How to select a Personal Trainer, by Mark Mueller of Personal Trainer Denver CO.

Before you leave home or further scour the web in search of the ideal personal trainer, sit down and answer the following questions:

What are Your Personal Training Goals?

A personal trainer can greatly improve your chances of making your fitness goals a reality. However, you obviously can’t reach a goal if you don’t have one. So, before you look for a trainer, you should have a good idea of what you want to accomplish by having one. Part of your selection process should be to see if the trainer will help you to determine whether your goal is realistic and not just tell you he/she will help you to attain your goal in order to get hired by you.

These goals could include weight loss, or more importantly fat loss. They could be health and fitness well being and maintenance. I have one client that just wants to increase her strength and flexibility. These goals could also include reaching a certain size for an event like a wedding, or extra training for a marathon.

How Far are You Willing to Travel to get Your Personal Training?

Consider how far you are willing to travel and the environment in which you are willing to work out. Then, evaluate where you want to work. Do you have time to travel to a gym, or a park in the summertime? Do you prefer a private studio? Will a big, public gym be sufficient. Do time constraints mean that you will have to train at the office, or in your home?

The greatest thing about hiring a personal trainer is that you both have flexibility in where you will train. You can have it your way.

How Much are You Willing to Spend on Personal Training?

fitness-evolution-0241Decide on how much you are willing to spend. Trainers can cost anywhere from $20 to $200 per hour, depending on their professional background, location, clientele and services.

When selecting your trainer, make sure you know what you’re paying for and how you expect to pay. Prices for personal fitness training vary greatly based on trainer qualification and experience and where you live. As with most things, you generally get what you pay for, but there’s no guarantee that the most expensive trainer will be the best suited for you and your goals.

Some trainers are also grossly over priced for the quality of service that they render. For instance, I took a client who was working with a trainer who claimed to be a master trainer, charging her $80 per session. The client would do her own work outs in between the sessions that she did with the trainer, and the trainer wouldn’t even inquire about what she did in these work-outs much less journal anything to be able to track progress or make any assessment as to the effect of her training. This trainer may be a master marketer, but he certainly isn’t the master trainer he claimed to be. I digress. Following the guidelines I laid out in this page will help you to be assured of quality service from your trainer.

As you attempt to get referrals from the people you know, ask what they paid for their trainer, and how they feel about the value of service they received. You could also call fitness clubs and studios near you to determine the average rate in your area. If the trainer is meeting you at your home, expect to pay slightly more than average.

fitness-evolution-016-11Get specifics on fees and how your payment will be made. Some trainers offer packages and discounted rates for a given number of pre-paid sessions. Others charge on a per session basis. Some do both. Some accept only cash. Others accept checks and credit cards. Most fitness trainers have some sort of cancellation policy. Agree on all financial obligations before the first session to avoid buyer’s remorse. Also, insist on a written a billing contract.

A trainer may respond to a question about fees with statements like “How much can you afford?” or “How much are you looking to spend?” This may be someone who has their wallet, not your fitness goals,in mind. However, some of the more resourceful trainers offer alternatives to personal training or a hybrid of traditional personal training and other programs that may be more economically practical than the typical personal training program. Some people just flat out can’t afford to work with a trainer for more than a couple times per month, so asking these questions could be necessary in determining the type of program that best suits the client.

When are You Available to Do a Workout?

Determine your availability. How much time do you have available to work out, with and without a trainer? Where can you fit it into your schedule? How many times a week are you willing to meet with a trainer? The cost factor is often the controller of this.

When is the Personal Trainer Available to Train?

What is the trainers availability, or lack there of, to train at a time that works for you on a regular basis. What hours does the trainer have available, and what flexibility will there be in scheduling your workouts? Does the trainer work with clients who have flexible hours or are they fixed? How will it effect you? If the trainer wants to plan to meet with you three times per week, will it be practical for both of you to work it into the schedule?

Do You want a Male or Female Personal Trainer?

Would you be more comfortable with a male or female trainer? Does it really matter to you?

After doing your homework of assessing some things about yourself before looking for a trainer, you will then be prepared to start looking for a trainer.

Where Do You Find a Personal Trainer?

Word of Mouth Referral:
Start within your own network. You may be surprised at all the people who are known by the people you know. Who do you know that works out with a trainer now or in the past? What was this persons experience like?

Once you’ve exhausted the possibilities for referrals from friends, family, and co-workers, you can venture out to find a personal trainer by several other means.

Local Gym and other Business Referrals:
One place to look is your local gym. Most gyms have personal trainers on staff and offer packages for personal training. You can also look in online directories, such as Craig’s List, your yellow pages, or search for personal training studios in your area to find a trainer. Using search engines like google is a very efficient way to find personal trainers and the most popular way to find just about anything on the inernet.

