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Staying True to the Trainer's Path: Navigating the Fine Line Between Fitness Coaching and Medical Advice

Friday, February 09, 2024


Staying True to the Trainer's Path: Navigating the Fine Line Between Fitness Coaching and Medical Advice


First, we have to touch on the critical difference between fitness coaching and medical or therapeutic advice. As a Personal Trainer, people are coming to you believing that you have their safety in mind first and foremost. You can help them move, exercise, and fitness in the best way possible for them. If they can’t move their shoulder a certain way or do a particular movement, you have a workaround for them and way that they can still get work in and make themselves better even with those potential limitations. Clients have an assumed expectation that you, as a Personal Trainer, know where your lane begins and most importantly where your lane ends when it comes to these limitations. If you don't know when your lane ends, you will run into guaranteed ethical problems.

But for whatever reason, the industry is starting to blur these obvious ethical implications.

As a fitness professional, I guarantee you are starting to see this becoming more and more of a problem over the last 5-10 years or so and it appears to be only getting worse. Trainers starting to give advice way outside their expertise - almost leveraging and taking advantage of the trust and relationship formed with clients. The problem with this is that these actions don’t just jeopardize the health of the clients of these trainers, but it puts everything that good, honest, and high-integrity trainers are doing in the community at large. Clients need to understand that clear boundaries and expectations are established in this realm for a reason, with their safety being the primary driver. And when Trainers blur these lines it puts their client in harms way and puts the work of trainers in a community at-risk.

We’ve all heard “a spoiled apple ruins the bunch” – and our local communities are often just not big enough to handle someone ruining what it means to work with a “trainer” due to negligence, overzealousness, or a messiah complex.

How do we avoid this problem from getting worse? How do we avoid the inevitable fact that with every inch that the industry takes in the direction of this blurred reality of where the Personal Trainer lane ends and the medical professional’s begins takes everyone into deeper legal waters that many of us work hard to avoid?

First, we have to call it out in our communities for what it is - publicly. You have to clearly call out and establish what those professional and legal boundaries should be and where those lines are being crossed. And while I rarely believe that it is good policy to shit upon people by name - it is important to make sure it is obvious when someone is acting unethically.

A great step to take towards doing this publicly is to be actively forming and creating strong relationships via networks, referral systems, and other similar business partnerships with those local healthcare providers in your communities that ensure clients receive comprehensive care when needed - mental, nutritional, and medical. Publicly positioning yourself with these partners and why you have partnered with them allows you to directly call out the problems with the rampant alternative actions of those gyms and trainers that act as a “one stop shop” for a potential client's needs.

We know that these so-called “one stop shop” facilities actually are just jacks of all trades and masters of none. Oftentimes just experimenting with unqualified advice and treating each new client they get like their own personal guinea pigs in a lab of their own creation.

But the clients that they serve don’t know this and they are potentially walking into a trap that will lead to them ending up in a worse position than where they were when they first started getting involved with these businesses – only they will have lost valuable time, money, and many times with their health being much worse off than before when it is all said and over.

And if you honestly care about the people in your communities, you must take a stand and take meaningful action to show that there is another way.

If we want to enhance our profession’s credibility in our communities it lies with you, me, and every single person out there doing things the right way. Personal Trainers are an essential part of the broader healthcare ecosystem when it comes to the role of preventative health and fitness – and this is not to be taken lightly. It’s important for us to fight for industry standards in our communities that reinforces ethical practices among personal trainers, how we engage with clients, healthcare professionals, and continuous professional development in how we fit into the broader ecosystem.

So my challenge to you is to get out there, make connections, build relationships, and remove any doubt who are the ones playing this amazing game the right way. Be the tip of the spear in your community by educating your coaches, clients, and referral partners about the value and scope of your personal training services you provide and how you enhance every member of your healthcare ecosystem in your community.

We are building a fitness revolution. Where we are working together, working to make our communities and world a better place, one member at a time. Join the revolution here

- John

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