Recommendations When Selecting a Personal Trainer

You’ve decided to put your money where your muscles are. And no, that doesn’t mean you are buying calf implants. You’ve taken a mental inventory of what it takes physically and emotionally to successfully begin your fitness journey and you’ve decided that a personal trainer is the best choice for you. The good news: personal trainers can be found anywhere these days. The bad news: personal trainers can be found anywhere these days…

So now what? Where do you begin and how do you know what type of trainer to look for? After determining your budget, pick a gym, studio, or independent fitness consultant to begin working with. Read reviews, do your homework… and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions! This person can be the difference between helping you to achieve your goals or helping you to sink into mediocrity. Let’s try to steer clear of the latter.

(Side note: If you are pregnant, continue with the same fitness routine that your body is used to. Jumping into something brand new may put unnecessary stress on your body, which isn’t good for you or the baby. Postpartum, however, is a great time to jump headfirst into a new fitness regime to help shed that unwanted baby weight).

After nearly a year and a half of working with my trainer, Alex, we’ve found an ideal cadence and sync between our personalities. As is true with all relationships, they take time! Remember to give your trainer/trainee relationship a grace period rather than expecting to hit it off on day one. And do not, I repeat, do NOT try to be your trainer’s best friend; they are your guide, your coach, your mentor… you are not paying them to hash out the details of your day or to give you advice on how to handle a catty coworker. Save it for a phone convo with mom. Luckily, Alex and I worked together a little over a year before I found out I was pregnant, so by that point, he was fully able to deal (and put up) with my hormonal mood swings.  


Here are my top recommendations for selecting a personal trainer (PT) to help you achieve your fitness goals.

 

Training Style

Seek out a PT who is willing to actually listen and cater to your specific needs. Steer clear of trainers who tell, rather than ask, what your personal goals are. And by no means should they be handing you a one-size-fits-all fitness regime that “works for everybody.” Fitness is very specific to your body type and what you are hoping to achieve in a given time frame. One-size-fits-all fitness is the equivalent of a one-size-fits-all bra. It just doesn’t work. Before you even begin lifting weights, your PT should be sitting down with you to go over expectations, goals, and desired outcomes.  

And while semi-private or group training may sound fun (and is definitely easier on the bank account), unless you have best friends who have very similar body types as yours (I’m talking nearly identical), similar workout ethics, and very similar fitness goals, be wary of splitting your sessions. Just because the price is right doesn’t mean the outcome will be the same (in fact, chances are much higher that it won’t). Work with a PT who can focus on you and your needs specifically. And on your off-training days, hit up the gym with your girls. 

 

Passion

Fitness takes serious dedication and discipline. With no passion, you will find it hard to make yourself show up each week and perform. That being said, your PT needs to have an even greater passion for fitness in order to keep you motivated. Look for a trainer who has chosen to make fitness their career, their lifestyle, their focus. It should show in the way they look, they way they talk about it, and how serious they take their role. A girl (or guy) who is just passing the time as a PT in between various jobs is not the person you want holding your hand on this journey.

 

Fitness Level

You wouldn’t take healthy eating advice from someone weighing 400 pounds, so don’t take fitness advice from someone who looks as though they haven’t picked up a dumbbell in years. While looks can sometimes be incredibly deceiving (i.e. Abby Lee Miller of Abby Lee Dance Co.), generally speaking, they are a pretty good indicator of what one can expect in the fitness world. If fitness is your PT’s passion, there is a high probability they practice what they preach in their spare time. Just like you expect sales people to be talkative, public speakers to be charismatic, and politicians to be liars, you should expect your PT to be fit.

 

Personality Type

Your trainer should be able to push you, not be a push over. You will have bad days, you will complain about the number of repetitions your trainer tells you to do, or the weight at which they want you to do it… if you push back and they give every single time, you probably need a new trainer. Yes, your trainer should listen to you and trust that you know your limits, but their job is to push you beyond the limits you set for yourself.

You also will want a trainer who has a personality that complements your own. If you get bored easily, your PT should be someone who has the ability to put together interesting and varied workouts each week. If you are more the structured, rigorous type, you probably want to find someone who won’t try to get too fancy with the movements, but will focus on the nailing the basics.

And most importantly, you should both get along reasonably well. If your trainer is a complete douchebag who hits on your incessantly, get rid of him. If he continually shows a lack of professionalism (which should be apparent very early on, hence, the importance of doing your homework and asking questions prior to committing), ask to be switched to someone new. If she is constantly disengaged, on her phone, or asking you what you “…would like to do today” (i.e. doing her job for her), take your business elsewhere.

Your trainer is not supposed to be your best friend. Think of your relationship (and treat it) as business professional.

 

Training Qualifications

Personal trainers are a dime a dozen in today’s world. Good personal trainers are not. Ensure that the person you are paying to be your fitness expert is actually an expert. Good trainers have certifications from reputable organizations, or degrees in related fitness fields from accredited schools/universities. Ask to see their credentials. Ask them fitness related questions. Ask how they keep up to date on fitness related techniques and methods. Ask why they love their job. Ask, ask, ask. Sorting out the qualified from the unqualified can be as simple as asking the right questions.

Click here for a list of the 10 Best Personal Trainer Certifications.

 

Evidence

If the proof is in the pudding, as they so commonly say, then your PT should have clients to show as evidences of success. Ask what types of clients they typically work with. If your trainer is at a big-box type of gym, have them point out some of their frequent clients. Go talk to these people! Ask for pros and cons and if they would recommend this specific trainer. When searching for your ideal PT, you will want someone who has worked with similar clients, in terms of age, sex, and fitness goals. Much like an employer wants to see your resume before hiring you for a job, you should also be able to see a track record proving your PT is cut out for the job.


Embarking on a fitness journey is an excellent step in the right direction to living a healthier and more confident life. Deciding to hire a personal trainer shows that you are dedicated and determined to progressively work towards your goal. Selecting the right personal trainer is critical to making these goals a reality. Be diligent during the process and take your time. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into selecting someone who doesn’t feel right for you.

And most importantly… don’t forget to take pictures throughout your journey! It can be hard to see your progress day-in and day-out, but over time pictures will show just how far you’ve come. Seek motivation and reinforcement from friends, family, and the fitness community. Now go and be awesome. You've got this!

 

Looking for more? Check out these related posts:

Things to Consider Before Hiring a Personal Trainer

Why Cardio May Not Be Enough To Reach Your Fitness Goals