In my last Huffington Post blog I talked about how to find a personal trainer and the key attributes to look for. As a man who loves a story I'm going to take this a step further - once you've chosen a personal trainer how do you know they're any good? Perhaps more than most professions, the standard of PTs varies wildly. So what should your PT be doing with you?
First and foremost, before you train they should ask you to fill in a PAR-Q form, or an equivalent. A PAR-Q form will ask you information about your general health, previous injuries and lifestyle questions such as whether you smoke and the average amount of sleep you get a night. It's absolutely vital that your PT gets you to fill in something like this. Just having a verbal chat really isn't enough. This is the person that is going to be getting your body to do things it wouldn't normally do, to get you out of your comfort zone. They can't do this effectively - or safely - unless they know about your background.
An annoyance of mine is people not being on time. Multiply this feeling several times and you get close to how seething I was when a PT turned up five minutes late to our session. One side of the argument is that it's only five minutes and you can make it up at the end, but this argument isn't worth the (virtual) ink I've just used to type it. As a customer, you are paying good money for a service. That service starts at a certain time, not five or seven minutes after that. It's unprofessional. I would tell my PT I was severely unimpressed and then let it go. If it happened again then I would let them go.
Personal training needs to be exactly that; personal. Each session should be structured and tailored to your individual goals and needs and subtly different - if you find that you are doing the same session week in and week out, then alarms bells should be ringing. Something that I found useful was to go to the gym 15 minutes ahead of my session to warm up and observe PTs with their clients - there was a PT who always seemed to be getting his clients to do the same workout, no matter who he was with. He got them to do circuit of press-ups, dumbbell curls, dips, sit ups and burpees while he stood there, looking fairly bored, and counting out reps. There was nothing personal about his sessions.
A PT should be pushing you to try new things. I'm not talking about that Cantonese restaurant down the road that everyone has been raving about, but they should encourage you to do workouts and exercises you wouldn't do by yourself. One of the roles of a PT is to provide motivation for, first and foremost, getting down the gym, and for squeezing out those reps. But if you are paying good money I think you need more than that. If you've never been on a Smith machine, or done boxing pad work or been too intimidated to go into the weights room with those walking sacks of testosterone who have been known to dominate this area, then now is the time.
Your PT should also contact you outside the gym. If you train with a PT twice a week this is just two hours out of 168 hours in a week, and for body composition diet is more important than exercise. A good PT will therefore stay in touch, they will contact their client to see how they are feeling after a hard session or email over a food recipe that had been mentioned last time in the gym.
Just as a good PT should be monitoring your progress, so you should be monitoring their performance. Just because you have been with someone for five or ten sessions doesn't mean that you have to stay with them. There are lots of PTs out there - if you feel that you aren't getting value for money or what you need from your sessions and you tell them and nothing changes then get a new PT. This can be difficult, but it's worth it; it's your money and, more importantly, your health that is at stake.