Are You In a Codependent Relationship With Your Trainer?

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“I need more accountability. I need you to tell me exactly what to do. I won’t do it if I’m not told to do it.”

This was not the first, or 5th time that my client and I have had this conversation over the last year and from the surface, it may seem like a pretty ordinary conversation you’d overhear between a trainer and her client.

I mean, this is why most people hire trainers, right? To be instructed on what to do, how to do it and when?

Although this may be the obvious reason why we invest in hiring  trainers, from my perspective this conversation brings up more to be questioned. It brings up an aspect of the fitness industry that we rarely think about, and that is:

Are you and your trainer in a co-dependent relationship?

If you are a trainer or health coach, are your programs encouraging your clients to take action for themselves or do your programs rely on YOU to hold their hand?

I feel its incredibly important for us to have this conversation because of the role the fitness industry is playing in the awakening of the planet. This is a topic I have been exploring and one that I talked upon previously. If you have not read the blog, I highly encourage you to pause now, read the article “A New Workout For a New Earth”, as it lays the foundation of this current conversation.

The truth is, most clients need outside support, or a container, to be held accountable for making major life changes in their lives. Heck, even as a fitness professional, I need support whenever I’m looking to make changes in my life, in my body or in my business.

This is one of the main reasons why clients hire trainers, coaches, and join groups – we are more likely to stick to our habits and goals if we have other people to be held accountable to.

This is one of the reasons why groups such as Crossfit and the Boston-based November Project have seen cult-like followings major growth in a highly saturated market.

Regardless of whether you agree with their practices, their group dynamics create an incredibly strong sense of community, and provide a lot support and motivation for their clients.

As we’ve discussed in the previous blog, Turning Lead Into Gold, having outside support, or a container, is one of the necessary ingredients that is needed to actually make any sort of change. 

So on one hand, what my client was saying about needing accountability, I believe is necessary.

However, on the other hand, it also gets me thinking: Where is the line between needing outside support to keep you accountable to your goals and when are you just giving away your power and expecting someone else to do the work for you?

I had a sense that there was more under the surface of what she was saying because this was a recurring conversation. In the past we have set up various methods of accountability, all of which just haven’t stuck. We’ve created workouts for her to do own, a weekly schedule of classes to take when we weren’t seeing each other, and not to mention, weekly check-ins about what she was eating. And yet, sporadic compliance of these things happened, at best.

Still, her desire for accountability was a pressing topic. This could mean several things. One is that my programs did not provide the right kind of support or container for her needs of accountability (meaning, my style of training just wasn’t working for her anymore), and/or my programs were creating a sense of co-dependency.

Meaning, that our training-client relationship was leaning towards co-dependency: I was needed in order for HER to make changes.

(Mmmmm…..this is where my wheels, and I hope yours are starting to turn.)

The current paradigm of the fitness industry is one that I’ve found can either support our sovereignty OR promote co-dependency. The latter of which perpetuates a culture that looks for self-worth and the answers to our questions outside of ourselves, and the former, encouraging the universal truth that we have all the answers we ever need inside of us.

It’s a dynamic that I’ve seen play out as an observer and as a participant on both sides of the equation. And if you are reading this whether you consider yourself a client or a trainer, I’m inviting you to really look at this dynamic in your own trainer-client relationships.

As a fitness professional, I personally know what it’s like to have a sort-of death grip on your clients in the fear of losing business, or losing significance.

In the past, I’ve had this fear-based belief that if I don’t hold onto a client, I won’t have enough money AND I’ll feel like a failure.

For me, this has meant going way beyond what I was physically, mentally, emotionally or professionally capable of giving in order to keep the client coming back, thus creating a sense of co-dependency with my clients.

As fitness professionals, we may even sell the idea that our clients NEED to come in 2-3 days a week for a training session if they really want to meet their goals.

I can say first hand that I was one of those trainers, and as a manager of trainers, I encouraged my staff to do the same. Sell the bigger package, and get your clients in more often. The more they come in, the better they’ll do, and the more money YOU’LL make, is how we would coach our staff. And, in a way, I was setting up the stage to create co-dependent relationships with my clients, and at the time, did not even realize it.

What can happen with this mentality is that the client may believe that in order to meet their goals, they have to meet with a trainer, and they have to see them x amount of times per week otherwise they’ll never change.

The mindset of, “I need my trainer to tell me what to do” can be perpetuated with dynamic, and thusly, has the potential to create dependency.

