Get Personal with Your Trainer - How to Choose the Right Personal Trainer

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of personal trainers in the United States is on track to reach over 300,000 within the next seven years. As a result, those looking to increase their fitness level have a broader pool of professionals from which they can choose.

But, how do you find the personal trainer that’s the right fit for you?

Finding a personal trainer that fits your exercise preferences, learning style, and works in line with your goals is an important step to molding your best self. A qualified personal trainer can help you:

  • Stay motivated
  • Create an individualized program that accounts for your health conditions, injuries, or specific athletic goals
  • Improve your technical skills and sharpen your form
  • Get acquainted with equipment and fitness programs, if you are a beginner
  • Develop a plan to break through plateaus or become more efficient when exercising

The personal trainer/client relationship is largely based on trust. You will divulge your physical flaws and rely on your trainer to offer non-judgmental instruction. The relationship between you and your personal trainer will truly be one of the most personal interactions you have, which is why it’s so important to find one that meets your physical and emotional needs.

Where do I find a personal trainer?

Many gyms have their own personal trainers on staff, so your home gym is an excellent place to start your search. However, do not feel limited to the trainers offered exclusively at your gym. Some gyms will allow you to bring in your own personal trainer, but this situation tends to be the exception, not the rule. If none of the trainers at your gym fit the bill, don’t settle. You can look for a new gym or find an in-home personal trainer.

To find personal trainers in your area, word of mouth might be the best tool. Ask friends and fellow gym goers for their input. Online resources like Yelp and Yellow Pages might also offer assistance.

Some organizations offer helpful online search tools that provide links to personal trainers in your area. Check out:

Or, search the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Websites to find a trainer in your area.

How do I narrow down my choices?

You should interview your personal trainer before signing on the dotted line. However, before sitting down with potential trainers, make sure their price point and available hours are in line with yours. If a trainer is too expensive or unavailable, it’s not likely to be a lasting relationship.

Once you’ve found personal trainers that meet your logistical needs, interview them. Ask questions like:

  • What are your credentials and experience?
  • How will you motivate me?
  • Knowing my physical strengths and areas of improvement, what kind of plan do you envision for me?
  • How long will we stick with a single workout routine?
  • What kind of results can I expect?

Tailor more questions specific to your needs and bring them to your interview.

What qualities should I look for in a personal trainer?

Above all, a personal trainer or fitness coach should make you feel comfortable while working out – as comfortable as you can be while pushing yourself to the brink in the name of fitness.

Look for positive qualities in your personal trainer:

  1. Education: Personal trainers worth their salt should have a certification from an accredited organization such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  2. Personality: Select a trainer that has a personality that blends well with your own. Whether you need someone who shows tough love, or a trainer who is soft-spoken and understanding – your trainer should have a personality that puts you at ease while motivating you to work hard.
  3. Professionalism: Remember that regardless of a trainer’s personality, experience, or price-per-session, your trainer works for you. The personal trainer you choose should always conduct themselves in a professional manner.
  4. Communication: One of the reasons you’re seeking out a personal trainer is to learn – either gym basics or a particular specialty. Think of your trainer like your teacher. He or she should do more than simply count your reps. Ask potential trainers to demonstrate their instructional style to make sure it meshes with your learning preferences.
  5. Patience: It will take time to meet your workout goals. Regardless of whether you’re looking to increase your stamina, build muscle, lose weight, or learn a new athletic skill, you and your trainer need to practice patience. Ask your trainer how he or she plans to personalize a program to match your skill level and how he or she plans to help you set an appropriate pace.

So, I’ve found my perfect trainer, now what?

Once you’ve decided on a personal trainer, you’re not done gathering information. Ask appropriate questions so you completely understand what is expected of you as a client as well as what you should expect from your trainer. Ask logistical questions including:

  • What kinds of personal training packages do you offer? Often, the more training sessions you commit to, the more cost effective each one is. Ask your personal trainer if he or she offers single sessions as well as whether or not you can get a discount for committing to a certain number of sessions. If you’re pre-paying for a selected number of sessions, inquire as to a time limit during which you have to use the sessions.
  • What is your policy regarding refunds? Some personal trainers offer a guarantee that you will meet your fitness goals or a refund on remaining sessions if you’re not satisfied with your trainer. If your trainer is affiliated with a gym, it’s important to ask whether or not you will be given a refund for unused sessions in the event your trainer leaves the gym.
  • What is your cancellation policy? Just like you wouldn’t want to be left waiting at the gym when your trainer is a no-show, your personal trainer won’t want to be left hanging. Ask how far in advance you need to cancel a scheduled appointment and whether or not there are financial consequences for doing so.
  • How will you assess my fitness level and progress? Excellent trainers should test your level of fitness or your general skill level before a new training program begins. Also ask how often your trainer plans to assess your progress.

How will I know if I’ve found a personal trainer that will last?

According to the National Federation of Professional Trainers the average salary of an independent personal trainer is about $35 per hour. If your trainer offers the support you need and helps you reach your fitness or athletic goals, the hours you spend with him or her will be priceless. However, make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck by honestly assessing your trainer after you’re a few sessions in. Ask yourself:

  • Am I on track to meeting my fitness goals?
  • Are my workouts enjoyable?
  • Am I learning the skills I want or need to learn in order to become independent?
  • Am I more comfortable with my form or technical skill?

A good trainer won’t simply be concerned with the end result when it comes to your fitness. Make sure your trainer has your best interests in mind. Be wary if your personal trainer:

  • Is constantly trying to sell you something
  • Offers diet advice that doesn’t allow for adequate calorie intake
  • Is exceedingly negative or disrespectful
  • Shows up late, cancels sessions often, or cuts workouts short

The road to becoming physically fit or developing your skills to become an elite athlete can be challenging, but incredibly rewarding. Hiring a personal trainer is one way to accomplish your fitness objectives safely, efficiently, and through methods you find enjoyable. However, a personal trainer that meets your needs and fits your personality can be the difference between achieving your goals and losing the will to work. Choose wisely.