Every day on Facebook someone asks for personal trainer recommendations. The replies are predictable…”Suzy at Flex Fitness is da bomb!” Or, “Jim at Sizzling Body Boot Camp will seriously kick your butt!”
Once in a while, one of my clients will chime in and recommend me, which is nice. I have been a trainer for 22 years, and in my past life I managed and certified thousands of trainers. Some wonderful, some not. I know what to look for, and I hope you find this information helpful.
Number 1–Judging a book by its cover.
It seems obvious that you’d want to hire the best looking, fittest trainer around, but this is often a mistake. And before you think I’m jealous that I wasn’t born handsome, bear with me. The problem with hiring these beauties is that it is possible that they didn’t do much hard work to get the look they have.
Genetics matter, and the fact is, many seemingly fit people look great because they were born that way–not because they trained correctly and paid attention to their food.
Since they did not attain their svelte figures through hard work and attention to diet, they may not have the understanding of what that takes for the normal person to improve their body. If they haven’t gone through the process, can they take you there?
Number 2– Lending too much credence to Certifications
I always catch hell for this, but it’s true. Certifications are just a tiny part of a trainer’s expertise (or should be).
First, I have had several personal training certifications, and I got my first one back in 1998. Damn. Some of the info I learned was indeed valuable, especially as a neophyte. But, the certification agencies are in the business of passing as many participants as they can–not necessarily preparing trainers to be competent.
It seems obvious that the certification agencies must have a solid science based curriculum, right? But this is rarely the case. They usually focus on the wrong things and some of their exercise instruction is atrocious (see NASM’s pathetic attempt to teach the Squat. Ouch.)
Yes, you want your trainer to have a certification, but it doesn’t count nearly as much as experience in coaching.
My advice? Ask about their background. Who are their favorite fitness authors? Who have they been coached by? Have they written any articles you can see to get a feel for their expertise?
Are they still learning, or are they a know-it-all? Hire the trainer that has a firm grasp on solid training principles, but is forever a student too.
Number 3- Hiring a Trainer as if they were an Uber driver.
Not because it offends me, it doesn’t, but I have this thing about trainers that train as a side hustle because it cheapens the experience for the client. People want to argue with me about this–but hiring a part time trainer is a bad idea. Their real job will take precedence over you, and since they aren’t immersed fully in their trade, you could do better.
This is your one and only body, your health, and your future. You could hire a pet sitter that side hustles and feel good about it. But you don’t hire a surgeon that side hustles, nor an attorney.
Why not hire someone that has dedicated their full career to training? Since they see more bodies than a part timer they have more experience to fix your problems and find solutions to your body problems. Get the full time trainer.
Mistake number 4- Hiring on price.
Good coaches are expensive. I get coached myself twice a year and I pay $150 per hour for this coaching. (By the way, here’s another tip–ask the trainer if they occasionally get trained by other coaches–the best coaches always do.)
A good trainer is an important part of your health–or should be. A trainer should add value to your life. This means that after you meet them, your life should improve in measurable ways. What
you pay and what a trainer charges is your business, but I will give you this advice if cost is a concern:
Pay more per session and get fewer sessions.
This is a better situation for both client and trainer. The trainer gets to demonstrate their expertise, and the relationship thrives or dies. I have all new clients do 5 sessions to start. There is nothing wrong with hiring a trainer for a block of 5 or 10 sessions and then transitioning onto your own workouts. I actually encourage this. I don’t want you locked into me, anyway. Having said that, I do have many clients that train with me 3 to 4 times a week and will until one of us dies.
What should you pay? Expect to pay around $100 per hour, give or take. I do 40 minute sessions because I have found that to be optimal. Make sure you know what the session length is, but don’t obsess over it. The outcome is what you lay for, not necessarily the time.
Mistake number 5- Not knowing the Trainer’s plan.
This is by far the most important aspect of hiring a trainer. What are you going to do? In other words what is the cornerstone or foundation of the program?
Many choices are available. Cardio? Boot Camp? Running? Ropes? Bosu Ball? Be careful here.
If the trainer’s foundation is anything other than strength training-pass.
Strength is the most important thing in life. It’s basically all you’ve got to fend off death. The bottom line is this–if your trainer isn’t having you lift heavy stuff every session you’re being shortchanged. I know that sounds incorrect and perhaps exaggerated, but it is not. Hire a trainer that puts strength first. Not cardio. Not balance and not a bunch of fluff.
Good luck in your search for a great trainer. And please reach out if I can be of help to refer a trainer to you. Get strong, eat well, and be kind.
Your Trainer Danny