At some point in your training life you are going to decide that maybe you could do better with a personal trainer. Perhaps it’s to help you get started on your fitness journey, to take you to the next level, or even, as in my current case, someone to check in with on a regular basis to review form and monitor progress.
So the question is two-fold: 1) do you need a trainer and 2) how do you choose a trainer?
Why Have a Trainer?
I’m a proponent of personal trainers for the most part and have had a couple now. It took me a long time to put aside my ego and realize that maybe I wasn’t the best person to judge my own form when lifting and that learning from reading books and watching the big guys at the gym really wasn’t cutting it.
But once I made the decision to work with a trainer I really haven’t gone back. My preference is to find someone you can work with in person, but in a pinch an online trainer can be helpful. I’ve tried both ways and for me the in person experience is just more useful.
The big question I think most people have is “how do I choose a personal trainer?” and this is an important one. Just because someone has a million followers on Tik Tok, Instagram, etc. and abs that could cut glass doesn’t mean that he or she knows how to train someone else. Especially if that someone else may be fighting years of poor diet and exercise.
Remember, choosing a personal trainer is not a decision to make lightly. This is someone that ideally you’ll be relying on for years to come and who will have a huge influence on the only thing of value that your really have (outside of personal relationships): your body and health!
Though I’ve been happy with the trainers I’ve worked with I have to admit that I could have been more methodical in my search. My experience in finding trainers has been haphazard at best – I found my first trainer at an amusement park of all places. Hey, you have to talk about something while waiting a couple hours in line for a roller coaster, right?
So, realizing my limitations I turned to my current trainer, Matt Elvey, who also happens to be an instructor in Exercise Science at Owens Community College and teaches future personal trainers.
Here’s the advice he shared with me about finding a trainer who you can work with.
What to Look for in a Personal Trainer
- Certification- NSCA/ACSM/ACE are examples of the big name certifications in the field.
- Experience training the clientele you would classify yourself as. Example-if a trainer has almost exclusive experience training bodybuilders and you are looking for fat/weight loss. This probably isn’t a good match.
What Questions to Ask Before Working with a Trainer
- What is your training philosophy? Ex-my approach to training is to manage the minimums of every client, assessing left/right asymmetries and bulding a program off of that.
- If you have injuries/health issues, do they have experience with these. Ex- chronic knee pain, diabetes, heart attack etc.
- Price per session/availability
What Qualities Make a Good Trainer
- Knowledge base, a trainer has to know muscles, different training techniques and when to implement them.
- Having a “gauge”- knowing what your client can handle and when they are ready to progress etc.
- Managing “downtime” in a workout. We do stretches for opposite muscles we are working in between sets of muscles we are working. Example-Pec fly machine/T-spine mobility with PVC pipe.
- Probably just as important as any other factor-being personable and building rapport.
My Two Cents
In addition to the good advice Matt gives above I’d like to add a couple items you need to consider before working with a trainer:
- Are you ready to commit to your goals? There’s no sense hiring an expert if you aren’t ready to make training a priority in your life.
- Be honest about your goals. Do you really just want to be healthier or do you want abs? Believe it or not these goals are not as similar as you might think.
- Be honest about your time and other commitments when discussing availability.
- Be honest about your previous exercise experience.
On-Line vs In-Person Training
I’ve done both and personally, I get a lot more out of in person training so that’s what I would recommend. But if you choose to go with an online program, which frankly can be less expensive, be aware that you will need a very high level of discipline to make it work. You won’t have that extra motivation which comes from knowing that someone is waiting for you to show up.
So, there you have it. Advice from an expert and from me. Ultimately the choice is yours of course and the important thing is that regardless of whether you have a trainer or not that you start today to get moving!
Do you have any hints and ideas on choosing a trainer? I’d love to read about them in the comments!
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr