What is your Responsibilty?

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Early on during my downfall into anorexia, an avid healthy gym goer,  quickly became unhealthy.

Anorexia coupled with my obsessive compulsive disorder meant daily 3 – 4 hr cardio sessions at the local rec center.  After months of this behavior together with lack of food made for an obvious decrease in weight, that soon became quite apparent to everyone around mevery unhealthy.  People were noticing and asking questions.  My determination in the gym was once a personal accomplishment, now was metamorphosing into grave concern for my health and well being.  Months of daily strenuous workouts lasting over 4 hrs at the same rec center attracted unwanted attention and concern from the trainers & consequently I was asked to leave basically kicked out.   You can imagine I was utterly devastated.

Anorexia, obsessive compulsive disorder, exercise compulsion, lack of food, my daily routine was were I drew comfort.   Being banned from the gym definitely put a huge setback in my everyday routine not to mention turned my life upside down.

I was told by the rec center trainer if I wanted to return to the gym all I needed to do was provide a doctor’s note!  No doctor in their right mind was going to sign any letter allowing me to work out considering my mental, emotional and physical state.

This spiraled into a crazy weekly schedule.  Working out in different gyms everyday in order to avoid being SOUGH OUT and KICKED OUT.  I would wear two sweaters when I worked out to give them an impression I was bigger, hit the gym later in the evenings when there wasn’t as many trainers at the gym, researched the internet for “medical” conditions that I could use if and when I was every questioned about my recent weight loss.  It was mentally exhausting!

This evokes many questions surrounding trainers responsibility?

When you are given the honorable title of  Personal Trainer, what rights do you possess when it comes to peoples health who work out at the gym?

What responsibility does a trainer have when it comes to someone you suspect at the gym has anorexia? And/or an over-exerciser?  Do you have any right to approach them? Do you as a trainer have the right to expel them from working out at the gym? 

People who suffer from anorexia pose a threat of fainting or worse due to electrolyte imbalances sudden heart attacks.   Since they generate liability for the gym does this give trainers/gyms the entitlement to refuse people at their own discretion?

If trainers and gyms have the right to question and ultimately remove people from the gym the deem to be a liability, does this then give trainers and gyms the privilege to query people who are considered obese or at a unhealthy weight range?  What about people who engage in physical exercise that smoke?  Anorexia, obesity, smoking all pose a health liability to gyms and to personal health.  Where do you draw the line?

On the contrary do trainers and gyms not have a responsibility when they see someone suffering, punishing, abusing themselves to help?  If they see someone who is grossly overweight, should they not ask for a medical clearance?  If they recognize someone who has classic symptoms of anorexia should they not step in and help?  If someone smokes and workouts is it not a trainers duty to educate and advise them of the dangers?

As a gym member do you think anyone has a right to make their own assumptions of your health and question you or ask you to see a doctor for medical clearance?  And should anyone –  trainer or not –  have the right to remove you from a gym because they have surmised you to be unhealthy based on nothing but their perception & judgement?

What do you feel as a trainer, gym owner or as a patron – is the correct way to handle these situations?

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8 thoughts on “What is your Responsibilty?

  1. Excuse my language but…DAMN WOMAN!! That is a very good question (wonderful post) I guess if you’re not drawing the line to everyone who might pose a liability to the gym then technically they have no right to tell you whether or not you can train. but then that would imply that to save people’s lives who they believe can be a threat to themselves that they would need to interview every person who signs up for a membership. Thus making them spend more money on counselors and overhead to interview everyone.

    Personally if i were a trainer..i would kick someone out of the gym if i felt they were a liability to THEMSELVES..not for the gym, but because i see someone suffering..and that concerns me. Where would i draw the line? if it’s in front of me..and i see it..and it’s my job to help people become healthier..i’ll address it for the sake of the person. If i see someone outside taking a swig of a cigarette..or i smell an absurd amount on their clothing..i will address it.

    I think as a personal trainer we shouldn’t be blind to things and only open our eyes to things that might HURT our gym. I’m not ok with that. if i take on the role of trying to help people become healthier..then i’m going to take that role to heart.

  2. This is a really great post with a really great question! First and foremost the title “personal trainer” isn’t enough for me, I have met so many trainers who are ignorant, anyone can become a trainer but in my experience its hard to find a good one who actually understand the fitness and nutrition aspect of personal training.

