Your Checklist For Finding The Right Personal Trainer

5 min read

In case you’ve been thinking about taking on personal training to further your gym goals, don’t rush into it. Picking the first guy that crosses your eye line can easily end up costing you more than the hourly rate. You’re entrusting your safety, and time. The trainer may not be the right fit for your training style, or may just be an outright hack. 

So be careful when making a choice, and be deliberate. Read through this checklist for a series of pitfalls you can avoid, and ideal traits to look for. Armed with these pointers, you could be saving yourself a lot wasted time and energy.

Key Facts To Consider Before Choosing

  1. Personal training is going to be a large investment in yourself.
  2. Like most professions, it’s going to follow the 80/20 rule, where the top 20% of trainers give you 2-8x more than the average.
  3. Good trainers can help you bypass years in the gym, potential injuries, while giving you the tools to train yourself.
  4. Bad trainers can injure you or waste your time and money with workouts they’ve recycled from the internet.

Who Can Benefit From Personal Training

  1. People who have a significant goal that realistically is going to take 4 months of daily, conscientious effort. The same point where the majority of people fail to achieve or even backslide.
  2. With pre-existing medical conditions (illnesses, injuries, morbid obesity), that need specialist help. 
  3. They’ve put significant time and money down on personal training before, with quality results.
  4. They have multiple, failed efforts because of severe lack of confidence or motivation.

What Personal Trainers are NOT

  1. Physical therapists (unless certified) or doctors: trainers should NOT be prescribing treatments for the cure of diseases, illnesses, or injuries. What they CAN do is be knowledgeable of your limitations, conditions, medications, etc. and be able to work around them or even with another medical professional.
  2. Dietitians or nutritionists (unless certified): Anybody can call themselves a nutritionist, while lacking the education for it. For trainers, this is a tricky area because so much of the results depend on diet.

What To Look For In A Trainer

On Paper

  1. Experience aligned with your interests.
  2. Referrals by people you can communicate with.
  3. Pay by session without commitment to a number of hours/sessions.
  4. Examine accomplishments/reviews. Drastic increases in performance are easy if the client is young, untrained, and uninjured. The further a client is from those three descriptions, the harder and more impressive a trainer’s accomplishments.

The Interview / Consultation

  1. As for trainers who don’t offer an interview before signing up, that’s a major red flag.
  2. Asks a lot of questions, tries to understand exactly what you want, and who you are
  3. Asks about your medical history, physical limitations, past experiences
  4. They give you a rough path to achieve your end goal: establishing an initial baseline, major performance goals along the way, how they will accomplish your final result.
  5. They answer directly if you have questions
  6. They’re confident in their results without promising you miracles
  7. They’re organised: standardised intake forms, calendars, etc.
  8. Recommends establishing initial baselines (height, weight, bodycomp, VO2, movement analysis) relevant to your goals.
  9. They make you feel comfortable. The asshole/domineering “coach type” can be a good trainer, but it’s in spite of this trait, not because of it. On the flip side…
  10. They insist on your own accountability. They don’t need to push, but if they’re not honest about your need to perform and be mindful, they’re bullshitting you.
  11. You see happy people coming up to them randomly throughout the day and asking questions and getting solutions instead of sales pitches.
  12. After your sessions with them, they’ll leave you with some sort of plan/product with which you can continue on your own.
  13. They say when they’re unsure or something is beyond their realm and they provide additional referrals or resources, especially if they and/or their organisation doesn’t benefit financially (online, books, nutritionists, etc.)
  14. They’re conversant in basic medical and anatomical terminology.
  15. Uses data, graphic visualisations, and is conversant in what actual research/medical literature says (it’s often not much, sadly).
  16. Takes pictures of you for before/after.
  17. Trainers are actually in shape themselves.

The Training Session

  1. Cares about, and provides guidance for when you’re not in session.
  2. Watches you (not others, not their phones) constantly.
  3. Explains why you’re doing what you’re doing, what the purpose of each day is and how it fits into a larger plan, and talks more in terms of movement and function than in lift/exercise names.
  4. Preaches boring fundamentals first: form, sleeping/eating well, tracking your progress, etc.
  5. Makes sure you warm up and cool down.
  6. Always takes notes.
  7. Provides proper demonstrations of form and perform small adjustments to your form.
  8. Comes to the session with target goals for you to hit.
  9. Adjusts initial plans based on your performance, isn’t just blindly following a plan or workout.
  10. Provides data, visualisations of progress.
  11. Asks how you feel periodically, physically and emotionally.
  12. Reaches out to you when you’re not in session to check your progress/encourages you and is open to questions when not in session.
  13. They’re enjoying themselves and genuinely express happiness at your progress.
  14. Gives you additional materials: links to video, research, etc.
  15. Always arrives a bit early and is waiting for you.
  16. Responsive to your requests.
  17. Does not share any personal information without your consent.
  18. You walk away feeling like you learned something.
  19. Focuses on you, not their own experiences or issues.
  20. Asks permission for physical contact.

The Takeaway

And now you’ve run through the list, keep in mind that you don’t have to find someone who ticks every single one of the boxes. Partly because such a perfect creature may not exist. But you’ll have a great idea of the qualities to seek out in trainers.

Looking For A Personal Trainer In Wrexham?

In case if you’re wondering if I myself fit the criteria, in my unbiased opinion, the score’s over 50%. If you’d like to arrange an interview, head to my contact page to set it up within the next week.

Further Reading

The Fit Trail is my blog for all the ins and outs of taking modern fitness to the next level. Head here to see a countless array of articles on boosting training, the diet, and much more.

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