With everyone claiming to be a personal trainer/health wellness coach these days how do you know that the person you are paying is legit? With an industry that is for the most part unregulated, its easy to get a “trainer” that may have your best interests in mind but, ultimately are not qualified to do the job. What’s the big deal if they are not Qualified? They have my best interest at heart isn’t that the more important thing? Well no and I will explain why in the article. I will also explain how the most educated and qualified personal trainer may not be the best for you as well. So over all I will be discussing how to choose the best personal trainer for you based not only on education but also on client concern and well fare.
These are my top things to look for when hiring a personal trainer.
1. Experience: When looking for a personal trainer, ask them how long they have been in the industry. How many clients they have worked with? The type of client they have worked with, and their success? Many trainers claim to be a jack of all trades. This is NOT what you want in a trainer. You want a trainer who works with clients like you. You want a trainer who specializes is a particular type of client/clients. Why is this important, because you will know that this trainer has your best interests in mind. It will also help with communication because what you want to achieve is in line with what the trainer can help you achieve. For example, you go to a gym and you are paired with a trainer who mostly trains people getting ready for body building competitions. If you are not looking to enter the next body building competition but just want to get in shape and get fit, this might not be the best combination. This is because, your goals are not aligned with their skill set. Same is true for the reverse. If your goal is to get ready for a body building competition and your trainer only has experience with clients 50+ who are just looking to stay fit, your goals and their experience may not align.
As a personal trainer, I talk to potential clients about what they want and at the same time I also tell them what I specialize in. My personal ideal client is one who is looking to lose weight and get in shape and or specific types of athletes, such as tennis players, competitive dancers and runners. My age range for my ideal client is 18-65 with those specific goals in mind. If a potential client tells me that they want to get ready for football or wrestling, or they want to build muscle for an upcoming bodybuilding event, male or female, I am going to be upfront and say, I do not think we are going to be a good fit because my skills do not align with your goals. I do not know enough about football or wrestling or body building and I don’t waste their time or money. I want them to be with the best trainer, and in this case that is not me, despite being a very good personal trainer.
2. Education: I’m not saying that your personal trainer has to have a million certifications and a PHD but I feel that it is important with the way medicine and the health field are always growing that it is professional and responsible for a trainer to take the time to educate themselves on the human body, current fitness trends, health and basic nutrition so that they can provide the best and most accurate information to you as the client. Part of our job as personal trainers is to educate you the client to live the best life and help you reach your goals. You should be asking your trainer what kind of training they received? What type of continuing education do they maintain and what they do to stay current with the most relevant information in the fitness field?
For me it is important that I understand my clients goals. Since I specialize in weight loss and also enjoy working with tennis players, competitive dancers and runners it is important for me to know specifics about the activities. For example, when I am working with a distance runner, my goal for them is to be able to run long distances without fatigue, so building muscular endurance is going to be a focus in our strength training sessions. Where with a tennis player I might spend more time on speed and agility, and explosiveness for efficient court movement and power. However, for that person who just wants to lose weight and feel good, my focus would be more geared towards 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps for increasing their over all muscular strength and endurance to speed up their metabolism. I would also have them do 30-40 minutes of daily cardiovascular activity to increase stamina and improve heart health. My plan for them would be to work on getting them to a place where they feel their best.
I keep my self educated by being certified through the American College of Sports Medicine. I am required by this certification to do 45 continuing education credits in order to re-certify every 3 years. While it is financially straining to do this, it is important to me because I am able to stay current and up to date with the most current research and information in a world that is constantly changing. I also go to workshops and other classes for my yoga certification to stay fresh and get new ideas for my clients.
3. Personality: First you must know yourself and what works for you as a person. Then you must ask your personal trainer their style of training. Some trainers are like Jillian Micheals, you know her, that loud, and intense trainer from the Biggest Loser. For some people that tactic works and for some trainers they enjoy being that way. Its important to know what you want in a trainer. Do you respond well to being yelled at and pushed to the brink by a trainer who is in your face? Or do you respond to a trainer who pushes you but is a little more subtle with their energy.
If you are a quiet timid person having a trainer that is more aggressive may not be the best fit. If you are an aggressive person, having a quiet trainer might not be the best fit either. You need to have a conversation with your potential trainer and find out their personality style.
When I talk to clients I am very up front about my style. I am not an in your face scream one more rep kinda trainer. If that is what you want from a trainer, then I am not that trainer. If you want a trainer that is going to listen to you, but who is not going to let you slack, then I am your trainer. If you want a trainer who pushes you in a way that is encouraging and empathetic, then I am your trainer. For me it is important to watch the client and I can pretty much tell when a client is trying to get out of that last rep or set and a client who truly has exhausted their muscles. My goal is to help you reach your goal and if you are making excuses for why you can’t do something, then it is my job to either modify it so you CAN do it or remind you what your goals are and show you that you CAN do it and finish what you started!
