First of all, congratulations on your decision to get into shape the healthy way! If you’re reading this article we assume you’re ready to take the next big step in reaching your health and wellness goals. And it makes sense, a personal trainer can keep you motivated, teach you how to use the equipment correctly and can provide the know-how to tailor the workout according to your needs.
Another thing a personal trainer can do is make quite a dent in your bank balance. So you want to make sure that your hard-earned money is well spent. It’s worth it if you achieve your fitness goals, learn what workouts are most effective for you and proper nutrition.
But finding a personal trainer is a bit like dating, it’s hard to find the perfect match. You want someone who understands you and who you can connect with. And much like dating, sometimes you’ll sign up for a training session only to quickly wish you could find a way to leave because you’re sure this isn’t going anywhere.
Luckily there are some solid strategies that will help you find the perfect fitness professional for you.
Know Your Goals
You might be looking to lose weight, increase your upper-body strength or train for a marathon. We can’t guess your fitness goals and neither can your personal trainer. This means you can’t find someone to help you achieve what you want if you don’t know what you want.
When you walk up to the counter at a gym and ask to be signed up for a training session they’ll need to know what you’re focused on and what your concerns are so they can match with a trainer they think will be the best fit. Personal trainers specialize in different types of workouts and since they’re people, they come in different personalities so you’ll need to know what kind of trainer you’d like to go on this journey with.
Where Do You Want to Train?
Big-box gyms come with some advantages: multiple locations, wide array of equipment, lot of options for classes, access to a spa, chiropractors and dieticians. They do however tend to be more expensive and more crowded.
Going to a smaller gym or studio means you have the chance to get chummy with the staff, become friends with some of the members and get a sense of community that will make you feel more comfortable and motivate you to keep going.
Then there’s the issue of location. Are you willing to drive 40 minutes to get to the gym and then back or would you rather go somewhere nearby? Maybe you don’t want to go to the gym at all and would like to train in the comfort of your own home. Whatever your preferences are, you can probably find a PT who can accommodate them.
For example, if you want to train from home you can find a virtual trainer or you can use apps that can find you the right trainer similarly to a dating app.
What’s Your Choice of Trainers?
So by now you should know your goals and where you want to train. This should help you narrow down the list. Let’s say you went with the traditional option of working with a trainer from your gym. Most gyms and studios have a full list of trainers complete with bios posted on their website.
Now it’s time to dig a little deeper and see if you can find one with the right credentials and experience to match your objectives.
Regarding credentials there are no ifs and butts, a trainer has to be able to prove they’re certified in their area of expertise. This certification should come from an accredited organization such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise or the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers. This shows they meet certain standards of competence and professionalism.
During their certification program they learn the fundamentals of human anatomy and physiology, the science behind exercise and nutrition, as well as how to design and implement a fitness regimen suited to the physical condition and age of their clients.
Most importantly, they learn skills pertaining to first aid, similar to EMT basic training. They need to know how to identify the signs that a client is having a medical emergency and act swiftly until the medical professionals arrive. They’re taught how to do CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator.
Another factor you need to look at is experience. A trainer with years of experience has had the time to work with many different types of clients and has perfected their process. Of course, younger trainers with less experience can make up for it with passion and dedication. They also tend to cost less.
In this regard, you’d have to look at the next factor which is reputation. You can look them up and see if they have reviews and, if they’re from your gym, there’s a good chance you can meet some of their clients and ask what it’s like to work with them.
Time to Test the Waters
You’ve done all the research you can do, now it’s time to book a test session. Some gyms and trainers will offer a free first session so you get a chance to meet them in person and see if your personalities match.
You should be upfront about your goals and what obstacles you’ve faced with reaching them in the past and try to learn more about their coaching style.
If they listen to you carefully, seem interested in hearing your full story and ask about your past experiences or if you’ve had any injuries there’s a good chance they’re very serious about their job and committed to providing good quality services. They should also ask you about nutrition, set proper expectations (if they tell you they can help you get ripped in a month it’s not a good sign), tell you about their expertise and how they plan to help you achieve your goals.
After the session, or even a few sessions, ask yourself if this is the kind of person that you want to work with, that can keep you motivated and guide you on your fitness path. If the answer is no, then don’t be afraid to walk away. In the end you’re the customer, you’re the one paying and it’s your decision. There should be no hard feeling, they know that it’s not always a match and if they try to make you feel bad for switching to another trainer, it’s really on them since it’s a lack of professionalism.