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Finding a Personal Trainer

How to get the best match between your personal trainer and your fitness goals
By Christopher OLeary
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sometimes going to the gym just isn’t enough. You may need to find a personal fitness trainer to help you develop the right exercise program, motivate you, and even ride you at times so that you don’t slack off.

But finding the right personal trainer is a kind of science. Some guys rely too much on first impressions. So if they’re looking to bulk up, they’ll simply pick the trainer with the biggest muscles. Often guys only have vague ideas of what they want from their exercise program and will expect their trainer to lead them by the nose. All too often, they’ll wind up with someone who isn’t the right kind of motivator for them. In the long run, trainers say, these kinds of relationships typically don’t work out.

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Finding a good certified personal trainer is akin to finding a good gym — both require some research and good decision-making skills.

Know what you want from a personal trainer

One of biggest mistakes guys make when choosing a personal fitness trainer is to approach the search with vague ideas of what to expect and without clearly defining what they hope to achieve from one-on-one training sessions. Trainers say that before you hit the mat (or the weight room) with a personal fitness trainer, you need to evaluate him or her, as well as your own fitness goals.

“Don’t go in expecting your trainer to tell you what you need to do,” says Gregory Florez, founder of First Fitness in Salt Lake City. “Go in understanding what you want to do, and have your trainer help guide you through the maze of what’s good and bad, what you should and shouldn’t do.”

Florez says it’s important to interview a trainer. ”Ask if they’ve worked with clients like you before. Find out what their training philosophy is.”

And if the personal trainer throws the ball back in your court right away, be wary. If the trainer immediately proposes jumping into some workout sessions, that’s a sign that he or she could regard you primarily as a revenue source. “There should be a process that starts with a consultation,” says Florez. “The trainer should go through a serious analysis of your goals and examine you physically in terms of body composition.”

Guy or gal?

A big question for some guys is whether or not they’ll be comfortable with a female certified personal trainer. While only a minority of male clients specifically ask for male trainers, trainers say that there are some reasons — primarily psychological — why a male trainer might be a better fit for a man.

Sometimes it’s a mindset issue. “I think men want to be challenged,” says Brian Schiff, who owns The Fitness Edge, a private fitness studio in Columbus, Ohio. “Some of the battles you fight with men are that they feel they don’t need any exercise help. So you need innovative ways to reach them.”

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