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8 Tips for Choosing a Personal Trainer by Devin Gray, CSCS

The holidays are fast approaching and with them, memories of New Years fitness resolutions past. In many cases, deciding to work with a personal trainer is one of the best fitness moves that you can make. A good trainer will design an individualized program to push you past your limits. Whether your goal is a bigger bench or slipping into that new dress for New Year’s Eve, bringing in an expert is often a good call.

While many people can, and do, reach their fitness goals without a trainer, there are many more that stagnate in the gym. For some people, working out without any guidance can be like trying to fix their car for the first time. Sure, you might get the job done, but a mechanic could have done it much faster - and probably better. And you may end up doing more harm than good. Your health is at stake. For that reason, you should trust an expert. So, let’s go over some of the key things to look for when making this important health, and business, decision.

#1 - Know their qualifications and their education.
In this day and age, it’s easier than ever to be a personal trainer. And that’s a REAL crime. If you don’t believe me, Google ‘Personal Trainer Certification’. There are dozens of instant certifications out there. You can pay $100 over the Internet, print off a piece of paper, and slap on a shirt that says ‘TRAINER’ across the back. Even still, many ‘certifications’ are really workshops or weekend courses.

So before hiring a trainer, ask for their qualifications. Be sure that they are certified through a reputable and nationally accredited (NCCA) organization - not just an online quiz. Ask them about their athletic experiences and their education. Another great resource for learning more about a trainer is by asking to speak with their former or current clients.

#2 - Make sure that personal training is actually personalized.
This would appear obvious, but that’s not always the case. How would you like it if your doctor glanced at you for 5 seconds, scribbled some recommendations on a pad, and charged you $100? And yet, personal trainers get away with it all the time. Talk to other clients. Better yet, ask to see their other client’s programs. Make sure that your program is individualized for you. Chalkboard programs are great for group exercise classes, but not for individuals.

#3 – Check to see that the program addresses all of your fitness needs.
A good program will address your injuries, posture, flexibility/mobility, cardiovascular health, muscular strength, and endurance. Warm ups and cool downs should always be included. Few programs will cover all of that, but it can and should be done. At Team Fitness Franklin, our goal is to provide the highest level of service available to every single client. We do so by meeting with all clients for a consultation to find out their goals, medical histories, and exercise preferences. Ideally, every session should be an amazing experience.

#4 - Make sure that they do an evaluation.
This ties in to #2. All of my prospective clients sit down 1-on-1 with me in private to talk about their medical history. We discuss their injuries, nutrition, current program, and their goals. I need to know what they can and cannot do. Afterwards, I conduct a few basic fitness assessments. I evaluate their movement patterns, posture, endurance, and cardiovascular health. Otherwise, I’m playing Russian roulette with their bodies.

#5 – Ask for a free session.
I offer a free evaluation or training session to all of my prospective clients. Personal training is an investment for both parties; you need to be able to work together. A trial session is a great way to see if your new trainer can meet your individual goals and expectations. Ask lots of questions. Ask them how what you are doing relates to your unique set of goals. If their reply is that “it looked cool on YouTube,” it may be time to move on.

#6 – Ask how they interact with your doctor – and your injuries.
We all have unique medical histories. Many of my clients have injuries and diseases, and I’ll admit – I don’t know everything, but I do everything in my power to learn more. I make it a point to consult with my client’s doctors, chiropractors, and other experts to gain their perspectives. Your personal trainer should be part of your overall health TEAM. You are the star athlete and we are all working together to help you feel your best.

#7 – Ask them what their specialization – and their training philosophy - is.
Recently, a friend of mine asked me about preparing for bodybuilding and figure competitions. As bodybuilding does not match up with my training philosophy, I referred her to another trainer that competes as a professional figure athlete. See where I’m going with this? If you are interested in competing in CrossFit, train with a CrossFit coach. If you’re looking for a sports-specific training, look for a NSCA-CSCS.

#8 – Ask them about their continuing education efforts.
Every single coach that I read harps about continuing education. It’s huge. Strength & conditioning is a relatively young field. Our understanding of the human body evolves every single day. A good trainer is always pushing themselves to learn through books, seminars, workshops, certifications, and even by shadowing other coaches.

With these tips in mind, hopefully you will have a better experience with personal training. Don’t let one bad trainer ruin the whole experience for you. With the right fit, it’s a sure-fire way to improve your quality of life. If your New Year’s resolution is to have your healthiest year ever, keep these tips in mind.