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Why fitness professionals should stop saying “everybody’s different”

Aug 27, 2020 | Fitness

Everybody’s different.

Men and women are different. People have different body morphologies, different circumstances, different heritages, different occupations, different hopes and dreams. Even siblings who share parents are different.

So differences exist. No argument. The issue becomes when “everybody’s different” ignores the ways we are all the same, and becomes a convenient way to avoid a deeper conversation.

“Everybody’s different” has become too many trainers’ go-to response to fitness seekers who are looking for solutions to slow or no progress. Why are my glutes not tighter, why am I not getting stronger, why won’t my arms grow, why can’t I lose this extra flab around my middle?

“Everybody’s different” is pulled like a pistol in an Old West gunfight. It’s convenient. It’s hanging right there at our side. We’re so fast at drawing it that we don’t even have to think about it. Mental muscle memory. As soon as the client asks the tough question… WhoopKish-BANG: “Everybody’s different”.

Client:I work out five times a week and only eat 1800 calories a day and can’t drop a pants size.

Trainer: Everybody’s different.

Client: Why can’t I lose this little bit of flab around my middle?

Trainer: Everybody’s different.

Client: I do 3000 squats a week and my glutes still don’t look like a 20-year-old’s.

Trainer: Everybody’s different.

Clients have become conditioned to hearing “everybody’s different” and seem surprised when they get a thoughtful, actionable answer.

The problem with “Everybody’s different”

There are several big problems with “everybody’s different” and only one of them is that it’s mostly untrue. Yes indeed we all have our differences, but when considering physical fitness, there’s much more the same than different. For sure, a client who’s recently undergone several months of chemo and a stem cell transplant is going to “be different ” in the way they respond to diet and exercise than say, a 23-year-old who’s competed in D1 athletics until just last year. Differences are seldom that vast.  But even if there were vast differences, we shouldn’t be whipping out “everybody’s different” in favor of a more reasoned, educated response.

Here are three reasons why fitness professionals need to stop saying “everybody’s different” right now.

“Everybody’s different” delivers absolutely no value

Think of it. You have a nagging pain that won’t go away. You try everything to get rid of it. Over-the-counter pain relievers, rest, ice, stretching. Everything. So you make an appointment to see a doctor. The doctor examines you and delivers the news: “well, everybody’s different.” Outrageous, right? You’re paying this trained professional to fix your problem, not blurt platitudes. What about the pain?? So, explain why that’s any different than telling a client who’s paying for results (better physique, whatever) that “everybody’s different”?

If personal trainers are the skilled professionals we purport to be, then our clients deserve an actionable answer, even if that answer challenges them. And if we don’t know the answer immediately, we need to either (a) research it and figure it out, or (b) refer the client to someone who can help. But telling them “everybody’s different” is just another way to change the subject.

The wise client asks, “So why am I paying you??”

“Everybody’s different” is enabling

Say you have a client who’s provided you with their SMART goals in response to your awesome, thorough screening. You’ve designed a terrific exercise program for them, and given them peer-reviewed references on healthy eating. And they ignore it. You know they’re ignoring it. So after a few weeks of frustrating toil with this client, the client asks, “why aren’t I making any progress? I’m doing this, that and the other thing (although none of what’s in your program), and I’m making no progress.” And we say, “everybody’s different”.

STOP! No, most people have two ears and statistically, most of those work. What’s different is that you’ve just enabled an excuse-maker and re-enforced that the client is the victim they always thought they were. “My trainer told me that I’m not losing weight because I’m different”. Mmmm-hmmm. “Everybody’s different” is the get-out-of-jail-free response that means the client must do “absolutely nothing”. They’ve officially been declared a victim.

The co-dependent client says, “tell me again that I’m just different!”

“Everybody’s different” is, well, just lazy

The client is hiring you to fix a problem or help them attain a goal. You’ve positioned yourself as a skilled pro. And unless the client is in category 2 above–seeking an enabler (which you should immediately and always refuse to be)–you owe it to them to figure out how to help them be successful. Yes, they have to put in the effort. But when progress stalls, when they get frustrated, saying “everybody’s different” is just a little too convenient. Said another way: If we are the skilled professionals we say we are, we should be able to identify differences, and devise programs that address them.

We should be able to craft a program for the post-menopausal woman who’s not been to the gym in two decades, for the patient recovering from hip replacement, and for with Frank from Finance who has only three days a week to work out for 30 minutes each day.

Here’s an irony: a group fitness instructor (who has a room full of people doing exactly the same workout) answering a client with “everybody’s different”. One plus one ain’t equalling two.

The discerning client asks, “may I see your certification?”


“Everybody’s different” makes an ok intro to explaining how you’ll structure an individualized program for that particular client, that addresses any legitimate fitness-related differences, that will be effective if the client follows it, and that you’re the there to monitor, coach, and support.

Apply your skill. Use your noodle. Figure it out like a pro. Don’t cave in to “everybody’s different”. Our clients deserve better, even if better means they’re not allowed to play victim any longer. Fitness profressionals should stop saying “everybody’s different” right now.