A personal trainer can be a wonderful tool in your fitness journey. However, before you sign on the dotted line and pony up the bucks, make sure you consider the following.
Not all trainers are created equal.
Make sure you find out how much experience your trainer has. How long has he/she been training others? Do they have success stories that you can see? Have their past and current clients been able to maintain their progress or even push their progress to new levels? Keep in mind that some trainers get their certification online and have no real world experience and did not even have to do a practical exam to get certified. Just because a trainer is certified, does not mean you will see progress or even avoid injury. Ask for references, go to the gym where they work and watch them with clients (you can do this while you do cardio), talk to other trainers or staff at the gym and find out what they think. I caution you on this last point; trainers are in essence a tremendously competitive lot and each trainer thinks he/she is the best trainer and all other trainers are just posers. Therefore, if you talk to other trainers about your targeted trainer, take what you hear with a grain of salt.
Consider your reason behind hiring a trainer.
Do you need some holding you accountable and constantly pushing you during your workouts? Do you lack the knowledge of what to do during your workouts? Are you trying to get ready for an event? All of these are solid reasons to hire a trainer. However, make sure your chosen trainer knows what they are doing and will not compromise form in your workout. This is the quickest way to risk injury. Good form should always come first; even if it means lifting lighter weights.
If you are trying to get ready for an event, make sure your trainer has specialized training in that area. Not all trainers can reasonably know all areas. For example, some trainers specialize in getting people ready for figure or fitness competitions. This takes a very specific skill set in which not every trainer has. Also, if you are training for distance running or triathlons, you will need a trainer that has specific knowledge about proper stretching, strength training for endurance training, etc.
The First Meeting.
Treat this first meeting with your target trainer like an interview. This first meeting should be free. It is intended to make you comfortable with the trainer, but also gives the trainer the ability to sell you training. Make sure your personalities are going to be compatible. Find out what their motivational techniques are. Find out how often they will change up your workouts and take your measurements. Remember, you will not know if you are making progress unless you have regular assessments to see your measurements. Some trainers charge for these assessments as if it were a training session. I think that is fair because they are spending valuable time with you to provide you with necessary feedback. These assessments will also help you both determine if your training needs to be tweaked or if you need nutritional guidance.
Committing to a Package.
Make sure you understand the fee schedule. Do you have to commit to a length of time in months or just number of sessions? Are the sessions 30 minutes or an hour? If one hour in duration, will part of that time be spent doing cardio or are you expected to do that on your own? This information is needed because if you have to do it on your own, you need to build that into your gym time. Also, do you really need a trainer next to you pushing you on the cardio?
What is the cancellation policy? What hours are they available? Do they have multi-client sessions available so you can share the cost with a buddy? Do packages expire if not used in a certain time frame? What is the refund policy? What happens if you move, get injured or otherwise are unable to train? Can you buy individual sessions?
Beware of a trainer who tries to sell you supplements of any kind. Many trainers earn commission for the products they sell, which could be a conflict of interest. Unless your goal is to become a professional bodybuilder, you should be able to get all of the nutrients you need from a healthy diet and a daily multi-vitamin. The average person does not need protein powders, energy drinks and other supplements to help them succeed. Find a trainer who isn’t going to push these kinds of products.
Remember, just because someone is a personal trainer does not mean they are qualified to give advice about your diet. Many will call themselves “nutritionists,” but that does not mean they have a degree or any formal training in this area. In fact, the only person legally qualified to give specific diet advice is a Registered Dietitian. If your trainer is creating meal plans for you that are outside of the guidelines of the Food Guide Pyramid, that is irresponsible and puts your health at risk. Be careful when getting nutritional advice from a trainer. If your trainer tells you to avoid a food group or a specific macro nutrient, find another trainer. Trainers can ONLY give guidance based on sound principals of the Food Guide Pyramid, but nothing outside of that. If you need help with your diet, consult a Registered Dietitian.
You should be able to tell that your trainer lives the life he/she recommends for you. If a trainer has a beer belly, he/she is not living the healthy lifestyle and if they cannot follow their own suggestions, how motivated are you going to be to follow their guidelines? Finally, you are not hiring a buddy; you are hiring someone that has your fitness interest and goals in mind. They should not spend your session time talking to you about things other than your fitness, they should not be sitting down while you workout, they should not be texting or on the phone during your sessions. You paid for this time. Treat the trainer as if they were an employee, because that is what they are. You are spending your disposable income on their skills and expertise. Don’t hire them to count for you; I am sure you can count to 15 yourself.
All in all, personal training is an investment in yourself. Think about it as making your time at the gym the most focused time possible. Going through the motions will get you minimal progress, but the right trainer can help you reach your goals, faster and more efficiently. I encourage you to hire a trainer, just make sure you follow my advice above. You will be happy you did when you finally find yourself with six pack abs or 4 sizes smaller with everyone around you raving how great you look!!