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October 30, 2017

What to Look for in a Personal Trainer – 10 Traits to Consider

The decision to get a personal trainer can be due to a recent injury, a change in lifestyle, or just needing a little extra motivation while correcting your form. Physical training looks different for everyone, and personal trainers allow you to design your own goals and workouts that will help you achieve that goal in a reasonable amount of time.

Choosing the right person to help you on your health journey can be overwhelming. Some trainers may be pushy and try to get you to sign a contract before you have shopped around. The guide below will help you know what to look for in a personal trainer so that you can find the right person for you.

personal trainer at gym

1. Experience

While you may want to give that new trainer that first client, if you know you have very specialized needs that would benefit from someone more experienced, you should make the decision that is best for you. Don’t worry, new trainers will get their practice with those who have simpler needs. Those who already have a workout regimen worked out and just need some accountability may prefer a newer trainer, for example.Either way, experience versus your needs is very important when deciding what to look for in a personal trainer.

2. Credentials

A proper personal trainer will have certifications in their area of focus. Some of the most notable certifications to look for are those through ACE (American Council on Exercise), NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), and NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). Looking for one or more of these organizations tests from your personal trainer’s portfolio will help you make sure you trainer is backed by a trustworthy source.

3. Personality

What to look for in a personal trainer should always include their personality and how well it meshes with your own. A trainer should motivate and inspire you. You should never feel uncomfortable or put down by your personal trainer. Take some time talking with your trainer to see how the two of you get along.

4. Price

A trainer’s hourly rate or packaged deal will depend a lot on their experience, certifications, specialty, and location. You will want to find out up front what a potential trainer is looking for in terms of cost and make sure it reasonably fits with your budget while still meeting your individual needs. Don’t be scared to shop around. Know what you can afford coming into the conversation. When deciding what to look for in a personal trainer, cost is one thing that can make or break a great working partnership.

5. Training Style

You need to ask questions about your trainer’s style before you decide. Do they encourage cardio over strength training or is their approach more balanced? Do they value pre-workout and post-workout routines or gloss over them? Will you be working inside or outdoors? Know what they will be focusing on with you given your goals and needs will tell you quickly if the partnership will work out.

6. Area of Focus

Every good trainer should have their own specialty area. This is something specific that they have researched and worked with in detail for a long period of their career as a personal trainer. What to look for in a personal trainer should start with what specialty you need from them. It could be running, Pilates, lean muscle building, building muscle mass, etc. Whatever it is, the trainer should have a strong depth of knowledge in that subject demonstrated by their responses to your questions and their description of their training style.

7. Location

This may seem innate, but part of the list of what to look for in a personal trainer is where they are located. You are much more likely to stick to your training schedule with a trainer located fairly close to either your house or your job. You know your own habits and these will determine what location issues matter for you.

8. Availability

Make sure you know when your trainer is available to work with you and how often. If you choose the “perfect” trainer based on their qualifications and experience but it turns out they can only squeeze you in once a month due to their packed schedule, you may end up looking for a new trainer. Make sure you know what their cancellation policy ahead of time in case things come up on your end as well. Communication on the front end is a big part of what to look for in a personal trainer.

9. Accountability

How will your trainer keep track of your progress toward your goals? Make sure you know ahead of time what markers you will use together to monitor your work. This could be weight loss, strength gains, measurements, steps taken, and numerous other achievements. All of these will only further motivate you to stay on track. It will also help you track your trainer’s investment toward your goals. Make sure you discuss how often your trainer is expected to record your progress to avoid inconsistencies later.

10. References

This can be an embarrassing request, but the best feedback a trainer can get is from their former clients. Reaching out to them and finding out about their experience with their trainer is a powerful way to decide if the match will work. Find out if they have made progress, achieved their goals, and maintained their lifestyle changes as a result of their personal training experience. Most trainers will have success stories and testimonials in addition to providing references whom you can contact personally.

Summing Up

Finding the best personal trainer for you doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Take the time to decide what to look for in a personal trainer before you pair yourself with someone who is not the best for your goals. The guide above is designed as a starting point only. You will think of other qualities as you begin your search, but this will give you a solid foundation to work from.

Do you have a story to share about your search for a personal trainer? Leave your experience in the comments below to help others know what to expect!

Image from depositphotos.com.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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