It’s Not Working Out: How to Break Up with Your Trainer

When you decide to hire a personal trainer, you’re making a commitment to improve your health and fitness, but you’re also making a financial investment. If you feel you’re not getting your money’s worth out of your training sessions, you may be wondering: Should I break up with my personal trainer?

We talked to Colleen Foster, a wellness instructor at UNC Wellness Centers, about the reasons you might feel dissatisfied with your training, ways to evaluate your relationship with your trainer and, ultimately, how to break up with your trainer.

Questions to Ask Before Breaking Up with Your Trainer

Before you call to cancel your trainer contract, take a pause and consider why you’re not enjoying your sessions. After identifying the issue, you may be able to address your concerns by chatting with your trainer. First, ask yourself these questions.

  1. Do I understand my fitness plan?

When you first met with your trainer, you probably shared some fitness goals. Maybe you’re hoping to lose weight or build strength. But you’re confused because your first few sessions don’t seem to be getting you anywhere.

Safety is my foremost concern, so we start with foundational skills and build from there,” Foster says. “A client might come in for their first session and ask about what kind of machines they’ll be using, or about using a lot of weight, but I need to see them move.”

If you don’t understand why your trainer is having you engage in certain exercises, Foster says you should ask. You may find you have some misconceptions about what is effective in moving the needle on your goals, or you may have some issues to correct with your form before you can progress.

“Trainers are happy to help you understand the movement we’re using,” Foster says. “We can explain what muscles you’re engaging and how that relates to the program we’re building for you and your health concerns.”

  1. Am I expecting too much, too soon?

Maybe you weren’t able to achieve results on your own, but you expect a personal trainer to have you making quick progress.

“Many people think a personal trainer is a magic pill,” Foster says. “The magic is in consistent exercise and recovery, eating well, quality sleep and hydration.”

What trainers can provide, according to Foster, is knowledge about how you should move your body, tools for making the most of your exercise time, and safe workouts.

“We want exercise to make you feel good, so that you’re more productive, have more energy and make healthier choices about your sleep and eating,” Foster says. “We can’t provide a quick fix.”

  1. Am I working on my plan outside of my time with the trainer?

You probably meet with your trainer once or twice a week. If you’re not seeing the results you’d like, Foster says it’s worth considering what changes you’ve made during the rest of the week.

“I bring some tools to the table, but I work with clients so that they understand their tools,” Foster says. “You have to have discipline and motivation to make changes, such as getting in additional workouts, eating well and making time for sleep.”

Foster says that while a trainer can show you how to safely increase the intensity of your workouts and push you during sessions, you must learn to push yourself on your own.

“I had a client share that she wasn’t getting results, and I asked her to take me through her other workouts,” Foster says. “She showed me what she was doing, but it was at a very low intensity, and she realized she had to bring it up on her own. Other clients realize they’re getting stronger with their workouts, but they won’t be able to get off medication for cholesterol or diabetes without making changes to their diet.”

  1. Have I asked for adjustments?

If your trainer has you performing some exercises you hate, or you’d prefer to be coached differently, speak up.

“If something is not working for you, be honest, and we can adjust the plan or guide you to something else that will work for you,” Foster says. “You can ask me to push you.”

Bear in mind that your trainer may want to explain why they think it’s important that you learn certain movements or perform different kinds of exercise, but ultimately, your trainer doesn’t want you to be miserable. Foster says most trainers will regularly check in about how you’re feeling and what you think about workouts, and they want your honest feedback.

How to Break Up with Your Trainer

If you choose to stop seeing your trainer, Foster recommends that you tell them directly.

“You have to do what’s right for you,” she says. “As long as you are kind and respectful, it’s OK to say, ‘This is not working’ or ‘I need to try something else.’ We may know other trainers who will be a better fit.”

Check with your gym about any notice you need to give to your trainer, or whether there are any rules about changing trainers. Foster says there is no need to be anxious about avoiding your old trainer or potential awkwardness at the gym.

“Being worried about other people’s feelings is a sign that you’re mindful and compassionate,” Foster says. “We have our members’ best interests at heart, and we understand if you’re taking care of yourself.”

Trainers also don’t expect you to work out with them forever. Foster says it’s a cause for celebration when a client feels ready to work out independently.

“A good trainer will give you the tools and knowledge to plan your own workouts,” Foster says. “We’re happy and proud when you feel comfortable to go off on your own.”

Have questions about your health and fitness? Talk to your doctor. If you need a doctor, find one near you.