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Working With Difficult Clients!

Difficult clients: we've all had them. Hopefully, your personal fitness training business is not struggling (despite the awful economic situation) so much that you have to put up with them. Once I find out that they meet any of the below categories, I won't work for them again. They're dangerous (legally) and they bring me down. I've been training people for over twenty years now and I've seen all kinds - so take my advice, avoid them if at all possible.

Hypochondriacs - they'll obsess about their body until they convince themselves something is wrong - not happy unless they're receiving tons of attention from their Doctor. They'll shop around until they find one who'll treat their myriad of complaints. These types expose themselves quickly because they're proud of all the attention they're getting from their doctor. They'll (soon) tell you everything, that is, until you start raising your eyebrows in shock and disbelief. If you dare to question why they're taking so many different drugs or to suggest they obtain a second opinion before having a major organ removed, they'll look at you like you're nuts! And they won't hire you again. But hey, that's cool!  Later, they may develop real maladies (kidney failure, liver failure, cysts, etc.) due to side effects from years of taking so many unnecessary and powerful drugs, or from unnecessary surgeries. Often these guys are really Sad Sacks (See separate category) and what they are really in need of is Anti-depressants and Therapy.

Moaners & Groaners - out of shape because they're lazy and weak (willed). They'll take a 5-10 pound weight and slam out 20 reps. But when you raise it a couple pounds, POOF - now they can't get more than 2-3 reps.  "It's too heavy," they whine. They'll make an issue out of the slightest of any perceived discomfort, and often whine about pain or worry from "supposed" injuries or illnesses that they (may have?) received ten or more years ago. Anything to get out of working (out). If you think that you're going to change a lifetime of this behavior/thought pattern and somehow motivate them to do anything resembling a real work out, then you're in for much disappointment. But they're happy, and now the next time they are sitting in front of the TV with their friends, they can claim that they tried hiring a personal trainer, but (surprise) they didn't get any results. SHEESH!

Social Climbers - they only reason they hired you is so they could tell everyone at the bridge club, "Well, my personal trainer E.F. Hutton says . . ."

Klutz's - otherwise healthy, but soon after they hire you - you'll find out that they have a "million" previous injuries. "Supposedly" they're so frail they can break or fracture bones by merely walking down the street or bumping into a dresser, etc. Rest assured it won't be long before they claim that lifting that 5lb. paperweight blew out their shoulder. So watch out for bogus lawsuits. The good thing here is they usually don't list their "previous" injuries on the disclaimer. {Judges will frown on this.} They seem to realize they'll look foolish if they list all their supposed injuries on paper. Who would believe it all? Not me!

Gung Ho' "Marines"- even though they haven't exercised in years they demand brutal workouts. Don't let them drag you into their "Rambo" fantasy - because no matter how tough they act, they'll call you up tomorrow and come up with some silly reason to have to postpone their training (often permanently), and/or they just might (on rare occasion) admit they are so sore that they can't get out of bed. Either way, they'll soon quit. Sadly, no matter what you say, they flatly refuse to believe that you don't have to kill yourself to get in top shape. So, not having enough time for their "brutal" and long workouts - they prefer to do nothing at all.

Sad Sacks - severely depressed and often exhibiting numerous symptoms of the other categories of difficult clients.

Weekend Warriors - They try a new sport or "flavor" every weekend. They get slight sprains & strains due to using rarely used muscles. Never sticking with any one thing long enough to become good at it, they quit everything they do because it hurts - and sadly, they never figure out that it's the "quitting" that is the problem.

Gluttons (for punishment) - Exercise stimulates their already healthy appetites and they'll pig out even more. All the while wondering why they can't lose weight. When you ask them to keep a daily log of what they're eating, they'll refuse or resist. If they do keep a log, it's often not a "true" log. I once had a 260 lb. client who claimed to be eating only a measly 600 calories per day and yet he was still gaining almost a pound a day. Imagine that! One time I pointed out to a client that eating a huge platter of Granola Bars covered in Peanut Butter along with Club Crackers & Spicy Mexican Velvetta Cheese (every night) and washing it down with a couple glasses of Wine (and all of it right before bedtime) - was probably what was sabotaging his results. He got mad and refused to stop. All the while complaining about his weight gain and blaming me. You just can't reach some people.

