July 31, 2018by John0

What to look for in a personal trainer?

Before you run out and sign up for personal training read this. After this article you can be confident to take the leap and find your best match.

In the gym, most of the time, people focus on what’s on the outside, but not so much on what’s on the inside; and if you are basing your decision solely on is a sales manager’s recommendation, or that wall of photos, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Now I’ve been a personal trainer for almost 20 years, and I’m not going to say looks don’t play into getting new clients but being a trainer is so much more than that.

It’s the first thing everyone looks at anyways so we might as well start with it as we discover, what you should look for in a trainer.

1) Do they look the part?

Of course the more you look like the ideal the more people will believe you know what the hell you are doing in the gym.

I was really busy when I was in competition shape.

So yes, you should be able to walk your talk, but as trainers we spend all day in a gym. We aren’t crammed behind a desk chained to mouse 8 hours a day, so in reality, we have no bloody excuse not to look the part.

I’m not saying we have to be competition ready and able hop on stage in a bikini or speedo at a moments notice, but your trainer should at least look fit and healthy. Clear skin indicates good eating habits, good posture indicates that there is balanced musculature, and a general sense of well-being that shows they take care of themselves. This is regardless of age, I know some really rocking fit 60-year-old trainers that tic all these boxes and then some.

2) What certifications do they have?

But what do they really know? Do they know just what works for them, or can they apply that to other individuals? You should consider what sort of education do they have- Experience speaks volumes, but so does a kinesiology degree.

Every professional PT should be certified by at least one licensing body- In Canada a lot of trainers are Canfit pro, (which incidentally it is owned and operated by Goodlife). That would be a good starting point, but in this case the more the better!

ACSM, ACE, NASM, and NSCA are all accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). NCCA accreditation is generally held as the standard for the field—certifying bodies must undergo comprehensive evaluation and regular renewals to keep this accreditation.

Along with the certification is Liability insurance. Any professional MUST have individual insurance. It says I stand behind my work; I’m a professional. In the unlikely event something does happen to you, you would be protected and able to recover losses. All trainers should be card carrying members and up to date on certs and insurance dues.

Every trainer needs to have up to date CPR certifications, and should have at least a basic first aid. It’s comforting to know that if your heart stops they can handle the 30 compressions and 2 breaths and use the AED to jumpstart you back to this plane of existence.

But what else are you interested in, if you want some help with making dietary changes, look for some nutrition certifications.
Are there any specific sport or training modalities you are interested that they are qualified to teach, like yoga, Olympic lifting, or martial arts.


3) Who are they really?

What are they putting out in the world can give you a good indication of what type of person they are.

Let’s face it, it’s a pretty intimate relationship with a trainer. I bet most people would spend more time checking out their tinder date than checking up on their trainer.

They are going to be in close proximity for at least an hour or two a week so get to know them. You don’t want to find out later that you are training with a homophobic misogynist asshole or something: nobody needs to absorb that all that negativity. And if their facebook page looks like a cross between girls gone wild and guns and ammo, does that align with your ideals?

It’s amazing what you find on peoples social media pages.

Now days we have a great way to lurk people before we meet them.  LinkedIn, and social media profiles can play a part, and you can try a Google search as well. Any professional will come up in a search in social media (try their name and their branding).  Hell every trainer I know is flooding Instagram with all kinds of fun stuff.

So if you can’t find anything out there, what do they really have to say? Is there a website you can get info from?  Do they have a blog?   The more you can get an idea of who they are before you meet, the better chance you are making the right choice for you and your needs.  Just a FYI, Court records are also public record, so you’ll know ahead of time if they’ve been arrested for anything.  Isn’t the internet amazing?

4) Recommendations:

What can you find out from other clients? Any trainer that is building their business will have client testimonials or reviews. If you’re part of a big box gym you can hit up their clients in the change room and ask them some questions. Even just watching how they interact with their clients will say volumes from a distance. Are they engaged (i.e. not looking at their phones); do they seem to have a good relationship? Does it look like clients are engaged, and even dare I say having fun? If it’s all work, and no smiles, is that how you want to spend your hour? Could you be friends with this person? Can you see yourself feeling comfortable being honest about your feelings, and that cake and wine you had for dinner? If you think you would be too intimidated to open up a little, you won’t be getting the full value out of their experience.

5) Where are they?

Consider what’s going to work best for you?

So you found the perfect trainer, ticks all your boxes but you have to travel an hour across town in traffic to get there, then that’s not really a match.  Convince is key.  Picking a location close to your home or your work makes it so much easier to fit your new workout into your busy day.You may be able to order in. Most condo charters allow residents to bring in a trainer to use the common gym in a condo building, and let’s face it those condo fees are friggen ridiculous, so it would be nice to actually get something for that.

Do you need to get a membership at a specific gym to meet that trainer? Are you willing to be locked into that specific location usually for a year?

There are lots of independent personal trainers out there that either travel to you, or work in spaces that allow you to train without being a member. (the trainer pays the rent not you.) Which is great for flexibility on your part.

6) Cost and Payments

How much is all this gonna cost ya? Time to put your money where your mouth is, how much are you willing to pay to get a trainer? It’s an important decision and the best deals might not get you the best results, like most things you get what you pay for. New trainers usually charge less, but have less experience, if you have specific considerations, go for the experience.

How do the trainers like to get paid?  Cash, Cheque, (do people still use these?)
e-Transfer, Recurring billing, First born? Some require a minimum commitment from you by specifying how many times a week-what they want to see you to get you results.

If your new trainer wants you to pay cash for 50 sessions up front, how comfortable are you doing that? How in control are you of the money, and who keeps track?

Many trainers offer an introductory discount, or some kind of price break for buying packages.

Keep in mind you aren’t just paying to hang out in the gym with a buddy, you are there to learn.  The best part is you get to absorb all that great knowledge and keep it for yourself, and use it as you grow and adapt. And remember, don’t have to be trainogamous you aren’t married for life. As a trainer how could I begrudge anyone serious enough about their health to want to grow and learn more. By trying different trainers in your ‘gym life’ you can keep interested, engaged, and excited about reaching that next goal.

So to recap what you need to consider when you are looking for a personal trainer.

  • Do they look the part? Shape, skin, posture.
  • What qualifications do they have? Certifications, Insurance, CPR, other skills
  • What type of person are they really? Social media- and their voice
  • Recommendations- What do others say about them?
  • Where are they? Convenience, Memberships or on the go?
  • Costs and payments- How paid, how much, how often?
Finding the perfect personal trainer for what you need right now takes a little work, but it can be one of the most rewarding relationships in your life. I consider my clients’ friends and treat them as such, and both of us look forward to interacting on the regular.