When you think of a personal trainer, what do you picture in your mind? I’m assuming there’s a lot of muscles, low body fat, ripped abs, etc? At least, that’s what the fitness industry convinces personal trainers they need to look like or they’ll never get any clients. If you can’t walk the walk, then why would anyone want to work with you?
There is a section of the fitness industry that is ignoring these arbitrary standards and these people are becoming trainers, coaches, and teachers regardless of what their body looks like. There are fat trainers, athletes, and yoga teachers these days. I personally love filling my social media with people who are breaking these barriers and making a new path to invite everyone into the fitness world.
While I love my fellow big bodied people breaking stereotypes, when I search for disabled personal trainers, I find a distinct lack of options. Instead, I find a lot of information for trainers who are working with disabled people which is nice, but I feel like it’s lacking. Is there an assumption that only abled people can understand how to train people properly and well?
I polled my Facebook friends on this. I asked them: would you hire a disabled personal trainer? I got only positive responses, with several friends confirming that what someone’s body looks like does not determine their knowledge and that for them, the expertise mattered more. So I thought I’d compile a few reasons why you may purposefully hire a disabled personal trainer even if you are not disabled yourself.
They are passionate.
I became a personal trainer to help people improve their lives. I continue being a trainer even though I now have a disability because I cannot give that dream up. Now I focus more on functional fitness and helping people supplement their lives with fitness, but my passion remains the same.
They have more intense knowledge.
My experience with hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome has increased my awareness of how our bodies are so interconnected and how one tight muscle can affect something somewhere else. One of my clients has learned a lot about this from me since we started working together over a year ago, and she is always astounded by how a muscle she’s not even using is working because she’s doing a simple isolation move. The truth is that your body is anything but simple. It is a complex machine. Who knows better how to work a machine than the one who has to deal with a busted one all the time?
They have the credentials.
Regardless of what some people might say, credentials do matter. Some personal trainer certifications are much more difficult to get than others. For instance, if someone has a CSCS, it means they have already met a certain level of qualifications to even sit for that test, and have then passed it. I got my Masters in Sports and Health Sciences because I love learning and wanted to formally increase my knowledge. Likewise, experience is a form of credentials in my opinion. Does the trainer you’re considering have experience and formal education through school or reputable certifications? Then maybe it doesn’t matter if they’re a little fluffy around the middle or use a cane to maintain mobility.
They will listen to you.
Do you remember The Biggest Loser? Screaming trainers pushing puking fat people past any reasonable limit? Not caring about injuries? Pushing the boundaries of health and legality to achieve any modicum of weight loss? I feel as though a generation of personal trainers were inspired by this terrible example and thus tend to push their clients beyond what is necessary. Maybe the reason you think exercise sucks is because a trainer in the past has done this to you or it’s the only example you’ve seen. Listen. You don’t have to do Crossfit or a million burpees or be half dead at the end of your workout to have it be worth it. And if you told me that you’re not feeling something today, fine. Skip your workout and take care of you.
There are also a lot of examples out there of people who are joining a gym because they want to get fit and do not care about losing weight but their goals are not respected and they still have things like weight loss shoved in their faces. Bodily autonomy is very important in the disability world and for me, that includes the goals you have for your body. I recently wrote another post on how I’m so tired of weight loss. So maybe finding a trainer who lives outside the box would be safer for you than someone who may not always respect your goals or may think you’ll eventually change your mind (yes they’re out there, yes it’s gross).
They may be more accepting and compassionate.
Being disabled is an existence of marginalization. I have received so much acceptance from my fellow disabled people, and they tend to extend acceptance to other marginalized groups. Obviously this one is on a case by case basis because anyone can be nasty, but at least with me you know you’re accepted because everyone is welcome around here.
You jive with them.
Getting along with your trainer is extremely important. Finding someone who gets you and who you connect with is vital. Communication needs to be open and respectful. They need to listen to you and you need to be teachable. It is give and take on both sides. You are a team. I’d urge you to give a trainer a chance if all the above is in place and you get along with them, even if they don’t look like a typical personal trainer.
You’ll be supporting intersectionality.
Obviously this one is personal. It may not matter to you but if you’re here, then it probably does. Supporting increased diversity in the fitness industry is extremely important at this point in time. The industry is sexist, ableist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and altogether a total damn disaster. We need more diversity in it. Furthermore, financially contributing to a disabled person is a form of social justice. Disability benefits? Seriously extremely difficult to get and are barely enough to live on. If social justice is important to you, support a marginalized trainer from any group that society constantly shits on.
That’s my full list! I would love to hear from you on this topic. Would you hire a disabled trainer? Have you in the past? Maybe you’ve had a coach or trainer who lives outside acceptable body norms and I’d love to hear about it!