"That workout was insane!"
"I will push you past all of your physical and mental limits."
"No pain, no gain!"
All too often I hear fitness trainers use this kind of language with their classes and clients. It is not a language of helping, healing, and making better, but is instead a language of violence and fear. Now maybe some people are motivated by violence and fear, but as far as I am concerned if I am being compensated well for my time with a person or group of people, I can certainly find other ways of motivating them to exercise.
But is this really what people want in a fitness trainer? Or is this why so many people have chosen not to exercise? While exercise is not necessarily supposed to be fun (that's why it's called exercise), it should be at least tolerable. You want to work hard, to sweat, and to be a bit sore for a day or so. You want to see results and feel like you are moving forward towards some better physically fit place. But do you need someone screaming at you and pushing you so hard that you throw up or cry, or worse, end up injured? Do you need a mixed level class that is so hard only half the group can actually finish? Life is just too short.
Exercise should be hard as it helps make the rest of life easier, and I think fitness trainers should be there to make the hard work of exercise a bit easier to stomach. We should help! And by helping I mean constructing classes and workout sequences that are challenging yet safe, pushing people to go further while respecting their limits, and offering support and inspiration.
People tend to stop activities that make them feel bad in the short term. That's why we continue to eat fast food, take recreational drugs, smoke cigarettes, and drink alcohol with little thought to the long term consequences of our actions. If we as trainers continue to scare people in the gym and exercise studio, people will stop exercising even though they know it's good for them.
Can't exercise be a little fun? Would it be so bad to crack a good joke in the middle of class or allow some laughter in the free weight area? Maybe if fitness was a bit more fun more people would exercise.