As a Coach and Personal Trainer I get asked about how to choose a personal trainer all of the time. Just like choosing a mental health counselor or even a life partner, choosing a trainer is a complicated process. After all, you will be spending your hard earned money and your time to work with this person for several hours per week. Just like any relationship, there are many variables to consider. Below are the 5 things to consider when choosing a trainer that is best for you and your goals.
The first thing to consider when looking for a trainer is your overall goal. Is it your goal to get stronger, leaner, better at a certain sport, improve mobility, repair injuries, or to just feel better? There are many different reasons to want to work with a trainer and there is no one size fits all when it comes to the client-trainer relationship. The relationship must be mutually beneficial for both parties. For instance, if your goal is to just feel and move better, working with a trainer who specializes in prepping clients for a bikini competition is probably not the best option. Not only, does it not align with your goal, but the trainer will not benefit from this pairing. Before you seek out a trainer sit down and figure out the why behind wanting to work with a professional so your time and money, and the trainer’s time, will not go to waste. Why do you want to invest in your time and spend your money to work with a trainer? From there you can begin to research trainers who will align with your overall goal.
The next, and equally important factor to consider is personality. If you are going to invest time and money into working with a personal trainer you want to make sure you get along right? Just like making new friends or looking for a life partner, it is not productive if personalities don’t mesh. If your potential trainer does not allow a discovery call or coffee date to see if you will get along, that is a red flag. You want to make sure that you can converse well together and build a trusting relationship with this person. For instance, if you are trying to heal your relationship with food and improve your body image, you won’t work well with someone who believes that you need to restrict food and look a certain way. You want to make sure your beliefs and way of thinking about fitness and health align first and foremost. Approach the process like an interview process and come with questions you have prepared ahead of time to go over with your potential trainers.
Does the trainer jump right into your sessions without doing a movement assessment? If your trainer does not take the time to put you through a movement pattern assessment, move on to the next one. Beginning workouts before looking at how your body moves and assessing any dysfunctional movement patterns is like prescribing a drug to someone before a diagnosis. Be sure to ask your potential trainer if they provide an assessment in your discovery call. You should be able to communicate any sort of limitations and injuries you might have so you will feel safe and comfortable going into your first session.
Word of Mouth
What are others saying about your potential trainer? You can usually find reviews on Google and Facebook but you can also rely on friends and colleagues to guide you. You also want to look at their social media platforms and website. How do they advertise their services? Do they rely on before and after pictures or do they rely on former client reviews focusing on how they feel and how they improved their lives? It may be a red flag for you if they rely on aesthetic appearance pictures as these are sometimes not realistic in terms of how clients got from point A to point B. You want someone who looks at the overall picture of a client and works on changing behaviors above all. Before and after pictures emphasize appearance only and you never know what drastic measures were taken. Often times, the before and after image paints an unrealistic picture of the bigger picture and it doesn’t speak to how the client was able to maintain the healthy life choices and behaviors.
Making sure the trainer’s rates fit into your budget is important if you expect to work with someone for several months. Before you start shopping for a trainer sit down and figure out how much you can afford over the next 3-6 months. I say 3-6 months because that is at least how long you need to invest in training to see impactful and lasting change. From there, you and your potential trainer can decide how many times a week you need to work together and map out an overall plan. While you want to make sure you can afford personal training, you also want to make sure you aren’t looking based solely on price. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, so you want to make sure the investment isn’t too cheap.
Certifications and Experience
The last thing to consider is what certifications and experience your potential trainer has. Make sure that he or she has an accredited certification through an organization such as NASM, ACE, or NSCA to name a few. You also want someone who is always learning. Ask if he or she continues to pursue knowledge in the field. Things change in all industries over time and that is why it is required for trainers to re-certify every two years by adding more tools to their training toolbox to better serve their clients. How many clients have they trained? Are they just starting out or have they trained 100s of clients who can speak to their style and effectiveness? Either way, find what makes you most comfortable. If you are brand new to training it makes sense for you to find someone who has trained more people. Conversely, if you vibe with someone who has just started, it can be very rewarding to work with a newer trainer.
These are just a few of the things to consider when looking for a personal trainer but they are the first things to consider. From there you can try a trainer for a short period of time to see if you are making progress and if it isn’t working for you do not be afraid to move on. Communication and consistency are key in any client-trainer relationship and both parties should feel that they are getting something positive from the transaction. In the end, the most important part of working with a trainer is how you feel when you walk away from each session. If you feel good and happy, and like you are moving toward your goals then you are in the right place. Making sure someone supports and challenges you equally is key to the best client-trainer relationship possible!