When I first became a personal trainer I had a “job”, I was a personal trainer. It was easy to become one, I always loved to exercise and, yes, I thought it was cool. It wasn’t until I wanted to make it a career that I got serious about who I was going to be as a personal trainer. Did I want to take the easy road and be like all the other trainers around me? Nope! So I started reading a lot of books (I mean a LOT of books) written by all the top experts in the field. I started being more selective on what seminars and conferences I attended to keep my certificates active (not just which ones were cheapest or closest). I was choosing seminars, conferences and at home study courses that would make me a better trainer today and in the future. Why did I make this decision? Because, this is my career, and if you want to be great at what you do, you invest a lot of energy into it.
I have been a Personal Trainer for 12 years now and have worked in many types of places. I have worked in college rec-centers, small independently owned gyms, big box fitness centers, higher end athletic clubs, taught trainers and currently am running my own private training studio. Working at all of these places I had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of trainers, some great and some who really did not have a clue as to what they were doing. Want to know what separated the successful ones from the ones that left after three months? Not their certifications. Not their college degrees. It was their knowledge and their desire to keep learning and growing as a trainer in their field. You might be saying “wait a minute, you just said that certifications and degrees don’t matter but that knowledge does matter, so isn’t that the same thing?” My answer to you is “NO”, just because somebody has a Master’s degree in exercise science or carries the top certifications in the industry does not mean they can apply that knowledge to their clients and get them results. Memorizing information for a given period of time is very different than understanding information and then being able to apply it across a wide spectrum of clients on a daily basis.
With all this said, how are you as a client supposed to find and hire a quality personal trainer that is going to get you results AND keep you from getting hurt in the process? The answer is simple -- YOU interview THEM. A lot of trainers think that their clients are there for them but it should be the opposite and the trainer should be there for their clients.
So here are some questions that you can ask a trainer the next time you are in the market to hire one:
#1- The Proof is in the Pudding (or at least in the Testimonial)
A trainer’s longevity and success is mostly based on the results their clients are achieving or not achieving. Ask the trainer to show you some testimonials from current/past clients that have or had similar goals as you. You want to see if the trainer is well versed in injury prevention, weight loss or sports performance, based on what your goal is. When clients see results, they almost never mind writing their trainer a glowing testimonial.
#2- Are We There Yet?
Ask the trainer how he or she tracks and documents your progress and why they use the methods they do. Most trainers use a standard set of assessments or evaluations, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Just remember that you are an individual and probably have your own set of goals. So make sure that all of the assessments that the trainer wants to perform relate to your goals and if it does not make sense, ask the trainer. They should be able to explain exactly why they are performing any assessment. They should be re-evaluating at least every 8 weeks to make sure their programming is achieving the desired goals. It also gives the trainer the opportunity to hold the client accountable as well.
#3- Where do we go From Here?
Trainers should have some idea of what the first three months of training should look like based on a client’s goals, exercise history and the results from all the assessments preformed. So ask the trainer what they think the first three months will look like. Don’t think the trainer is going to produce a detailed three month program for you on the spot, but at least give you an idea of the time frame and structure of the program. By asking this question, you are able to see if the trainer understands that there should be phases to training. They should be able to give you a general outline. It will typically be based on what they have done with other clients and what has seemed to work with them. These hopefully will be the current/past clients that had similar goals as you.
#4- You Are What You Eat, Right?
So you are going to meet with a trainer 2-3 hours a week and bust your you know what? But what do you plan on doing the other 165-166 hours a week? That’s right, the training makes up a pretty small portion of you getting results. NUTRITION makes up a much larger percent of you getting results. Ask the trainer about nutrition and if they do not have the credentials to discuss nutrition, do they refer out? Because nutrition is going to play such a huge role in you achieving your goals, it has to be addressed in the beginning. If the trainer does not have the nutrition background or a good referral, you can always hire a nutritionist as well.
#5- I Don’t Want to Get Hurt Again!
And last, but certainly not least, how does the trainer assess biomechanics (how your body is currently moving and compare that to how your body should be moving). There are many methods and techniques out there, I incorporate the Functional Movement Screen, but every trainer should utilize one. Unfortunately, I feel that a lot of trainers do not have a great working knowledge of how the body’s bones, muscles and joints are really designed to move and aren’t knowledgeable enough to keep you injury free. I think assessing biomechanics is one of the MOST important parts of the assessment process. I think of it as assessing the foundation to make sure the house (YOU) will stay standing with whatever type of training is going to be implemented and we won’t start a workout regime until your foundation is SOLID.
As trainers, we should be building fitness and health on top of a SOLID foundation.
Well there you have it. Of course this is not an all-inclusive list of questions you can and should ask your prospective trainer but it may give you a new perspective. Maybe if the trainer isn’t able to answer these questions then you won’t feel motivated to ask any others.