Choosing a personal trainer isn’t as easy as walking into gym and picking the first person you’re introduced to who trains there. A personal trainer needs to be exactly that — personal. This is a person you’ll trust to push you, motivate you, and support you to make healthy changes and achieve results. And if you’re not making any gains, we’re not saying you should blame your trainer, but it may be time to re-evaluate the situation. Besides the obvious red flag of lacking a personal training certification, here are a few other key signs it may be time to part ways with your trainer.
1. Your trainer doesn’t give you an analysis or ask in-depth questions about your background before your first session.
“If your trainer starts to make assumptions about your fitness level and does no personal assessment of your background, it’s time to ditch them,” says Justin Rubin, NCSF, AFAA, group fitness manager at Equinox in Westwood, CA and DailyBurn trainer. The first thing that a trainer or group fitness instructor should be asking is if you have any injuries, health concerns such as high blood pressure or asthma, or anything else they should know about you, as well as your background in regards to exercise. This is so he or she can get a clear sense of your fitness level and know where to begin because every client is different.
“You don’t need to see worst case scenario to figure out how hard you can work. No need to crash the car just to see how fast it can go.”
2. Your trainer pushes you to max out on day one.
Because it’s your first day, your trainer isn’t familiar with what you can and can’t do. And maxing out on day one is not the way to find out. “Pushing your client to the max on the first session is not only ignorant but can cause injury and turn them off from fitness altogether,” says Michelle Lovitt, MA, Exercise Science, fitness expert and trainer. The first day of training is kind of like a first date — your trainer should be taking steps to get to know you. “It’s a great time to build rapport and confidence,” says Rubin. “If we are going to go on this journey together we have to understand and trust each other.” There should be a focus on assessment — including strength, mobility and flexibility — so your trainer can accurately assess your fitness level.
3. You throw up every time you work out with your trainer. Not once, every time.
It’s clear that your trainer’s ego may be getting in the way of your success. It can be normal to feel nauseous sometimes when you work out, and even throw up the first time you try something new, but it shouldn’t continue. “Find a trainer that knows how to assess your fitness level so they can push you and build your strength and endurance, not destroy it,” says Lovitt. Plus, if you associate the gym with getting sick, you probably won’t want to go back.
4. Your trainer always wants to see how much you can handle, even if you don’t feel comfortable with it.
“You don’t need to see worst case scenario to figure out how hard you can work,” says Rubin. “No need to crash the car just to see how fast it can go.” If something doesn’t feel right in the gym, or you truly don’t feel you’re ready to be lifting such a heavy load, say something. A trainer is there to push your limits, but they should also be listening to you and supporting you. “It’s natural to feel uncomfortable with new workouts and new levels of exercise,” says Rubin. “But your trainer should be monitoring your progress carefully and reassuring you along the way.”
5. Your trainer does not enforce rest periods consistently.
“Your body needs to rest to rebuild and get stronger,” says Lovitt. “If a trainer doesn’t emphasize this, their knowledge is questionable.” Without proper rest and recovery — and water breaks — you won’t get results and might even risk counteracting your achievements. Your body will get burnt out. Even during high-intensity workouts like circuit training and CrossFit, which keep rest periods to a minimum, you should be taking a breather between rounds and once you’re done.
6. You spend more time talking with your trainer than working out with him or her.
It can be easy to engage in conversation with your trainer to avoid exercising, but they shouldn’t allow that to happen. “Bottom line is you are paying your trainer to help get you fit,” says Lovitt. “You need motivation to move from a trainer, not someone to sit and listen.” You won’t see changes if you’re not being encouraged to put in the work. If you’re more interested in chatting than exercising, consider rescheduling your gym session and instead call a friend to go for a run and talk.
“This trainer clearly doesn’t love what he or she does — you are just a paycheck to them. Find a trainer who wants to focus on you.”
7. Your trainer is constantly comparing you to other clients.
When a trainer explains an experience with another client, it can sometimes better help you understand an exercise or make you feel more comfortable trying something new. “A few anecdotal stories can be helpful, but constant comparison is not only annoying but unprofessional,” says Rubin. Remember you are paying for a private session and the attention should be focused 100 percent on you.
8. Your trainer is constantly on his or her phone during your session.
“Ditch your trainer and run to the next one,” says Rubin. “If they are using fitness apps or timers to coach you that is one thing, but texting or being on social media is a red flag and a big no-no.” Again, you booked your time with this trainer and you’re paying him or her to focus on you, not anyone else. Look for a trainer who leaves the phone behind come session time.
9. Your trainer barely watches you while you exercise, and doesn’t give any positive reinforcement.
Form can make or break an exercise, and if your trainer isn’t watching yours, he or she might as well not be there. It is a trainer’s duty to pay attention to you in order to help you make progress. He or she should want to give positive encouragement so that you continue to work hard and produce results. This is generally why a person becomes a certified trainer. “This trainer clearly doesn’t love what he or she does — you are just a paycheck to them,” says Lovitt. “Find a trainer who wants to focus on you and your form.”
10. Your trainer gives you nutrition advice, but is not a nutritionist.
It can be helpful for a trainer who is well read and knowledgeable to give general nutrition advice, especially to a client who is starting from square one. “Take the advice with a grain of salt,” says Rubin. “If the trainer prefaces the advice by saying ‘I am not a professional nutritionist, but this is what has worked for me and for my clients,’ that’s a great way to offer up some gems about diet and the benefits of healthy eating habits.” But without being certified as a nutritionist, a trainer should not be making any big claims or suggestions. And if allergies or more serious medical conditions apply, the trainer should suggest speaking with a doctor or qualified nutritionist or dietician.
Thinking your trainer isn’t quite up to par? Leave them behind and learn out how to find the right trainer for you here.
Do any of the above scenarios sound familiar? And do you have any other red flags to add? Share them in comments below.