4. Watch out for the trainer that promises the world or over pushes supplements: As a potential client its important to understand that just because you have a personal trainer it does not mean that you are automatically going to lose weight, or reach your goal. Trainers that emphasis healthy diet and regular exercise in addition to your time with the trainer is one that understands that there is not a quick fix.
Trainers that push supplements and strict diet programs for their own monetary gain shows right there that they are not in it for you. If find your self popping more pills that your 90 year old great aunt who has every ailment under the sun, start asking questions. If you find yourself, getting that gut feeling that something is not right because now you have a stock pile of meal replacement bars, shakes, etc, over crowding your cupboards, you are probably, in your best interest, to start asking questions and going with that feeling and say no more.
I am not saying that all trainers that promote these things are bad, but what I am saying is be leery of why you are getting sold on these items. Its important that you are on your toes and know why you are purchasing these items. If it is because the trainer is trying to sell you on speeding up your weight loss, and promoting a quick fix then you know that they are not looking out for you.
Rather, if a trainer in talking to you, notices in your conversation that you are having a hard time finding healthy snacks and the trainer has snack bars or shakes that can be used as a snack to help you make better choices and offers to sell them to you to help you reach your goals of eating healthy snacks then that’s legit.
As a trainer, I have a few different things in my back pocket to help my clients with their goals, if they need it. It’s my job to decipher if they need it and share accordingly. For example, in talking to one of my clients, she explained to me that she was experiencing extreme anxiety and sleepless nights.
As a doTerra wellness advocate I explained to her a product or two that I thought would help her sleep better and reduce anxiety. I showed her Serenity essential oil blend and told her that a dab on the collar bones like perfume, plus a few drops in her diffuser and she would get a good nights sleep. She decided to try it. She loved it and she was quick to tell me how well it worked and how she was so glad that I shared this product with her. I offered it to her in a no pressure way. I simply mentioned that I had the product, told her the benefits, and let her decide from there. Am I getting rich quick from this way of selling? No, but am I gaining a good reputation and building a responsible business as a reputable trainer? YES!
5. Your trainer puts you FIRST! I was talking with a client the other day about her previous training experiences. The motive for this was not to gossip about other trainers, but rather get a feel for what she found worked and what didn’t. The one thing that kept coming to the fore front of our conversation was the trainer that spent their whole hour talking about their problems and about themselves. You can have awesome conversations and its important that your trainer can show you that they understand. I believe one of the best ways to do that is by giving a personal example. However, it is not OK for the trainer to spend time , droning on and on about family problems, personal problems, etc, you get the idea. The hour that you spend with your trainer should be about you!Your goals, your ambitions and your conversation.
When I meet with clients, its always fun to have a good conversation with them. They share with me things that are happening in their life and I share things that are happening in my life, that is part of building a relationship and trust. What I don’t do is come in and use that hour as my vent session or my counseling session. When a client tells me something that I can relate to I offer a similar story to show that I understand their feelings or thoughts. Sometimes, I just listen and empathize, sometimes, I just nod my head. We get things done and we have productive conversations but the hour is not about me. It’s about them, the client. It is OK for the trainer to share their experiences with you, but ultimately you are not their therapist or their best friend you are their client. As a trainer, they need to remember that you are looking to them for guidance and success. The trainer must understand that you are not paying them to depress you with their problems.
6. You can FIRE your trainer: In the end if it is not working out for you, then you need to say” I’m done.” One thing that is important to know is that there are many trainers out there. There is someone for you. If you find that you have been duped, know that there are trustworthy trainers who are honest. Just like every industry there are always going to be a few lemons but know that with knowing how to ask the right questions you will be able to find the RIGHT trainer for you.
So what are those questions let me recap what we talked about and how to put them into questions.
*What kind of experience do you have with the goals that I am looking at attain?
* How many years in the industry do you have and do you have a few references that I can talk to?
* How do you stay current in the fitness industry?
* What certifications do you have?
Ones that I like are ACSM, Cooper Institute, NSCA, ACE or AFAA these are the ones that are most recognized by most gyms nationwide. There may be a few others but these are the most well known.
* What kind of trainer are you?
* Describe a typical training session for me
* What words would your current clients use to describe you?
Hopefully the above questions will help you get a dialog started with your potential trainer. You will know in your gut if it is going to be a good fit. Listen to your gut and trust your instinct. 9 times out of 10 you are usually right. Best of luck finding the personal trainer that is best for you!
In good health!