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How to Pick the Right Personal Trainer For You

How to Pick the Right Personal Trainer For You

Written by
July 22, 2015
Updated April 11, 2018
Category: Fitness

So you decided to spend the money and hire a trainer to help you hit your fitness goals. Are you wondering if you made a mistake now? Well let’s look at how you chose your trainer.

Did you choose the trainer with the best physique? Did you watch the trainers at the gym to look for one you might get along with the best, or did you let the manager pick one out for you? Or maybe a friend of yours told you to go with their trainer.

The Internet has made us more informed as consumers than we ever have been before. We live in an age of information and anything we want to learn is at the tip of our fingers and I mean that literally because most of us have smartphones with data plans.

Unfortunately, the same is true for trainers. They can easily pick up tips and information that makes them think they’re experts even though they may not be. So how do you tell the difference between a good trainer and a bad one?

When assessing a trainer most people associate the quality based on how sweaty they get or how sore they become on the days following their workout. But is that really a good determining factor when choosing someone to spend thousands of dollars with?

Is it all about motivation and accountability or is it about the information they can share and the results you see – whether it’s a major body transformation or a boost in your psyche?

It could be all of those things for you. But when you’re finding a good personal trainer, there are three major things you absolutely need to look for and three things you need to avoid.

3 Things to Look For in a Trainer

How to Pick the Right Personal Trainer For You

1. ) A Trainer That Listens

There’s a fine line between making accommodations and a trainer that’s making sure you’re not getting in your own way. There is a reason you hire a trainer. You hire one because you’re not able to do it on your own.

If you knew best, you’d be able to do it on your own. If it was so easy anyone could do it, everyone would have the body they wanted while eating donuts and burritos.

However, your trainer shouldn’t be a drill instructor that pushes you WAY past your limits. Don’t get me wrong. I want you to be challenged, but not to the point where you develop rhabdomyolysis (a condition where you over-exhaust your muscles and the damage from that can literally kill you).

When I say a good trainer listens, I mean they have an understanding of what you need even if you don’t know how to express it. A good trainer will be able to morph your thoughts. For example, if you want to come in and do circuit training with machines, your trainer will focus on assisted bodyweight drills to improve your motor patterns, so you get a lot more out your workout.

2.) A Trainer That Makes You Earn It

I come from a barbell and kettlebell background but that doesn’t mean every client I train is going to throw 45lb plates on the bar and start squatting. I am a form-Nazi as they might call it. If you can’t squat properly with just your body weight ,you have not earned the right to squat under load. This goes for any movement.

I am not going to pitch you on any specific screening tool but I do think it is important to have one. Now this doesn’t mean your trainer should test your one rep max on every exercise, nor you should have to sprint a mile to see how fast you can run.

Your trainer should start by asking questions about your past to gain an understanding of what type of lifestyle you live, what kind of goals you are trying to reach and what sort of expectations you have for yourself.

3.) A Trainer That’s Been There

Has the trainer been through a fitness journey? I am not saying that you can’t be a good trainer if you have always been blessed by being lean and muscular, but what I am saying is it means a lot when the trainer has been through their own fitness journey. Losing weight or gaining weight is hard enough already.

You already feel like you are alone in your journey and it’s always an uphill battle. When confiding in someone one of your deepest insecurities wouldn’t you like to share that journey with someone who has been there? I am not saying a good trainer has to go through a massive transformation or that just because they did go through a transformation they are ready to train clients.

What I am expressing is that the trainer should have experience in going through multiple phases of fitness – losing weight, gaining weight, training for an event or sport or trying something new. Getting out of our comfort zone is where we learn the most about ourselves.

3 Trainers to Avoid

3 Trainers to Avoid

1.) Gullible Trainers

A trainer should not be influenced by every article or book they read. They should have a strong constitution for what they believe, and support their beliefs with evidence, or change their views when better evidence comes to light. They should not change their style every week.

Those types of trainers are definitely insecure and are just trying to train whatever is hot and popular. To be a well rounded trainer I think it’s important to research both the views that line up with your mantra and the counter views, if you are all for Paleo then you should also learn about being Vegan.

With that being said, its also ok to evolve, grow and learn, I fully expect your views to grow but growing and evolving is different from the trainer who in the same two weeks is pushing or implementing multiple systems because they saw a new system on line.

2.) Salespeople

Avoid trainers who are always trying to sell you some new supplement – emphasis on always and new. Or a trainer that’s always offering the NEXT hot supplement. There’s no quick fix.

There’s not a special solution that will Photoshop your body. There’s hard work, dedication, time, nutrition, and smart supplementation. Your focus should be on nutrition first and everything else afterwards.

Supplement means “in addition to” not “in replacement of.” There’s a time and a place for most supplements. But at the end of the day, you can’t take a supplement to counteract shitty eating.

As much as you hate being or think you’re being judged because your body doesn’t look a certain way do not disrespect someone else because you think they were just blessed with a certain body or they are just naturally good without hard work.

Even Lebron James, Russell Wilson and Mike Trout have to put in the hours to be great at their craft. There are no shortcuts. Trainers should have their own systems. They shouldn’t be force-feeding you what they think the latest and greatest supplement or workout tool is.

3.) The Genie

A trainer who promises a quick fix or presents unrealistic results. This trainer will come across extremely arrogant and asses your goals in two seconds and says they have the perfect solution and promises things like 20lbs of weight loss in a week.

Obviously I am painting extremes, but hopefully you understand the concept. It’s one thing for a professional fighter to drop significant weight in a short amount of time to make a specific weight class but this is also a trained professional and is not a sustainable goal for the general population.

When looking at bringing a new trainer on here at DeFranco’s Gym at the Onnit Academy the Chief Fitness Officer looks for adaptability, personality and a life philosophy developed on servitude. Your search for a trainer should depend on these same ideals.

Go with a trainer who does more than kick your butt. Go with someone who listens to you and knows how to get the most out of your time and push you. Believe it or not, this person will develop into one of your closest friends. Your trainer will know about your job, family and personal goals more than anyone else in your life.

If you are experiencing warning signs that you can’t trust this person, get out now. You are putting your life in your trainer’s hands and you should want to be comfortable around this person even though you’re constantly being pushed to be uncomfortable.

Sam Pogue is the Onnit Academy Communications Manager. After graduating from the University of Portland in 2008, Sam found himself taking a job at large box gym in sales before later moving into Personal Training. Prior to arriving in Austin, Sam was a personal trainer out of Industrial Strength Gym in Portland, Oregon where he also competed in a number of Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting and Strong Man events.
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