The gym is no place for “Simon Says”

Posted: January 30, 2011 in GENERAL

As a floor trainer, I see amazing things happen everyday.  When I say “amazing” I mean this in two ways.  First, I’ve seen people nail exercises they could not even think of only a few weeks earlier.  I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that I’ve helped them become stronger, faster and pain free.  I’ve heard about a grandmother reducing her high blood pressure to a normal range.

With that, let’s talk about the other side of amazing.  I often see people shadow a training session. This is an amazingly bad idea. First, let me just say I can understand WHY people are doing this.  They can’t afford or don’t want to pay for personal training. And, I’m not saying here that you should pay for personal training.  That’s completely up to you. If personal training is not for you right now, but you would still like some ideas or guidance, you can still ask us for help.  The good trainers will be happy that you are interested in learning and will help. I am THRILLED when people approach me.  While it’s our business and unfortunately we can’t afford to do free sessions, most are always happy to at least give you some direction.  Are there some trainers that will flat out refuse to help at all?  Yes. But, hey, there are not nice people in every profession 🙂 That said – you should still never shadow sessions. Let me try to convince you why.  What if you have a bad shoulder and the trainer’s workout is designed to really push their client with some hardcore shoulder intensive exercises?  What if you are trying reduce the size of your glutes and the session was designed to INCREASE the size of your glutes?  That would suck, wouldn’t it?  Here I’m reminded of the Will & Grace episode where Grace shadows a trainer with his client for several sessions.  Eventually, the trainer confronts Grace and calls her out and tells her to stop.  Grace wittingly says something like, “Fine.  You’re not a good trainer  anyway.  I’ve been following you for weeks and the only thing that’s happened is my ass got bigger and my boobs got smaller.”  The trainer responds well that’s because this workout is designed to help my client’s butt grow and bra size shrink.  Grace looked silly.  Believe it or not, this HAPPENS all the time.  Remember, we call it personal training for a reason.  Personal trainers design workouts specifically for each client.  So, what’s a great workout for their client might not be appropriate for you. I don’t want you to wind up like Grace.

Here’s an even more dangerous scenario then mimicking a session.  Asking a member for help or listening to a more in-shape member who approaches you to help.  What’s wrong with this you might think?  Sometimes – nothing.  There are some really GREAT members at my gym who know what they are doing.  On the other hand, sometimes other members will only help you to get injured.  Here’s an example.  There was this one member who didn’t know how to do a push up.  While I was busy, I noticed her trying but couldn’t get over there quite yet.  Before I could get there, another member came over and told her that she could learn how to do push ups by doing plyo push ups. Folks, plyo push ups are NOT easy.  I struggle with them.  Here’s an example of one kind of plyo push up which I want you to see (NOT FOR INSTRUCTION – don’t do it like this guy) just so you get an idea of what one look like:

So, my point is if you CAN’T do a push up, you REALLY should not be doing these at all. In that above situation, I interrupted and helped the member who was struggling. But, this happens all the time.  I see members teaching others how to do exercises and they are just really wrong.  I don’t mean slightly off.  I mean REALLY off.  For that matter, there are also trainers who just aren’t any good. It truly is dangerous.

What’s the take away here?  Does everyone need a trainer?  How do you know if your trainer is any good?  What resources should you use?  To answer these questions let’s go back to the title of this post:  The gym is no place for “Simon Says”.  I named this post that because when I think of “Simon Says” I think of game where people, somewhat blindly, follow “Simon”.  Look, you only get ONE body.  The answer in every case is: Take the time to educate yourself.  Don’t simply shadow sessions.  Don’t listen to people who, though may be well intentioned, can get you injured.  Just don’t do ANYTHING fitness related blindly.  Even if you do work with a trainer, ask questions.  If something doesn’t feel right, let your trainer know.   I say it all the time – educate yourself.  Protect your health – it’s your greatest asset.  Remember, if you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?


  1. Jonesy says:

    Good Job, great read, Its really a crap shoot, if your really not that educated in lifting or working out. Most people claim they know it all but most dont I see it all the time. Myself I needed to relearn alot because then I started liftin at 16 I wasn’t taught the right way. You wanna take it yo the next level gotta educate yourself, research ask questions etc.Always something new gotta be on top of it!

  2. These are really goo points Rachel. You point out a lot of good reasons to be selective about where you get your information. I’ve never seen anyone shadowing a trainer but I’m sure it happens. Definitely people learn from each other in the gym, but also they do things they maybe shouldn’t do. For myself, seeing what others are doing has taught me a great deal about what I should be doing, but I have a baseline of knowledge AND go home and research things further.

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