How to Choose a Personal Trainer

A personal trainer is a professional who can help you reach your fitness goals safely. When working with one, you will likely receive a personalized exercise program that takes your goals, injuries, and interests into account. They help you stay motivated and offer accountability to make sure you stick with your exercise program. 

What to Look for in a Personal Trainer

To make sure your workouts are safe and successful, look for the following in your personal trainer:

  • Certification. Your trainer should be certified by one of the several organizations that certify personal trainers. Make sure the certifying organization is recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This ensures that the certification meets appropriate standards so you can be confident that your trainer has had a great education.
  • Education. Your personal trainer should have an educational background in exercise science, kinesiology, or another subject that covers anatomy and physiology. 
  • CPR & first aid certification. Working out is relatively safe, but accidents can happen. Make sure your personal training candidate knows what to do in an emergency. You may also want to ask if the gym has an automated external defibrillator (AED).
  • Liability insurance. Make sure your potential coach is properly insured, just in case.
  • Get everything in writing. A great personal trainer will give you paperwork that outlines the details of your relationship including fees, cancellation policies, liability, and other important information.

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Questions to Ask Potential Personal Trainers

Once you've established the basics, make sure the trainer will be a good fit for your goals. You may want to ask them:

  • What is their motivational style and demeanor? Working with a coach who offers positive motivation is best. Avoid coaches who use negativity to motivate their clients.
  • How much experience do they have? Find out about their past work experience in the field.
  • What types of clients do they usually work with? Do they work with people who are similar to you?
  • Do they have experience with your needs? If you have special fitness interests, like running a marathon, or if you have an injury, find out if the trainer has experience working with people like you.
  • What is their schedule like? Find out if their availability can work with your schedule.
  • How much do they charge? Make sure their fees will fit your budget.
  • What are their cancellation policies? Some trainers require that you still pay for your session if you cancel on short notice. Others have more flexible policies. 
  • Do you have to get a gym membership as well? Some trainers work at gyms that require monthly fees in addition to the training costs.
  • Do they offer packages? You may be able to save money in the long-term by purchasing multiple sessions at one time.
  • What equipment and facilities do they use? Some personal trainers come to your home or office and bring fitness equipment with them. Others only work in a gym. Either way, find out if they have the equipment that suits your interests.
  • Can they give you references? Contact their references to find out if their past clients have had positive experiences. You can also read reviews online.

What to Avoid in a Personal Trainer

Watch for any of these signs that your personal trainer may not be the best one for you:

  • They don't screen you for flexibility, injuries, and other limitations before your first workout.
  • They won't provide references.
  • They try to sell you supplements or insist that a certain brand of products is essential for your fitness program.
  • They try to diagnose you with medical issues.
  • They don't listen to your goals, ideas, and limitations.
  • They guarantee immediate results. Typically, it takes around 6 weeks to start seeing results from any fitness program.
  • They try to make you sign a contract before you've had one session together.

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Where to Find a Personal Trainer

To start, look at local gyms and fitness centers. They usually have their own trainers who work there. Trainers at gyms are often more affordable than trainers who work independently. 

You can search online. Use local business review sites to find highly rated trainers in your area.

Asking friends or family members is a great way to find a personal trainer you're likely to get along with. Find out if anyone you know has had a great experience with a coach in your area. You can also ask people who belong to your gym for recommendations or references for the personal trainers there.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 25, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Sports Medicine: "Investing in a Personal Trainer."

American Council on Exercise: "How to Choose the Right Personal Trainer."

Better Health Channel: "Personal trainers – how to choose one."

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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