Need some extra motivation to get back in the gym and get to work? A personal trainer can be the perfect person to spark excitement over a new workout program and open up a whole new world of exercise variations. Despite their similarities (usually dressed in black and with an abnormal liking to burpees), not all personal trainers are created equal. Each individual has their own workout style and energy that they bring to the session. So before spending your hard-earned money on a package of workout sessions, make sure the trainer is a good fit for your goals and personality. We’ve compiled a list of questions to ask to ensure the best match possible.
1. Are they qualified?
While all personal trainers should have a certification, the particular certification can range in difficulty and education requirements. Some, like the National Strength and Conditioning Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) credential, require a college degree to become certified. Others are more lax in their qualification standards and testing procedures. If they’re working at a health club, chances are the management has verified their certifications already, but it’s always a good idea to ask about their background and education.
Outside of strictly looking at credentials, experience is another important factor to pay attention to when choosing a personal trainer. Does the trainer specialize in one particular area of expertise (sports conditioning or fat loss for example)? For the relationship to work, both the goals of the client and experience of the personal trainer should match.
2. Do they have the personality you’re looking for?
Are they going to be the drill sergeant presence during the session (drop and give me 20!) or more laid-back and reserved? Trainers are known for pushing clients harder within a session than they would on their own, but often times, the in-your-face approach can be intimidating. Watch each trainer on the floor interacting with current clients to get a demo of what they’re like during a session. A personal trainer should make their clients feel comfortable during a workout. If the personalities aren’t matched up correctly, clients can be intimidated and not want to return for future sessions. That’s not good for the client or the trainer!
3. Do they listen to you?
Before beginning any kind of workout program or purchasing a set of sessions, the trainer should sit down with a prospective client to determine their goals, past exercise history and previous injuries, as well as to set clear expectations for the relationship (how often to meet, how involved they’ll be outside they gym, etc.). This helps to ensure that both the client and the trainer are on the same page. Most trainers will also offer a free session of some sort (either a full workout or sample workout) so clients know what they’re getting themselves into prior to signing up. During that initial consultation and sample workout, clients should make sure that the trainer is listening to what they have to say. Can they repeat your goals back to you? Do they understand what you like and dislike? Setting clear expectations from the get-go is imperative for long-term success.
4. Can they hold you accountable?
Personal trainers are very effective at increasing adherence to an exercise program. But even after working out with a trainer a few times a week, most clients are going to have to venture into the gym on their own to get in some extra exercise (homework!). For some clients, consistency can be difficult when they don’t have set workout appointments. In that scenario, a trainer should be able to offer extra resources and motivation to keep their clients coming in. Alongside helping clients stay consistent, they should provide nutritional recommendations (if they’re certified to do so) or point their clients towards helpful nutrition trackers and other resources. Trainers shouldn’t only be there for an hour or two during the week; they should be giving clients support outside of sessions as well.
5. Are they focused on you during the session?
Are they keeping track of sets and reps? Are they evaluating and correcting form, or just sitting off to the side calling out exercises? Are they talking to everyone else in the gym except their client? Most personal trainers pride themselves on giving an individual experience. As such, their attention should be focused solely on their client during a session. If a trainer is constantly chatting with other members and trainers on the floor, chances are they aren’t paying very close attention to their client’s form and exercise program. Be sure to watch the trainers on the floor first and select one that is tuned into the session and not their surroundings. This ensures that during your session their attention will be focused where it should be — on you!
Working with a trainer can be an extremely motivating and rewarding experience. With the right match, a personal trainer can be a great solution to lost motivation and dull workouts. Before taking the plunge and investing in your fitness, be sure you have the right person in mind so your experience is as enjoyable as possible — even with the burpees!