WELCOME TO HELL!!!! Personal Trainers Reveal Their HEALTH-CLUB HORROR STORIES!!!

Posted on 11. Jun, 2008 by in Personal Trainer Marketing, Personal Trainer Sales Systems

Personal Trainer CryptKeeperWhen we talk about training here on Super-Trainer, we’re talking about Independent Personal Training, which is one of the most amazing and rewarding situations you can ever get into. A real dream job if there ever was one ..

What we’re absolutely, positively, not talking about is HEALTH-CLUB TRAINING!!!This is one of the worst situations you could be in, but unfortunately one that typifies the life of most Personal Trainers. It’ll sap your strength, eat away at your soul, eliminate your drive, and make you hate a profession that you thought would be fun and easy! No, I’m not kidding – it’s really that bad! So if you’re a trainer languishing in one of these situations this post is for you, ’cause your not alone!!!

And it’s not just bad for trainers – clients too know that the trainers they’ll find in these situations aren’t always really fit to be practicing this profession at all. Savvy clients these days are staying out of the health-clubs and looking elsewhere. When looking for a trainer they now more often turn to the web or suggestions from friends to find them.

This creates an interesting situation where not only is the work much higher paying and more fulfilling when independent, but the quality and seriousness of client is much better as well! Ask any independent trainer and they’ll tell you how this works.

Personal Trainer Horror StoriesSo to get good input for this post I solicited for some real HORROR STORIES. Here are just a few I got from Whistleblower readers and people from some of the training forums (Super-Trainer members are denoted by name, forum members by their forum tags) – let the loathing begin!

Our first few ghastly tales come from LA Fitness – a supposed high-end gym, but one that has yielded some of the worst training stories to date (improper grammar and misspellings have been left as-is):

Mike Lopez: I sure do wish you would include the pay La Fitness trainers make! Well I am one and this is the pay scale for us! We get paid $7.50 per 30 minute client! Peanuts! Most of the time the Trainer Manager puts two clients in the same 30 minute session and we still get paid $7.50 a half hour! Thats ONLY $15 an hour! Sometimes for 4 clients! Also we have to train more clients then have empty hours in order to get paid the $7.50 a client per half hour OR you will get ONLY $7.50 an hour even if you are training people! Which basically means you need to train more than half your hours in order to get paid by client not by hour. hope that made sense!

LA FitnessBrad – Mesa, Arizona: The mnggmnt steels your commissions. If the computers are down(WHICH IS A LOT) and you have to use what they call the “exception logs” for your sessions you can pretty much count on not getting paid for them!

Atl2La – Suwanee Georgia: LA-Fitness Body of change is the PT department and they had to change there name because mgnt was hiring trainers without certs and got the shit sued out of them the lost there ass over one stupid **** in Georgia who destroyed the name of a good company.

Wow, I don’t know what’s worse – the actual gym situations or the language they used to describe them! Our next ghastly tale comes from 24 hour fitness, a major health-club chain with over 300 locations throughout the country :

Gischer – California: I currently work for 24 hour fitness as a trainer. I will say they are ridiculous in that they will hire trainers with no prior certification and stick them through a 3 day workshop which teaches how to sell their products and a couple of silly balance exercises, and then call us certified. This results in plenty of very un-knowledgeable trainers, but they don’t really “tell” us how to train other than that. At least in my club everything is pretty hands off, and they just let us do our own thing.

I guess on one hand maybe they are too “hands-off”… we definetly do have trainers who never fail to mention “the core” in every single exercise, and will do anything and everything on a bosu ball short of jumping jacks.

24 Hour FitnessEmisgod – Norway (not real location): I personally feel they indulge in a lot of silliness with their insistence that everyone stand on globular objects before performing nearly any exercise .

