6 Things to Understand When Deciding How to Choose a Personal Trainer
The average person needs to know how to choose a personal trainer.
Unfortunately, anyone can be a personal trainer these days.
Working in the industry, I’m constantly baffled by the wide array of things that people are calling personal training.
Look to your right for a great example! This woman is enjoying this guys gasmask misery way too much, and if you look carefully on the right, you can see another victim of her WWII torture techniques passed out on the floor.
All jokes aside, I’ve seen guys bring their girlfriends into the gym as their “trainer.” Flyers are up all around the city for outdoor boot camps or one-on-one sessions with this or that expert. Facebook is littered with ads for online training that’s GUARANTEED to work for you. And then there are strength coaches with enough degrees and certifications to fill a library… but with the personalities of a doorknob.
Now, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t get a trainer, or that even most personal trainers, fitness pros, and strength coaches are all frauds. (A good majority are legitimate and will make a huge impact on your life.) But with so many options out there, how are you supposed to pick the right one? And how do you really know that your time and money will be well-invested? A lot of it comes down to you, my friend.
Create Your Own Destiny (Demand more!)
Part of deciding how to choose a personal trainer has to start with you. I hear so many tales of clients who stuck it out for months with an old trainer they didn’t really like—the one who constantly canceled, or prescribed exercises that left lasting pain, or just flat out didn’t get them results.
Your health is your wealth, people. Just because it isn’t an operation doesn’t mean your life isn’t still on the line.
Now, I can just hear the chorus of my fitness pro friends shouting, “It’s not my fault! My client doesn’t ______!” If they would only _______, then they could get results!”
Those blanks are often filled in with phrases like, “show up more than twice a month,” “give 100%,” “eat healthier,” “stop drinking alcohol,” “get enough sleep”… what have you. And it’s true—as clients, you would probably get better results if they did those things.
But, newsflash: you know that. You already know some things in your life need a bit of tweaking to reach the goals you’ve set and that’s why you’re hiring a trainer.
In this day and age, the job of a personal trainer is no longer someone who stands over you and counts reps while you sweat through 30 minutes twice a week. Literally anyone with a smartphone, computer, book, or half a brain could do that.
There are so many resources for free, convenient, and easy-to-follow workout plans that if those were our only jobs as fitness pros, we’d be screwed.
Yet, plenty of clients seem to think this half-ass effort is enough. It’s not, and the power is in your hands (as the client) to demand more. After all, you’re shelling out tons of money for this person, so ask for what you deserve!
Much like school, you can sit through a lecture a few times a week, but it’s the homework where you work out the problems, find your own solutions, and really start to reap the benefits.
If you meet with your trainer once a week, ask them for two more workouts (one, at the very least) that you can come in and do on your own time.
That’ll prevent you from saying “Oh, I didn’t know what to do so I stayed home.” Plus, it’ll get you results faster, which makes your trainer happy.
Even if you train four to five times a week with a personal coach, get them to recommend recovery exercises or pre/post workout nutrition options.
This is where you do your research beforehand. Nutrition should always be a major component to consider when deciding how to choose a personal trainer. A lot of trainers don’t have any education in regards to nutrition, and I’ve heard fitness pros give advice that worked for them but isn’t necessarily the best for their client.
You cannot lose weight, gain mass, win an endurance race, or age well without taking control of what you put into your body. That’s just how it is. If you’re going to spend money on someone who is coaching you towards a better “you,” they need to know this.
There’s a difference between “I don’t know, but let me do the research and find an answer for you” and “I don’t know” (or even worse, a made up answer).
There are a plethora of continuing education resources that your coach can use to get that answer—not to mention their network of fitness-minded friends and colleagues. That being said, your best bet is to go with someone who already has a certification or degree in this field.
Find someone who knows what they are talking about and they can help you every step along the way by giving you food knowledge, tips and recipes like these 4 Quick and Easy Smoothie Recipes.
Listen, if you wanted to be preached a bunch of science or just needed an exercise prescription, you could read a book or download an app. And if you just needed motivation, you could workout with your friend. But your trainer? They should be there for both. Working out isn’t always fun—sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it’s going to be hard and you feel like you’re dragging yourself to your sessions. And that’s where your trainer can step in, remind you of your goals and how good you’re going to look at your wedding.
However, it shouldn’t ALWAYS be miserable. The job of a trainer is to help you find things you enjoy. Training is sold as a customized experience—that’s why it’s called personal training. Demand more of your trainer so that they do their homework to help you get the most out of your precious time.
First and foremost, in no case should any fitness pro take the place of any actual clinical psychologist, financial advisor, physical therapist, or any other field unless they have a degree and a license to do so.
That being said, stress does have a direct effect on your health and wellness. And if you believe that’s a limiting factor in your progress, tell your trainer. They may not be able to do your taxes or look after your four toddlers for you, but they should definitely be aware.
A comprehensive fitness plan needs to involve all areas of wellness, no matter what. Your trainer may be able to adjust your workouts so that they’re more stress-relieving (punching bags and sledgehammers immediately come to mind).
Or maybe one of their other clients happens to be a clinical psychologist they can connect you with. Maybe they can just recommend a good massage place. Who knows.
The important thing is that if you don’t make your voice heard, you can’t expect your coach to magically produce results with a big piece of the puzzle missing.
Be Your Biggest Advocate
With so much information at your fingertips, a trainer should provide an educated lens through which you can navigate the waters.
They’re a coach, so they should be a motivating voice that actually understands you as an individual. What motivates me isn’t what motivates you. And they should take into account what goes on outside of your scheduled sessions.
If you both really want to see results, you should expect each other to be on the top of your game. After all, you two should be a team. Your success is theirs, and theirs yours.