I once was teaching a class which included a lot of people who were hoping to become certified personal fitness trainers. At noon, I gave everybody a lunch break and it was then, while I was walking back to the college I was teaching, that I noticed something I don't think I've ever seen before: Several of these want-to-be personal trainers were smoking! Was I seeing things? Did I just fall down a rabbit hole and land in the Bizaro World? Can you be a personal trainer and smoke? I really thought about this for some time afterward and came to some conclusions. If you smoke and want to be a personal trainer, you need to know these facts.
Smoking And Personal Training?
As I drove home that day I wondered why so many smokers wanted to become personal trainers? It just didn't make sense and reminded me of what the robot in Lost In Space Robot might say:
“That does not compute.”
I remembered earlier in the day, before the class began, I asked people how they heard about the class that I was teaching. Several of the people said they heard about the class from a very well known chain of health clubs (that will remain nameless) that I'm sure everybody in the US has heard of.
Now this started to make sense. Keep reading…
How Most Gyms Hire Trainers
Most big box gyms don't pay personal trainers very much money. Some gyms pay as little as $6 per half-hour personal training session! Because of this, there is a high turnover as people get tired of the low pay. The people who run these fitness centers are always on the lookout for new people to replace those who move on to other opportunities. So how do these big, well known gyms find new personal trainers?
Here is typically what happens:
1. Person walks into a gym.
2. Gym manager asks: “Do you want to be a personal trainer?”
3. Person says, “Sure. What do I need to do?”
4. Gym manager says, “Take this class. If you pass. I'll hire you.”
That's actually similar to how I was first hired too! The difference with me was I was also in college for exercise science at the time.
The important part of this exchange is the last part – “if you pass.” This usually sets people up for failure because those gym managers often don't give people any direction on how to prepare for a personal trainer exam.
Rather, they give the perspective new employee a phone number to call or a website to go to. The people sometimes think, ‘How hard can it be? I like to workout so it should be easy. I'll be OK.” As such, a lot of them fail ―and waste the money they spent on the personal trainer certification exam.
The gym won't be reimbursing them for that money.
The gym manager at the big box gym often doesn't care if the person smokes or not.
He/she only cares about getting somebody working so that they can say to their boss “I got somebody working the 7-12 shift.”
Whoever they hire is in a “sink or swim” situation. In other words, either the person will thrive or they eventually get so frustrated they quit.
And then the cycle of getting a new person to fill the slot in the gym begins again…
My heart goes out to everybody who falls for this.
Personal Trainers And Smoking
Smoking and being a personal trainer would appear to me to be about as far apart as Republicans and Democrats. Why did those people who took my class want to be personal trainers in the first place? Most of them looked like they worked out, but did they think their smoking habit would not impact their success as a personal trainer?
Did they really think it would not matter to most people who were paying them?
I've always felt fitness and personal training was a big tent, with room for many people. Fitness trainers come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn't matter if the person is a little overweight, has a physical disability or even has a criminal record.
All of that falls aside when the common goal between the client and trainer is focused on health.
But, when it comes to smoking, I have concerns.
Smoking is diametrically opposed to the idea of “being healthy.” I'd bet if we took a survey of people who hire personal trainers, we'd find that most of those people did not smoke.
Because of this, I think personal trainers who smoke will be discriminated against by potential clients.
True story: I was once discriminated against by a potential client when I mentioned I like diet coke – Diet Coke! I told her more about her gym equipment (she had her own gym) in 30 seconds that her previous trainer did in 5 years, yet she just couldn't get past the fact that I drank diet coke. If drinking diet coke lost me a client, what chance do smokers have?
Most non-smokers are very good at smelling cigarette odor on people who smoke. Cologne probably won't hide the smell unless a lot was used.
Cologne can be another problem all together because fitness trainers need to keep it to a minimum. Not only can one person's good smell be another person's bad smell, but there is also the fact that cologne use might aggravate asthma.
Tip. Some people with asthma are so sensitive that lingering cigarette order can also trigger an asthma attack!
Smokers also sometimes have yellow fingers and bad breath – other things that non-smokers will pick up on. If they ask the trainer “do you smoke,” how do you respond?
- If you lie and say no, they will know your lying
- If you say yes, they may look for another personal trainer (unless they smoke themselves, which is unlikely)
- If you say “I'm trying to quit” that can work for a while, but you better be prepared to quit, because the client will keep asking about it until you do quit.
The bottom line to this is sure, personal trainers can smoke, but they will probably have to a LOT work harder to get clients and keep clients ―and they will have to be prepared for rejection―and yes, discrimination ―by non smokers.
I'm not kidding. This discrimination is real. It will impact how much money you can make.
Vaping Doesn't Work Either
Many people have switched from smoking to vaping. I'm sorry to tell you this but vaping is not safer than smoking. If you are a personal trainer and your clients see you vaping, you will face the same discrimination as if you smoked. Don't believe me, tell your clients you like to vape and watch how they look at you.
So, Can Personal Trainers Smoke? Yes Or No?
If you are thinking about being a personal trainer and you smoke, instead of listening to some dumb gym manager who fills your head with ideas of how much money you can make, think about whether you are willing to do what it takes to be a successful. For smokers, the path to success will be much easier if you quit. I suggest you either quit now or make a really good effort to quit, before you start training people.