When I worked in a fitness club, personal trainers were assigned randomly to people newly signed-up to the gym – every new member received a consultation and one session as part of their membership package. Needless to say, the number of people who continued on with a trainer after that free, random session was way less than for members who were paired with someone who fit their needs in a personal trainer. So, if you’re thinking about hiring someone to help you with your fitness goals, here are 4 essential steps to choose the best personal trainer for YOU.
Ask for their qualifications
This should be the first thing you do. Yes, even if they work in a gym. Sometimes gyms hire trainers who are in the process of receiving their personal training certification. The personal training industry is pretty unregulated when it comes to what kind of qualifications make a personal trainer. A trainer doesn’t need a license to work, so ask questions, find out what schooling and experience they’ve had and if you don’t know what all the certification abbreviations mean, just check in this NCCA directory to make sure they have a qualification with an accredited company. The exception would be if they don’t have an accredited certification, but they have a degree in Exercise Science, you’re in qualified hands. Finally, if you are hiring an independent personal trainer, ask and make sure they have personal liability insurance as well as a current first aid and CPR certification.
Explain exactly what you’re looking for
A trainer experienced with weight loss clients is going to have different skills from someone used to working with marathon runners, or the elderly, or pre-and post-natal clients. This isn’t to say trainers can’t have more than one specialty – just ask to make sure they’ve trained (and gotten results) for clients with the same goals as you.
Be prepared to trust the process
The first few sessions aren’t always going to be perfect. Your trainer is assessing you, seeing where your strengths and weaknesses lie, as well as what areas he or she needs to address. Programs are being written and tweaked. Trust the process. Unless there are giant red flags (your trainer yells at you; belittles you; has a cookie-cutter program they use on every client; leaves you unable to walk without excruciating pain after your very first session, as examples), give it at least 6 – 8 weeks of working one-on-one with someone before you can really decide if they are helping you achieve results.
And from the trainer perspective, you also need to honestly assess what you’re putting into the process as well. If you’re skipping sessions, or hoping that working out a couple of times a week with your trainer will magically offset a bad diet, you may need to evaluate whether this is actually the right time for you to be committing to the investment.
Don’t get caught up with how your trainer looks
Guess what? Personal trainers are human beings, so they come in all shapes and sizes, just like everyone on Earth. What your trainer looks like doesn’t ultimately matter, because they are creating a training program for YOU. That’s why it’s called personal training – it’s personal to you and your goals, your body type, your abilities and limitations. This is not limited to whether your trainer is thin, thick, muscular, lean etc – also be open-minded to working with trainers of the opposite sex. It’s a myth that male trainers don’t know how to train women and vice versa.
With this advice in mind, remember that this is someone you will be working with when you’re in a vulnerable state. Personal trainers push you to do things with your body you might not have known you were capable of. You often meet early in the morning, or after a long, stressful day at work. It’s essential you feel comfortable with your trainer and that even if you’re not super friendly with them, your sessions should be something you don’t dread. If you have confidence they know what they’re doing and are committed to you reaching your goals, then it’s most likely a good fit. And if it’s not working, for whatever reason, make a clean break. It might feel awkwardly like a dating-gone-wrong scenario (“It’s not you, it’s me!”) but you’d be surprised how often client/trainer ‘break ups’ happen. You can rest assured that the majority of professional trainers truly do not take it personally at all.
Have you worked with a personal trainer? How did you end up with them?