Have you ever wondered how people find a good personal trainer? Most people hire a trainer based on referrals from friends, but the internet is becoming more and more of a helpful resource every day.
1.) Research them online and see who shows up in a local search. Just type in your city and “personal trainer”. Don’t bother looking past the first 2 pages on the search results. If they don’t have a website or aren’t creative and motivated enough to figure out how to get their site ranked well, they probably won’t be creative or motivated enough as your exercise coach either. A good rank means they are popular too. Have they won any popularity/voting contests? Do they have more than 10 good reviews online? Look for YouTube videos of them or other things they might have done. Once you learn their name, do a separate search that way. Find out their education and/or certifications. If they have a blog on their site, what are they saying? What do they say and how do they present themselves on Facebook? Instagram? Does their body look like you would want to look – which brings me to my second point…
2.) Judge this book by the cover. Give them the twice over when you meet them in person. Another good (and obvious) source to find a trainer is at a nearby club you might like to join. Ask the club for a free two-week pass to see if it works for you. This will give you enough time to see the trainers there, observe their styles, and check out their physiques. If they really know how to coach someone on getting fit, they will look like the “after picture” their clients want to become. I always tell people, “If you live it, you know it.” If they can’t get there themselves, what makes you think they will help you get you there? The old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do” might work for professors, but certainly doesn’t work for trainers because this is more than just learning. It’s a new lifestyle and you need to work with someone you respect and can follow with confidence that they are a personal expert in that new lifestyle.
3.) Interview them. Ask about their education. A college degree is, of course, best, but only about 10% of the trainers have them outside places like the X Gym. Did they just get a certification or have they taken actual classroom courses? Do they take continuing education credits to maintain their certification? Do they do any self-study to keep current? What was the last research study they read? What is the most interesting thing they have learned in the industry lately? How customizable do they make the workouts? How often do they change the routine? How do they track results? What is their philosophy on nutrition? Are they extreme or do they take things in steps? Ask for a testimonial from a client. They should be happy to have one of their present clients call you. Then interview that client and ask the questions to help you decide if that trainer would motivate you and mesh with you. Click here to see a spreadsheet you can use to interview them and ask the right questions.
4.) Do you “mesh” with their personality and style? Do they make you feel comfortable? Do they feel trustworthy? Is it easy to talk to them? Are they a good listener? Did they bother to dig deep into what your goals are, with clarifying questions, or were they too busy talking about themselves, trying to “sell” you on their services? If they care enough to ask clarifying questions to fully understand you, your goals, and your situation, they are probably interested in more than just your money. How mature are they? Are they accepting and empathetic or defensive and arrogant? Lastly, trust your gut. If you feel any “red flags” come up, or doubtful feelings, those will only get worse because every trainer is on their absolute best behavior during the interview.
5.) Now here’s a trick question: Ask them how much time it will take for you to reach your goals. If they give you a definite period of time, run away. The right answer would be something like, “I can’t say for sure because I don’t know your genetics, how well you will stick to my nutrition advice, etc. etc.” When I am pressed for an answer, I give a bell curve illustration so they can see a range. I tell them, “Some clients see visible results in as little as four sessions. Others take 4 months. You will probably fall somewhere within that curve, but we will have a better idea a couple months into it.” Speaking of goals, do they steer you in a direction toward better health or the superficial things?
6.) Ask if they offer a free intro workout so you can see their style. If they don’t offer a free intro, then they are most likely a “taker” than a “giver” and they probably won’t be very interested in your goals. If they do give you a free intro, pay attention to whether they watching your form closely, or are they looking around the room or in the mirror at themselves? Do they have good exercise cues or are they repeating themselves a lot? Do they stay interested and engaged, or get easily distracted? These questions are important because they will be on their best behavior in the beginning, so if you see red flags initially, things will be much worse later when they are comfortable with you and think they have you “hooked.” There is one rare exception to the free intro rule, however. If that trainer is super booked and in high demand, they may have done away with the free intro offer because they don’t have any spare time. If that’s the case, they might have a discounted intro offer, with the intro appointment secured through a credit card ahead of time, to ensure the intro shows up and is truly considering them as an option.
7.) What are their rates? Do they try to sell you a long package, or single sessions? Trainers who offer huge discounts for a long commitment with no refunds are not confident in their own services. If they know the results will keep you coming back, they will offer shorter chunks, or maybe month-to-month like the X Gyms. Your trainer should be paid based on their results, not on how well they can talk you out of your money or lock you into a huge “discounted” package of sessions.
Lastly, they should have you fill out a confidential Health History form and Liability Waiver before your first workout. This gives them the information they need, highlights any concerns or issues to discuss further, and protects them in the event of a health problem or injury. If they only have you fill out a waiver, then they are certainly looking out for themselves, but probably don’t care about your safety as much as they should.
Your gut will tell you in your first session if they are a fit for you. If your gut says they are trustworthy but you’re still not sure about their style, ask to purchase just three more sessions so you can make sure they will be a fit. If you aren’t thrilled after that, or your gut said no after the first workout, then try other trainers until you do find the one who really motivates you. Then pick your favorite and go back to them. They will still be there. The going rate for experienced and qualified traditional personal trainers is $700-$2000 per month, so make them earn that money! Tell them you are paying too much to not get results. Remember, they might be telling you what to do with exercise and nutrition, but you’re still their boss. They work for you!