My 3 Strangest Experiences as a Personal Trainer
Personal training is, by definition, a people business and as the Yorkshire phrase goes, ‘there’s nowt stranger than folk’. Over my career I have met a diverse range of characters, but a few in particular stick out in my mind…
A few months after starting as a personal trainer at a large gym in York, I met a middle-aged lady called Mary* who wanted to do some sessions with me. She explained in her consultation that she was a very busy person, running a family business, and had a lot of responsibilities at home.
As we planned her weekly activities, a common theme cropped up when it came to barriers to exercise and healthy eating:
Mary: “I can’t do early mornings, I have to feed the cats, the mouse, the rat and the fish, and also clean out the cages”
Me: “Ok, perhaps we could look at your children helping out on that front? Could you come to the gym at lunchtimes for now?”
Mary: “No, I need to pop home to walk the dogs”
Me: “Well that’s okay, that counts as physical activity so we can factor that in to your schedule. Evenings then, how much time can you commit?”
Mary: “Probably half an hour, I need to let the polecat out for a run around the house, feed the another animals again and make dinner for me, my husband and the kids”
Me: “A polecat??”
Clearly this lady had a small zoo at home and we had to work hard to ensure we balanced her training plan with her lifestyle. Her penchant for animals extended a little further though. She turned up for her first training session wearing - I kid you not - a full-body leopard print leotard. She quickly became very well-known in the gym.
‘You didn’t need to show me that’
Having had a response to an advert in a local magazine, I arranged a free consultation for a gentleman in his 60s at his home - let’s call him Jim. Turning up at his doorstep, Jim came out of the house to meet me saying in a hushed voice: “my wife is asleep in the front room, so we can’t go in there”.
“Not a problem” I replied, “where else could we sit and chat?”
“Upstairs?” he offered. This was my first warning sign.
As I followed Jim upstairs, he began telling me about his exercise history and how he had some belly fat to lose. He seemed genuine enough so I wasn’t too worried.
When we got to the landing he pointed to a door: “this is our bedroom, we can go in here”.
Warning sign two.
Somewhat more nervously now, I followed him in at a safe distance, my eyes darting around looking for anything I might need to use as a potential weapon and making a note of my escape routes.
It turned out the bedroom was barely big enough to fit the double bed in, never mind suitable to conduct a consultation, but Jim gestured to the other side of the room and invited me to edge my way around the bed to where he did his exercises. There on the floor by the side of the bed was an exercise mat and an ancient–looking ab cradle.
“You see this is the problem…” said Jim, and with that began to pull his trousers down.
‘However this goes from here can’t be good’ I thought, and I was about to drop my bag and make a dash for the door when Jim continued, pointing to his stomach below his belly button, “…I have this scar tissue from a hernia op which I think might be stopping me toning this area up”.
I was momentarily lost for words. “Well, um, thanks for, er, showing me that Jim, but you can pull your trousers back up now”.
We then went on to have a relatively normal discussion about training and nutrition (as much as is possible whilst sitting on the edge of a bed). As it happens Jim didn’t go on to become a client (we agreed we weren’t the right fit for each other).
I received a contact through my website from Gary, who was interested in personal training. I duly called him as soon as I could for an initial chat.
We had a detailed discussion about his goals and what I could offer, and he seemed particularly keen, picking my brains with some quite technical questions.
“I think it would be best if we met for a full consultation” I eventually said, “meeting face-to-face will enable me to give you a much better idea of how I can help you personally”.
“Great” said Gary, “when can you do?” We then booked an appointment and Gary gave me his address.
The day before the consultation, I rang Gary to confirm the appointment and the address. “Looking forward to it” he said.
The next morning I drove to the road Gary told me he lived on and slowed down to look for number 68. After reaching the end and only seeing numbers up to 49 I realised I must have missed it and turned around to look again.
Still no luck.
I checked both sides of the road and with number 68 nowhere to be seen, rang Gary’s phone. No answer.
I knocked on someone’s door to ask if I had the right road and where number 68 was. “It only goes to number 49” was the reply, leaving me baffled.
I rang Gary once again and left a voicemail explaining that I thought I was in the right place but couldn’t find his house.
I never heard from him again.
Someone pointed out that it might have been a competitor personal trainer doing some undercover research, hence giving a false address, but surely it would have been easier to just not book a consultation?? I wonder if Gary was actually there, hiding behind a tree, taking some sort of bizarre pleasure in watching my confusion.
As I say to everyone considering a career as a personal trainer, a good sense of humour is essential, and always expect the unexpected.
*names changed for privacy
Written by Paul Swainson