As you may know, I used to be a personal trainer. I was a pretty good one. Not great, but I did my best to help my clients achieve their fitness goals. Sometimes that client was a competitive bodybuilder. Sometimes it was an 80-year-old woman. Sometimes (and these were my favorites) the client was a teenager looking to get in shape and help build some confidence.

Maybe that's why I tend to focus on the personal trainers when I visit clubs around the country. And for this month's “Fitness Across America” story [see pg. 16], I got the chance to see plenty of personal trainers in plenty of clubs in the Northeast. And I have to admit, I'm worried about what I saw — and you should be too.

With more than half of the clubs surveyed by IHRSA saying that personal training is their most profitable program or service, management should surely watch it closely. Well, a big part of the personal training service that makes it profitable is the personal part of the training that members get. And that is the part of the service that is missing more and more.

This is not to say that there aren't a lot of great personal trainers out there. The ones that are great are certified, well trained, well educated and (this is what sets them apart from the pack) provide each of their clients with a proper exercise program for their particular level and goals and the right motivation to go along with it.

But, then there are the rest — the personal trainers that train every client in the same manner. They put their clients through the same exercises, in the same order and with the same (or too many times lack of) intensity. Sure, the trainers chat them up and keep their clients safe, but they are not providing a personal service — no matter how new or cutting edge the training may be. You can tell which members are (or too often were) their clients by watching them doing the same workout as all of “Joe Trainer's” other members when they train on their own — an army of members doing walking lunges with 8-pound dumbbells.

Again, this is not to say that all personal trainers are bad. Or that those that lose the personal touch of training are bad. Often, they are caught up in the latest trend or what their fitness manger showed them after their last conference. Sometimes, though, the trainers are just bored and going through the motions. This leads to the client going through the motions and not seeing results. This leads to dropped service and even worse, dropped memberships.

Personal training can be a huge profit center when it is done right. But, it can only hit its potential when the trainers and their managers realize the importance of providing a personalized workout tailored to the needs of each of their clients.

Next time you visit the competition or walk the floor of your own facility, take a look at the floor and see if the trainers are personalizing their service or just creating an army of unhappy members.