trainer, therapist

Your Personal Trainer Isn't a Therapist

It's tempting to unload during a session. Don't.

Anyone who’s ever had a significant relationship with a personal trainer can tell you how easy it is for conversations to go beyond the realm of sets and reps. The circumstances prime this to happen: Clients bare weaknesses and shortcomings, goals and hopes, while trainers—part cheerleader, part dictator—guide the journey. In this hyper-exposed state, it’s not surprising that a client might start to unload on the trainer some personal issues. The more time chatting means the less time working out, which is bad for achieving goals. Yes, in part, clients tend to get personal because they spend so much one-on-one time with trainers, they may have disclosed some personal issues and sessions often involve some physical contact. However, there can be a subconscious element to the chatter. Too much talking can be a way of avoiding hard work.

Not everyone is used to difficult workouts, says Damon Bayles, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in New York City and a former personal trainer. “Clients are asked to go outside their comfort zone, their heart rate is elevated and at the gym, in front of so many mirrors, people can feel exposed,” he says. “For those not accustomed to physical discomfort and pushing their bodies, it can be a vulnerable position.”

This state might make clients over-share personal confidences, which can be a mechanism to avoid the physical and emotional work of challenging exercises, Bayles says.

“It’s beaten into our heads that fitness and exercise are important, but that doesn’t necessarily mean people know how to do it,” he adds.

But indulging in this impulse saps your concentration, waters down what you’re trying to do and makes it even harder to get used to working out in an uncomfortable zone.

If you suspect that you’re sandbagging your workout, before your next session, try to usurp anxiety with a desire to achieve goals in the following hour. “Keep in mind, ‘I’m here for these reasons,’ and ‘I want to be kind and polite with my trainer, but also let her do her job so I can make the advances I want to make,’” Bayles recommends.