A good personal trainer can help you achieve your fitness and health goals, while exceeding your expectations along the way. A bad trainer can simply be a big waste of your time and money. The demand for personal trainers has steadily been on the rise over the past several years and with that so has supply.
With so many options available to you today it can be quite daunting to know which trainer is the best for you. Truth be told there are a lot of phony and incompetent trainers out there today who make a great living off of their clients’ ignorance. But there is a way to protect yourself from these types of trainers and we have provided it for you today.
So before you ever hire a personal trainer make sure that you have all the answers to these 10 very important questions:
1) Are you physically and mentally ready to start an exercise program with a personal trainer?
It can be quite easy to forget about the most important factor when hiring a personal trainer-YOU. Are you willing and ready to dedicate and commit yourself to a trainer and their program? The trainer will fully expect complete dedication from your part.
Readiness for change is a critical part of the equation when determining whether or not you will ultimately be successful or not. A few simple questions to ask yourself before going forward should include:
• On a scale of 1-10 how much are you committed to change?
• Why do you feel you need a personal trainer?
• Why do you feel a personal trainer will help you be successful?
Remember in the end it will be your attitude and effort that makes all of the difference. No matter how good the trainer or their program is if you do not bring your best on regular basis the outcome will be less than what you had hoped for. Don’t waste your time and money on something you are not ready for.
Take home point: Commit to change first, find out a trainer second.
2) Are your goals and expectations realistic?
We all want to transform our bodies into a better version of ourselves but you will frustrate yourself and the trainer alike if you expect to change overnight. Changing the body is a process which takes time and hard work. Whether your goal is to become stronger or to lose body fat your trainer should be able to outline a realistic timetable for you to reach your goals and expectations.
Be leery of trainers who make big promises, such as massive weight loss in a short period of time or super strength and speed gains in only a few weeks. If they truly understand the process of physical adaptation then they will be honest and open to you about what is realistic and obtainable.
Take home point: A good trainer will not tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear.
3) Does the personal trainer have a college degree in a related field (exercise science, sports science, and kinesiology) or are they certified by a highly reputable certifying agency?
Preferably the trainer has a college degree as it shows they have a high level of knowledge in fitness and in human anatomy and physiology and how the body adapts to exercise.
If the trainer only has a certification it needs to be understood that not all certifications are created equal. There are certain certifications that can be obtained literally within a weekend’s time while others take months of preparation before taking on the certification exam.
Trainers are a dime a dozen these days as anyone with a few bucks, half a brain and weekend could obtain the title certified personal trainer. The title doesn’t ensure the ability. Don’t give away your trust just because someone tells you they have a certification or even a degree. These should be minimums and mandatory, but the selection process should never end there. Just because they know something does not mean they can apply it. Ask them about their education and certifications? What are they? How long did it take them to obtain them?
Take home point: Stick with trainers who can actually give you the honest scientific facts not hype and hot air.
4) Does the trainer actually have real world experience working with people like you?
There are basically two types of bad trainers out there. The first has very little education and knowledge and haphazardly puts workouts together. While the second has a lot of knowledge but very little experience applying that knowledge. You need to look for a trainer that has both the smarts and the looks. Sorry, I mean the smarts and the experience. And when we say experience we mean with people like you. Every client and client population is different. They have different needs and goals and their exercise programs should reflect that.
We all know plenty of individuals who have years of real world experience but still sucked at what they do. So please ask the trainer about his clients’ success. Ask for testimonials and anything else that would prove that his/her ability to work with individuals like yourself would be a success.
Take home point: Has the trainer been there done that before, if not what other reasons did they give you to trust them?
5) Does the trainer take a careful look at your health/training history and perform evaluative tests to assess your fitness prior to beginning training?
If you’re not assessing you’re guessing. Before you ever begin exercising with a trainer they should perform a health history and some sort of physical assessment on you to assess your current health and wellness. Understanding a client’s abilities and limitations is an absolute critical factor when designing training programs that are most appropriate and useful for a client.
The golden rule for a personal trainer should always be to do no harm. Assessments decrease the risk of doing more harm than good. Ask the trainer beforehand if they perform assessments on their clients before beginning an exercise program. If they do ask them what type of assessment they will be conducting. If they do not perform an assessment ask them why they do not think it is necessary?
Take home point: If you are not being assessed the trainer is guessing. Make sure this is a normal part of the process.
6) What is the trainer’s training philosophy?
Make sure that you know for a fact that the trainer has a plan of action for you. This should include some type of organized approach to their training program and how they plan on progressing you from week to week and month to month. A trainer should never just shoot from the hip when designing workouts. An unprepared trainer means an unprepared athlete or unimpressed client.
• How do they track progress?
• How do they decide what is important to track?
• How do they organize their client’s training programs?
• Are the programs individualized for every client?
• What are they all about, in other words what is their philosophy on training in general and specifically with you?
Take home point: You need to understand what the trainer’s goals are for you and exactly how they plan on taking you there.
7) What does the trainer expect from their clients?
Before ever giving a trainer any of your money make certain you know what the trainer expects from you. Some trainers expect their clients just to show up while others expect them to be there 10 minutes early warmed up and ready to go.
• How many days per week does the trainer expect you to be able to work with them?
• Are the trainer’s expectations of what you need to be eating on par with what you deem as realistic and reasonable?
• How hard does the trainer push their clients and is it the type of intensity you are looking for?
Take home point: Make certain the trainer’s expectations are realistic and reasonable for you to meet.
8) Is the training atmosphere comfortable and motivating?
A training facility should be like a second home; comfortable and inviting yet inspiring and motivating. Not all fitness facilities are created equal. Sometimes there is little the trainer can do about this but it still can make a huge difference in what you are taking away from your training sessions. Make certain you ask where the majority of the workouts will be taking place and then see if it is the type of environment in which you feel you could thrive and be yourself.
For example, a power lifter probably would be pretty upset if it turns out the gym he signed up to train in has no barbells and almost all machines and middle aged recreational mild mannered clients.
Take home point: Make sure you fit-in before you sign on the dotted line.
9) Does the trainer’s personality and attitude feel right for you?
There are a lot of trainers out there. You have the right to work with one which you genuinely enjoy being around. It should not be an either/or type of thing when seeking out a trainer, where you are forced to pick between a trainer which you really don’t like but is good as what they do versus a trainer which you really get along with but aren’t so good at what they do.
You are going to be spending a lot of time with your trainer. Personal time at that, they will regularly making you do things that might not be that fun, regularly telling you what to do and correcting you on a regular basis. It always seems to hold true we learn better from people we respect and get along with.
Take home point: A trainer should be a coach and a friend, make sure they are someone you can respect and actually stand to take orders from.
10) Does the trainer let you try before you buy?
How many people buy a car off of the lot without driving it first? Then why would a trainer expect you buy hundreds of dollars worth of personal training before you ever get behind the wheel and got to experience what they were all about.
Ask the trainer if they have any free or low cost trials? They should have something in place which allows you to try their services for no or low cost before signing-on for a longer commitment.
Take home point: Ask about a free or low cost test drive before you buy, this should always be an option for you.
There you have it, 10 critical questions to help you make your decision when choosing a personal trainer or other fitness professional. Remember quality is king and if you want the best in your area, you need to do your homework first.
Jeff Weber, MS, CSCS, Pn1