A personal trainer should be, at the very least, educated and certified through a reputable fitness organization. It is technically not a law for one to be certified to call themselves a personal trainer which, in my opinion is insane. Your massage therapist, manicurist and hairdresser must all legally be licensed…the same should apply to the person who pushes your body physically to become more fit and strong. But since there is no legal requirement to be one here are some guidelines on what you should expect from a qualified trainer:

The trainer’s initial job is to assess your fitness level, figure out what your goals are (or help you set goals) set up a program that accounts for any injuries and/or limitations and keep you motivated and progressing. He or she will push you past your comfort level–something difficult to do on your own. A trainer should also provide:

  • Guidance on reaching your goals
  • Education about strength training, cardio and nutrition
  • Proper form and technique
  • Fresh and fun workouts. Exposing you to using different equipment to work the same muscle groups.
  • A reason to show up at the gym each week
  • Accountability
  • Ways to help track your progress

Many times, especially in the large corporate gyms, you will end up being assigned or shuffled off to a trainer at your health club. But you should assert yourself and interview the trainer, as this will be a personal one-on-one relationship. You need to be comfortable with the trainer and able to understand his or her directions. Do not feel awkward by interviewing the trainer as this is YOUR body and health. Here are some good questions to ask he/her and also some to ask yourself. First, ask the trainer:

  • What are his/her professional credentials?
  • Has the trainer worked with other clients with your same starting fitness level and age? If you are training for a specific sport goal, such as walking a marathon, has the trainer worked with others who have that goal?
  • Does the trainer keep up with the latest ideas, research, and equipment?
  • What hours does the trainer have available, and what flexibility will there be in scheduling your workouts?
  • What are the fees and policies for sessions? Are the rates comparable to other gyms? You will want to research fees of other trainers in your area to see what the going rate is

I recommend going through an initial workout with the trainer before making your decision – how he or she communicates with you throughout the workout is what really counts. After you’ve done this, ask the following:

  • Did I understand how the trainer was directing me to do the exercises?
  • Did the trainer encourage me to give feedback, or did I feel intimidated and clam up?
  • Did the trainer listen to and understand what I was saying and adjust the session so I could do the exercises correctly?
  • Did the trainer understand my goals and seem to be gearing the workout in that direction?
  • Is this somebody I will feel comfortable working out with? Does he or she motivate me to perform better?
  • Will I look forward to coming to workout with this trainer, or am I likely to find excuses to miss workouts?

There is no one type of trainer for everyone. What works wonders for one, may not be the best option for you, so you should never “settle” for a trainer who isn’t a good fit for you or even worse, give up on personal training altogether. Use these tools and go with your gut….and with hard work and your awesome trainer you will LOSE your gut!