Personal training is an almost entirely unregulated industry. That means, as far as the law is concerned- anyone can be a trainer. As far as the average personal training client is concerned, the only qualifications needed are the endorsement of some fitness company, a fit-looking body, and maybe a few certifications hanging on the wall.
Most personal trainers will have some form of certification. Few gyms will hire a trainer who has no certifications and few insurance providers will offer coverage to uncertified trainers. But there’s no law, no regulatory body, and few standardized practices that say which certifications are necessary.
The reality is that most clients only care that their trainer behave in a professional manner and look the part. Trainers and gyms can avoid lawsuits in many cases simply by having the client sign a waiver. But the endorsement of a gym, a sporty physique, and a few certifications do not a qualified personal trainer make. Just because a trainer has all of those things doesn’t mean he or she knows how to work with people, and it certainly does not mean they understand the health risks that come with intense physical exercise.
While gyms and trainers will be protected against unforeseeable harm resulting from reasonable instructions, there is a significant amount of gray area surrounding the word “reasonable.” For starters, it’s well known that pushing the limits of physical fitness means working outside of one’s comfort zone. So it is not uncommon, or surprising that a personal trainer should strongly encourage clients to continue to work through discomfort and even pain.
Recently, a doctor in Greenwich, Connecticut suffered a stroke during a training session at his local gym. The plaintiff’s attorney successfully argued that the stroke was a direct result of the exercises he was instructed to perform.
This case is significant because it might have easily been assumed that the client, being a doctor, could have known better than to follow the instruction of the trainer.
In another instance, a personal trainer failed to spot a client during a lifting exercise, causing the client to fracture her wrists.
In many instances, injury or harm incurred during a personal training session can come down to a miscommunication. Not everyone who looks that part and has certifications also has the verbal and interpersonal skills to accurately and concisely communicate proper instructions to the client.
According to Ankin Law Office LLC, 46% of training injuries are preventable. That means, almost half the time, someone has been negligent.
When a person enters into an agreement to work with a personal trainer, they have a responsibility to take reasonable action to avoid injury. Likewise, the trainer has a responsibility to the client. Until the personal training industry is better regulated, there will be large areas of uncertainty as to where the trainer’s responsibility ends and the client’s begins.