How to Choose a Personal Trainer

Finding a good personal trainer can be a daunting task. The personal training industry isn’t regulated and there are a plethora of personal trainers to choose from, all with different certifications and specialties. Not only are you counting on them to help with your fitness, you are also to some degree trusting them with your health. And while there are many personal training success stories, I think everyone has also heard stories of personal trainers that just didn’t work out. Here are some tips to choosing a personal trainer that is qualified and is right for you.

Part 1: Figure Out What You Want

1. First figure out what you want from personal training. Determine what sort of fitness goal you want to achieve. While generally everyone goes to a personal trainer to increase their fitness level, what this means to people can vary widely. Determine whether weight loss, muscle gain, sports performance, injury recovery or prevention or just general health are what you want to focus on.

2. Figure out why you want a personal trainer. While once again everyone goes to a personal trainer because they want some degree of guidance, what this means can vary. Some people want personal trainers to push them, while others mainly want a personal trainer to create a program that they follow or just want some assistance with technique. While generally personal trainers will do all of these to some degree, they will generally focus on one to two of these things more.

3. Figure out what times and places will work for your sessions and see how much money you are willing to spend. If you have very limited times available, it’s important to clarify this up front as many personal trainers may already be booked at those times, so talking to them is a waste of time for both of you. Finding a very busy trainer also probably isn’t going to work for you if you have a rotating schedule and constantly need to change workout dates. As for budgeting for a personal trainer, they can range in price from $30 to $200. A more expensive trainer doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better but if you are going for a cheaper trainer, you are likely getting someone that is less experienced.

Part 2: Choosing a Trainer

Things to Look At:

  1. Certifications One of the first things that many personal trainers highlight in the profiles is their education. There are a multitude of different fitness certification in Canada. Some of them just require a few months of online work , while others require a couple years. There are also university degrees in strength and conditioning science. Unfortunately none of these degrees or certifications ensure that you’re getting a good personal trainer. Certifications do show that an individual has put in some time or work into learning about personal training though.
  2. Experience Another thing personal trainers usually highlight is their experience. As well as listing how many years they’ve worked they should list some of the different populations that they’ve worked with or things that they specialize in.  Just like in any job, knowledge and enthusiasm can make up for experience though so this also isn’t something that you want to put all your stock into.
  3. Focus Some personal trainers also push diets, supplements, life coaching and injury diagnosis.  Make sure your person trainer stays in their lane. While personal trainers may receive some nutritional training, it’s a fraction of the training that a dietitian would receive and they really should not be giving you much advise on your diet. In particular, they should not be pushing one particular type of diet to everyone. And while you may want supplements, I would be weary of any personal trainer that goes around trying to push or market them as most people don’t need them. As for any injuries,If you get an injury other than muscle soreness they should be advising you to see a doctor or physiotherapist not diagnosing it themselves. Even within personal training most personal trainers have specialties. For example a personal trainer that’s mainly focussed on body building clients is not likely to be a good fit for someone that is interested in running and someone that focuses on seniors isn’t going to be the right choice for a teenager. The phrase jack of all trades, master of none rings true here and you would be hard pressed to find a trainer that is really knowledgeable and passionate about different specializations and isn’t just looking to fill up their time slots.

Interviewing Your Personal Trainer:

Always try and meet, or at least talk to a trainer before you decide to train with them. If a trainer isn’t willing to do this I would take that as a warning sign.

Talk to them about their certification/education. Ask them how long they went to school for and how they continue their education.  Regardless of their certification and experience, a good personal trainer should be doing something to ensure that they stay up to date with the latest research and on top of their game. They should also have basic anatomical knowledge and know what exercises to work different muscles without having to look it up.

Explain your fitness goals and how you want them to work with you. This helps to eliminate personal trainers that essentially just want to get everyone on the same fitness program. While personal trainers may want to expand your fitness goals to encompass overall strength and fitness, especially if you are just starting out, they should tell you this and explain their rationale while still recognizing your fitness goals. For those wanting something specific, if your personal trainer is knowledgeable about what you want, they should be able to add insight and help flesh out details of why they are a good fit for you and how they’ll tailor training for your needs.

Unless you’re body building or plan to enter fitness contests I wouldn’t put much stock into a trainer’s physique.

Some good questions to ask are:

How would you describe your training style?

What sets you apart as a personal trainer?

How do you customize your training to each person?

How do you define success as a personal trainer?

What sort of education do you have and how do you continue learning?

When in doubt, ask if you can just schedule a few sessions to try out their services. Good personal training should challenge you, but you should also feel safe with gradual progression and a focus on technique. A good personal trainer should also educate you enough so that you are empowered and knowledgeable enough that you can workout and progress on your own.


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