Trainers have feelings too y’know…
If you think about your relationship with your personal trainer it’s probably one of the most intimate interactions you have in your life – this person is literally tasked with challenging your limits and making you a better version of yourself, often through lots of sweat and tears. It’s a bond built with trust and a taste of tough love.
So when that connection doesn’t work out it can sometimes feel like a breakup – and if Sex and the City’s Jack Berger and his Post-it note are anything to go by, some people just suck at severing ties.
Here a few personal trainers chew the fat with Body + Soul about some of the worst ways they’ve been fired by a client.
Mel, Sydney – The ones that got away
“I was training some clients at a park and told them to go for a jog to warm up. There were a few moans and groans but as they went on their way I watched from a distance. They ran in a pack and as they circled around I saw three of the women run off track and toward a car. I watched as they opened the doors, got in and just left – never came back. Probably for the best if they couldn’t handle the warm up.”
Harry, Sydney: Fired by text, minutes before a dawn session was due to begin
“I was training one woman who was really keen to drop a lot of weight and was really dedicated to her training – seeing me three times a week for about a month. I thought we were going well but out of the blue 10 minutes before a 5am sand dunes session she texted saying she wasn’t coming to training… ever.
“I tried to call and see what was up but she didn’t answer and never bothered to ring me back or call me again. Totally ghosted me. It was pretty frustrating because not only did I lose money and time but I was left wondering if it was something I did.
“Months later I heard from a friend of hers that I trained that the client just wasn’t interested in getting into shape. It all caught up on her that morning and rather than possibly having to swat away my attempts to motivate her to come back she just texted and was done with it. But, even if she felt like that, it’s not the decent thing to do.”
Tim, Melbourne – Sacked and trapped
“I have a pretty exclusive client base – some of my regulars like me to travel with them. I had one gentleman, very successful, who flew me to Asia because he had been slipping with his exercise and felt like he really needed a kick start to his year to get on track.
“The plan was meditation, training, yoga and recovery for two weeks – but when we got there it was a different story. He basically couldn’t cope with the heat and held me personally responsible for the humidity. After three days of trying to coax him into even the gentlest of exercises we had to call it a day.
“Being the tight-ass that he was, he was peeved that he had essentially flown me over for two weeks in Thailand – but it was no picnic for me.
“We had some serious conversations about money, he tried to wriggle out of payment and asked me to move to a ratty hotel because it would be cheaper and we weren’t training. I told him it was not going to happen. And since I couldn’t get a flight out of there immediately I spent a few days creeping around the resort trying not to let him spot me even having to mildest bit of enjoyment.
“The lesson I learnt was to pick my clients to travel for more carefully – and get payment before boarding a plane.”
Samantha, Brisbane – The awkward aftermath
“I had a client who decided she wanted to part ways – no biggie. She just said she wasn’t wanting to do PT sessions anymore and just train on her own at the gym.
“It was a shame because I hadn’t trained her for long but I thought she was lovely – she really confided in me a lot about her health battles, but I could see she was keen to move on without one-on-one training so we spilt.
“The thing was though when she would then see me in the gym she wouldn’t even say hi, and I could see when she spotted me she would duck and weave behind equipment just to avoid speaking to me.
“I didn’t need to have a big ol’ chat with her but it was like she thought because I wasn’t training her I would be mad. I wasn’t but I did annoy me that she seemed to go to such massive efforts to not be civil. It was weird.”
Dean, Sydney – Fired via Facebook status
“Well this was super awkward. I had a client who after a PT session wrote on Facebook something to the effect of, ‘Who has a trainer that they can recommend? Mine is rubbish.’ He must have forgot that when I began training him he added me so I saw it and just liked it.
“Obviously horrified he wrote me a message saying, ‘Sorry man,’ but I just deleted him online and texted him to say if he’s got something to complain about to do it to my face. He didn’t do that and I never saw him at the gym again.”
Ian, Melbourne – Sacked old school
“This was a while ago – before the days of mobile phones. I was training a lady for a few weeks and one day I asked her to warm up and stretch while I grabbed some equipment.
“I was gone for a few minutes and when I came back she had put a note on the mat saying, ‘It’s not working out.’ I don’t even know if she saw the humour in her words but she must have got out of the gym quick as lightening because I didn’t see her grab her stuff and leave.
“I saw her a few times in the street after that but she always put her head down to avoid me.”
How to avoid an awful ending…
Sifting through the anecdotal evidence, one of the biggest reasons trainer’s seem to attribute to clients firing them so dramatically is because they feel the client wasn’t ready to put in the hard yards. And if the mental preparation is lacking for the gruelling fitness journey ahead then a lot of client’s tend to project their pent up frustrations about their health onto their trainer.
Personal trainer Dinny Morris, whose mantra is #toughlovenoexcuses, says the best way to avoid a bad ending to a PT/client relationship starts with a good beginning.
“Some people are confused about the role of a personal trainer and what our realm of practice is,” explains Sydney-based Dinny. “And some of the time when you have a client who comes to you and just wants to try and talk for an hour about goals, they’re really coming to you because your one-on-one service is cheaper than that of a psychologist – which isn’t the right motivation.
“I always make sure we have an end goal for the client at the beginning before we start training and we are measuring to ensure we are on track to hit that goal.”
Dinny adds that PT’s can avoid getting an awkward sacking by using the initial consultation as a chance for both trainer and client to assess their compatibility.
“I’ve told clients things won’t work out between us after one session because I can see that they aren’t ready to do the hard work – when your a results driven personal trainer wanting your client to achieve their goals you must let them know this in the very first conversation. And, if they aren’t ready for the change or the process that is needed in order to succeed, they won’t get results. It’s not a happy combo for both of us.”
Read here for our guide on the best way to end it with a trainer.
*Note: Some interviews have been edited for length and clarity.