Personal Trainers: How Do I Choose The Right One?

Personal Trainers: How Do I Choose The Right One?

Many people are under the assumption that one personal trainer is like the next, but I can assure you that this is far from the truth.  Personal trainers should never be viewed as a one size fits all mold.  They come in all shapes, sizes, sexes, experience levels, specialties, and personality types.  All too often I see people who have gym memberships signing up for training sessions, and they'll take whomever is given, and then they end up having a bad experience and this hurts their overall view of personal training and personal trainers.  This approach can definitely result in the injury of the person getting trained... either physically, or mentally.  I want to help you choose the right personal trainer, if this is what you are aiming to do.

Having the right personal trainer can give you amazing results, and also give you a better outlook on fitness, to where you'll enjoy doing it, and you'll enjoy what it's doing for you in return.  It's KEY for you to understand, however, that YOU are employing THEM!  That being said, they need to listen to you.  A lot of trainers get stuck in the mindset of, "This is just what I do," and they'll do it with everyone regardless of that person's own goals or current fitness level.  I've also seen instances where personal trainers will argue with their clients, have them doing exercises beyond their current level, are late to appointments (or constantly rescheduling),  OR I've even seen trainers who text or make phone calls while the person they are training is exercising right in front of them.  NO NO NO!  When a trainer is training you, you deserve their FULL attention.  You are the person paying them, and they owe it to you to give you ALL of their time and attention to fit your needs.

Here are some of my recommendations when you are looking for a trainer.  Don't settle for the first person.  Interview the trainers, as you will be paying them.  When going through this process, keep in mind:

1.) Education/Experience

It is, of course, important for a personal trainer to have proper certifications so that you know that THEY know how to deliver a safe and effective workout for you, but also that they understand the main purpose behind exercise and are aware of what they are and are not allowed to do with their given certification.  Not all personal training certifications really leave the personal training student with hands on experience, here... so, it's also good to make sure they have some experience (even if they are a new trainer on their own, they hopefully have some experiencing in shadowing other trainers or teaching group fitness classes).   You may want to do some research on your own, but some more reputable certification companies that exist out there include ACE, NASM and ACSM.  Those are not the only ones, by any means, but you can find out who your potential trainer is certified with and then use "the Google" to research and get reviews for that certification.  Also, if you can, ask for a list of current or past clients who may give you some reviews and feedback (or check resources online for reviews of the gym and/or trainer in question).

2.) Are they a GOOD LISTENER?

When speaking with your trainer for the first time, are they actively listening to you?  Are they taking notes?  Are they taking your goals as well as your current struggles and limitations into consideration?  If you find that the potential trainer is doing all the talking, simply trying to sell themselves to you (making it all about them and not you), then they likely aren't going to keep your needs in mind.  They should be asking you questions to find out what it is that you want to get out of training sessions with them and what your goals are.  Their sessions should be addressed around your wants and needs combined with the results of your evaluation so that they can work on training you in your strengths and weaknesses to get proper body balance and alignment.  Remember, it's about YOU, so don't let them make it about themselves.  This also falls under the category of them giving you their FULL attention.  When you are spending your time with them, they need to be focused on you... and not on chit chatting with someone next to you, lazily lounging on nearby equipment, or using their cell phones, etc.

3.) Do your personalities mesh well?

So, maybe you just aren't feeling this person.  There's something about them that you don't really like.  You can tell that you won't really look forward to your workouts with them.  Then, guess what!?  They aren't the right trainer for you.  You should have a good rapport with your potential trainer.  They get you and you get them.  You can easily talk to them without embarrassment.  There are four main personality types that exist out there.  Don't believe me?  Read "Personality Plus."  If you have a more meek and gentle personality, a boot camp style trainer won't fit your needs... they may pressure you and make you want to cry.   Vice versa, if you have a strong personality and you like being pushed, a more gentle personal trainer will likely be too slow and not hard core enough for you.  So, it's important to know that your trainer will keep you accountable in a way that makes sense for you and your personality style.

4.) Specialties

You may want to focus on certain types of exercise in your routines and/or you may fall under a certain demographic that could require a trainer with specialties (i.e. senior citizen, pregnancy, youth, working with injuries/conditions, etc.).  Be sure to see if your trainer holds any specialties in regards to exercises.  Perhaps you want more yoga in your life, or perhaps you'd like to try some boxing for your workouts?  What if you want to focus on body building or figure competing?  Make sure that your trainer is going to be able to deliver.  Also, if you fall into a specialty category, this is even more important, because you'll want a trainer who understands the dos and don'ts of those with your needs.

5.) Will they educate you?

Hopefully your personal trainer will educate you on steps that can be taken outside of your time with him/her.  You likely aren't working out with your trainer 4-6 days per week... but hopefully your goal is to get in at least some exercise that many days per week.  A good trainer will set you up for success by designing a program where you work with them, but you'll also have things to take on your own and work on your days off of training sessions.  This could include classes they recommend for you, a booklet of exercises they give you, cardio suggestions, etc.  Make sure that you are learning and growing with each session... gaining a better understanding of your own body and how it moves, proper form, weight selection, intensity level, etc.  Keep in mind that most trainers are only allowed to give basic nutrition information, so they cannot design a meal plan for you.  For that, you'd need to also hire a nutritionist.  But your trainer can at least help you with  "eat this, not that" when it comes to food.

6.) Are they inspiring to you?  Do they practice what they preach?

It may seem superficial, but if your trainer doesn't have a physique that inspires you, then it could actually demotivate you.  That being said, this can work many ways.  One can be that your trainer is super jacked up and has an amazing physique, but your goal isn't necessarily to get that big, muscle wise... so you find their physique intimidating.  Another could be that you want to get very large muscles, but your trainer is longer and leaner, so you doubt their ability to get you there.  Of course, then there's always the occasional happenstance of an overweight or obese trainer trying to help you lose weight.  Now, that being said, I'm not saying that trainers of a certain physique don't know how to help you get to where you want to go, even if it is different than their body type... but it can, mentally, effect your belief in them.  It's up to you to decide for yourself if this will be an issue or not.  It surely doesn't have to be!  If their body type doesn't match your goal, be sure that you know that they know their stuff and can give you the workout you need.  However, MORE important that outward appearance is how they take care of themselves.  Have you seen them chowing down on burgers and fries at their desk?  I'm not saying that everyone doesn't have an occasional cheat meal, but if you notice it as a regular thing you may want to re-evaluate whether or not they are motivating you or killing that motivation.

That's my basic list of suggestions.  If personal training is a route you want to take, then I wish you the best in your search!  Keep in mind that personal training doesn't have to happen in a gym.  There are many trainers who train out of their homes, or even YOUR home!  So, check out the options and find a solution that you know you'll stick to :-)

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  • Great article Melanie! And I love what you included about Personality Plus. (What about putting a link there to gain more viewers? Just a thought:-) Be sure to publish this again in the upcoming weeks. You know "The Resolutions" will be coming out of the woodwork and they will need this. Oh, and can you give a little shout out to AFAA? I'm an AFAA-certfied instructor. IJS <3

  • In reply to Elana Anthony:

    Thanks for the comment, Elana!
    AFAA is also a great organization. I am an AFAA certified group fitness instructor and an ACE certified personal trainer. So, I enjoy both organizations :-)

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    Wow!! really nice post ..i am impressed after reading.Please keep it up

    Personal Training Gold Coast

  • Thank you so much, Raju!

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