Whether you want to lose weight, add muscle, address specific physical limitations, or train for an event, knowing where to start can be intimidating. It’s hard to achieve your desired results when you don’t know what you are doing—not to mention it increases your chances of injury. That’s where hiring a personal trainer can help.
Hiring a personal trainer is an investment in your future. You’re employing a professional to guide you and challenge you in order to achieve your fitness goals. Making the decision and commitment to work with a personal trainer is the first step--- finding the right trainer for you is the where the challenge comes in.
Personal trainers are not “one size fits all.” Each one has a unique style, personality, and area of expertise, and sometimes you have to try a few before you find the perfect fit. It’s like shopping for a new pair of jeans—you have to take the time to try on different styles from various stores until you find the one that makes you feel confident and damn good about yourself! If you’re ready to shop around, check out my top five tips for finding the personal trainer that’s right for you.
Just like you wouldn’t see a doctor who doesn’t have a medical degree, you shouldn’t hire a trainer who hasn’t been certified. Ideally you should look for someone who has completed a program that is accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). These programs provide trainers with a comprehensive knowledge of how the body functions, which allows them to create effective workout programs. Some of the most common certifications include NASM, ACSM, ACE, and NSCA, and many of the major fitness chains and boutique studios require their trainers to have at least one of these, along with CPR and AED certifications.
In addition to having a personal training certification, some trainers extend their education to include specializations such as women’s fitness, pre and postnatal fitness, or programs designed specifically for the senior population.
Even though these certifications and specializations may be required by fitness facilities in order to train or teach, they are NOT required to call yourself a personal trainer. Unfortunately there are no federal guidelines or regulations requiring certifications for personal trainers. That’s why, whether you’re employing someone who works through a fitness facility or hiring an independent contractor, it’s important to make sure that he or she has the proper education and credentials before embarking on your fitness journey together.
All fitness professionals should have a personal philosophy or mantra that defines who they are as a trainer. Find out what inspired your trainer to get into the field and then ask yourself if that aligns with your goals and intentions. The relationship you have with your trainer needs to be built off of a mutual understanding of what you want to achieve and how you want to get there. If you are not on the same page, keep looking.
When you’re determined to make a change in your life and you can’t get the support you need from your trainer, it can be hard to stay motivated. Not showing up on time, not showing up at all, or being inflexible to your schedule can all be major speed bumps on your road to success. You need to determine up front whether or not your trainer’s schedule is compatible with yours. If you’re an early bird, find a trainer who can commit to showing up at 5:30a.m. If you only have thirty minutes at lunch, find a trainer that can maximize that time and make it a power half hour. Make it clear from the beginning what your availability is and stick to it.
On the flip side, once you make an appointment with your trainer—keep it! We all know that life happens and you may need to reschedule every now and then, but be respectful of your trainer’s time and try to give at least a 24-hour notice. Some trainers even require this and will charge you for no-shows. Find out your trainer’s policy and honor your commitment—not only is it courteous to your trainer —it helps you stay on track too.
PERSONALITY & STYLE
Are you the type of person who needs to be coached and cheered to get through your workouts, or are you self-motivated and strictly looking for education and program design? Do you want a trainer who checks in with you throughout the week, or are you good with just chatting during your sessions? These are the types of questions you should ask yourself when looking for the right trainer. The chemistry you have with your trainer is important in creating a long and successful relationship.
And, just as every trainer’s personality is different, so is the way he or she designs a workout. Again ask yourself what you prefer. Do you want more high intensity interval training (HIIT) rather than low to moderate cardio? Are you interested in functional movement over strength training? Let your trainer know—communication is key to a mutually beneficial relationship. And, if you’re not sure what works best for you, communicate that as well and make sure your trainer is skilled in showing you different methods until you find what fits.
The right personality and style can make or break your commitment to your workouts. If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t worry. You are not stuck with the first trainer you meet. If despite your best efforts you just don’t gel, ask to get reassigned or terminate the relationship.
A trainer's reputation can be the best or worst form of marketing. If a trainer is meeting his clients’ goals, he should have a list of people who have been training with him for several months or years. Ask your potential trainer how many clients he has and how long they’ve been training together. These are good indications of experience and work ethic.