Hiring a personal trainer can be one of the best investments in your health and fitness you have ever made – or it can be a giant waste of money. To get a good deal, you usually have to commit to a lot of sessions and pay in advance, so it makes sense to do your research well before hiring a trainer.
Let’s start with the wrong way to do it
Most people’s first experience with a personal trainer involves just walking into their local gym and asking about personal training. Don’t do that! They will typically try to set you up with whoever is available at the time, without any regards to your specific needs or personality. You may be lucky and get a great trainer, but most likely you will get the “new guy” who doesn’t have a lot of clients or experience yet.
So what is the right way?
Do your own research first and try to identify one or several trainers who seem good. Spend a little time watching how they train others at the gym and try to talk to a few of their clients. Look them up on the internet and check out their social media profiles.
You may also find that most of the really good trainers don’t actually work for the gym, but just pay a fee to train clients there (not all gyms allow this). Independent trainers need a steady group of happy clients to survive, so they are usually more experienced and have a high success rate.
If you don’t belong to a gym and want to train at home or outside, it’s a little more difficult to do your research. You will have to ask around in your local community and on internet forums for recommendations. Don’t rely on review sites like Yelp. It’s very easy for personal trainers to fake reviews.
When you have identified a trainer you think you like, it’s time to set up the first meeting and find out if he or she is right for you. When you meet the trainer for the first time, you want him or her to show that they have a plan and a process they follow. If they just want to take you to the gym and lift weight right away, they are probably not worth the money. A good process could look like this:
- Goal setting – Discuss your goals, previous experience, and challenges. Agree on tangible, measurable goals and a timeline to reach them
- Motivation – The trainer should ask you about your motivation and tell you what he/she can do to help you stay motivated
- Training style – What is their approach to training? Some trainers are all about the heavy weights while others are into circuit style workouts, high repetitions or something else entirely. Let them explain why their approach is right for you
- Training plan – Based on your goals, the trainer should agree to give you a daily plan IN WRITING. Not just for when you are training with him/her, but also for when you train alone
- Nutrition plan – If nutrition isn’t part of your personal training package, you are not getting the value you should. A detailed meal plan is something you will have to pay extra for, but basic nutritional advice (how many calories to eat, split between protein, carbs, and fat) should be included
- All the practical stuff – Price, when to train, cancellation policy, etc.
Of course, most trainers aren’t this structured, and that’s ok. You just want to be comfortable that they can give you a solid plan. If you are paying for personal training and still have to figure out how much to eat and how to work out when the trainer isn’t there, your trainer isn’t doing his job.
When the first meeting is over and you are comfortable that the trainer is professional and know what he/she is doing, the most important test still remains: Do you like the trainer? This is someone you will spend a lot of time with, and who should be a great source of motivation for you. If you don’t feel you “click” with the trainer personality wise, it’s not going to work.
A lot of people will tell you to also ask for the trainer’s certification and education, but the sad truth is, that it’s now so easy to get certified online, that a trainer can get degrees in everything you can imagine without ever leaving the couch. When I first got certified more than 15 years ago, I spent days in the gym with a teacher. For my latest re-certification, I completed an online multiple-choice exam and wrote a few essays. I could have found all the answers on Google if I didn’t know them!
There are a few things you should NEVER accept from your trainer:
- They try to push their own supplements. It’s ok if a trainer presents his or her own brand of supplements or show you how you can buy stuff from their website, but if they pretend that using their products is a prerequisite for achieving results or are trying to sell you products all the time, dump them. You are already paying for training; you don’t also need to buy their stuff (which is always similar to everything else on the market anyway)
- Lack of professionalism. If they show up late, talk to other people while they train you, or spend their time on the mobile phone, get rid of them. You are paying for their time, so it should be all about you when you are together
- They try to sell you steroids. This should be a no-brainer…
Hiring a great personal trainer can take your health, looks, and fitness to a completely new level. I strongly recommend that everyone try working with a personal trainer at some point, at least for a short period. In just a few sessions, a good trainer will give you advice about your diet, workouts, techniques, and motivation that you will be able to use for the rest of your life. Just be sure to do your research before committing to anything, so you know that the trainer you hire is the best you can get.
If you are interested in online personal training or diabetes coaching, you can sign up for a free 15-minute intro call with me.