At a time when people cite lack of time and lack of results as the top two reasons for not exercising regularly, I think the right personal trainer can be worth their weight in gold. It is understandable that many of us would rather outsource the research and thinking to somebody who is more passionate, and more knowledgeable than we are, saving us time, and, if we have picked the right person, ensuring that we see results. It is true that it the outcome is not always as straight forward as this, but the statistics do clearly show that people who hire personal trainers do exercise more regularly and get more from their time doing so.
In truth, personal training can be a bit hit or miss. The industry needs more thorough regulation, and, in my opinion, it needs to demand more of those who work within it, in terms of continued professional development, in order to bring the overall standard up to point where we can genuinely class ourselves as a professional service. As with any largely unregulated and relatively young industry there is a wide-ranging standard of service. That being said, there are some seriously knowledgeable and passionate people working within the industry who are helping people do life-changing things.
So how do we find and pick the right personal trainer for us? Here are a few things to consider before committing:
1. Are they suitable qualified?
This might seem like an obvious one, but you need to make sure that your trainer has the right credentials. Check that they have an interest in, and have completed courses and seminars around, your specific areas and requirements. Of course, a list of courses completed and a degree in exercise science do not guarantee a good trainer, but it does show a commitment to professional development, which more likely than not, will be reflected in the level of knowledge and service that you receive.
2. Do they have a proven history of results?
You do not have to search far these days to find hundreds of 'leading personal trainers' and 'industry leading experts', which can be misleading. As with any industry, there are in fact very few of these, and you need to do your homework to ensure that you get what you expect. Check their website for client testimonials, both in written and audio form, and perhaps even ask to talk to some of their existing clients. It might seem like an arduous vetting process, but a little due diligence will be well worth it in the end.
3. Does their audio match their visual?
Whilst a six-pack is not a pre-requisite to being able to help others achieve their fitness goals, it is important that trainers walk their talk. That said, too much style and not enough substance does not work either. We are looking for a balance of the two, that is for someone who looks the part - whatever that means to you and your goals - but who also has enough knowledge and know how to help you get to where you want to be.
4. Are they the right person for you?
Successful personal training is a partnership, and finding someone with the right personality is crucial. Some trainers adopt the 'stick' approach, whilst others take the 'carrot' approach for example, and we will all respond differently to either depending on our personality type. I for one would not respond well to the stick approach and I would much rather somebody coached me through things, rather than simply bark at me for an hour. Finding someone who communicates on your level is important. On the flip side, be careful not to pick somebody because they are exactly like you, as they may not be the person to bring the best out of you in the long term.
5. Do they work at the level you want to work at?
If you are just starting out and have non-specific goals relating to general fitness and weight loss, you do not need the best, most specialized coach in the business, it is not worth the money, and it will almost certainly not be a good fit. You need a general trainer, someone who is credible to you and will motivate and inspire you to get, and keep, going. Overtime, your requirements may change, which may mean a change in direction, but you do not need the skill or price tag of a racing car mechanic to tune up a regular engine.
6. Are they working for you or with you?
The end goal of a good personal trainer or coach is redundancy. The hand holding culture that is all too common is personal training does not work long term, and we need to avoid creating a relationship of dependency. The goal should be to make us all self-sufficient, so that we can function independently, without someone showing us want to. Sure, we might want to keep semi-regular sessions to update our programme and check form, but we have probably missed a trick if we still feel we need to do several sessions each week after an initial period of more regular sessions.
7. Do they cover nutrition?
Most personal trainers are not certified nutritionists, but they should be able to offer some basic nutritional advice. Nutrition for most of us is less about a knowledge gap and more about an implementation gap, in that we know what to do, we just do not always put in to practice. Most of us simply need some basic guidelines and a degree of accountability, which is something that trainers should be offering to compliment their training. Some trainers will be able to get more specific and take you further, whilst others will need to, and should, then refer you out.
8. Do they fit your budget?
Personal trainers will typically charge anywhere between £25 and £150+ per session, depending on location, experience and how busy they are. Those who charge less tend to be more focused on providing challenging and fun workouts, whilst those who are commanding fees at the top end, tend to be coaches rather than trainers, in that it is often more bespoke. Be sure however not to rely on price as a marker of experience and knowledge, slick websites and marketing activity can make it misleading, so be sure to do you homework before making your decision.
These are a few of the many considerations, but are some of the main questions that I feel we should be asking before we commit to personal training. It is worth remembering though, that hiring a personal trainer is not a magic bullet that will transform us overnight. All of us would benefit from a good coach, but nobody can 'do' anything, or get results, for us - it is down to us to assume personal responsibility.
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