Common misconceptions about fitness professionals debunked

The other dayย IDEA posted the results of a recent survey they conducted on Facebook to identify the 10 most common misconceptions about fitness professionals.

They neglected, however, to explain just WHY the statements they presented weren’t true. Of course, most of their readers are fellow fitness professionals who shouldn’t require further explanation (you would hope!), but I thought I’d debunk them for the rest of you, just for fun!

Common misconceptions about fitness professionals debunked

1. Fitness professionals all look like magazine models.

Although many of us have lean, muscular bodies, shiny hair and clear skin (that’s what exercise and healthy eating do to a body…), we do not ALL look like magazine models. The bodies you see on the covers of fitness magazines are prepped for weeks before their shoot. They’re pumped up, tanned and often air-brushed to achieve the near-impossible physique that magazines need to sell issues.

The rest of us look like this if we’re lucky enough to grace the cover of our local recreation centre’s spring circular;

misconceptions about fitness professionals

2. They do it for the money.

While a handful of fitness professionals do find fortune, most of us are working for $30, $40 or perhaps $50 per hour, without benefits or paid vacations and no financial recourse if clients cancel on us at the last minute. Hours are sporadic and fitness professionals often work split shifts just to earn enough to pay the rent. Some of us blog to earn secondary income (or in the hopes of earning secondary income ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

3. They are not highly educated.

Fitness professionals are required by their local certification body to attend training courses, log practicum hours and sit and pass very challenging examinations. As a group fitness instructor, weight training supervisor and personal trainer, I have easily amassed several hundred hours of classroom and online education, including my initial certification courses and the annual continuing education courses I will need to keep taking as long as I continue to work as a fitness professional.

Most of the personal trainers I work with also have post secondary degrees; Bachelor’s degrees in science, Master’s degrees in kinesiology or education or even business, even PhD’s in biology.

4. They are superficial jocks.

Seriously? I’m not sure where to even begin with this one.

5. They work out all day, every day.

A well-educated fitness professional understands the importance of rest. Most struggle to fit in their workouts between training clients and teaching classes. While it’s true that our jobs are physical (we demonstrate exercises to our clients, hand them their dumbbells, load their plates on the bar), we spend more time coaching and listening and correcting than working out ourselves.

Note, if your personal trainer is working out with you, you need to find a new trainer; how can they be paying attention to your workout if they’re doing their own?

6. They are judgemental.

Show me a judgemental fitness professional and I’ll show you someone who’ll soon be out of a job. Personal training clients and group fitness participants don’t like to work with trainers who make them feel judged. Do you? A fitness professional’s attitude towards other’s lifestyle choices is directly related to how full their classes and personal training practice are. Clients and class participants will vote with their feet if they feel judged or disrespected in general.

7. They have a job full of glitz and glamour.

Really? Since when does wearing workout clothes 6 days a week and spending the day working with people who are sweaty and smelly by the end of their time with you constitute glamour? (Sorry guys, some of you really are smelly by the end of our session…)

misconceptions about fitness professionals

Me, living the glamourous life!

8. They have all the answers.

Impossible! The fitness industry is rapidly evolving. New research about exercise, nutrition and weight loss is published daily and there’s no way that any one individual can be completely on top of current knowledge in the field. A good trainer will answer your questions to the best of their ability and seek out more information when their own knowledge is lacking.

More and more we’re learning that there is no ONE TRUE WAY to be healthy and fit.

9. They act like drill sergeants.

Perhaps (and especially on reality television ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). But only when the client or class type calls for it. They’re just as likely to be your cheerleader, your confidant, your clergy, your psychologist and your mom. Fitness professionals need to be able to adjust their approach and technique according to the needs of the situation. I might act like a bit of a drill sergeant in boot camp class, but not in a 1-on-1 setting (unless you tell me that’s what you need me to be, Sir!)

10. They are paid to work out.

Certainly, group fitness instructors are getting a workout while they teach. You can’t ‘coach’ step aerobics or cardio kick boxing or spinning effectively by walking around the classroom giving verbal directions. However, a good group fitness instructor knows that your workout is not her workout and tries to find a balance between keeping you motivated by participating in the class and keeping your safe and injury-free by coaching and correcting.

Can you think of any misconceptions about fitness professionals that the survey missed?




  1. So many misconceptions – funny how people get an idea or image in their head and think that is the way it is!
    Great post on explaining some of the crazy myths!
    Kim recently posted…CurveballsMy Profile

    • Thanks Kim! I sometimes wonder if any of these misconceptions are keeping people away from the gym…

  2. Great post, Tamara! And I love how you put a little wink after your comment about trying to make extra money from blogging. What? You’re not rich yet from having a self-hosted blog? ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Carrie Rubin recently posted…Pantsers, Outliners, And Chapter One ParalysisMy Profile

    • Of course I am! Rich in blogger friends and amazing conversation. Too bad you can’t take that to the bank…

  3. I like the instructors that are drill sergeants! They keep me on my toes. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Michelle @ Eat Move Balance recently posted…Fridayโ€™s FiveMy Profile

    • If I ever teach a class to you Michelle, I will keep that in mind! I do have a client who likes that approach too, so I’m already prepared!

