My daughter is playing in the pool with two friends on a beautiful Florida day and I'm seizing the opportunity to catch up on some work. The scene playing out in front of me is prompting a spark, or nausea, or both. In earshot, a personal trainer is training a client, a resident of the community.

"One more lap" (walking lunges around the perimeter of the very large lagoon pool).
Sweat is rolling down the forehead of the client and her face says submission, but the trainer pushes on.
"Slower steps. Butt tight. Muscle, not momentum."

I’m all for aggressive exercise intervention, but I'm having trouble witnessing this client being beaten to a sweaty pulp. The client stops to catch her breath and the trainer, suffering from Drill Sergeant Complex (a pseudo psychological term I just coined) threatens, "If you don't start in 10 seconds, drop and give me 10."

Her body language "defeated," the client reluctantly starts lunging again. Her arms struggle to reach with the medicine ball between her hands.

Is it my place to say something? Am I witnessing abuse or inspiration? I'm not 100% sure.

She's rounding the last turn and heading for the spot where her towel and water bottle sit. It reminds me of one of those video clips where the marathon runner stumbles over the line only to collapse. "Six more steps, Janet. Six more. C'mon, you can do it."

Janet drops to the ground about two steps short. She's conscious, but appears to have just run out of glycogen. Her ATP reserves have been exhausted. I'm ready to leap to my feet, but remain at my keyboard accessing my own "ready" state.

End of scene: The client survives, the trainer gets paid.

Should I have asked the trainer for his credentials? That's inappropriate. Isn't it? Should I trust that this trainer knows this client and trains her within her known capacity? These difficult questions are rarely addressed and I'd guess, most personal trainers see opportunities for "approach" that they let pass by.

More examples …

She confidently pushes away the menu after a single glance. "I'll have the spinach salad," she announces with pride. Her tableside friend quips, "You always eat so healthy, it's a wonder you're not thin." Ouch. You, sitting at the next table, glance at the menu and note that the spinach salad has gorgonzola cheese, glazed walnuts, bacon, croutons, and a creamy roasted pepper dressing. Do you tell her that her salad likely has over 1,500 calories, three times as much as the grilled chicken platter?

Based on the toddler in the cart, it's clear she isn't buying the Pop Tarts for a late night adult snack. She believes she's making a "healthy" choice, prompted by the word "organic." Dare you approach and share what should be obvious ... until you see a Pop Tart tree, the label is deceptive and a glance at her cart reveals she’s feeding her kids excesses of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup?

He grunts like a frenzied farm animal as he rocks back and forth, yanking the bar down behind his head, clearly practicing destructive external rotation at the shoulder joint. You know he's a textbook example of injury waiting to happen, yet he's a regular and attacks each set with a vengeance. Is it in your (or his) best interest to begin your sentence with "excuse me, Sir ...?" or do you just leave the nutty guy alone?

Are there guidelines as to what would be appropriate for a competent personal trainer?

All I have right now are opinions, but I invite you to contribute yours. Go and share your thoughts (to be revealed in a future article).

For now, here are my perspectives:

- Never embarrass another individual unless you feel there is a genuine risk beyond what is ordinary or expected. Opportunities may emerge to confront and question situations in private.

- The grocery store is an open forum for tactful rescue. If our mission involves helping people, the grocery store offers a chance to correct destructive behaviors that people aren't aware they're engaging in.

- Whenever you hear of someone about to begin what you believe to be a flawed program, share your professional opinion and follow it with research or documented fact, but never reprimand anyone for making a bad fitness decision. Guidance through the process of eradicating long-held false beliefs may be the greatest gift you can offer, especially when an open mind shows up.

- Finally, there's the familiar issue of "correcting" form. I've heard it said that "can I show you a different way," is a sound approach, but we've all met the wall of "I know what I'm doing, I've been doing it this way for years." After years of meeting this man (always with a different face and name but clearly the same guy), I'd have to say, incorrect form warrants approach. If direction is refused, let it go. Future conversations that appear social in nature may knock down the "I know what I'm doing" monster and perhaps open the door for a long term client.

I look forward to YOUR opinions! (post them at