You’ve finally decided, this is it. You’re going to get serious about fitness and not just mimic halfhearted workout moves from grainy YouTube videos filmed in some guy’s basement. No, this time you’re turning to a pro. You’re hiring a personal trainer who will evaluate your needs, design a customized workout plan, and help you crush your fitness goals right in time for summer.
But where do you find this Fitness Superhero and more importantly, how do you know if this person is any good? Because let’s face it; for every truly awesome personal trainer, there’s another lurking around the corner who received their certifications from a matchbook cover and is more than happy to charge you for their “expertise.” That’s why it’s important to do a little sleuthing before you take the plunge and whip out your credit card. Here’s how to filter the posers from the pros.
Consider this a job interview and you’re in the driver’s seat. Ask where they got certified as a personal trainer. While you shouldn’t expect a list of credentials that read like a box of Scrabble tiles, your personal trainer should have at least one nationally accredited certification, such as ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), NESTA (National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association), NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), or ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association), to name a few.
This is important because it can help you learn if their expertise syncs with your needs. PJCC Personal Trainers boast specialties that range from martial arts and sports training to osteoporosis prevention and post-breast cancer rehabilitation. You might discover that a trainer specializes in weight management or has a background in nutrition and hey, guess what? You want to lose weight and start eating healthier. Keep talking.
As with dating, compatibility is important. This means that a laid-back personality might not mesh with an in-your-face drill sergeant. Conversely, you don’t want someone with whom you get along so well, you end up spending your entire session (that you paid for, mind you) chatting about last night’s episode of The Bachelor. You’ll get a sense of their style when you ask questions such as:
Does this trainer have any client success stories that they can talk about? This can give you an idea of their effectiveness as a trainer. And don’t just rely on posted reviews. Ask for at least two former or current references and when you talk with them, request brutal honesty. Is this trainer dependable? Were goals met and—the most telling question—would they hire this trainer again?
If you already belong to a gym, during your workout keep an eye on different trainers. Observe their styles, their temperament, and their clientele.
Outline your goals and objectives to make sure you’re both on the same page. A good trainer will coach you, motivate you, and hold you accountable, but this won’t guarantee results if you’re still living off pizza and beer. If, after 4–6 weeks, you can honestly say you’ve given it your best, but still aren’t seeing results, it’s okay to find someone new. This trainer may simply not be the right fit.
But don’t give up, because a good personal trainer is an investment in your health—not to mention a step toward that coveted summer body.
Vicki McGrath, ACSM-EP-C, HFD, CET, EIM, is a Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer, Post Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist, and Fitness & Wellness Manager at the PJCC.