How to Break Up with Your Trainer

Yes, it’s going to be awkward—but what should you say? We asked a trainer for tips.

Working with a personal trainer can be a great way to achieve your fitness goals—as long as the two of you get along.

“It’s like boyfriend-girlfriend, or husband-wife relationship,” says Roger Dickerman, a personal trainer and owner of Relentless Fitness in Washington Square West. “You need constant open and honest communication channels.”

If something’s off, it could spell disaster for your fitness routine. Think about it: If you’re not jibing with your trainer, neither of you will put the effort into the workout. “Motivation’s going to drop,” says Dickerman. “I think the client and trainer feed off each other. If the client is disinterested, the trainer is disinterested. It’s a nasty cycle.”

Dickerman advises being picky about your trainer from the get-go: Get recommendations from friends or coworkers about who they’ve had the best experience with. Then, when you have a consultation, be clear about what your goals are: “If I don’t know their goals, we’re starting out on the wrong foot already.”

You should work with a trainer for at least four or five sessions before deciding to part ways; Dickerson says it takes that long to get into a groove with the client and really start seeing results.

Still if you walk away from the first or second session in a lot of pain and the trainer doesn’t seemed concerned, you might want to cut it off sooner rather than later. Other clues that it’s a bad match: You’re not happy when you walk out the door. You don’t feel like anything’s being accomplished. You feel like the workouts are haphazard, or that you’re getting a one-size-fits-all session, one that’s not tailored to your goals. You feel like you’re not a priority.

But how should you bring it up? “It’s going to be awkward,” says Dickerman. “But if you don’t bring it up right away, what might have been a small problem at first suddenly becomes this huge ordeal later.”

So talk about it early on, and be direct. Explain clearly what’s not working for you. Ask questions: “If you’re unsure of something, just asking a question shouldn’t throw the trainer off. He should be able to provide a clear answer,” Dickerman says.

If you talk to your trainer and he seems to understand your concerns, give him another chance; but if he’s unresponsive or doesn’t seem to care, it’s time to sever the relationship.

“What you don’t want to do is leave your trainer wondering why you’ve stopped showing up for sessions,” says Dickerman. “That doesn’t help anybody.”

Dickerman’s had clients who’ve walked away, and he says he’s used those opportunities to learn what he could do better, and what his limitations are. But he’s also let clients go—it can go both ways.

“Sometimes the breakup isn’t a bad thing,” he says. “Even though these converations are awkward, you should come away feeling better; you got over the hump. It should be a positive move.”

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