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How to Find a Good Personal Trainer

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If you need extra motivation to work out or want specialist guidance in your quest to lose weight or get fit, you may have considered hiring or actually have gone ahead and hired a personal trainer. A personal trainer can make the whole process of getting and staying fit considerably easier but only if you work with your PT in such a way that you get the most out of the arrangement.

The first important step is to hire a good personal trainer. Here’s what to look for:

1. Personality

Personality plays a part in choosing a personal trainer. You are going to spend an hour or so at a time with this person so it’s important you feel comfortable and happy with them.

Some trainers are deliberately in your face and use a “tough love” approach to motivating their clients whereas others use the carrot and not the stick approach to motivation. Choose the trainer who uses the type of motivational strategies you find most effective.

2. Qualifications

It’s important that your trainer holds the relevant certification to show that they know how to exercise you safely and effectively. If they are certified, they should also be insured so you are protected in the case of any mishaps.

Uncertified personal trainers could do you more harm than good so make sure your trainer holds at least a basic recognized qualification in personal training.

Personal trainers come in all shapes and sizes and with different levels of qualification. You’ll find ex-Olympians and recently qualified fitness converts working as personal trainers and each offers benefits and drawbacks.

While the ex-Olympian will undoubtedly know all about training hard and be familiar with more advanced training methods, they may have trouble relating to you if you are new to exercise. Whereas, a relative newbie and recent exercise convert is more likely to be able to empathize with a beginner or less fit client.

3. Personal Characteristics

A good personal trainer should be:

  • Punctual
  • Polite
  • Enthusiastic
  • Aware of their and your limitations
  • Constantly trying to learn and therefore teach you new things
  • Honest and trustworthy
  • Professional

4. A Good Listener

Make sure your personal trainer actually listens to the things you say and acts upon them. If you tell them you have a specific exercise dislike, aren’t feeling your best or ask a question to clarify the performance of a tricky exercise, you should get a response.

Remember, you are the boss and you can hire or fire your trainer as you see fit so don’t be afraid to move onto a new trainer if you don’t feel you are getting the service you deserve and are paying for. 

Personal Training: Who Does What?

To enjoy a successful partnership and to get the most from having a personal trainer, it can’t be a one-way street.

What a Personal Trainer Should Do

  • Perform a medical screening to check for illnesses or injuries that may affect your ability to exercise
  • Take an exercise history including likes and dislikes and discuss your current exercise goals
  • Discuss your lifestyle including diet, smoking habits, alcohol intake, sleep patterns, stress levels and time available for exercise
  • Set you goals to help keep you motivated
  • Write your workouts specifically for you and based on your likes, dislikes, exercise history, fitness goals and current level of fitness
  • Periodically change the workout to keep things fresh and interesting
  • Review your progress and goals periodically to ensure you are benefiting getting from your time in the gym

What You Should to Do

It’s not all one way traffic though – if you want to get the most from your personal trainer you also need to put some effort into the relationship.

You’ll probably spend between one and three hours per week with your personal trainer and you can get a lot of good work done in that time – especially if you are following a well-designed and progressive program that address your goals. But, what about the other 165 hours of the week?

The time you spend with your trainer is very important but the time you spend away from them is arguably more so because the things you do outside of the gym can make or break your progress. Your lifestyle must support your training efforts and your PT can only advise you on this – you have to do the work.

To get the most out of your personal training, you need to consider:

Diet. That means a calorie deficit for weight loss and a calorie surplus for muscle gain. You cannot out train a bad diet and all the exercise in the world will be less productive than it should be, unless you feed your body properly.

Sleep. Your body recovers from exercise while you are sleeping. If you don’t get enough sleep, your recover will be less than optimal and that can interfere with your progress.

Homework. If your trainer says you need to walk more, do more stretching, break out the foam roller, do some extra core work or whatever in your own time, don’t skip it. The time spent with your personal trainer is a good place to start, but being more active in general will improve your fitness journey.

Honesty. If you’ve forgotten to do your homework, or have otherwise slipped off the bandwagon, make sure you tell your trainer. They won’t judge you, but they will try to re-motivate you and may make adjustments to your workout based on the new information. If you don’t disclose everything, the PT may incorrectly think their program is ineffective when, in fact, other factors are in play.

Speak Up. If an exercise bothers you, bores you or you simply do not like it, let your trainer know. That way, they can change your program and give you more enjoyable exercises. Don’t suffer in silence or switch to another trainer without giving them the chance to fix the problem themselves. If they don’t respond, then absolutely vote with your feet.

Ask. Not sure what the purpose of a particular exercise is or why you are doing something a certain way? Ask your trainer why. They should be able to answer and explain their reasoning. However, if they don’t know then you may want to call them on it, as they may be doing things for which they are not qualified. A good trainer should always be able to tell you why you are doing a certain exercise.


Your relationship with your personal trainer should be professionally symbiotic in that you need them as much as they need you. Your PT should do a whole lot more than lead you randomly around the gym and count your reps for you.

You personal trainer should plan, coach, correct, encourage, educate and teach you about exercise and healthy living. If your personal trainer isn’t doing these things then consider getting a new one – remember; you are the boss!

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