And the list goes on...


Obese and flabby people are not "victims." Being terribly out of shape is not an "accident"; it's a lifestyle - a choice. Just as always being in shape is a lifestyle for me and my kids too. Sadly, most of these unhealthy people wouldn't be suffering like this, if, and I repeat, "if" they're parents had set a good example and in doing so had taught them about the necessity of eating and exercising right. It would be nice too if they also gave them a firm "kick in the butt" when they needed it—to get them moving. And to make them quit their belly aching & whining. To teach them some discipline—to make them learn to stick with a healthy & balanced diet and a regular exercise program for life. Make time for it now people or you'll have plenty of time for it later. And later is sooner than you think.

60% of the country is overweight! That's nuts. If you've been keeping up with this epidemic situation, then you should agree because you know about the unnecessary pain, disability and death that all this overeating and lack of vigorous exercise is causing. You know what I'm talking about: the diabetes, the glaucoma, the kidney failure, the heart attacks, the strokes, the cancer... Yes, this is an epidemic and something must change—we have got to make people understand and to believe that it's more painful not to exercise and eat right. Those of us in the Health & Fitness field are not doing that. We are failing the public, miserably. It's time to "take the kid gloves off." Too many people are suffering unnecessary debilitating illness and death.

This is why I take this so seriously and why I'll do whatever it takes to get you to do the same, even if it hurts your feelings. I wish somebody had hurt my overweight aunt’s feelings, and convinced her to exercise and to stop shoveling all that excessive food/garbage into her face. My aunt may not admit it, but she wishes for that too. How do I know? Maybe, it's because she's been paralyzed since having a stroke at the ripe old age of 39.

Some people think I am too "hard core", but wouldn't it have been better for my aunt if her parents were "hard core" and had taken the time to learn about good nutrition and had forced her (yes "forced her") to regularly participate in exercise activities when she was a youth? Instead of doing what they did, which was to let her whine and make lame excuses to quit the few activities that they managed to get her to try?

By the way, besides personal training, I also teach a Martial Arts class and in that environment, I see this scenario all the time. A child tells me that they don't like "sweating" (as if it were a bad thing to sweat) or they get a little "itsy bitsy" sore from the kicks and punches or the ten pushups that I made them do. For those or similar reasons, these out-of-shape and all too inactive children will soon tell their parents that they don't want to do it anymore. Complaining to them, "It's not fun." Hey, it was "fun" (before) when they didn't realize that they would have to move their body. When they didn't realize that they would have to make an effort to learn the Martial Arts, to exercise and to practice, to learn to do those exciting flying & spinning kicks, etc. Parents, children form their personalities and their basic work ethic when they're very young, and you know that; so why are you letting them get away with this? I guess it must be because that's how your parents raised you? C'mon, break the cycle. And while you’re at it, get off your butt and set an example for your children.

Now don't think I am a bad/mean instructor. My dropout rate is significantly lower than the national average. It's much lower. Of course, I do everything I can to make it "fun", but it is exercise and it requires effort. If it didn't, I wouldn't be teaching the Martial Arts, I would just be providing day care.

The Bottom line: The intelligent, rational, hard-working, and educated people of this country, and of the world, must take a stand. Why don't we start by demanding daily Physical Education (P.E.) classes for our children? P.E. classes taught by qualified teachers. Not the subbing English teacher who thinks they're qualified because they read a book or two, or because they took some aerobics classes or ran some track way back in high school. Our children deserve/need better than this, don't they? After we get that problem fixed, then we should demand that employers institute mandatory employee exercise programs. Oh, what I am taking about here. Now I'm asking too much, right? So let me see if I've got this right. It's a good idea to force the kids to exercise but it's not for us adults. Hmmmnnn. Yes, I realize that we'd never be able to enforce that.

Oh, one more thing: You parents who value exercise and discipline so much that you make your kids stick with my Martial Arts class. I want to thank you. However, I have a question for you. Why do you just sit there night after night, week after week, month after month, year after year—watching your child exercise, when you could be out there with us? I can see that you’re out of shape and/or overweight. It's obvious - you really need some exercise, so why don't you make the effort and join us? It wouldn't hurt you.

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