This write-up prepares you to obtain your fitness assessment data and avoid the high-pressure sales tactic and costly add-on services found at many for-profit gyms.
Save $1,000’s by knowing WHAT REALLY HAPPENS before you join a (for-profit) gym!
Fitness assessments are a great way to learn more about your body; your strong and weak points. As a personal trainer of 15 years, I am embarrassed to tell you many for-profit gyms take this opportunity to shove high-priced services down your throat. The assessment is nothing more than time for a trainer to sell you his/her 100% commission products. Read more to see how to prepare to avoid this pressure trap!
I wrote this story as if a trainer was giving an assessment to a real client.
There are 2 people in this story and a 3rd “honest voice of reason“:
- “Jane” – Description: Jane is an adult confused about the exercise process. She is not content with her current physical fitness level or cosmetic appearance (weight, stomach, lack of toned muscles). She has fitness goals and is unsure of where to start or how to begin a workout program. Jane needs guidance.
- Personal Trainer – Description: Corporate Personal Trainer (PT). This person works under a company name and must obey by the rules in order to get paid. This individual has a vested interest to sell more personal training sessions and services to the confused client to maximize his/her own paycheck. (This is not a fault of the trainer, this is a fault of the corporate for-profit gym system that most trainers must operate in)
- Fitness Patterns (The TRUTH) – Description: Truthful logic applied to any situation in debate. Designed to educate and inform consumers using “honest doubt” and personal on-the-job experience.
The Fitness Assessment
Jane walks into Never Fitness on New Years Day. Jane was prompted to join this gym with a promising advertisement offering 2 free training sessions and $300 of gym coupons/credits. Jane has never been in a gym in their life. Jane is amazed by the massive size of the elegant gym. She is excited to have her fitness assessment and get her workout program to get started!
Personal Trainer: Welcome to our fully-equipped workout facility!
Jane: Thank you! So what is this workout program I was told about? Also, when I joined I was told I get 2 free training sessions and $300 of gym coupons/credits. Can you tell me about this stuff? I am so confused!
Personal Trainer: Yes! You get 2 free sessions with a trainer and $300 of gym coupons. However, you only get $150 worth of gym coupons today and the other $150 after 6 months. Your 2 free training sessions can be added to your workout program which I will explain.
Jane: (confused) Oh? They told me I get $300 of coupons when I join.
FitnessPatterns: The advertisement might have mentioned $300 of coupons but what does the fine print say? Many times marketers use small print and disclaimers to confuse consumers. It appears to have worked because this client already joined the gym and fell for the bait.
Personal Trainer: Yea they confuse people all the time. But let’s not worry about your coupons right now because I am excited to show you your workout program!
Jane: Oh… ok I guess? Yea I am in the gym to get in shape so lets talk about my fitness!
FitnessPatterns: This is a misdirection technique. The PT ignored Jane’s objection about the coupons and moved to another subject. The goal of the PT is to control the conversation to push their sales agenda which you will see below.
Personal Trainer: Now let’s discuss your workout program! So you mentioned your fitness goals are; 1. lose 20 pounds, 2. better overall fitness, and 3. try to fit in size 6 jeans… a few sizes smaller than your current size. Is this correct?
Jane: (very emotional) Yes! I am so excited about this gym and getting in shape! So what is my program? How can you help me?
Personal Trainer: Your workout program consists of personal training sessions, cardio testing for your weekly cardio, and nutrition consultations with our staff dietician.
FitnessPatterns: Do you think these programs are the same for everybody? Most people walking through the doors will encounter the exact same cookie-cutter sales jargon. Again, read more to see how it plays out.
Jane: This sounds great! So what do I do? I have never worked out before and need to know where to start!
Personal Trainer: Well, we need to set up your schedule. How many days a week can you exercise? How many days a week can you dedicate to your fitness goals?
Jane: Um…. I think I can get in here 3 days a week. Maybe Monday, Wendesday, and Friday? Are you going to tell me what to do or something? Oh yea, what about my 2 free training sessions? Can we do those this week to get started?
Personal Trainer: Perfect! 3 days a week is exactly what you need for your program. When you work with a personal trainer here we show you exactly what to do when you come in Monday, Wednesday, and Friday! Well we do not want to use your 2 free training sessions until we establish your FULL workout program. A 3 month plan!
FitnessPatterns: The PT is very good at ignoring Jane’s questions and wants. The PT rephrases Jane’s questions to fit their pre-set sales pitch. This same generic sales pitch is used on 95% of the members. Why you ask? Because the CDC and ACSM National Standards suggest adults each perform 3 days a week of strength training, 3 days a week of cardio training, and multiple days a week of flexibility training. If you can walk into a gym on your own 2 feet and are not a super-star athlete, you will receive the cookie-cutter pitch you see below…
THE SALES PITCH
Personal Trainer: THE SALES PITCH: Your workout program consists of 3 months of strength training and 3 months of cardio with a change to your nutrition too. (PT takes out a piece of paper and starts writing the schedule and price of sessions) You see your program will consist of 3 strength training sessions a week for 12 weeks. This ends being a total of 36 total sessions. Your need a cardio test to figure out your optimal heart training zones. After your cardio test we will give you a cardio plan to perform on your own time after your training sessions. You should purchase 3 sessions with our dietician to adjust your eating habits to help you reach your weight loss goals.
