Hands up if you’ve ever made a fitness resolution to (finally) get in shape. To get stronger, faster, more positive, and have more energy. Yeah, me too. All shiny-faced and full of enthusiasm. But then real life kicks in. At 6 am you wonder what on earth you were thinking last night when you laid out your running shoes. Your partner is sleeping peacefully. And no-one kicks you out of bed into the quiet morning to go jogging.
This is why we hire personal trainers. They’re like a magically never-ending source of willpower we know we don’t possess otherwise. The desire to avoid disappointing someone else, or to avoid the shame of not doing what we said we would, is so powerful it can overcome our natural laziness, even when we’re paying that person for their time and attention.
And a good personal trainer can do much more for you than be a carrot-and-stick in human form. They can guide you to reach your goals safely and in an enjoyable way. They can help you avoid injury, show proper technique, and provide feedback. A good trainer will track your progress and make it visible, as well as provide variety in your workouts to keep it fun.
Conversely, a poor choice of trainer can lead you astray, into wasted time, potential injury, and disappointment.
So let’s look at the top three mistakes people make when choosing a personal trainer, so that you can avoid them.
Mistake 1: Not checking their credentials
The very first criterion that Jamie Walker,* founder of fitness company SweatGuru, tells us is important is credentials:
“No ifs, and or butts, a trainer should be able to show you a fitness certification in their particular area of expertise…. This ensures they’ve met certain standards of professionalism and competence from a trustworthy organisation.”
A large part of the injury prevention that we were talking about comes from your trainer being properly informed, and keeping up to date with good technique. Although it’s not an absolute guarantee, having a recognised qualification provides some security that this is the case.
Importantly, the trainer won’t usually be able to get proper insurance to cover your sessions together unless they do have the right, current, qualifications.
So ignore any feeling of embarrassment and ask them in the beginning to show you their qualifications.
Mistake 2: Ignoring personal fit
Because you’re paying your trainer, it’s possible to treat the relationship as something objective and commercial. But you and your trainer are both human beings, and so relationship dynamics will help or hinder your progress.
Ondrej Matej,** founder of personal training company OmNutritionist, puts it like this:
“Actually I think the most important factor is to make sure you actually get on with the person. If you have different views on diet or lifestyle, you won’t be able to build trust.”
And trust is what will enable the trainer to push you forward.
So take the time to get to know them before signing up for a large number of sessions. It will pay off in the long run.
Mistake 3: Believing that one-size-fits-all
OK so this one is from my own experience, and it’s a mistake I made and one that I think a lot of people make. If you have a problem with your foot, you don’t go to a throat doctor, right? And, unless it’s something trivial, you don’t only see a generalist medical practitioner. You’ll want to make sure that whoever you see is a specialist – that they’re experienced in resolving the kind of thing that ails you.
But we can do this with personal trainers, if we don’t think it through. We imagine that the basic education they took in many different areas is probably enough, and don’t check to see if they have deep knowledge in the areas that we are interested in now or are looking to grow into.
And more importantly, if their clients have had success in these areas.
So if you want to get fit now because you want to enter a marathon next year, you need someone who knows not just about fitness, but also about the mechanics of running, who knows how to analyse your gait, advise about shoes, and change your diet to that of a runner. Ideally, they’ll also have coached clients successfully in improving their running.
Are you looking to get into Olympic-style weightlifting? That’s a very specific skill set. Are you excited about kettle bells? The form is incredibly important for those exercises. Simply being a personal trainer isn’t enough. So do make sure that you think through what your areas of interest are, and discuss them with your trainer up front.
I hope these quick tips have given you some ideas for how to choose your ideal personal trainer.
About the author: Patrick Partington is a staff writer at Personal Trainers London Ltd. His special areas of interest are fitness psychology, toning, and personal trainer career development.