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May 21, 2015

Let’s get real about Personal Trainers


Many people workout with a personal trainer. Someone you pay a lot of money for to help you reach your goals. Maybe you hired them because you did not know much about working out. Maybe you hired them because you feel you need someone to push you and motivate you.

Regardless of why, you should ask yourself this: “Is my trainer really worth it?”

The topic of personal trainers can be touchy. What I will cover today is my own opinion. Whether you agree with my view points or not, it is something you should give serious thought to if you are one of those people that has a trainer at the gym now or may want to get one in the future. 


Part I Find the Right Personal Trainer

Before you ever have your first session with a personal trainer, they should be willing to meet with you first.

They should care enough to get to know YOU before starting. After all, they are called “personal” trainers. How are they going to create a training program customized for you if they don’t know your goals? They should be asking you about your current fitness level, your short-term goals, and your long-term goals. They should want to measure your body fat/inches/weight and take progress pictures. They should be asking you what your current nutrition habits are like. They should be asking you what your strengths and weaknesses are on your body. They should want to know about any past or current injuries that may effect your workouts. And most importantly, they should ask what you are looking for in a trainer.  If they don’t take the time to learn those things about you, don’t hire them.

Next, YOU should be confident in the trainer you hire. Let’s face it, they are not cheap! So why on earth would you hire someone before taking the time to learn about them first?!  Trust me, there are plenty of trainers out there. So if you don’t like one, there are many more options. So you have the right to be picky.

So sit down and talk. See if they have the personality of someone you could get along with. Because you will be spending several hours a week with them, most likely.  See if they communicate well. Do they appear confident and knowledgeable in personal training? Do they take good care of themselves (practice what they preach)? So many things to consider. Here is a list of questions you may want to ask them:

  • What degree(s) do you have?
  • Will you be helping with my nutrition? If so, do you have a degree or certification in nutrition?
  • What certifications do you have? (The standards are NCSA, NASM, ACE, or ACSM. There are many programs out there. Be wary if they got their certification thru a quick online test (yes, that does exist). Scary!)
  • How much experience do you have?
  • Do you specialize in any training styles?
  • How do you stay in shape?
  • Do you recommend supplements?  (If they try to sell you something they will profit off of, it would leave me questioning their intentions. Are they feeding me lies on what is the best product for me just so they can make more money off of me?)
  • What is your fitness philosophy?
  • How will you track my progress?
  • Do you have professional liability insurance? (required)
  • What is your time availability to train me?
  • What do you charge per session for privates?
  • What is your cancellation policy?

Now in my opinion, you want to be able to trust the tips your trainer gives you. So I would ask them a few questions to “test” their knowledge:

  • When is the best time to stretch? (It is not a good idea to stretch a cold muscle. So dynamic stetting before your workout is best. And static stretching (held at least 30 seconds) is best post-workout.  If they say anything besides that, don’t hire them.)
  • When is the best time to do cardio- before or after my workout with you? (It is best to do cardio after your weightlifting session if your goal is fat loss (learn why here). The exception is if they want you to do a 5-10 minutes warm-up before hand. If they say anything besides that, don’t hire them.)
  • If I just want to tone up, will we be using light weights and doing high reps? (If they say yes, they are idiots. There is not much point in working out if you are not pushing yourself to lift more and to progress each time. Learn more here)
  • Are there exercises you can teach me to get rid of the fat on my inner thighs? (If they say yes, they are once again idiots. You cannot spot reduce. You must simply drop overall body fat. Don’t hire them.)

Wow! So many things to consider huh? Well it is an important decision. So once you pick someone, try them out for a week. Then it is time to evaluate things before you go any farther (or pay any more).


Part II Evaluate your Trainer

So you have had your first week with your trainer. Are you happy?

  • Do they communicate well with you?
  • Do they seem like they are invested in you?
  • Do they pay attention to details?
  • Do they correct you?
  • Do they encourage and motivate you?
  • Do they teach you new things?
  • Do they explain why they have you do things a certain way?
  • Do they give you 100% of their attention?
  • Do they guide you through a well-rounded workout?
  • Are they on time?
  • Do they ask you if you feel the right muscle groups working?

These are all questions that should have the answer “yes”. If they do not, then it may be time to fire them and try someone else.  On the other hand, if they ARE doing well, then keep using them for another few weeks! Your body takes time to adjust to new workouts and nutrition plans. So give them 3-4 weeks. And then it is time to re-assess things…


Part III Re-Assess your Trainer

So things seem to be going well. You guys have become friends and you have a lot of fun working out with your trainer! Yay!  But are you on the right track towards reaching your goals? Are you progressing? It is time to assess if all that hard work is actually working.

  1. Ask your trainer how they think you are doing
  2. Ask yourself how you feel. Do you feel better? Do you think things are successful so far? Are your clothes fitting better?
  3. Take measurements again and compare them to day 1 with the trainer. (i.e. body fat, inches, pounds, progress pictures)
  4. Look at your short-term and long-term goals lists. Are you heading in the right direction? Have you met any yet?

I hope things are improving. They should be!

If not, it may be time to fire your trainer. Here are some things I see at the gym that make me want to scream! If they are happening to you, fire them.

  • They have their cell phone out texting
  • They socialize excessively with others while training you
  • They flirt with you and are not professional
  • They are late
  • They take you through the same exercises every time
  • They make you do tons of cardio everyday
  • They do not ask if it is enough weight for you, in order to progress you
  • They do not correct bad form and bad technique
  • They allow you to swing the weights around using momentum
  • They don’t specify what timing they want you to use when lifting
  • You are not on track to reaching your goals
  • You are not improving
  • You are not sweating and worn out by the end of the session
  • You have not gained any new knowledge from them about working out


Part IV When to say goodbye to your Trainer

Let’s say you like how things are going. You are progressing towards your goals and working out with your trainer for several months. So at what point do you say goodbye?

In my opinion, a trainer should be more of an educator. Someone who gets you set out on the right path. Someone who teaches you how to lift using correct posture, correct form, correct timing, correct rest periods, and correct technique.  Someone who provides you with a large library of knowledge on the many exercises you can do for each muscle group. Someone who plants the desire in your heart to work hard for what you want. To push yourself past your limits!

Once you feel you are at the point of being independent, then you should do so! Why not? Educate yourself well enough to where you feel confident in your ability to plan your own workouts from now on. Your wallet will thank you.

Some people develop an attachment to their trainers. And hey, that works for some people! If you have the money and you are constantly improving under their wing, then go for it!  However, using a personal trainer long-term is not best for everyone. You may get to a point where you plateau or YOU surpass THEIR knowledge. You are no longer growing. Then it may be time to move on to better yourself.


So I hope that blog was helpful!  Comment below to let me know your experiences! I’d love to hear about them 🙂

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  • Wow! This was super insightful, thank you. I’m considering getting my NASM certification and pursuing personal training before PA school and that really was an interesting read for someone outside of the industry!

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