I really like their foolish training habit of training everyone who is doing Calves by having them do raises up and down the stairs to the Cardio section, one Leg at a time, unweighted of course. One day, there were about 4 trainers trying to take people to the stairs, which clotted up the staircase nicely. It was kind of funny watching them have to interrupt their workouts to wait for other people to get out of the way and every time someone wanted to go up to use the Cardio machines or come down from a workout…

That was for some of the gym chains – here’s some of the even more garish methods being used at a few private gyms –

DB2012 – Cali: About 7 years ago I worked in a gym called “Fitness USA”. Trainers there were a joke I soon found out. The training they put us though was so ridiculous. They told stories of “success” saying they would not allow the person to leave the room until they signed up or physically got up and left. It was the worst High pressure environment I have ever seen. They would call potential members fat and out of shape, One guy I worked with signed up a guy who was retarded who didn’t have a job just go get a sign up. I quit very soon after I realized how unethical the place was.

Our neighbors in Canada are suffering from the same plague – Dark Phoenix from Ottawa reports:

I worked at Goodlife (A Canadian Gym)

I was to use the goodlife hand shake, which was a normal handshake, only with the other arm I was to grab you by the elbow.

I was told that if a client starts crying, great, now they trust you and you can sign them up.

If a person was to say “I need to think about this” – this being a contract worth 3000 dollars or more, I was to say “You said this was important to you, why wait, lets get started now.”

I quit soon after this.

Now to Bally’s – this happens to be where I got my start, and you can read all about my story in The Whistleblower Report. After a few months I was smart enough to get out and have never looked back. Here’s how one guy from the forums described it:

Bally's Total Fitness Fitnessmaster68: Ballys is the WORST company ever. I briefly worked there and it was the biggest joke. They had a new “manager” every week,trainers would charge clients higher rates than what ballys charged,they try to not pay you and make you fill out forms to get your check. I heard members complain about being charged twice a month. I heard the manager tell a salesman “dont let them leave unless they sign up”. They pressure people to join and then when they come back and try to cancel they fight it all the way. Its a very corrupt atmosphere. They also used illegal aliens to clean the place.

Yeah, sure these stories are all subjective – then where are all the positive stories from health clubs? If they do exist (which I doubt), I don’t think any of us wants to hear from the people that have been brainwashed into thinking what they’re doing in the health-clubs is a real career.

What do most people want out of a career?

  • Fulfillment
  • Personal Growth
  • Respect
  • Money
  • Control

And in some way achieve a consistently high income that’ll allow them to do things like purchase a home or start a family; you know, things a real professional should be able to do.

It’s obvious this can’t happen in any shape or form when working for a health-club. I really feel for all my fellow trainers that are getting up every day and heading to one of these prisons. That’s not for me and it’s certainly not for you!



12. Jun, 2008

See that homeless guy on the street? Snatch him and send him through the doors of the nearest 24 Hour Fitness – he’ll likely secure himself a “personal training” job (or shall I say “supplement” salesman). In fact, he’ll likely score the job wearing what he has on, even during the interview. At least, that’s how easy it was for me when I approached 24 Hour Fitness. Funny thing is, I had no idea on what I was getting myself into. The Club Manager? Horrible attitude, superiority complex, and never around when he’s needed. My manager? A young girl in her mid-twenties who smarts off every time you call her with a question. My fellow trainers? Wow, I can’t speak enough on these guys. Sometimes I wonder if they can even train themselves because they sure don’t get their clients anywhere. The other trainers are probably the worst thing you’ll deal with in your job. You’ll have the five-year veteran who’s a supposed know-it-all, but can’t explain the difference between a split squat and her butt. She’s got this certification and that, which in her mind gives her the ultimate credibility to train and call herself the best.The latter his hardly true. In addition to all this, I’m supposed to meet a supplement sales quota, otherwise I get barked at by the managers for not getting my job done. Since when did I apply to become a GNC sales rep? As far as I know, I applied for a Personal Training position. It’s horrible and I can’t wait to move from this setting to do my own work. It’s only a matter of time for me.