    I think as human beings we all have a moral responsibility to inquire when we see someone struggling, whether they are small or heavy. But even then there is a fine line and its all about your approach. I really cant believe that gym made you leave, that isn’t showing compassion, they just didn’t want to be liable if something happen to you. Being a large person myself I have been approached in the gym by trainers before, basically most of them just wanted to sell me their services, they rarely ever try to hear my story or get to know me, its all about what “deal” they can make me on training sessions. I’ll be honest that shit pisses me off and I make sure they know it. I have also had strangers who were working out at the gym approach me and offer some kinds words such as “keep up the good work” I also have had people tell me that they notice I have lost weight. Honestly I appreciate those people, they reassure me that I am doing the right thing and they make me feel like I can do it.

    But like I said before there is a real fine line and its easy to cross. But personally if I saw someone who needed some support I would do my best to reach out to them.

  3. I love this question.

    No doubt they were worried about you, but they were worried about themselves more. It sounds like you weren’t working with a specific trainer, so no one really had a relationship with you and they panicked. All in all it sounds like they handled the situation horribly. They didn’t know what to do and so they just removed you from the situation which they probably thought was best for everyone involved. It was best for their liability insurance, but not you.

    Where do you draw the line? Unfortunately I don’t think there is a good way to figure that out. Every single person and case is different.

    Personal trainers work with the client to get them to where they want to go in a healthy way. Candor and compassion work together to create a dynamic relationship, but that only works if both parties are committed to the relationship.

    I wonder what would have happened if someone had come to you and talked to you about your over training and disordered eating in the context of eventually having to revoke your membership unless you started down the road towards health. Possibly a different outcome, possibly not.

    Unfortunately our society accepts the eating disorders that result in obesity WAY more than the eating disorders that result in skinny. The thing is most of us are FAT and we like people that are just like us. An obese person can be anorexic but until they get too skinny we applaud them, cheer them on. Our society chooses to give credit to what you are, rather than who you are. THAT is why knowing who you are is critical for long term success. The WHAT tends to change over time and is affected by outside influences, but the WHO comes from the inside. When who you are is developed into a powerful muscle it cannot be changed by outside influences, actually it exerts its power on the outside influences. Who you are matters WAY more than your pant size. WAY MORE.

    And lady, you are beautiful, fabulous, strong, intelligent, and wonderful ON THE INSIDE, thanks for sharing it with the world.

  4. This is a VERY interesting question you pose….personally I would like to see a world where Trainers working in any gym have enough passion to build relationships with any and all clients who walk thru their doors. Everyone has a story behind where they are and have come from — it is not right to judge, but it is right to help and prevent harm. People at a gym may not require the “services” of a Personal Trainer, however the Trainer is the Professional body at a gym which, in my opinion should mean a whole lot more than just creating training plans when paid. So, all in all I think there should be a responsibility to understand one’s patrons or customers in order to guide them correctly. Everyone who walks into a gym is there for a reason….why not find out what it is and then take APPROPRIATE action? My question to you is: what do you think they SHOULD have done for you at the gym? I would love to know your opinion – hopefully to provide insight to those of us who might be put in that situation with a client at some point….what would have helped you?
    I love this blog post — you are an incredible person with a huge heart. You have great things to share.

  5. WOW I am overwhelmed by your responses! & I agree I think that trainers have a responsibility to get to know the ppl in their gyms get to know the ppl they train! I can’t imagine being a trainer and NOT having a deep investing interest in my clients life, and ALL aspects of their life! Allison I’m gonna have to really think about that question. Its difficult because ppl that suffer “addictions” or such illness’s as anorexia bulimia sometimes ppl really don’t want help and need to hit rock bottom before they really want to get better and get help. But also I was TIRED and SICK of doing it, I almost wanted it taken out of my hands! I’m gonna have to think hard about this ….. and I guess post a blog about it =)

  6. Hey girl! Great blog post! I do not agree that trainers think they can kick people out of the gym when it is apparent that they have a problem. I can tell a few people in the gym may be anorexic, but it is not my right to approach them and accuse them of having this disease or kicking them out. I have in the past approached a person when I know 100% that there is something wrong with their health. People with this disease need to be approached with kindness and with an open mind because like myself, I have no idea how this person feels inside. The worst thing we can do is judge in any way.
    And you are right, most people do need to hit rock bottom before they realize that they have a problem. I have had a few clients that were anorexic and all I can do is educate as much as possible and lend an ear when they want to talk about it. When they want help then that is a different story. I have managed to successfully help one girl out who did have an eating disorder, and for 2 years now she has learned that food is not the enemy and has been on the recovery road since! I am quite proud of her and proud of myself that I was able to help!
    Great post, I am going to share on my page!!

  7. Pingback: Chronic Exercising, Body Dysmorphia, and Anorexia - A Response to a Blog

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