If you’ve made it past the idea that personal trainers are only for movie stars, if you’ve realized your health is one of the most important assets you have, and if you’re ready to stop trying to get and stay fit all on your own … congratulations!
Now comes the tough part. How do you go about choosing the right personal trainer?
Here’s fifty percent of the answer: the right personal trainer is the one who’s right for YOU.
Here’s the rest of the answer.
How to choose the right personal trainer
My first personal trainer was a wipeout. It wasn’t the trainer’s fault, though, and it wasn’t the gym’s fault. I inquired at the front desk (this was at a name-brand franchise in Florida), and out came a list of available trainers. Since I didn’t have a preference, I was assigned the one who had the most openings on his schedule.
It was a total mismatch. We were two generations apart, our idea of what “being in shape” looked like was out of synch, and I didn’t feel “heard” at all. That experience soured me on the benefits of personal training for years. When I finally took the leap again, I determined to be a better advocate for myself.
I couldn’t be happier with my current fitness coach. The results I’m seeing are way worth the cost. Without her guidance, I don’t know if I would’ve kept up with my fitness ambitions. Probably not.
Here are my five best tips for choosing the right personal trainer — the one who can best help you get the results you want.
1. Know what you’re looking for
Before you do anything else, sit down and list the attributes of your idea fitness coach. You’re talking about your life, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
Does gender matter? How about age? There’s a time when discrimination is fine, and this is one of them. You’ll be spending some up-close time with your trainer, so make sure you’re comfortable with the basics.
Training philosophy is another important consideration. Do you want a drill instructor who’ll demand your best effort, or do you respond best to kindness and encouragement?
How about interests — do you want someone who loves to work with runners, or would you prefer a trainer who specializes in helping people prepare for weightlifting competitions? Yes, both have plenty to offer, but which would be a better fit for you?
If you take this first phase seriously, you’ll be able to narrow down the possibilities considerably. Let’s face it, if you ask about personal trainers and say you don’t have any preferences, you’ll get whatever fate deals you — just like I got on the first go-around.
On the other hand, if you’re able to say, “I’d prefer a woman about my age who’s really into aerobics and Yoga,” then you’re well on the way to finding the personal trainer you’ll love working with.
2. Ask for the personal trainer you’ve described
Once you’ve written out your “Here’s who I want” statement, go find that person. If the first staff member you speak with isn’t sure which trainer best fits the bill, ask another staff member. Ask your friends. Ask the person leading your class. Ask, ask, ask. “Do you know a personal trainer who …”.
Life has a way of delivering up our deepest desires. In my case, the gym manager told me none of the current trainers matched up well with my criteria — BUT a new trainer was coming soon, and she might be the right fitness coach for me. Sure enough, that turned out to be exactly the case. I wanted someone to help me prepare for a two-week hike, and the new personal trainer was a backpacking enthusiast.
3. Interview the trainer before you train with the trainer
Personal trainers often offer a free or discounted session to get started. Before you set that up though, start with arranging a 15-minute talk. Ask your most important questions before you schedule a workout.
If the interview tells you that trainer isn’t the right one, you’ll save yourself the awkwardness of having to turn that person down after the session. When someone does something nice for you, it’s natural to want to reciprocate. You may even talk yourself into overlooking something you wouldn’t have let pass had you limited the interview to a brief discussion.
4. Make sure the personal trainer hears what you’re saying
Even if the person you’re interviewing is the picture-perfect definition of the personal trainer you’re seeking, if this test is a no-go, then you should keep looking. Here’s what you want to know: does the trainer you’re interviewing spend most of your time together telling you things or asking you things?
Trainers who tell you all about themselves and their philosophy are promoting themselves. Trainers who ask you about your needs and your training philosophy are interested in helping you. Be especially careful of those who ask about your preferences, but don’t listen well to what you say, then launch into describing a recommended workout regimen that doesn’t take your wishes into account.
The best personal trainer for you is the person who best understands you and your goals.
5. Then worry about the stuff most people put at the top of the list
Certifications are important. Certainly, you’ll want to know if there are certain qualifications you seek.
Price is important. You’ll want to know how much you can budget for hiring a trainer, and you’ll necessarily make sure the person you choose is a fit.
Time schedules can be crucial. If you need a trainer early in the morning, but the person you’re interviewing only works afternoons … that’s a problem.
Cover every question you have during the initial interview. If one of them is a deal-breaker, so be it. The sooner you know, the better for all concerned.
Why you should choose the right personal trainer
Know what you want.
Ask for the person you want.
Make sure that person listens to you.
The right personal trainer can help you achieve your fitness goals. How important is your health? That’s how important this decision can be.