I have even known gym owners who have purposely placed equipment in random areas so that their clients had to seek out assistance – to me this does not promote sovereignty.

If you are a trainer, can you relate to your clients only coming to the gym or the studio if they have an appointment?

If you are a client, can you relate to needing to have an appointment in order to workout?

I am not saying that any of these situations is wrong. Far from it! I’m merely bringing this topic into the light so that we can step into more sovereign humans – both as trainers and clients.

When we take full-responsibility for our health, without needing someone else to fix us, we begin to take more responsibility for our lives as a whole. We step out of being a victim to life, and step into becoming the architects of our own reality.

If you work with a trainer, I implore you to consider your intentions before hiring someone. What are your own expectations? If you know you need more accountability, that’s great! You can make an empowered decision to work with someone while also knowing that it is your responsibility to do outside homework.

There’s a big difference between working with a trainer as a support system while reaching your goals and working with a trainer with the expectation that they’ll magically fix you.

From a business perspective, creating co-dependent fitness programs may even seem like a great way to train clients. You don’t need more clients if you have the ones you are currently work with coming in more often, and in some ways, yes this makes sense. You can work with less people while providing more care and attention to those you are working with.

However, and a big however, is, is this actually serving your clients? Is this actually encouraging people to take responsibility for their own health? Some questions for you to consider in your training business.

From what I’ve seen, many trainers have an underlying “rescuer” or super-hero complex. (I’m raising my hand!) which means we derive significance and feel loved when we know that we’ve helped someone, or the illusion of saving someone. (I say “illusion” because really, no one needs to be saved.)

Taking on the role of a rescuer can also feed into what is called the Karpman Drama Triangle, an unhealthy pattern of relating that can create a viscous cycle of co-dependency, and which I have seen can be an undercurrent in the fitness and wellness industry.

karpman drama triangle
karpman drama triangle

(image credit:

As a trainer, it’s easy to attach our feelings of self-worth to how our clients are performing.

Clients getting results = I feel good.

Clients not getting results = I’m doing something wrong and I suck.

As clients, mainstream marketing in the fitness industry heavily rely on finding what’s broken and providing ways to fix it. Next time you’re on FB, I encourage you to pay attention to this.

Take a closer look at the language of the fitness posts on your Instagram and the FB feed. You may come across things such as:

  • 9 Ways to Fix Your Posture
  • 5 Reasons Why Your Desk Job Is Killing You
  • 12 Mistakes You’re Making At The Gym

Can you feel the subtle use of language and how it promotes a feeling of needing to be fixed, saved or rescued?

So what exactly am I trying to get at here?

What I’m trying to get at is to just encourage you to open your mind, and to start looking at your current fitness programs and your relationship with your trainers and whether they are encouraging you to take responsibility for your own health or if they are creating a sense of co-dependency.

I believe a successful fitness program is one that teaches you the tools to take care of your health and your body. One that empowers you to take your health and life back into your own hands.

Because, if we do not manage our own health and take responsibility for our own body, we will always look outside of ourselves for the answers. We will always need something or someone to tell us what to do, which pulls us away from trusting ourselves, listening to our intuition, and connecting with our highest self.

If you’re a client, here are some things to just ponder:

  • In your current fitness program or trainer-client relationship, is there an expectation for you to do outside homework?
  • Are you encouraged to explore other forms of movement/classes?
  • Are you expecting your trainer to fix you?
  • Would you know what to do for your body if you could not see your trainer?
  • Do you feel empowered to do movement or workouts on your own?
  • If you had a question about your body, are you inspired to research the topic on your own for your own curiosity?

If your’e a trainer, here are some things to just, think about:

  • How much are you deriving your sense of worth through your clients?
  • How does your client’s success effect you emotionally?
  • Are you encouraging your clients to have responsibility for their fitness goals or are you trying to do it all for them?
  • When you look at your clients, are you seeing all the ways they need to be fixed?
  • How are there ways for you to create programs and a business structures to promote sovereignty in your clients and ease up the pressure valve on you physically, emotionally, and mentally?

And with that being said, I leave you with this: 

You are a whole, and complete human being. You are exactly where you need to be, doing the things you need to be doing. Anyone who is in your life at the moment is here to reflect to you parts inside yourself you may or may not see.

No one can fix you because you are not broken. And no one can save you because you are not in danger.

You are more powerful than you may realize, and whatever changes you desire to make for your body and your life, is within your reach.

Ask for help. Look for support. And know, that the power to change is in your hands and no one else’s.

(photo credit:

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