So, I had a brilliant plan. Work first-and-foremost on building my class numbers and student base, THEN focus in on personal training. Linear, clean, purposeful, focused, right? It’s the way I always think I work the best. Why, then, does it work out that all my plans pile up on each other and everything happens at once? I’m sure I engineer it that way, just like we all do with our lives. One of my favorite quotes is “We plan, God laughs.”
I find myself currently working with 3 private clients all at once. One of which has me scheduled every morning at 5:30am. (Thank God I liked her immediately and she’s very dedicated—-plus she does everything I tell her to do—the two very best qualities in a student.)
Ergo, this post is about How To Choose A (Great) Trainer. This is everything you need to know before committing your body, your time, and your money to someone who is in charge of your wellness and/or torture for the next however long. Having worked 20+ years as a hiring manager for fitness teams both large and small, these are the criteria I used to make hiring decisions and these are the standards I use on myself to stay qualified and current with my skills and practices.
1. Find someone who is certified. Like, really certified. From somewhere other than the internet. Some of the best orgs out there are the following: NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), Cooper Institute, ACE(American Council on Exercise). These companies require rigorous study and extensive examinations in order to hold a cert. They also require lots (at least 15 hours per year) of continuing education in order to remain certified. Which brings us to……
2. Ask your potential trainer what was the last continuing ed course or event he/she attended. This will give you some insight into the interest and passion of your trainer and help you decide if her interests are going to mesh with your goals.
3. Ask about procedure and paperwork. If the trainer is willing to throw down a workout for you on the spot without asking a ton of questions about your history, injuries, illnesses, meds, etc, you are dealing with an amateur. Professional trainers should give you a medical history questionnaire, a release/waiver of liability, and have some kind of session tracking form with which to catalog the exercises he/she chooses for you. It’s okay if it’s all online, but you should see what everything looks like. Attention to this kind of detail means the trainer will also likely be attentive to YOU and care that you are getting great service. A non-exercise consult is where most of this info should be covered. And, generally most trainers should offer a consult with little to no fee. (If you got a great consult and want to compensate an independent trainer for their time, it is certainly appreciated, though.)
4. Experience is key! New trainers need clients, of course, in order to gain experience. But, do you YOU want to be the guinea pig for a first-time trainer? If you are considering hiring someone new to the biz, find out if they have at least done some shadowing/apprenticing under an experienced trainer. Even an internship can provide valuable OTJ training for the burgeoning young (or old!) trainer. Check out your trainer’s background before you let him tell you what to do. If you are heading to a big gym with a large trainer team and you are hiring an inexperienced trainer, ask if another trainer can participate in the first couple sessions and provide feedback or double-check the workout plan that the newbie has created for safety and efficacy.
5. Personality, personality, personality. Are you quiet? Outgoing? Shy? Self-conscious? Energized? Introspective? Crazy? Interview enough trainers to find the one or few with whom you click. There must be some chemistry and FUN going on in order for you to get the best result and for your trainer to really look forward to working with and FOR you. If you’re going to work hard and make tough lifestyle changes, don’t you at least want to look forward to the couple of hours per week you spend with your coach? Your PT appointments, though challenging, should be a bright spot in your week because of the relationship you create together. (Which, it goes without saying, should NOT cross professional boundaries or feel yucky, creepy, too flirtatious, or unsafe.) Of course, we hear about trainers dating clients, etc. Hard to regulate, and you can’t dictate love, certainly. You CAN, however, choose the timing of your actions. Any flirting or dating should only take place after the professional relationship has ended, if at all.
Alrighty! You are now equipped to go out there and start interviewing the trainer who will truly help you change your life. The highest compliment I have ever received as a trainer is this: “Leah, you have become the voice in my head exactly when I need it.” Good trainers stay with you long after you have stopped paying them for their services. Find someone who will educate, inspire, and support you as you learn good tools to manage ON YOUR OWN, eventually. Keep that person in your life for as long as you can. You will not regret it.
Take care, and Wobble On!