How To Choose a Personal Trainer

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Choosing a personal trainer is like choosing a physician, therapist or friend. Personal trainers often fulfill multiple functions and it’s important as a consumer, to know exactly what you want and most importantly, what you are buying into.

Naturally we all want to positively change our physique by enlisting the help of motivational sources. Some of us want to become stronger or leaner. Some of us are rehabilitating from an injury or training for an athletic competition.

Whatever your goal may be, it’s important to do your due diligence when choosing the right trainer for you. Not only must he/she be qualified and experienced, but your trainer’s personality and work style also needs to compliment yours.

A trainer is essentially a “coach” who will direct you physically and mentally to a stronger destination. “I see again and again in my practice that patients often don’t choose the right workout routine for them,” says Alexis Peraino, MD, a physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Weight Loss Center in Los Angeles, who also has a degree in exercise physiology. “The result is often injuries or boredom – both of which lead to less physical activity rather than more. A personal trainer can be a wonderful asset to kick-start a workout routine. However, trainers are not one-size-fits-all and it’s important to know how to pick the right one for you.”

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Here’s a guide to make sure your coach is the right fit for you.

Watch and Observe

It is rare when you are able to watch professionals interact personally with their clients. In this case, you are able to observe a personal trainer while you are roaming the gym floor or completing your cardio session nearby. Besides noticing a trainer’s physical appearance and demeanor, also notice if he/she is actively involved with the client’s program. Is the trainer constantly looking away? Is he/she taking notes or on chatting on a cell phone? Is the trainer correcting his/her client’s posture and providing continuous feedback? It’s important to see how engaged the trainer is with his/her client. The more engaging a trainer is, the better he/she can correct you, motivate you and stimulate you to trainer harder.

In addition to a trainer’s engagement, also observe their training style. Is the trainer soft spoken or speaks in an authoritative boot camp manner? Does the trainer converse during most of the session or does the trainer focus on exercise intensity? Some clients enjoy small talk while training, but others like to get down to business. Figure out your social tendencies and choose a trainer that suits your personality type.

Do Your Research

While a trainer can have an incredible physique, it’s important to also have some education and experience behind the brawn and biceps. Personal trainers come from a variety of educational backgrounds. Some trainers graduated with a four-year degree in exercise science. Other trainers enrolled in a specialized, certificate programs. Whatever the background may be, the most important thing to look for is a combination of education and experience. Some of the most well-known training certifications today are given by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

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While education is an important factor, nothing takes away from the years of experience a trainer possesses. Some trainers were athletes, marathon runners, bodybuilders or weight loss success examples. Some trainers started working several years ago and have successfully trained a variety of clients. Choosing a “green” trainer, which is new to the profession, isn’t a bad choice either, but knowing that your trainer has experience provides more trust and confidence in you.

Have a Two-Way Interview

Before hiring a trainer, have a good sit down (free of charge) with your potential trainer and ask the right questions. Besides researching their educational background, really see if you ‘jive’ with this person. Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel intimidated? Is he/she a good listener? Does the trainer ask you a lot of questions? Ask the trainer about past clients and past results. Provide the trainer with scenarios and tell him/her about your history. Find out what kind of program he/she is suggesting and see if it sounds realistic. When interviewing your potential trainer, look for confidence, consistency in answers and comfort in your conversation.


When should you make an investment in a personal trainer?

  • If you are new to exercise and want to develop good exercise habits.
  • If you have been training for months without progressive results.
  • If you are training for an upcoming sports event, marathon or fitness competition.
  • If you have injured yourself.
  • If you have bad posture.
  • If you lack motivation to work out.

Personal Training Certifications:

  • ACSM – American College of Sports Medicine
  • NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • NSCA – National Strength and Conditioning Association
  • NCSF – National Council on Strength And Fitness
  • NFPT – National Federation of Personal Trainers
  • ACE – American Council on Exercise
  • ISSA – International Sports Science Association