12. Jun, 2008

You know, I have just started to get my feet wet in this field. Well, I would not even say they are wet yet. I have been lifting weights since I was 18 (now 28) and I have never thought about being a trainer up until the past couple of months. Working out at 24 hour fitness close to my house, I would see trainers doing things that looked right, and had their clients sweating. Others are hardly ever smiling or motivated and so I figured to myself that maybe I could do a better job at this. I found super trainer doing a search and love the concept behind it. Coming from the Real Estate side of things, I am used to making 75k plus a year, but feel that I do not love my job anymore. To my point… I hear it over and over on the web to not work for these big chains, but how does one get experience?? How do I become a “GREAT” trainer after I get my certification(s) that everyone says does not mean anything about being a trainer?? Is there a class that teaches you the proper way to train so that I don’t get looked down upon because I am taking on this career with just a good attitude and a certification in my pocket?? Do you mirror a guy that “claims” to be a good trainer and implement his routines into yours?? I notice at my 24 that there has only been 1 different trainer in there since I started a year ago at this location. Talking to a trainer the other day, and the guy loved it. Said the money is great. What gives?? What makes a trainer a bad trainer after he has just obtained his certification….and what makes another guy with the same certification a “respectable” trainer?? No one really seems to touch on that subject…. Personally, I am on the taller side, well built and have a great attitude. I thought that was a leg up in just being able to market myself to others. I think if its obvious you work out, then people are more inclined to chose you as opposed to other trainers. I have started reading to get my certification. But, what is the next step after that? That is never talked about. I want to be the best, and give people a good workout, where is that taught?? Thanks


13. Jun, 2008

Well, I’m sure Kaiser would be much more qualified to answer this than me since he’s actually made the progression through this industry, but here’s my take: There’s good clubs and bad. It just so happens that 24 Hour Fitness (and the one I’m currently employed at) as a whole is notorious for bad service and low-quality personal trainers. We all have to start somewhere though. I think the health-club scene is the place to practice and “get your feet wet” as you mentioned, but it’s not a place you want to be several years down the road when you’ve started to really build rapport with your clients and develop a fairly large base.

Like I said, this is only my best guess but Kaiser would touch base much better than I, for I have just as many questions as you.

Doug Murphy

13. Jun, 2008

Wow! I thought I had some horror stories! One of the health clubs I worked at when I was first starting out years ago was so unethical I left after 2-3 weeks. The “closing rooms” for signing up new members were very tiny and had optical illusion wallpaper that made it look like the room was closing in on you (I’m not kidding-you can’t make this stuff up!) If we couldn’t close the sale, the procedure was to bring in this hulking bodybuilder that was on the management staff. He would close the door, and the poor prospect would be so intimidated by 2 salespeople in a tiny room that they would usually sign up. I had never been so disgusted in my life.

As for Andrew’s question, I think the best experience a new trainer can get is with a personal training company. There you will usually find much higher quality trainers, training and education advice, as well as better pay than the health clubs. I worked for one in Chicago before I struck out on my own, and it was a great experience that helped prepare me for self-employment.


13. Jun, 2008

Actually, I forgot about that option entirely :) Perhaps that’s what I’ll do next summer!


13. Jun, 2008


I am 26 and have been a trainer for 6 years and also been doing real estate in Manhattan for the last 3 years and understand your concern over the money making possibilities within this transition. After making GREAT money in real estate during the last 3 years I have come to see that I don’t love it. I LOVE training and am 100% dedicated to all of my clients now and going to expand and I thank this great site and Kaiser for showing me the light. I got started by doing the NPTI school in Midtown about 6 years ago and worked at New York Health And Racquet club for about 2 months and then quit and started my own private training studio. Looking back I learned alot in the school especially body-mechanics and sports specific training but its unnecessary and expensive. Nasm or Acsm will be more than enough. Good Luck


14. Jun, 2008

Gaby, I have the manual here for NPTI, but again I hear everyone say that is not needed. What I am more curious about, is after I get my certification, then how do I become a better trainer that is respected and not looked at as just a guy with a cert?? I think mirroring a few people is obviously going to be standard. The web is also very useful it appears in developing programs and what not suited for different clients needs. Ultimately I just want to know what makes trainer A with a cert, better than trainer B with the same cert?? Thats all…


14. Jun, 2008


What I left out is that after working for a health club we had a Private fitness company show up at my NPTI school and my instructors recommended me and a few other people to them and they contacted me. That took my training to a whole new level and I was with them for a little over a year until I went solo. I think that is your best bet, and the safest way to get your feet wet without going CRAZY. Basically what will differentiae you from other trainers is basically YOUR level of service and passion which your clients can see right away. Also program design will set you apart. Just think of it as you would when you did real estate and give it the same attention to detail and you will do great. YOU are the product and are always being observed so stay on top of your game.


