What Makes a Good Personal Trainer?

A new year usually means health and fitness resolutions.  Many seek help from personal trainers, which is a great investment into accountability, motivation, technique, effectiveness, and efficiency.

The good news?  There are so many fantastic trainers out there.

The bad news?  The health and fitness industry is a billion dollar industry, making it easy for anyone to get ‘certified’ as a personal trainer.  Certifications are available to anyone over a weekend or online in hours and that means there are many bad personal trainers out there.

Trainers that lack proper and thorough education can potentially injure a client, or create a bad experience for the client, and this makes it bad for the good personal trainers out there.

So how do you find a good trainer?   Start with an interview.   You are investing a lot of money and should make sure the person guiding you on this journey is a good fit for you and most importantly, qualified.

Consider these key points in the interview:

Education.  Where did they receive education and/or certification?  Is it accredited?  Google is your friend — look into their certification and education to make sure it is legit.

Experience.  How much experience do they have? Minimal experience isn’t necessarily a bad thing (everyone has to start somewhere).  If they have a solid education and certification, experience might not be an issue for you (this leads to the next point).

References.  Ask for references from current or previous clients.  Even trainers with minimal experience will have references.  Talking to someone who has worked with the trainer can give you valuable information that you might not get directly from the trainer.

Continuing Education.  Since their initial education or certification have they continued to learn, grow, evolve?  A trainer that is always learning is one that that is passionate about their clients and career.  They are always seeking to add more tools to the toolbox and seeking to be better, so they can further help their clients.

Now that you have interviewed the trainer and have found a solid education and background, what characteristics in the trainer should you look for?

Honesty.  You are not hiring them to tell you what you want to hear; it’s about what you NEED to hear.  Sometimes you don’t want to hear what they have to say, but you have hired them to help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your body and lifestyle; and sometimes the truth hurts.

Positive Energy.  There is nothing worse than coming into a session after a tough day, and your trainer is a dull, sad panda.   Their energy should make you want to be there, to push and work harder (and have fun doing it!).

Humor.  Let’s face it, being able to smile and laugh in a challenging training session can make it a little less awful, especially when it comes to doing stuff you do not necessarily like (but need).  Exercise can be fun while working hard, maintaining proper form and focus!

Attention.  They learn about you, your lifestyle and goals and then create training around that, and not force you into a program that is unrealistic.  During the session, their focus is on you, not their cell phones, other people in the gym, or shiny objects passing by.   How can they help you if they don’t pay attention to you?

Professionalism.  They are on time, dress appropriately, follow up with emails/texts/calls regarding your sessions promptly, treat you with respect and talk to you like an adult.  Also, they leave their personal drama at home.

Approachability.  They are easy to approach with concerns or questions.  Nothing is worse than a trainer that is so scary and serious that you are scared to ask questions.

Open Mindedness.  Trainers should be open to other training protocols and what fits for YOU.  There is no ONE right way – it always depends on the client.

Problem Solvers.  They are good at solving problems or at least TRY to solve problems.  They are not scared to say ‘I don’t know’ but will look it up or ask a peer for the answer.  They refer out.  Trainers are not doctors – if they see a problem outside of the scope of our expertise, then they should urge you to see a professional.

Walk the Talk.   The best way for a trainer to relate to and coach a client is by experiencing it themselves.  They should practice what they preach and live a healthy, fit and balanced lifestyle that is consistent with what they are trying to get you to do.

At the end of the day, it comes down to BUYER BEWARE.  Take the trainer for a test drive before committing to 100 sessions.  Buy a few sessions first to make sure it’s a fit!

 

Shara Vigeant, BA, CPT, CFSC