08 Sep Top 5 Things to Consider When Looking For A Personal Trainer
I Need A Personal Trainer. Now What?
Top 5 Things To Consider When Looking For A Personal Trainer
Cutting to the chase. Here they are:
- Do they really understand your needs?
- What is their commitment to continuing education?
- Are they educators or cheerleaders?
- Do they practice what they preach?
- Do they have a lineage of results from successful students?
Read on because it’s not as straight forward as you think.
1. Do They Really Understand Your Needs?
This seems like an obvious thing to consider but it’s actually a much more challenging thing to assess. Why? Because everyone in the fitness industry from CrossFit box to boutique personal training studio will say they understand your needs. But do they really though?
New Client Intake Process
I recommend researching their new client intake process and look for the following:
- Initial information gathering before training begins.
- At the very least, there needs to be some discussion about your goals, training experience, injury history, training availability, etc.
- An email questionnaire, a phone call, an online video consult or an in-person consultation are ways to gather that information.
- Initial assessment of your joint health and joint function before training begins.
- This is not the same as a fitness test. Checking how many squats or push-ups you can do in a minute is a fitness test.
- The top personal trainers and coaches use Functional Range Conditioning (FRC), Controlled Articular Rotations (CAR’s) or Functional Movement Screen (FMS).
- Find these professionals. They will know what your true starting point needs to be for you to safely and effectively reach your goals.
- Education on their approach on how they’re going to help you meet your specific needs.
- Based their initial assessment, they need to educate you on what exactly is their plan for you.
- There needs to be some systematic approach to their training process.
- You need to come out of their intake process with a clear understanding of what that is.
Free Doesn’t Mean It’s Worth It
Many personal trainers and fitness places offer “your first training session is free” or “your first class is free!”. Although that sounds great because you get a chance to try out the service it’s not something I recommend. The reason is they’re essentially starting to train you right away without any consideration of your goals. More importantly they haven’t assessed your joint function or joint capacity for the movements prescribed in that “free workout”. Without doing that assessment first, how could they possibly know the appropriate place you should start. You can tell a lot about the quality of the service you will get from their intake process. A free workout is not a good thing. It’s kind of like getting free refills or free pop. Even though it’s free, it’s still pop and not good for you long term. Intakes that offer free sessions don’t have your best interest in mind nor do they have the knowledge to really help you. Skip those ones and keep looking. You’ll be thankful you did.
2. What Is Their Commitment To Continuing Education?
Fitness practitioners like kinesiologist, personal trainers, and coaches can be registered or certified under multiple organizations. Furthermore, those organizations may or may not require their members to take continuing education in order to practice. This results in a very wide range of knowledge between all the of the service providers in the industry. As a consumer, it’s important to be critical of what is marketed to you. For example, kinesiologists are well marketed by their organization as the most knowledgeable in the industry calling their members “movement specialists”. That may be the case for certain, individual, kinesiologists, who seek specific types of continuing education but it’s certainly not the case for all of them.
What separates the field comes down to their individual continuing education and development. A degree or personal training certification is only the starting point and really just the bare bones minimum. I highly recommend researching what continuing education certifications they have obtained in their career. Find out when they took their last continuing education course and how often do they take them. Coaches who learn multiple systems and modalities have more knowledge from different perspectives. Compare that to an individual who is dogmatic. For example they only have their kinesiology degree, or they’ve only taken CrossFit brand certification(s), or they’re only TRX or Bosu Ball specialists. There is no one perfect or magic system, method, or tool that does it all. Find a trainer that is committed to their continuing education. Those individuals know How To Be A Good Student and because of that, they’re constantly improving their knowledge, applying that knowledge, and continuously refining their skills.
3. Do They Educate Or Cheerlead?
Say you’ve researched a personal trainer or coach online and their credentials seem to indicate they know their stuff. I recommend you connect with them and ask if you may sit in on one of their training sessions. If that’s not possible then book a consult and show up really early. You may catch them training a client before your consultation time. The purpose is to see how they actually train and coach people.
Cheerleaders & Rep-Counters
Some personal trainers in the industry simply don’t educate or coach. They’re more of what I call cheerleading and rep-counting personal trainers. These people tend to be overly amped up the entire session like they’re on pre-workout. They’ll usually have the music cranked up too. They may randomly bark out coaching cues like “KNEES OUT” or “ALL YOU BRO!” but that’s not coaching.
As you observe, you’ll notice the session will seem to be all be all over the place and random too. Almost like they’re trying figure out ways to entertain their client rather than coach them.
It might even seem the trainer is trying to make their client tired for the sake of making them tired and sweaty. Shawn Mozen (founder of Agatsu and one great teacher I’ve learned from) says “If sweating were the best indicator of a good workout, tanning would be in the top five”. If you see that, leave and keep searching.
Educators & Motivators
If you get a chance to watch a great personal trainer, coach their client, you’ll notice certain things in the session. You’ll notice that they educate at appropriate times and will do that the entire session. The have incredible attention to the details of movement and they educate their client as to why those details are important. They allow their client to fail a few times but then teach them something that they’ll have to do to succeed. They are encouraging at times but are also honest and direct when something needs to be addressed. Great coaches understand the learning process and will teach their clients about that process. Experienced coaches teach mental focus and how every rep has a purpose. Every coaching cue is timely and has meaning. Good coaches are able to modify the program on the spot and prescribe the appropriate modification so that their client can still progress (even if they have an injury). The entire session will have a logical flow from beginning to end. Great coaches know how to make you better everyday.
4. Do They Practice What They Preach?
It’s very important for personal trainers and coaches to practice what they preach. This gives them credibility in being able to successfully achieve the thing you’re looking to obtain yourself.
If you want learn how to do a handstand then that personal trainer better be able to do a handstand. If want to improve your kettlebell technique then they better have experience in training with kettlebells. A coach who successfully improved their own mobility limitations has more valuable experience to share.
Contrast that to someone who claims they can help you improve your half marathon time but has never actually ran a half marathon themselves. A trainer can’t help you learn something if they don’t have experience in the thing you’re interested in learning.
It’s in your best interest to find someone that has applied experience in the subject you’re looking to learn.
It’s also in your best interest to find a personal trainer that can relate to you and your reality. A coach that has learned from their own personal life experience that is relevant to you.
For example. It’s unlikely that a young trainer could relate to a parent of two if they don’t have any children. They simply don’t understand the time-management challenges parents face.
I’ve witnessed trainers create elaborate programs for parents that take over two hours to complete. Or trainers that consistently program high-intensity workouts for clients who work long hours in a high-stress, corporate job.
Knowledge in health and fitness alone unfortunately isn’t enough. Your trainer needs to be able to relate to you in order to know how to integrate an appropriate training program into your life. Find this type of personal trainer and you will have long term success.
5. Do They Have A Lineage Of Results From Their Successful Students?
A great personal trainer or coach may have many positive Google Reviews spanning over many years. Each review will sound genuine, heart-felt and authentic as they are written by real people. Their results speak for themselves and those results are many and span over many years.