buck.

To pay the bills as a fitness professional usually involves getting up at the arse crack of dawn, working long hours, attending management meetings and consuming copious amounts of coffee in the hopes you have enough energy to workout.

NOTE – this is changing due to the rise of online personal training.

And when working for most commercial gyms, the trainer will be lucky to earn a 50/50 split, which sounds good in theory but those new to the industry fail to account for all the work that goes into preparing for a session.

Hint, when the trainer is a newbie (like I was) it’s a lot.

However, most fitness professionals want to help people and not stack their wallets full of cash, unless you’re a celebrity trainer who really likes to be on TV endorsing crappy products that act as overpriced clothes hangers.

Do I really need to name, names? I’ll get into trouble.

However, I’m stepping off my soap box now and stepping into the confessional and revealing my deepest, darkest secrets that I’ve been hiding from my clients for years.

I hope none of them are reading. 😊

1. I’m a Lousy Repetition Counter

There’s a saying around the industry that trainers are gloried rep counters. They count the reps, write it down on the workout card and say “good job” as they move on to the next exercise.


Unfortunately, for my clients I’m terrible at counting reps because I’m focused on technique, external cues to fix their form or encouraging them. Amid all of that, I lose count and when they ask how many reps to go I say, ‘Do 2 more.’

Then a dirty look comes across their face as they respond with ‘you’ve got no idea.’

I’ll never tell. However, wait, I just did.

2. It Never Turns Off

Being a coach and getting paid for it is one of the greatest jobs in the world. Essentially, coaches get paid for telling people what to do, how do it and to rip them a new one when they screw up.


Furthermore, coaches get to wear comfortable pants and pass off their caffeine addiction as hydrating. However, there’s a price to be paid for this……….

The coaching button is always on.

When I’m working out or training a client, I’m always looking around the gym and judging people’s form to see if they’re performing an exercise well or poorly. And the more I tell myself not to look and judge, the more I do it anyway.

So, when you see some guy at the gym slapping his forehead and shaking his head while someone is humping the ground doing push-ups, that will be me.

Please wave and say hi.

3. Do As I say, Not As I Do

Good nutrition and exercise work hand in hand for superior health. One is better than none, however both are ideal if you want to crush your goals. And I recommend this to all my clients like a broken record but there’s only one problem, my diet is far from perfect.

I love chocolate, beer, potato chips and burgers and sometimes all at once. If it’s battered and fried, it’s in my mouth and when I eat out, I finish what’s on my plate, no matter how full I am.

When telling a client, they must eat better, cut the crap and suck it up if they want to lose weight, I feel like the biggest hypocrite of all.

4. I Am Working, Really.

The gym floor is a unique workplace environment because the trainer is always on show. It’s not like your usual office cubicle with a desk, chair and a computer where you can pretend to work while catching up on the weekend highlights.

You can definitely tell when a trainer is not working.

However, it seems hard for the general gym public to realize when a trainer IS working with a client. I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve been interrupted (other trainers can back me up here) when a client is in a middle of an exercise.

“Can you take a picture of me and my friend?”

“What’s the best exercise for (insert body part here)?”

“Are you using this?”

“Is this squat rack free for biceps curls?”

“Do I look fat in this dress?” Oh wait, now I’m getting confused.

I often reply with ‘can’t you see I’m working?’ Which is often met with a blank, confused stare and snooty huff and puff as they storm away. The next person who does this to me, I’ll go all Samuel Jackson on their butt.

That will learn teach them.

5. Sometimes the Gym is the Last Place I Want to Be

Like a chef who orders pizza for dinner when he or she gets home from work, sometimes I’d rather watch Oprah re runs than drive to the gym and train.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the gym environment but after a while of training clients, watching silly people do silly things and the management chewing your butt out for not tucking your shirt in, the weight room is the last place I want to be.

I’d rather take my dog for walk.

Finishing Up

That feels great to get that off my chest and I hope it was as good for you as it was for me. Please keep in mind that coaches are human too and they’re not perfect.

And please don’t break my concentration when I’m working. You’ve been warned.

About the Author

Shane “The Balance Guy” McLean, is an A.C.E Certified Personal Trainer working deep in the heart of Texas. Shane believes in balancing exercise with life while putting the fun back into both.

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.

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