  4. Great post – I also think the personal trainers are so ‘personal’. Although I’m not a trainer, but I think you’ve written about this before. Some people just work better with some people – trainers aren’t a one size fits all.
    Carrie @ recently posted…The Social WorkoutMy Profile

    • So true! Hopefully that’s why people hire us; to get customized, personal attention!

  5. This is a phenomenal post, so many true things about the misconceptions! Just like in any industry, everyone is different! Being a CPT involves an emotional connection with clients & I don’t think a lot of people realize that. Thanks for writing this ๐Ÿ™‚
    Katie @ KatieEnPursuit recently posted…Five for Friday San Francisco EditionMy Profile

    • Thanks Katie! Some days I feel more like a therapist than anything else (that’s why I can’t train more than about 5 clients in a day; it wipes me right out!)

  6. What a disappointment that people hold these beliefs. The majority of fitness pros I have met over 30 years and 4 continents are underpaid, over educated, dedicated to their members/ clients, and passionate about helping people lead happier, healthier lives. The few bad apples are not really part of the industry, but dilettantes who do not last long. Keep getting the word out Tamara!
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted…Pack Light and Right for Active Adventure TravelMy Profile

  7. I love number five.
    irked me ๐Ÿ™‚
    Miz recently posted…Are you MOTIVATED or are you COMMITTED? (guest post)My Profile

    • Yes! I agree – I used to work out with people b/c their response is super positive, but I’ve learned over the years that people want your attention and are paying you for it – so I sure don’t anymore. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Good point!
      Bonnie recently posted…[almost] Wordless Wednesday + Video Release!My Profile

      • Although some days I’m just itching to… (you know, those days where you’ve got 15 minutes to get your own workout in and you’re dying to move with your clients…)

  8. I love #5. I have had tons of people tell me how cool it must be to get to fit my workout in while I’m with clients. And I’m like… uhm, no way Jose! I am busy working for the client (not myself!), ensuring they are getting what they need from their workout in a safe and effective manner.
    Alicen Ronan recently posted…Foodie Friday: Easy Energy BarsMy Profile

  9. I can’t write enough about how much I love this post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It says it all & I have nothing to add but YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!!!
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted…Tin Foil as Fabric SoftenerMy Profile

  10. All I can say is BIG LOVE that they used the term Fitness Professionals. I’m not anybody’s “personal” anything, let alone, a personal trainer. #alwayskillsme
    Contemplative Fitness recently posted…Defective Personalityโ€ฆMy Profile

    • I wish I could say the same. Until my children become more sufficient I will be wearing the labels of ‘personal chef’, ‘personal assistant’ and ‘personal driver’…

  11. Ha! This is an awesome post, Tamara! I totally agree with everything you wrote…The money thing is funny because I make less than $30/hour and we all know that if trainers/class teachers don’t work, we don’t get paid. People cancel and don’t show and the hour is gone; you take holidays and there’s no pay; no benefits either. I think that’s a big reason there’s such a high turnover in the fitness industry (lots of involvement, time and little pay, even though we’re all in it for reasons other than money!). Just a few thoughts.

    Well-written post and I could relate to them all! Thanks for the good read. ๐Ÿ˜€
    Bonnie recently posted…[almost] Wordless Wednesday + Video Release!My Profile

    • It’s funny, because when I tell people my hourly wage, they think it sounds like a lot. I then explain that in an 8 hour day, I really only do ‘paid’ work for about 5 hours. The rest is driving between clients (unpaid), prepping client programs (unpaid) and arriving early and staying after my 1 hour classes to talk to participants (unpaid).

      Not complaining (I LOVE my job), just clarifying!

  12. Great post Tamara! Number 3 is one of my pet peeves. It seems like everyone wants to be a personal training right now. Unfortunately there are lots of not so reputable organizations that will give anyone a “certificate” even if they don’t have the knowledge to back it up. I know in my area of fitness (the clinical aspect) there is a big push to get us licensed which can only help the field.

    And I love #7 – total glitz all the time! ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…How to Find Time For ExericseMy Profile

    • You’re so right! I do remember some of the ‘less bright’ members of my PT course. Thankfully, they didn’t pass the exam…

  13. When i worked out with a trainer after my car accident I was a bit nervous but she was so nice and so normal and so supportive! All fitness professionals are there to help so even if they DO look like models, they’re all pretty nice once you get to know them!
    Nikki recently posted…About last night…My Profile

  14. Great post!! I can relate to all of them ๐Ÿ™‚ thank you!

  15. I love how everyone thinks we are rolling in money. I run my own classes so I “can” make pretty good money teaching a one hour class. Or I can end up paying out of pocket to go teach a class. People don’t think about all of the fees you have to pay to teach outside of a gym – insurance, music licenses, membership fees, rental fees, etc.

  16. Great post, Tamara. Gee, think that shows like the Biggest Loser have anything to do with people’s misconceptions? Items 1-10: yes, yes, yes, etc. One of the reasons I went into fitness management is so I have a steady income (I live in a very seasonal area), benefits, and still get to train and teach.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted…Lake Havasu, a Half Marathon, and the London BridgeMy Profile

  17. I hadn’t seen that list before – but I do think it is probably what most people not in the know, would think. I think you addressed those concerns very well.

  18. Wait, you’re not all superficial jocks who work out all day?? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just kidding! It amazes me how quickly we ascribe certain characteristics onto people as a group. It is disappointing that people have these misconceptions.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Friday Round-Up: VoiceMy Profile

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