What about Professional Certification for Personal Trainers?

Once you find a few trainers to consider hiring, you then need to know what to look for in your trainer. The most important thing to look for is a current NCCA-accredited certification, such as NASM, ACE, ACSM, or NSCA. A fitness industry initiative launched in 2003 called for organizations offering personal trainer certifications to seek NCCA-accreditation of their certification exams in order to raise the standard of personal training and better serve and protect consumers. For a complete list of the NCCA-accredited certification agencies, visit and click on the NCCA link.

An exercise science or other related college degree isn’t necessary, but the more education your trainer has, the better your workouts will be. Much of a good trainer’s education can come from being on the job, relative experience, and their own reasearch, so ask about the trainer’s background.

Your trainer should have an updated certification in CPR and/or first aid. YOu need to be confident that the person who is perhaps going to hold very heavy objects over your head and make you raise your heart rate to high levels knows what to do in case of an emergency.

You should also make sure that the trainer you select is has current personal training liability insurance so that you are protected in case of bodily injury.

How do You Evaluate Experience in a Personal Trainer?

Much of what a good personal trainer knows that is applicable in training comes from experience. So, make sure that the trainer you hire has several years of experience. Be sure to ask about experience in relation to your goals. For instance, if you want extreme fat loss, you need someone who is knowledgeable in that area. This goes for specific medical problems, injuries, and chronic conditions too. Also, make sure the trainer is willing to work with other professionals who may be helping you with your challenges, such as your doctor or physical therapist.

Should You get References?

Once you’ve determined that your prospective personal trainer has good credentials, you should then look into the trainer’s credibility.

img_1467If your prospective trainer was not referred to you by someone you know, you should get references. This is the best way to get honest information. A prospective trainer should be readily willing to give you names and contact information of at least two clients whom you can contact. Ask the references if they achieved their goals, how the trainer helped them to do so, what they liked best about the trainer, how they got along with the trainer, and what the trainer’s personality is like. Wrap up the interview with the reference by asking if they would hire this person again. The answer will tell you way more than anything else you could ask.

What Will You Get from the Personal Trainer that you Hire?

A credible trainer should be able to explain their philosophy of fitness training. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated or in depth, just a description of how they help clients reach their goals. How do they train clients? Do they do assessments? Do they journal? Find out as much as you can about how they work with clients to achieve goals.

What you are looking for here is a reflection of the trainer’s credibility. If the trainer says something like “My goal is to make you puke,” (recently someone relayed this one to me) thank them for their time and move on. Be an intelligent consumer. Ask for clarification and specifics if you don’t understand something. Your health and well being are in this person’s hands.

Get an idea of the specific plan that the trainer will design for you to reach your goals. The trainer will likely have it all mapped out in rough outline as he/she takes notes on paper or just in mind by the end of your first consultation. The workout program that your trainer designs should be indicative of your trainer’s correct understanding of your goals, needs, and limitations. Have the trainer give you some feedback on this. Make sure that the trainer has a plan for tracking progress. You won’t know how far you’re getting if you don’t know where you are and where you were. How you progress is key and subject to change, depending on how you and your body respond to the program.

Does the Personal Trainer Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk?

fitness-evolution-0221It should be obvious by now that you don’t choose a trainer based solely on their physical appearance. Someone who has the kind of body that you dream about may actually not have a clue about how to safely teach you how to achieve your own goals. Some achieve their own results through means such as exercise obsession, eating disorders, and/or drugs.

Trainers don’t need to look like they just stepped off the stage of a fitness or body building competition, but it’s important that they practice what they preach. I like to say, “I am my own billboard.” After all, how easy would it really be to take orders from and respect a fat trainer? This goes back to credibility, which pretty much goes out the window here.

Finally, Rely on Your Intuition.

Once your prospective trainer’s education, experience, and credibility all check out, you’ll then need to determine whether this trainer is a good fit for you. Many people are extemely nervous upon first getting together with a trainer as they often have no idea what to expect and they feel completely uncomfortable, out of their element, and more vulnerable than usual. An experienced trainer is skilled at putting these people at ease, aspecially if the trainer has a personality that meshes well with the prospective client’s personality. You really have to be able to trust this person and really feel that they have your best interest at heart. This is where some instinct and trusting your gut comes into play. By the end of your initial consultation/interview, you should have a good feel about whether you’ll be able to work well together.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to Call on Me for an Answer:

Go through the process that is detailed here and you’ll be much better assured of having a very positive training experience. If you have questions, feel free to contact me. You can also learn about me and my personal training services.

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How to Select a Personal Trainer — 1 Comment

  1. Mark, great article. I know that choosing a personal trainer is a sticky subject for both the trainer and the client because they are unsure of what they will be getting for their money. Look forward to more articles you write.

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