I recently had an employee take over a class that I was unable to teach anymore. He was an amazing instructor but, he was over weight. The class went from averaging 16 participants to 3 participants. I had a few members comment on his weight and make it known that is why they would not attend that class anymore. Is it okay for clientel to be biased about their instructors/trainers?
This is a tough one. To answer your last question about bias, of course clientele have the right to attend the classes they want, based on who will be instructing. We’re all human, and we have our preferences. That said, just because something or someone doesn’t appear to align with our expectations is not a valid reason to dismiss immediately.
I think the larger issue here (sorry, a non-intended pun) is the perception clients have of the instructor: his credibility, his knowledge, his professionalism…What exactly did they say to you about why they would no longer be returning?
A few questions for you:
-Why did you put him in that position (besides his being an “amazing” instructor)?
-Does he cue well?
-Does he offer challenging, yet modifiable movements?
-Does he treat the class with respect?
-Is he healthy? fit?
-Can he keep up with the demands of the class?
-Is he accomplished in his field? i.e., how many years has he been doing this?
-Do participants still get what they need from the class? (great workout, motivation, inspiration, etc..).
If all the answers to these questions is “yes”, then the problems rest more with your participants than with the instructor.
I think a lot of people have difficulty accepting direction (in this case, a class) from somebody who appears to need it…maybe more than the participants. I think if he’s able to make an authentic connection to these people, they would realize that it is worth their time and energy to spend it with somebody who might actually teach them something.
I want to add just a little to Michelle’s excellent answer:
People often hate change that has been imposed on them. I am sure the participants had gotten used to your style of instruction and may have found fault with anybody else who would have taken over the class. And then there is the aspect of changing from a female instructor to a guy.
How was he introduced to the group? How suddenly? Any “warning”? Did you acquaint the group with the new instructor? Also: are there a few ‘ringleaders’ in the class that influence everybody’s opinion? On the other hand: does he teach other classes where he is well liked and respected? If yes, what’s the difference?
But in the end: people are entitled to their biases whether we agree with them or not. This is a very tricky situation, and I wish you good luck.
Both very excellent answers to this very sticky dilemma. I can understand a client looking at their instructor and laying judgment on their body shape or weight. I have done it myself. But I do agree with the resistance to change and the way he was eased into the class as well as to his style of communication, etc. I have lost half my body weight, but even my present weight is higher than many of the people I train individually or in classes. Genetically I am very resistant to burning fat and carbohydrates for energy and I am beyond menopause, so losing weight is very difficult for me. To go below where I am today takes near starvation which then, of course, hampers my physical performance. However, once someone trains with me or takes a class, they quickly begin to respect me because my fitness level is much higher than they expect and I can sufficiently “kick their butt.”
Client retention doesn’t weigh so much on your physical appearance or even whether you are faster than your client, but what it does weigh on is do you resonate with that client; do you communicate well with that client; do they feel you are listening to them; do they feel you are working toward their goals or physical needs; do they feel that you are “keeping them safe” while doing the exercises; are you able to motivate them and trigger self-motivating habits; are you knowledgeable about what you are doing; do you know how to modify to fit their rom restrictions, etc.
Now I would like to comment that a personal fitness trainer DOES need to live in a healthy manner and abide by the same rules they give their clients. If a personal trainer spends late nights out all the time, or I see them out drinking and partying, or constantly eating fast food, etc. I could not put much faith in them trying to lead me into a healthy and fit lifestyle.
YES 100% could. Ask yourself would you want to train with someone with someone who is out of shape? NO. People are infatuated with image and I believe they have a right to be to a certain extent. You must practice what you preach and be credible – If you are overweight and are trying to give me dietary information am i going to take it? Most likely not – If you were obese and lost a large amount of weight will i? most certainly
Fuel the Movement,
It’s an unfortunate truth that “image is everything” when it comes to something like fitness and health. In our industry, having the technical knowledge and know-how is only one facet of what our clients look for when choosing a fitness professional to work with. Rightly or wrongly, clients take in the ENTIRE picture when looking at their instructor/trainer. Do you also “look the part?” Do you look like you train as well, and “walk the walk,” as well as “talk the talk?”
Because our industry involves physical fitness, clients will always base at least part of their judgement of a fitness professional on how they look. This doesn’t mean that every trainer must be an Adonis or Wonder Woman. But what it does mean is that we as trainers have to be aware of the potential for client bias in this regard, and so must take as much care as possible to stay in “shape” which, unfortunately means to most of the lay-public, “looking good/healthy.”