Picking a Trainer

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Feb2010 18

Today I want to talk about how to find a qualified personal trainer. Many times, hiring a trainer is a craps shoot. You don’t now what service you’re going to get until after you have committed a large sum of money and even then how do you know you got the best value for your money? If you’re lucky, you may have a friend or someone you trust, who can refer their trainer to you, which in my opinion is the best way to find a good one. But if you don’t know where to find one and you have to hire someone you have no previous connection to, what do you do?

First of all you need to ask yourself some basic questions about your own needs. What do I need from my trainer? Do I need someone to hold my hand and encourage me every step of the way or do I need someone who can show me what to do and send me on my way. Do I want a male or female trainer, or does it even matter? How important is it that my trainer is muscular or ripped themselves, or do I find this intimidating or off putting? What is my budget? What other costs may I incur, such as new workout clothes, an ipod, heart rate monitor, supplements or vitamins, etc? Be sure to include the possible price of the gym facility as well. Private studios generally charge more for personal training so you end up paying facility fees one way or another. Trust me someone is paying that rent and chances are in some part it’s you. Once you know what you are really looking for it will make prequalifying a trainer much easier.

The first thing you want to look at is what certifications they hold. Do some research online to find out which are the most reputable. ACSM, ACE, and NASM are some of the best certification companies. Ask them how long they have been certified. A number of years in the fitness industry can mean a lot of things. Are they working for a club or are they independent? Generally if you hire a trainer at your local franchise gym, chances are they are working directly for the gym. The benefit of hiring a trainer from a franchised gym is that if you don’t vibe with your trainer, the gym will usually be happy to transfer your sessions to a more compatible trainer. This way you have more options. But a possible drawback in these clubs is the trainers’ level of experience. Usually once a trainer has enough of a following, the trainer will go out on their own.

Being that a trainer can make 2-3 times as much money on their own as they can at the club for doing the same job it makes sense. Usually the trainers at a franchise gym accept a much small fraction of the session price in exchange for having the gym hand them clients and for use of the facility. You have to weigh experience vs. options. The second thing to look at is their client testimonials. Any good trainer should have a list of satisfied customers praising their service. It is much easier to let my clients sell my training than it is for me to convince you that I am a good choice. What else am I going to say when I want you to hire me? If a prospective trainer doesn’t have anyone who will give them a testimonial, that’s a red flag.

But don’t expect a trainer to give you any of their clients contact information. That is a direct violation of client confidentiality. You don’t want your trainer giving any of your information away so even a decent one will not do that to any of their existing clients. If they do, turn around and run! Third, they should have you fill out the appropriate paperwork during your initial consultation. This consists of your basic personal information (such as name, phone number, etc.), a PAR-Q form which is a health history questionnaire which let’s the trainer know if you are healthy enough to start their program, a basic sheet explaining their policies and a liability waiver. This is all standard paperwork for a professional trainer.

During your consultation ask them about goal setting, measurements and progress tracking, and what sort of guarantees they make about your training. If they offer a money back guarantee that is a good sign but be sure to ask them what is expected of you in order to get that. I would also suggest going to the gym or facility you are thinking about joining and observing some trainers. You will see many different styles of training. This may also help you form what expectations you have about your own trainer. Believe me, all clients watch other trainers to compare what they are getting from their own.

Also look at how the trainer is dressed and how they present themselves. Do they look like a fitness professional? If they don’t take their presentation seriously how will they view your training? Are they in shape? You definitely don’t have to be a hard body to be a good trainer but you also can’t lead from behind. How can they inspire you to do things they aren’t doing themselves? A fat, out of shape trainer is not inspirational. Also remember it’s OK to interview a number of trainers before you commit to one. It’s important to find the trainer who is a right fit for your needs.

I like to think I am a great trainer but I know that I’m not going to be the right one for everyone. Different people need different approaches and you just can’t be everything to everyone. If you take all of these things into account before you buy, you can greatly increase your chances of finding a qualified, reputable trainer who will have your best interests at heart. A final note, I would like to tell you some red flags I look for in a client during the consultation. First off is their attitude. If a prospective client walks through the door with a bad attitude or tries to intimidate me I will NOT train them. A bad client will poison a trainers’ spirit and it will affect the rest of their business. Plus it doesn’t exactly make me want to go the extra mile to help them. This may seem like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised. The trainer is a person just like you and needs to be shown the same respect you expect for yourself.

Also if a client asks me for a discount or complains about the money they have to spend, I will NOT train them. We are professionals and personal training is a luxury service. If you do not have the money for a trainer, what are you doing hiring one? I personally take it as an insult to my perceived value and have found that these are the clients who give me by far, the most head aches. They certainly wouldn’t accept me giving them less service for their money, why would I accept less money for my services. If they do not want to pay my rate, they can hire someone else. Other than that, I look over any other obstacles and can appreciate how hard or intimidating it can be to step foot in a gym and ask for help. A good trainer should give you as much moral support as they do instruction, if not more. If your trainer does not make you feel good about yourself while you are with them, then they are garbage and you should turn around and RUN!!!

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