FitnessPatterns: How is 36 generic sessions a customized workout program? Can’t the trainer write down a basic starter workout program? What is the trainer’s reason for selling 36 sessions and added services? Why so much?
Jane: Oh, I didn’t realize a workout program last 3 months. Can you just write down what I should do on paper or let me use my 2 free sessions to show me which workout machines are best for my goals in this gym?
Personal Trainer: Well, we cannot just write down what you need to do because liability. I am sure you understand if I tell you what to do and you get hurt the gym could be sued. We need to see where your balance is and understand what weights you should start with and identify your best maximum heart rate for fat burning.
Jane: I guess that liability thing makes sense. So how much does all of this stuff cost?
Personal Trainer: Well the personal trainer costs $70 per session. The cardio testing cost $150. The dietician meeting costs $75 per hour.
Jane: (shocked) WHAT!? So, how much is all of this total?
Personal Trainer: (calm) Well hold on a minute, we can discount your workout program with your $150 of coupons. Also, you get 2 free training sessions remember?
FitnessPatterns: What happened to free? Should you ever have to buy ANYTHING to receive your free sessions? Free is free regardless of what somebody does or does not buy. At this time, it would be good for Jane to know that the trainer MUST sell personal training sessions to make their paycheck. Unbeknownst to Jane, this gym pays their staff on 100% commission meaning the PT must sell products and services to get paid.
Personal Trainer: (still writing on paper) So, you “only” need to buy 34 sessions because you get 2 free. $70 x 34 sessions equals $2,380. Your cardio testing cost $150. Your dietician costs $225.
Your total is now $2,380 + $150 + $225 = $2605. But wait, we give you $150 (coupons) discount! So gym workout program package total is only $2,455!
Jane: WOW! I thought I was getting a program? You didn’t give me anything I didn’t already know. I know I am out of shape, I know I need to workout, and I know I do not have $2,455 to blow on a workout program! This is insane! All you have done is shown me numbers on paper that show me my body fat % and my strength: I get it! I am out of shape! HELLO! That is why I joined a gym. I want a professional like you to show me what to do.
FitnessPatterns: Do you know how many people hire trainers? Less than 2%. This gym member is now even more upset, confused, and emotional because the outrageous gym workout program price! What happened to the 2 free training sessions? Could the trainer use these 2 free sessions to give the gym member a starter workout program and cardio guide? But wait, the personal trainer does not get paid unless they sell sessions. Can you see the dilemma this causes? Gym members want help but only get assistance if/when they purchase products and services because of the 100% commission corporate environment.
Personal Trainer: Well this 3 month gym workout package IS your program. We are not able to write down workouts because liability.
FitnessPatterns: The personal training is lying. Wouldn’t the gym be more liable if they DO NOT show the gym members how to use the equipment? Couldn’t the personal trainer give the gym member a beginner tour or walk-thru with their free sessions? Again, the personal trainer is stuck lying because the corporate structure forces them to sell sessions to get paid. The gym member gets hurt in the end because they receive no workout guidance.
Jane: I pay $75 per month for my membership. I thought I would get customer service at this price. I just want a workout program. I do not have thousands of dollars to hire a trainer. I can barely afford my membership! This is insane!
Personal Trainer: I understand you are upset but we at Never Fitness want you to be safe. The best way we can keep you safe is by having you work one on one with a personal trainer and dietician.
FitnessPatterns: Why does the gym not offer a middle-ground solution? Why would the gym ignore members who cannot afford hiring personal trainers? Do you think this price barrier has something to do with why people join and quit gyms on a yearly basis? (around New Years/Resolutions) It appears when people are unable to hire personal trainers at this particular gym they are ignored.
Jane: I can’t pay that! I just want to use my 2 free sessions for somebody to show me how to use the gym workout machines.
FitnessPatterns: This is confusion with information. PT will not help “Jane” unless she purchases some kind of product or service. Why? Because the personal trainer works on 100% commission: There is no incentive to help people for “free”. No money in free.
Again, the sales stress ruins the personal training service for both the gym member and the personal trainer. It appears the corporate gym logic built on sales goals prevents personal trainers from helping clients and stops gym members from learning how to exercise…. Do not let this happen to you. Do not feel pressured to buy. Learn how to exercise for free with my workout PHOTOS and CDC Beginner Workout Guide for adults!
Sadly this is where the story ends.
This story played out for 19 out of 20 gym members I met with during the course of my years working in high-priced fitness facilities. I started this website to provide free workout advice and guidance to people like “Jane” who could never afford hiring a personal trainer. I believe EVERYBODY deserves equal access to life-changing workout guidance and motivation. Use my website and 15+ years experience to build your confidence before you join a gym!
Let me show you how to exercise without selling your sessions!