Mouth Clamped Shut: the Anguish of a Responsible Personal Trainer

It’s a recurring theme. 

To speak or not to speak?  To be a Buttinsky or keep my mouth shut?

One of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced since becoming a personal trainer is maintaining my own fitness.  Between maintaining balance between scheduling appointments, travel, administrative and personal obligations, I also had to deal with what was for me a new phenomenon.


Okay, so that may be slightly overstating things, but there’s no question that I became a popular and sought-after figure on the fitness floor.  Consistently completing an intense, focused workout became more and more challenging in my “home” fitness center.

So many people stopped to chat — fitness center members, staff, my clients — that I couldn’t follow my usual routine: maintain an intensity that I was used to or complete all the exercises I wanted to do in the time I had to do them.

Oh, I know.  I could have politely but firmly excused myself and continued my routine.  I could, and did, wear headphones (didn’t help).  But that’s so against my nature that I almost always allowed the interruption.

So, for this and other reasons, I’m a member of more than one club.  I need my space!

That presents its own set of challenges.  Not the least of which is learning to keep my mouth shut.

And not interrupt my workout!

(I mean, how true is the expression “Life Imitates Art?”)

Well, life imitated art as recently as this morning.  A young lady — who I’m certain was doing her fair share of courting (that’s a polite, old fashioned way to say flirting) — was asking her buff, male companion for help as she performed a series of strength training exercises.

I cringed as I watched her do the first exercise.  Dumbbells overhead, sitting on a flat bench, her lower back arched too far forward, shoulders rounded back, and emitting a cute little grunt as she heaved the weights heavenward.

She was imitating her musclebound companion, who was performing the same exercise right next to her, on a chair with proper back support.  He tossed the much heavier dumbbells above his head with such ease that they could have been plastic toys.

They both finished their set, she on the bench and he in the chair.  Then he sat her down in the chair and gave her instructions as she performed a second set.

Back still arched unnaturally forward, negating the benefit of sitting in the chair, shoulders molded around the top and back of the chair.  Same cute little grunt as she heaved the weights high above her head.  That is, when she wasn’t telling him “I want to look like youuuuu!”

I finished my set of chest presses and I need a stretch.  I’m watching her lift as I walked directly behind her chair, the words screaming in my head, “pardon me; may I make a suggestion?”

But I can’t bring myself to open my yap.

Just like driving past a traffic accident, I had a hard time looking the other way.

I see this scene repeated virtually every time I’m in a gym or fitness studio.

What to do?  Where does my responsibility begin and end?  Do I have any?  It’s like knowing CPR and not offering assistance.

But… she was getting assistance.

How did I know the guy wasn’t her paid personal trainer?

How would my friendly advice have been perceived?  Would my interruption have been any different than those friendly interruptions I get during my workouts?

It was getting late.  I finished my workout and headed for the locker room.  There were my two new, unnamed friends, behind me now at the leg press machine.  She was on the seat, a couple light weight plates on either side of the machine.  He was offering instructions.  Her head off the bench, neck muscles straining, shoulder blades rotated forward, teeth clenched, as she drove her legs forward.

Heading toward the shower, I had visions of shoulder and cervical spine issues in this lady’s future.

Should I have been a Buttinsky and said something?

Would she have listened?

What do you think?

One Response to Mouth Clamped Shut: the Anguish of a Responsible Personal Trainer

  1. Mary Dalton says:

    Just how big was this buff boyfriend? What value do you give your complete unbroken bones? And finally……is your health insurance a comprehensive policy? A few thoughts to ponder before you take on the role of a buttinsky. Afterthought ….buttinsky and Kwiecinski…..rhyme. :-)


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