14. Jun, 2008

Working for another established trainer is an option I didn’t think of – good one Doug – Yeah, in cases where the trainer is smart and qualified, by modeling them you’ll progress very rapidly – this is just more of the mentorship and leadership role that you take as a top trainer – In general, I’ve noticed this is an amazingly “cool” profession – the top guys and gals are very humble and willing to talk to and help another trainer – they’re not in competition with you –

And Andrew, no, there isn’t a class that teaches you to become that higher level of trainer – make sure you have a strong foundational understanding of fitness which you can gain through study and personal experience, and also put yourself in the shoes of each individual client and situation so you can apply this knowledge to them in particular – there’s a big “heart” factor this job, and if you’ve got it, it’ll show and you’ll have no problem standing out – just getting started, I can understand your desire to seem competent from the beginning – but if you’re serious you’ll experience a very fast learning curve – with a lot of the trainers you see featured on this site, they went from new-b to nationally recognized leader often in the span of less than five years – that’s what’s possible in this field – when someone like Gaby flips the switch and commits to training full force, it’s a just an approach and total package that a less committed trainer will find it very hard to compete against – when someone is a professional trainer, versus someone who’s doing training for a few bucks on the side, in shows in a MAJOR way – prospective clients can tell instantly –

And Josh, yeah, just get your bearings and head out on your own – the management and co-workers at these places can drag you down – just keep your head up and know that when you’re on your own, things’ll be different –

Michael Behnken

21. Jun, 2008

This has nothing to do with actual personal training, but the ultimate horror story which makes me cringe happened when I worked at this Sh*t hole of a gym in South San Francisco which has since closed down.

Apparently a guy was shaving his butt in the hot tub and shaking the razor, washing away the pubes in the hot tub. When the manager found out, he asked the guy to leave and the guy got out with blood dripping down his butt.


22. Jun, 2008

Thanks for sharing Mike!


23. Jun, 2008

THAT is the worst thing I ever heard of Mike. Hope I can sleep after hearing that. WOW!


29. Jun, 2008

Andrew, you ask a very good question. What sets you apart from other trainers is your knowledge and, over time, expertise and success. It also helps that you look the part, which I do. I also have experience as a competitor in the fitness and physique world. I have been a personal trainer on my own for almost 8 years. I take into account that everyone is individual and they all have their own needs and concerns that need to be met. Train them at their level and ability. Pay attention to those details and listen to your clients. Some trainers put their clients through all the same work outs no matter what their needs and goals are. I know one trainer in particular that does that. He even had the nerve to tell me that I don’t know what women want when I am a woman myself and yet he trains his females and males the same whether they are an athlete or not. He doesn’t get the results and yet he calls himself a good trainer. I don’t agree.
The programs I design for my clients are all individual and meets their goals and needs. I guide them, educate them, motivate them and give them support when needed. I teach them good lifting form and make sure they never lift more then they can’t handle. I also make sure they are comfortable with the exercises they are doing and if not I adjust it accordingly. You will have to let them go eventually when they are ready to go on their own. Some trainers will not let them go and don’t educate them enough to be on their own because all they want is their money. I NEVER pressure my clients into staying with me because everyone also has different fincancial situationas as well. My clients will leave me but more often then not, they also return. There are some clients that will stay with you long term, as well, because they don’t have the desire to do it on their own, which is fine but it’s on their own terms, not yours and they can afford it. I give my clients all the tools they need to be on their own but will train with me because they like the motivation. I also get results with my clients. When they go on their own, they find the results aren’t the same so they do come back because they find they slack on a couple of areas on their own. You develop a good rapport with your clients over time and they will tell others about you as well. I go above and beyond for my clients and in return they are good to me. I hope some of this helps you.


