Personal Training: A Cautionary Tale (Part 1)
Sprout recently started working with our very first INTERN! Pretty crazy, we know. Claire is a total badass, and we already love her. I was excited that I didn’t scare her away after asking her a million questions during her first week here, and I was even more excited that I got a pretty interesting story out of her… something I hear about all the time, but people don’t seem to realize they have the right to be frustrated about. I think it fits perfectly into most of what we talk about here at Sprout; you have to stand up for yourself, and not assume that the wellness industry is automatically on your side (even though it should be). So, here is the first part of Claire’s story.
My long-term relationship with the gym started at the beginning of this year and ended when I moved uptown. I had been able to walk to my gym but now I had to take the subway. I just couldn’t find the motivation to get down there. Luckily my friend Cait joined the same popular New York chain and I thought: this is exactly what I need, a workout buddy for extra motivation!
The first day we went to together, we found ourselves LOUDLY complaining in the locker room (i.e., stalling). About how hard it was going to be, how we didn’t have time, etc. All of a sudden, this cute, bouncy woman around our age came up to us—she was very reminiscent of Tinkerbell (for the sake of this post let’s just call her Tinkerbell!). She said something to the extent of: “Sorry to eavesdrop, but I’m a personal trainer here and if you guys want I can give you a complimentary session and show you how to use the machines and stuff!” We scheduled a session for the next day. It was fate. The Fitness Fairy had just visited us!
We went to our complementary session and it was great. She was bubbly, friendly and we all got along well. At the end of the session Tinkerbell says “OK great, let’s go sign you guys up for the personal training membership!” FIRST RED FLAG! We ignored it, so smitten by this girl. We needed extra motivation, and she sold us on the fact that WE NEEDED to work together. How could we say no? She seemed so nice! So we signed up for a special package where you get one session per month in addition to your membership.
We asked if it would be possible for us to tag team each other’s sessions so we would both end up getting to train 2 times a month. Tinkerbell’s friendly face went cold and she told us we couldn’t do that. Later that day we got a text from her, saying that she’d thought about it and decided that the person who is tag teaming on the session should pay an additional 30 dollars. (So neither of us is getting a session for free). We were to pay the 30 dollars under the table, meeting her at the coffee shop across the street so that the gym wouldn’t find out. SECOND RED FLAG!
The complementary session turned out to be nothing like our real sessions. The real sessions took place in an upper-level studio using free weights and stability balls (hadn’t she told us we’d learn to use the machines?!). And each session was exactly the same. We experienced little variety, shaky guidance, muddled information. But despite the fact she wasn’t the best personal trainer, her confidence and friendliness continued to win us over.
But that warmth vanished across the street to give her the extra 30 dollars after the session. She snapped at us for writing a check because she wanted cash. She also tried to pressure us to pay her for the month up front so the sketchy coffee shop meetings could be avoided. I thought, I don’t pay to get my haircut or my meal before I get it so why should it be the same for this. I told her, “We’ll think about it,” (my gentle way of saying “no”). She looked at us as if we had 8 eyes and echoed me in a mocking tone, “We’ll think about it.”
It’s hard to tell if she’s really invested in us. I don’t want someone with her hostile and manipulative nature to cheer us on; if that is what’s fueling her motivation to train us then that is scary. We have a 6-month commitment to her and we dread every session. So until I find a way to take control of the situation, the saga with Tinkerbell will continue.