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Choosing the Right Personal Trainer for You

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

The new year is right around the corner, and perhaps you are considering working with a personal trainer to jump start your health and fitness goals. Good for you!

Exercise is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle, but can be rather daunting to take on. There is a lot of conflicting information out there about which exercises or exercise routine will help you reach your goals, as well as how often you should exercise, what you should eat before and after your workout, etc. A personal trainer can certainly help create a workout routine that is right for you and your goals, even offer some nutritional advice, but how do you choose the right one? I’ve put together a few tips, things to keep in mind, and some questions to ask your prospective trainer in order to help you find the personal trainer that is best for you. I highly recommend interviewing several trainers before making your final choice.

Things to ask yourself first:

  • What are your fitness/health goals?

  • Some trainers specialize in one kind of training (triathlon preparation, bodybuilding, weight loss, etc), while others have a more diverse background and can work with a wide variety of clients. Knowing what your goals are can help narrow down which trainer is right for you.

  • Where do you want to workout?

  • These days there are many choices when it comes to where you do your workout. Some choices include: a big gym, a small personal training studio, at home, in a fitness class, outside. All of these places have pluses and minuses that go with them. Some people avoid big gyms because there are so many other people working out at the same time and they worry about not getting to use the equipment they want, others thrive in that type of environment and enjoy the opportunity to meet other like-minded people. In home has the advantage of not needing to drive anywhere and the convenience of working out in your own space. However, you may want to consider how having a trainer coming to your home may impact your family who may still be sleeping, eating or doing homework during your workout time. A personal training studio can offer the gym feel without the crowd, but you might not be able to use the equipment for your own workout when you don’t have a scheduled session with your trainer. Fitness classes can offer great camaraderie, high energy, energetic music, and an overall great workout. However, classes won’t be tailored to your specific goals, the class instructor’s focus will be on the group as a whole and not on correcting the form of individual participants (unless they are potentially going to hurt themselves or others).

  • What is your budget for personal training?

  • Personal training has a huge range of pricing. Sessions can range from $20 to $100 for an hour session. These rates are influenced by the trainer’s years of experience, the price of rent in the studio or gym, the location of the studio or gym, and the general going rate in that area. Many trainers offer a variety of rates depending on the length of the session, how many sessions you buy at a time, whether you are doing one-on-one training or one-on-two training, etc. One important thing to keep in mind when deciding how much to spend on personal training is this: working with a trainer typically means you will improve your overall health and consequently have fewer health issues (saving $ on healthcare), and you are less likely to get injured while exercising under the watchful eye of a good trainer.

  • How often do you want to work out with your trainer?

  • Are you looking for a one-time consult to help you get on the right track? Do you need a lot of guidance initially and then plan to reduce your one-on-one sessions to a few times a month to keep you on track? Do you want the accountability of working with a trainer to make sure you get your workouts in each week?

You’ve determined your budget, the frequency you want to workout with your trainer, your goals, and where your ideal training location is. Now what? Its time to search for your trainer. More and more people are finding their trainers through online searches. Just go to your favorite search engine, and type in your city and “personal trainer.” You’ll likely get a lot of results, but it’s a start. From here you can sort through them by gender (some people prefer to work with a trainer of the opposite sex, some prefer a trainer that is the same sex as them, some don’t care), location where the trainer works (in a gym, in a personal training studio, in home, etc), and narrow them down by what they specialize in. If you are already a member at a gym, you can ask if they offer personal training there.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential trainers, here are a few things to ask them in order to make your final choice.

  • How many years of experience do you have? Do you have a nationally recognized certification? Are you up to date on your continuing education requirements?

  • To create a safe and effective workout plan, a trainer should have a solid background in exercise technique, injury prevention, a good understanding of anatomy, and exercise physiology. There is a wide range of companies that offer personal training certifications, some are excellent, some are not. ACSM, ACE, NASM, and NSCA are all accredited certifications by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). NCCA accreditation is generally held as the standard for the field and requires trainers to go through a comprehensive evaluation and regular renewals/continuing education to maintain their certification.

  • How do you keep current on the latest personal training techniques and research?

  • The world of fitness is always evolving, knowing that your trainer is staying up to date on the latest fitness news, research, and techniques is important.

  • Are you CPR and First Aide certified?

  • Although personal training is generally very safe, emergencies can occur and your personal trainer should know how to respond correctly.

  • Do you require a health history prior to training me? Do you need a medical release from my doctor?

  • A health history can be a very important piece of information for your trainer because many medical conditions can affect your participation in a training session and the exercises your trainer chooses for you. A good trainer will ask for a medical history, as well as any medications you are on. If you are under the care of a physician for certain conditions, it is a good idea to get a medical release from your doctor to ensure that your doctor and trainer are on the same page.

  • Do you have references from former or current clients?

  • Having the opportunity to talk with a trainer’s former or current clients can offer you insight about the trainer and if they are right for you.

  • How will you track my progress toward reaching my goals?

  • Some trainers will keep a log of your workouts, your weigh ins, body fat percentage, cardio improvements, etc. This can be a useful tool in helping you reach your goals.

  • Do you carry personal trainer insurance?

  • It is important for your trainer to have their own liability insurance in the unlikely event you are injured while working with them.

  • Do you have a written cancellation policy?

  • Knowing exactly what your trainer’s cancellation policy right from the start is important so there won’t be any surprises of charges if you miss an appointment.

  • What do you charge per session? Do you have different session lengths to choose from? Do you offer package deals?

  • The personal trainer you choose will most likely be an experienced professional, and will expect to be compensated accordingly. Personal trainers typically charge $20-$100 for an hour-long session. Be sure to ask if shorter sessions are possible that may be more budget friendly. Sometimes trainers offer deals for training with them more often (3 times per week instead of 2 times per week). Or they may give you the option of training with a friend to make the cost more affordable for both of you.

  • What hours do you train clients?

  • Make sure your prospective trainer has availability when you do. Some trainers are willing to work with clients early in the morning, in the evening, or even on the weekend in order to accommodate clients with full time jobs.

If there are other things you want to know about your prospective trainer, ask! An evasive trainer who doesn’t want to answer any of the above questions is probably not someone you want to work with.

A few more things to keep in mind when selecting your trainer…personality, professionalism, and good communicator. Finding a trainer with a personality that is compatible with yours, but keep in mind that this person is not there to be your best friend. You want a trainer that will stay focused on you during their workout, not their phone or chatting with other clients or trainers while they are training you. Finding a trainer that can communicate well with you is also important because you need to understand how to do the exercise correctly/safely, but it is often nice to know why the trainer chose that exercise for you. Your trainer should ask questions about your lifestyle and eating habits, as well as any recreational activities you enjoy (hiking, cycling, gardening, etc.) in order to tailor the program to you and your specific needs/goals. The bottom line is that you will experience good results if you are comfortable with your trainer and know that you can voice questions or concerns at any time with them.


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