Being in the health and fitness industry for over 24 years now has given me exposure to some awesome group fitness instructors and personal trainers. I have trained in smaller fitness clubs, big box gyms, and now at our personal training studio in Downtown Boise, Body Basics. Personal trainers range in style, specialties, personalities, and qualifications. Finding the right one for you can be time consuming, but well worth the hunt! Make sure to “interview” the studio or your potential trainers before signing up with them.
When looking for a personal trainer, you first want to define your own personal goals. These goals will help determine what type of trainer you prefer or need. Then, from there, you will want to make sure your trainer has the “non-negotiable characteristics” (listed at the end of this blog) as well.
First, ask yourself the question below, pick your best answer, and then find your match to the type of personal trainer you might need: What are my main goals for seeking out a personal trainer? Is it…?
Conventional weight loss and/or getting stronger
If this is your main concern/goal and you have few limitations, then you are in a great place! Choosing a trainer for you should be pretty easy. A traditional personal trainer will do. A traditional personal trainer refers to those that have either a Personal Training Certification and/or a degree in Kinesiology. They can be found in most box gyms, personal training studios, and even online. They may not have many specialties or extra certifications, but that is okay! They should be trained in helping you lose weight and get stronger. Just find a gym or studio with great reviews and a culture you enjoy, and you should be good to go!
Needing consistency and accountability with staying active
Having a set appointment with someone at a specific time each week is a great way to stay in shape and to meet your goals. If you don’t have many limitations, then you will have an easy time finding a personal trainer. A traditional personal trainer should do just fine meeting your goals. Just make sure to read the reviews of your studio or gym of choice to find a reputable one! Also make sure to find a trainer you enjoy being around. It will be hard to have someone keep you accountable if you find them annoying or a nuisance.
Exercising in a safe and effective way due to prior injury or surgery
After seeing and working with a Physical Therapist, I’d personally recommend a trainer or studio with one or any of the following certifications: Functional Movement Specialist (FMS), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), Athletic Trainer (ATC), Exercise Therapy Specialist (ETS), or Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES). If you’re not sure if the personal trainer you are interviewing has experience in any of these realms, just ask. Ask what their experience and process is when programming corrective exercises. Ask if they do an assessment prior to developing your program. If they seem confused, look elsewhere! Corrective exercises are merely strategic exercises to help improve movement pattern quality, which is very necessary for anyone struggling with range of motion due to a prior injury or surgery.
Improving your sport
If you are a college or professional athlete, I’d definitely recommend a personal trainer certified as an Athletic Trainer (ATC), Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), or a trainer with some type of Performance Enhancement Certification.
If you are a teen trying to get better at your high school sport or an adult trying to improve your hobby sport, then finding a trainer who will help with injury prevention, mobility, and speed/agility is important. Trainers with the following certifications should be able to help: Functional Movement Specialist (FMS), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), Athletic Trainer (ATC), Performance Enhancement Certification, or Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES). Sometimes a trainer may not have any of these certifications, but they may have the experience needed to serve you well. Having a conversation with them about your sport and your goals will give you a good idea if they will be able to give you the support and training you need.
Entering a fitness competition
If you are wanting to compete in some sort of figure or body building competition, finding a trainer who specializes in contest prep is super important! There are so many tips and tricks to competing, so a bodybuilding specialist or someone very knowledgeable in this arena is necessary. Most trainers that help with competitions will advertise themselves as such. Before hiring them, ask if they’ve personally competed. Having someone with experience is very valuable. They know what it takes! I’d also ask to see photos of their past clients to help with your decision.
Trying to combat all the complications that come with aging—osteopenia/porosis, arthritis, stiffness, high blood pressure, etc.
If you fall into this category, make sure to find a personal trainer who has experience with your same demographics. Also see if the trainer has some type of Senior Fitness Certification, Silver Sneakers Certification, or Functional Movement Certification. Those are a great bonus! A trainer with a degree in kinesiology and/or a personal trainer’s certification is trained on how to provide workouts safely and effectively for seniors, so the certifications listed above aren’t imperative. But as always, before starting any sort of new exercise program or with a new trainer, check with your medical professional first to get their recommendations!
Continuing to workout safely while pregnant or wanting to get back in shape after pregnancy
Before starting any exercise program by yourself or with a personal trainer, I would absolutely recommend finding out what you are NOT supposed to do. Ask your doctor and get his/her approval beforehand. Everyone’s body is different, and everyone’s pregnancy situation is different; therefore, getting approval and advice from a medical professional is very important. If your doctor approves of you working out, ask them specifically what they would avoid. If they are not sure, then do your own research online of what to avoid, so that you can have that in the back of your mind while meeting with the trainer you are interviewing.
A trainer with a degree in kinesiology and/or a personal trainer’s certification is trained how to provide workouts safely and effectively for pregnant and post-partum women, but it can be forgotten very quickly! There are certifications that specialize in Women’s Fitness or Pregnancy Fitness, but finding someone with those will be challenging. Plus, it might not be necessary. If you find a trainer you are comfortable with that reassures you of their coaching skills during this season in your life, and he/she is experienced in this area or is surrounded by a knowledgeable and experienced team, then that might be a good match. Also, see if the exercises they suggest you avoid match up with your research.
Significant weight loss
They say the hardest step towards success is always that first step. If you’ve been struggling for a while now with a lot of extra weight, have felt hopeless, and are seeking help, I commend you! That is NOT easy to do. Finding a personal trainer who will be dependable, non-judgmental, and keep you accountable is a must. Surprisingly out of those three, dependability can be the trickiest one, so make sure to read the reviews of the studio or gym you are considering, making sure they have reputable trainers. If you are someone who also has aches and pains due to your weight, you will want to make sure that you find a personal trainer who has experience with training people with your same restrictions. All trainers who have a personal trainer’s certification have been trained in this area, but they may not have equal talent or experience. The main thing though is that you find someone you can be open and honest with because if there is hesitation on whether you can have open communication, then the relationship may not last as long as you hope it will. Take your time and find a trainer you can open up to and be real with.
Also, in addition to a personal trainer, you will need a health coach or dietitian to help you in the kitchen! Weight loss not only comes from moving more but also from changing your food habits, so I definitely recommend that dynamic duo for you—a personal trainer and health coach/dietitian!
Once you have determined your goals and found the type of trainer that matches up to those, now consider my “non-negotiables” for a personal trainer. When we hire personal trainers, we make sure that they all exemplify these characteristics:
- Care and positivity. Personal trainers should truly care about the person they are training by getting to know them and how to help them more and more. Trainers also should acknowledge the little wins and small progressions (for instance, congratulating a few pounds lost, lifting slightly heavier weight, or demonstrating correct form). Every little step in the right direction is a good one!
- Role model. A trainer needs to be inspiring for the client. They should walk the walk, not just talk the talk. This doesn’t mean they need to be a body builder but seeing them strive for health and wellness while working out on a regular basis is very important. Trainers who know their own bodies and how to shape their bodies tend to have more experience and knowledge.
- Confidence, a great listener, and flexible. It’s important a personal trainer is confident in the exercises they give. There should always be a purpose to the programs they create. At the same time though, they should be great listeners. If an exercise is bothersome to the client, the trainer should listen and adjust as needed. It’s important that a trainer is able to modify exercises on the spot and offer other options.
- Dependability. A personal trainer should be there when they say they will be. Yes, things come up sometimes, but that should be the rare occasion.
Hopefully, this will be of help to you in your search for a personal trainer. If you have any more questions or need specific direction, I’d be happy to help! Shoot me or James an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Health and blessings,