29. Jun, 2008

Hey Maria – very nice post – I couldn’t have said it any better – you really opened up and got across the mind-set to being a successful trainer. It’s obvious you give value in so many areas, both personal and technical, that it’s impossible NOT to notice – that’s how you stand apart –

I want to expand on the point you were making about client retention – some training clients do come to us JUST to learn – in these cases we need to make sure they’re ready to train on their own at some point – and others that no matter how thrilled they are with the training, have to stop at some point due to financial reasons –

When my studio was located in a middle-class part of Queens, client turn-over due to financial reasons eventually occurred – whether it was after 10 sessions or 1 year –

But if you seek to recruit clients from a higher income level and provide what they’re looking for from a trainer, they stay indefinitely – to bring the most consistency to your training practice, cut down on marketing time and money, and to really fine-tune your practice to just the clients that serve you the most , this is the type of client team you should look to build –

Like I mention numerous times and especially in the new FITNESS LIFESTYLE REPORT, we need to be a little selfish when it comes to our practice and lifestyle – we want them to work for us – this means a client roster that will be easy to maintain, yield more high quality referrals, and that fulfill us personally –

This is achieved two ways:
1. seek to recruit clients of a certain income level – this can be done by choosing the areas you want to market, setting higher prices, cultivating referrals, and through just the normal attrition that occurs through general marketing –

2. create a training session that’s indispensable in nature – just include all the elements Maria described above –

Like she said, that’s why her clients keep coming back – ideally, we want to have clients that get a level of value in each session and progressively as time moves forward that they WILL NOT leave – Personal Training becomes a given in their lives and self-images, just like tanning, hair-cuts, or nail care (poor examples really; training stands alone).

At whatever level you’re at right now, keep in mind the best route is to grow and cultivate very long-term clients – that’s the goal we’re looking to achieve on Super-Trainer –

Sepp Dietrich

24. Jul, 2008

Hey I’m just getting started in this field, been working out on my own for over a decade but have finally decided to be a trainer to others, I plan on starting out at a health club because I figured it would be “practice”…am looking at NYSC, really favorable impression of the people there, and found it interesting that nobody’s mentioned it specifically even though it’s one of the biggest chains in NYC. Unfortunately I have no savings and need a job and but like I said it’s also practice so I am looking forward to getting hired by them (looks like I will).


15. May, 2009

It is not just gym PA’s.

I have forked out 500 quid for a block of sessions 3 months ago and have had 3 sessions. The trainer cancels at the last minute or does not turn up sending a text message later with some excuse. Also now I have not heard from her in 4 weeks and she does not answer her phone or respond to text messages.

And this is the best one, she has not paid my gym so she can no longer train in there!


06. Dec, 2011

I have worked at NYSC for over a year now and I would say overall it has been a good experience. It took me a while to progress because I am not good at sales. But I was fortunate to have a really good and supportive manager who helped me build my confidence. They also offer good discounts on education and certifications from NASM and other reputable companies like YogaFit and Spin. And I really admire my fellow trainers, for the most part well educated and passionate about what they do. It sounds like I am the minority here in the health club setting, but you may luck out. I am planning on moving to Cali soon and was thinking of switching to 24 hr fitness to at least build up a base again, but now im not so sure… maybe a studio would be the best place to go

Erick Mr.Fitness Smith

17. Dec, 2012

I used to be a Fitness Manager at Gold’s Gym in Richmond, VA… It’s so bad there that even if you make them money they refuse to pay you. So when I spoke up, I got let go. One thing trainers must always look at, you never see a trainer that is successful boosting of a corporate gym. They all work out of private studios, have their own studios or do in-home PT… That’s how you master your craft… Because experience backed with healthy results always made good trainers excellent ones…

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