Mature aged guide to buying a personal trainer

So you made it to forty and noticed some things weren’t as they should be. Gravity has started winning the battle. Keeping up with the kids has become harder than it was previously. Napping is a perfectly suitable past time for an afternoon after spending the morning in the garden.

You’re not alone with this – time marches on and with it come small inevitable declines in ability. For some of us at least. Recently I thought it would be interesting to check under the hood on my own 43-year old body and see just what was really going on. The only way to truly do this is via blood work as cosmetic detail can hide a lot – do you think Lance Armstrong was unhealthy looking when he was found to be riddled with cancer? Checking out the blood tells you the real facts about how your body is coping.

What I found was eye-opening for two reasons. Firstly, my testosterone levels were the same as they were when I was 28. That’s a pretty good thing. But it also means that sadly as a 28-year old I wasn’t that special. But what it says to me now is that there is a lot of great reasons to engage in strength training and endurance work – they are literally the fountain of youth.

That’s all well and good for me. After all, it’s my job to know about this stuff and I’ve spent my life figuring out the best ways to get in shape and stay that way. It’s as natural for me as waking up every day is. But I recognise that for many people that isn’t the case, and that means one thing.

You’re going to need to pay for professional help.

So here’s the scoop on personal trainers in Australia. And this is for all of Australia, not just Melbourne, and not just in our suburb of Moorabbin. These are the stats for our fitness industry:

30,000 personal trainers

15,000 new trainers each year

Every year 10% of the trainers leave for a variety of reasons. So if you start with 100 trainers by the end of the first year you’d have 90. At the end of the second year you’d have 81. The end of the third year would be 73, and the end of the fourth year would be 65. But then something really bad happens. At the end of the fifth year 70% of those remaining leave. That means that of the 65 who made it to the end of the fourth year only 20 will be left.

I’ll be honest and say that because of how easy it is to become a personal trainer it’s also easy to leave the field too. Doctors probably feel very differently about a six-year degree course that cost them somewhere in the vicinity of $100,000 to obtain than someone does about their six-week course that cost $4,000. The low barrier to entry also provides a low barrier to exit too.

That’s not all bad because in most cases the ones who can’t survive shouldn’t be in the field in the first place. There’s a lot more to the job than enjoying being in the gym and frankly most 20-year olds don’t have the maturity, common sense, communication skills, and business sense to be running their own business. Not only that but these are the guys who often end up hurting clients. Clients like you who are a little older and not in the same shape as a twenty-something. Because twenty-somethings aren’t that good at empathy, are they? They don’t know what it’s like to have the boss throw a big stack of papers at them at 6pm and say that it all needs to be done by tomorrow. They don’t know what it’s like to have to go home and spend time with the kids or make sure the bills are paid, or maybe even go and work the second job to pay for the kids’ schooling. And that lack of empathy is usually the thing that ends up hurting you.

You’d think that those who go and get degrees in exercise science would be slightly better choices but that isn’t necessarily the case. Consider a young graduate, fresh from their three-year degree course versus a three-year personal trainer. The degree certified trainer has a fancy piece of paper and close to zero work experience while the six-week trainer has nearly three full years of work experience. I know who I’d choose in that face off.

But let’s put it all in perspective. My accountant has about twenty-five years experience in handling taxation and small businesses. I pay quite a bit (I’m sure that’s not how they feel about it, but they are one of my bigger expenses yearly) for that experience. The day to day work is done by a kid who has a degree and three years of experience. In fitness industry terms that kid would be highly thought of – a degree plus three years work experience would put him or her above 70% of the industry. But he can’t even sign off on a single thing on my accounts without the final clearance from my actual accountant. But in the fitness industry you might be seeing that kid three times a week year round, giving him 150 different chances to hurt you.

There’s a lot of BS in the fitness industry. Most of it comes from the mouths of trainers and concerns how many bits of paper they have. The only thing you need to be focused on when interviewing a potential trainer is how much experience they have helping people with your background. It doesn’t matter what classes they used to run, or how they look in a bikini. What matters is how many people they have right now who are in the same boat as you, or who have been in that boat previously. A great test is simply check how long their current clients have been with them – if they can’t keep clients there is a very big reason why.

At RPT there are three of us working. I’m at the weird end of the fitness industry – the 1% who have been at it for over 15 years. Our other two staff have both been at it for six years now. In other words, under our roof you’ll get better advice and more experience than you will from at least 70% of the fitness industry, and when it comes to what we specialise in – kettlebells, movement, and functional strength – you won’t find any who can match us. No false claims, no damaged or hurt clients, just continual forward progress that comes from a systematic approach that we work with you on in a way that is appropriate for your level.

Be smart when you’re looking for a new trainer. I have some genuine horror stories of trainers killing clients with inappropriate exercises and training methods, hurting them in a way that requires surgery, and belittling and humiliating them. You’ve got one body so make sure you treat it with the respect it deserves and take the time to seek out a genuine high-level trainer. Don’t purchase on price or convenience – your body deserves better.