Finding the Right Personal Trainer

I commend those of you considering hiring a personal trainer to help you reach your goals.  You are the type of person that knows that they need help, guidance or motivation and are not afraid to ask for help.

Personally, I think everyone could use a trainer.  Elite Athletes have trainers and even some personal trainers have their own trainers.  I myself have several mentors and seek out people that I recognize as subject matter experts.

How does one go about choosing a personal trainer? If you are a member of a commercial gym with staff trainers then your agreement for personal training is with the gym itself, not with a specific trainer.  As such, a trainer you select may not be available.  This in itself is usually not viewed as a valid reason to void your agreement as far as the gym is concerned.

It is important to state what your goals are, and what you are looking for in a trainer. This will help the assigning manager in selecting an available trainer that can best suit your needs and schedule.  Having previously been responsible for matching clients to trainers, I can vouch for the effectiveness of a good pairing, and the potential headaches of a bad pairing.

Things I would ask my potential trainer:  (1) Are you CPR/AED/First Aid certified?…Basically, are you prepared and able to handle a bad situation and possibly save my life?   (2) What is your experience in working with people with similar conditions to mine?….Basically, am I going to be a guinea pig?   (3) Do you have any current or past clients I can speak with? ….Basically, Do you get results and are you able to back it up?  (4) What is your education/credentials in personal training?  (5) Will we get along?

On (4), there is a long-standing debate in the personal trainer community over credentials and the worth of certain granting organizations over others.  Personally, I believe that the credentials held are only as good as the trainer that holds them.   That said, credentials from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) are held in high regards and will get an aspiring trainer hired in nearly any gym in the United States.  In several cases, a 4 year degree in an exercise science related field is a prerequisite just to sit for the proctored certification examinations.

On (5), Whenever I work with a client for the first time I inform them that the first session is more of an assessment than anything.  I am assessing their strengths and weaknesses, what motivates them and noting any health risks or warning signs that might require attention.

We are both seeing how well we click together, there has to be some chemistry between us in order for things to work.  I let them know quite frankly that if they feel I am not a good trainer for them then there are no hard feelings and that I would gladly work with management to find them a better fit.  So far nobody has asked for another trainer.

Things I personally don’t consider, but some people do and I fully understand the reasons why.

Male or Female trainer?  So long as they get results I don’t care. Personal training is a profession where based on equal experience women earn the same as their male counterparts, and in some cases out earn them.  

Older or Younger Trainer?  Age itself is not an indicator of skill.  There are younger trainers out there that are very on-point in terms of customer service, motivation and program design just as there are older trainers that are simply going through the motions.  There also happens to be older trainers out there with better physiques than people half their age and have a lifetime worth of knowledge to share.  In my present own gym we have three male trainers in our 40’s-50’s and the 50 year old is the most physically impressive among us.

A lot of initials after their name?  The only person I’ve known that made a big deal about the initials after my name was my mom….and even she asked if my clients see and feel results.

Smaller vs Bigger Trainer?  Just because the trainer is bigger than you doesn’t mean they can make you look like them.  Just because the trainer is smaller doesn’t mean they can’t make you smaller or bigger.  Personally I would pick whichever trainer could teach and motivate me the most.

Fit looking vs Fat Trainer? Before I get blasted on this one, I have a divided opinion.  If I want coaching on power lifting or strongman routines then a fat trainer is fine by me.  If the trainer was once really huge, lost a significant amount of weight and is still losing weight then I am totally good with it.  After all, this trainer has personally experienced (and is succeeding in) something that others want to succeed in.

Outside of those two specific situations, a fat trainer is often not looked upon very favorably by gym go’er’s or their fit looking peers. If anything, the hiring criteria for the gym could get called into question.  The fat trainer may have fantastic skills and a encyclopedic body of knowledge but a they must walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Now that I’ve hopefully given you a few ideas on how to find the right personal trainer, I will leave you with this good feeling ending.

Sometimes the right trainer finds you, and I believe you will know it when it happens.


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