Investing in your health is always a good thing — but it’s not always cheap.
If you’re deciding to put a lot of money into getting personal training, you obviously want to get your money’s worth.
How do you know who to invest your time with? Are there specific things you should look for to know you’ll get the best training possible?
I've been a certified personal trainer for over 20 years, so I've got some good insights.
Let’s take a look at how to decide if you need a trainer and six things you should look for in them.
When Should You Hire a Trainer?
A personal trainer can help you, no matter what level of fitness you find yourself at.
But if you’ve been going along by yourself for a while, stick with it if you feel you’re still making progress.
If you have hit a plateau that you can’t get out of, this could be a good time to invest in a personal trainer.
Working with a trainer doesn’t always have to be a long commitment, as even a few sessions can help take your training to the next level.
If you are brand new to fitness — and are not sure where to start — a trainer can be invaluable.
A fitness trainer can also be useful if you need a refresher on the exercises you are doing, or if you want to add in some new ones.
You don’t need a personal trainer or coach to get fit and healthy — but it sure helps.
This is why elite level athletes and Olympians need trainers and coaches.
Even though their work ethic is second to none, they still need to be pushed to that next level with guidance, motivation, and knowledge.
And maybe above all, a trainer keeps you accountable — and this is one of the most powerful things for reaching your goals.
If you’ve decided this is something you want to do, here are six important things to look for in a great fitness trainer.
And if you’re a trainer yourself, these are the traits you want to make sure are in place to attract as many clients as possible.
#6. A Long List of Credentials is Great But Not Absolutely Necessary
Most gyms won’t hire anyone without some form of credentials, and this is primarily for insurance reasons.
This is the same reason why trainers should be certified in CPR and first aid. They are working in the health industry, and there are certain risks that go along with it.
If you’re looking for a trainer, one with a university degree or diploma is a great place to start. After that, there are various personal trainer certifications.
There are so many and they vary vastly by region and country. There are simple certification course that you can do online, and ones that can be done over the course of a weekend.
It’s not that these are bad on their own, but the ideal trainer would have a combination of university/college and then some other certifications.
The important thing to point out is that all the degrees in the world do not make an excellent trainer.
I’ve seen some incredibly educated trainers that I wouldn’t trust to spot me on a bench press.
On the flip side, some of the best trainers I’ve ever seen were not always the most educated.
What they focused on, however, was honing their craft and continuing to educate themselves.
They wanted to constantly improve and never stopped learning. They took immense pride in what they did and had a genuine desire to help people.
Basic knowledge is of course critical, and you would hope that someone who is committing their life to fitness has also devoted a lot of time to educate themselves.
What you want to look for, ultimately, is experience. The trainer you are considering should have a great previous — and current — client list.
A good trainer should have a list of people that they can refer to you at the drop of a hat to show you their proven track record.
A good trainer’s clients are usually more than happy to pass on the experience they have had with them.
#5. The Lines of Communication Should Always Be Open
The best leaders are great communicators, and great personal trainers are no exception.
The ability to relay complicated information and explain technical concepts is crucial for a good experience.
Just like an actual relationship, poor communication can lead to a lot of problems. The best trainers are able to share their knowledge effortlessly and naturally.
A critical thing you want to see from a trainer is that they explain why you are doing what you are doing.
Whether it's a specific exercise or a nutrition concept, the trainer should let you know the reason behind the instruction.
A real coach doesn’t just say “do this,” but explains and shares why you need to do this.
#4. They Are a Good Listener
It all comes back to communication. An elite trainer or coach should constantly be aware of the feedback you give them.
Too many trainers don’t really listen to their client's genuine desires and just mindlessly take you through cookie cutter workouts.
A great trainer should always have their ears open. This allows them to truly see where you are at and allows them to adjust things based on your feedback.
They should also be constantly probing you for information in case you aren’t giving feedback.
They will always have your goals in mind and will be focused on getting you to where you want to be.
#3. They Keep Things Simple
A great trainer knows that a new client needs to be eased into their new life of fitness.
If you have been inactive for years, a trainer shouldn’t have you performing Olympic lifts on your first session. I have actually seen this, and it’s a pretty good sign you should walk away.
You need to be gradually eased into your workout program. The first few sessions may not even seem like they are that strenuous, and that’s good. The idea is to progress you over time.
Throughout the process, they should keep explanations and instructions simple and clear.
They should not overwhelm you with technical fitness jargon that won’t make a big difference to you in the long run.
If you are a personal trainer, I promise you that your clients don’t care about the technical side of things.
They are more interested in fitting into their old pair of jeans or being able to play with their grandkids without getting fatigued.
#2. They Realize When Things Are Not a Good Fit
Some people just don't mesh well together. It doesn’t mean they can’t get along, but the dynamic just might not be ideal for a successful partnership and for you to reach your goals.
It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen.
A good trainer will realize when the relationship is not ideal. There may be several variables why, but they should have your best interests and mind and pair you with someone they know will be a good fit.
Trainers who are more interested in your wallet than your health will be oblivious to this. They will take on any client, no matter what the circumstances are.
They load up their schedule to the point that each client is not getting a full commitment.
I’ve seen trainers leave their clients to get to their next session when they hadn’t even finished. How important do you think the client feels after this?
The client is left without the coaching and guidance they need — and have paid for.
It would be in the interest of both parties for the trainer to fit them with someone else.
This is hands down the best sign of an elite trainer.
This is a brief point, but if people keep coming back to train with them, this is your best indicator of their ability to coach, motivate and get people results. Simple as that.
A great personal trainer is a lot of things: a motivator, a coach, a friend, a therapist, and an educator.
If you are about to invest a lot of money into your health and fitness goals, you want to make sure you find someone that can provide all those things.
A trainer shouldn’t feel threatened if you enquire about education and past clients — they should be excited to share those things with you.
A great trainer doesn’t even need to share their abilities with you — others do it for them.
If you get some resistance on your inquiries, it’s probably a good sign that the trainer is not ideal.
Think of hiring a trainer in the same way you would conduct a job interview.
Have a set of questions in mind, the goals you want to accomplish, check out their resume, and interview several trainers until you find the best fit.