How To Choose A Personal Trainer

November 24, 2015

Not so long ago, personal trainers were the reserve of the rich and famous. Music and film stars spent a fortune working with these mythical people to help them get in great shape and the popular media lapped it up. Every time a star went from fat to fit, the trainer inevitably featured in the equation and many trainers become almost as famous as their celebrity clients.

Fast forward to today and personal trainers are no longer just seen working with the likes of Madonna, Hugh Jackman or Britney Spears – average Joes employ personal trainers too.

A personal trainer can help you get fitter faster than ever before and provide all the motivation and support you need to get in great shape. Whether you see a trainer once a month for a tune-up or every day, personal training is a legitimate career choice for many fitness industry workers and these usually self-employed fitness experts are waiting to help you achieve your best body ever.

But, as with most services, there are good personal trainers and bad ones. Don’t waste your money on an ineffective personal trainer – use the information in this article to steer you right so you get your money’s worth.

Where to find a personal trainer?

Personal trainers want your business so they advertise in a variety of places. Some trainers are contractually obligated to work in one gym or a chain of gyms while others are more mobile and will come and train you in your home. Others still have studios where you can go and work out with them. Either way, the trainer will advertise in newspapers, by putting up posters, by talking to prospective clients, via the internet (websites and social media sites) but they best form of advertising is always personal recommendation. Ask your friends, colleagues or associates if they know of a good trainer and then move on to part two of this article – vetting your prospective trainer.

What to look for in a personal trainer? 

Don’t settle for the first trainer you find – there are lots of them around and it’s a hirer’s market. Make sure you are 100-percent happy with your prospective personal trainer before you engage their services. A good trainer can help you develop your best body ever but a bad one could turn you off exercise forever and even end up injuring you so don’t rush into what is ultimately an important decision.

Is your trainer…

  • Qualified? There are several certification programs for personal trainers and some are better than others. Find out what qualifications your trainer holds and then research them on the internet to assess their validity. A weekend course that is not nationally recognized does not really count as a qualification whereas a degree in strength and conditioning would be much more desirable.
  • Insured? Hopefully you won’t need to make a claim against your trainer but if you should, are they sufficiently insured? A serious injury could keep you off work for weeks or even months so it is important you are protected financially. Insurance is only usually granted to properly qualified trainers.
  • First aid qualification? In the event of an accident, can your trainer look after you properly? A heart attack, while rare in an exercise scenario, is very serious but your odds or survival are significantly higher with the right trauma care. All trainers should hold at least a rudimentary first aid qualification.
  • Appearance? Does your prospective personal trainer look like he practices what he preaches? Trainers don’t have to be in Olympian shape but should at least look like they know one end of a barbell from another. If your trainer does not exercise himself, he may lack empathy and understanding of how you are feeling when you work out. A good trainer should have experienced most if not all of the forms of training he does with his clients and be more than just “book smart”.
  • Likeable? You are going to spend anything up to three or more hours a week with your trainer so it is important you can get along with them in what can sometimes be a stressful environment. Why stressful? It is their job to push you harder than you can push yourself and this may mean asking you to do things you find challenging. If your trainer’s personality rubs you up the wrong way, this can be a recipe for confrontation and upset.
  • Experienced? Does your trainer have the skills and experience relative to your fitness goals? If you want to gain muscle, does your trainer have a background in serious strength training? If you are pregnant, does your trainer have experience in pre and post-natal exercise? Training for a marathon? Has your trainer helped other clients prepare for endurance events? Trainers have different areas of expertise so make sure your prospective trainer has the necessary experience to help you achieve your goals.
  • Attentive? Does your trainer listen to you when you say you don’t like a particular exercise or you have a nagging ache or pain? Do they adjust your workout based on your feedback? Does your trainer focus 100-percent on you during your workout rather than answer phone calls, chat to other exercisers and stare absently into space while mindlessly counting your reps? If they do – great! But if they do not, they are not putting the personal into personal training and you may be better served by another fitness professional.
  • Professional? Is your trainer business-like and organized in his dealings with other trainers and clients? Does he dress appropriately, record workouts and assessment results, monitor progress and change workouts often enough to prevent boredom but not so often that your workouts have no continuity. Do they offer sensible diet advice or make suggestions on how you can get more form your workouts? Are they discreet or do they gossip about other clients? If they do, they may well gossip about you too!
  • Do they offer value for money? Personal trainers can charge pretty much what they like for their services and rates vary from $20-30.00 to $200.00 or more per hour. Whatever they charge, you should feel you are getting good value for money from your trainer.

Questions to ask a prospective personal trainer 

To further help you choose your trainer, ask them some pointed questions designed to weed out the wheat from the chaff…

  • Can they provide references or are they prepared to introduce you to current/previous clients?
  • What hours/days of the week do they operate and do they work at the times you are available to train?
  • Have they worked with clients with similar goals to you?
  • What is their cancellation policy – for you and for them?
  • What is their refund policy?
  • Do they offer block booking discounts?
  • What type of pre-exercise and continual assessments do they use?
  • How/where do they store your personal information?
  • What additional support do they offer?
  • What workshops/additional learning have they had recently?

As the client, you are essentially the trainer’s boss and, for the hour you are paying them, they are your employee. This means that, although they are leading the session, they should always make sure you get what you want and get the best possible service from them.

Personal training is a competitive market so don’t be afraid to sack your trainer and find a new one if you don’t feel you are getting what you have paid for. However, remember that there are 168-hours in a week and the three you spend with your trainer won’t amount to a hill of beans if you don’t eat well and live healthily for the rest of the week. Your relationship with your trainer is (or should be) symbiotic!

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