I was chatting to my mum the other night and for the first time told her about me cutting and condensing my hours at work, starting a fitness instructor course and my plans to possibly be a Personal Trainer, but I was a little taken aback by her response…
“Aren’t you a bit old for all that?”
“You’re not as young as you used to be – your body’s getting older”
“Don’t these women want hot, young stuff as their trainer?”
I know she wasn’t meaning to come across as being un-supportive, as she’s always been 100% supportive in everything I do, and what she is actually worried about is the financial side of it. Having been in a full-time, stable and well paid job – she’s scared that I’m suddenly going to pack it all in – to pursue a dream that she has only been aware of for 5 minutes.
Needless to say that once I explained what I’d been doing and eased her mind about quitting my current job – she was a little more encouraging – but it did get me a bit worried – am I too old?
When I think about a stereo-typical personal trainer, a young, buff, stud of a guy in his twenties is what tends to come to mind – or an overly eager and positive, skinny, blonde bombshell of a girl in lycra!
In all the big brand gyms I’ve been to, the trainer’s there certainly fit that model! But then I realised – I quit those gyms and never asked the instructors anything after my induction as I always felt intimidated by them.
The gym I’m at now is a local council gym and the first guy who did my induction was your “typical” instructor, but showed little interest in what I was doing there – got me to sign a form, asked me if I’d used a gym before and after saying yes, proceeded to point out – “The free weights are over there, the upper body machines here, lower body there and cardio equipment by the windows and the fire exits are here and here………” That was it!!
I didn’t go back for a few weeks, until I started this lifestyle change and when I did they couldn’t find the details of my original induction, so had to go through it again. This time however, it was a different guy – older (in his fifties) who actually did what I would call a proper induction – asking about my gym experience, whether I wanted a plan setting, and taking me round the various pieces of equipment making sure I knew how to use them! Needless to say when I do go and he’s there we say “Hi” and I’ve even asked him a few things about the industry/form etc.
If I was going to hire a personal trainer, while it would be nice to think you want some “hot, young thing” in reality what I would want is someone who knows their stuff and I can relate to.
Doing some research on the web – that also tends to hold true for a lot of people. A study in 1999 found that the average age of a trainer is actually mid thirties! The younger ones, have to work harder to get clients as they are apparently seen as inexperienced (in terms of life experience) and so “wouldn’t understand the trials and tribulations of the body aging and health/work/family life balance”. I think this is being a little unfair on younger trainers who can work just as hard or have more experience in dealing with a number of different types of clients than an older trainer with little actual experience as a trainer……
So why do gyms/training providers focus so much on the young ones? Personally, I think it’s the eye candy factor – have young good-looking instructors – get younger customers through the doors. In an aging society where people are generally living longer – I think more gyms need to hire older instructors to get the older customer through the doors! Afterall – they have a greater disposable income and would probably be more likely to hire a personal trainer to help get them fitter, rather than just flirting with them or acting like jocks in a locker room.
I came across one woman on a forum who was 57, quit her job after 30 years working in an office and just qualified as a fitness instructor and was now running group exercise classes and personal training sessions with clients aging from 26-80 who saw her as an inspiration.
The PT’s I follow on Twitter vary in age from 20’s-50’s – so it’s definitely not an industry where age should be a barrier – it’s experience, knowledge and personality that makes a PT great – not how old they are.
I know all too well that I’m getting older – but like the case above – I want to be able to help inspire people to get fitter – no matter what their age. Being fit and healthy is not just about being a muscle god!
When I look at my current place of work in finance – the average age is probably mid-twenties (though sometimes feels younger) so why should I be bothered about how “old” I am?
What is important, is finding something that you enjoy, are good at and can be passionate about. If you find those things, then people can see it and will want you in their team and then age really is just a number!