The process through which some of the general public selects a personal trainer is faulty. Just like any service that you are paying for, you should choose someone who has the proper credentials and the proper experience to get you to your goal. Because many people aren’t sure what questions to ask (or are too intimidated to ask questions), they end up not seeing results and become skeptical of working with personal trainers. The only way to match up dedicated clients with GOOD trainers is to educate individuals outside of the fitness field about what qualifies us to do what we do.
Personal Training Companies within a “gym”: beware of training companies who chase you around at the gym or “require” you to meet with them when you sign up. Many of these companies have become the “fast food” of personal training. The “menu” of exercises never changes, the service is poor, and you’re just a number in a line of clients. Ask these questions:
1) Will you always have the same trainer? If the answer is NOT “yes, absolutely” – move along. If you have 10 different trainers over the next 6 months, how are you supposed to make any progress?
2) Do you have to sign a contract? If you are unsure about whether or not you will like the trainer or the system, ask if you can purchase some trial sessions before you commit. Never sign yourself into a contract without having a good understanding of what you’re buying.
3) Ask to speak with the trainer you will be working with before you buy sessions (see below about questions to ask). If you’re not allowed to do that, move along.
4) Lastly, if you feel like you’re being pushed into buying training, move along. A good trainer will never pressure you into anything because we understand that you will ONLY see results when you are READY to commit.
The GOOD training companies are usually led by an experienced personal trainer that is selective about the trainers who work for him/her. This person will be more than happy to answer any questions you have and likely appreciative that you are doing research to make the best decision for you. You will often find these companies set up as independent training studios or privately owned gyms.
If you have found a trainer you might like to work with, here is what to look for:
1) Most importantly, do you LIKE the person? It sounds like a silly question but you will be spending a fair amount of time with this person and probably sharing some things about yourself that you might not share with other people. You want to make sure you can build a relationship based on trust with your trainer. Just like friends and co-workers, you won’t like every trainer you come across, even if they are well qualified.
2) Does this person sound like he/she is willing to work with your needs? Does the trainer seem distracted or flighty? Is the trainer asking you a lot of questions, listening to and understanding you… or is the trainer just talking AT you? You will NOT reach your goal by hiring a trainer that does not listen to you.
3) What are the trainer’s credentials? There are nationally accredited personal training certifications… and then there are certifications you can get in a cracker jack box. Some of the certifications I like and am familiar with are: ACSM, NSCA, ACE, NETA, WITS. This is not a complete list, but it’s important to be aware of whether your trainer has valid credentials.
4) How long have they been training? Would you hire a mechanic that just started working on cars last week? I would hope not, but, we all have to start somewhere. If the trainer has been in the field for less than 2 years and they are working within a good training company being mentored by an experienced trainer, you’re likely in good hands.
5) Are they experienced with clients similar to yourself and do they have testimonials and/or references? If you have a specific health issue or are training for a specific event, you can seek someone who has experience in that area though most trainers are versatile. A good trainer will be glad to give you references and/or VALID testimonials.
6) What’s the plan? You’re paying for it, so what is it?! A good trainer will be able to give you a general idea of how they will progress you toward your goal. Also, how will they track the progress? There must be a system in place.
7) Is the trainer trying to sell you on some kind of “miracle plan” pyramid scheme that consists of special supplements and a “lose weight fast” type of program? There is no replacement for hard work and healthful eating habits. If this is not the trainer’s belief system, move along. He/She is just trying to get you to empty your wallet exchange for short term results.
8) And lastly, and perhaps most obvious, if the fitness trainer is not “fit”, do not hire that person! Your trainer doesn’t have to look like a fitness model, but trainers must look like they practice what they preach!
Do not be shy about asking questions – it’s YOUR money and YOUR time! All personal trainers are NOT made equal. If something doesn’t feel right with one trainer, look for another. Make sure you choose the trainer that is right for you because it’s the difference between wasting money and achieving your goal!