Hiring a personal trainer can be a really hard decision. It’s a big investment; in time, money, energy and trust. What should you consider when hiring a personal trainer? The person you hire should be prepared to guide you through a new health and fitness journey on a path towards progress for the goals you will set together. None of these things should be taken lightly. And there may be more choices than ever in selecting a trainer. Both new facilities and the online space are seeing strong growth.
So what should I consider when hiring a personal trainer? The following tips, compiled through 25 years in the business, to select a personal trainer will hopefully lead you to finding the right fit for what could be a long and incredibly successful relationship.
Education / Certification
At Hyatt Training we pre-screen applicants for a 4-year degree, preferably in Exercise Science or a related field. Several of our trainers have a Masters Degree as well. Four year degrees are not industry standard to be a certified trainer, so this is worth asking about.
We also look at what I would call “nationally recognized” certifications such as NSCA, NASM and ISSA. A strong cert means two things: You’ve passed the exam and demonstrated a basic level of competency for the field and you have a stringent set of continuing education requirements to keep it active (likely more beneficial than the exam!) While neither of these guarantees a good trainer (and not all great trainers have both), it’s a really good place to start.
Experience in the field can come from a lot of different areas and help develop good trainers in many different ways. Certainly experience as a trainer is huge as the more reps we get in as coaches the better we inevitably become. But other areas of experience are really valuable too. Do they have a strong customer service background? Have they interned with a physical therapy office or credible gym (Hyatt Training’s internship has helped produce some of our best trainers over the years)? Do they have a resume that shows they are committed to working hard to help people?
In this field trainers will often start very generalized and then start to hone in on their particular strengths and interests. If you are looking for strong nutritional guidance, you may want a trainer with additional education in that direction (Precision Nutrition), if you want to conquer kettlebells than StrongFirst is a great qualification and if you are prone to injury or new to exercise someone with a keen focus on corrective exercise may be a strong choice.
Read this carefully. Do the trainer’s skills and passions relate to you? As you read through a variety of bios, some will inevitably speak more to you than others. Does the trainer state clearly how they can help you? Do they communicate how they approach training, coaching, support? Does their experience match your goals? Most importantly, does it seem as though they have put care and passion into this page? (If there are typos or if this is sloppy, that is a red flag that the professionalism you seek is, likely, missing.)
I really feel this is getting more important everyday. In the world of Instagram-Famous, what are your trainer’s goals? If they are constantly posting to social media, they are likely responsible for building their own business. If this is the case, then that means they likely have less time and resources to devote to your needs. It also means they have no back up plan for sick days, vacations, schedule changes and the like. A trainer with support behind them (marketing, continuing education, referrals, etc.) can spend more time focused on client needs, stay fresher day to day and commit more time to improving their coaching rather than trying to keep all the additional balls in the air that come with running a business.
This is huge and will affect your decision in so many ways. Convenience is a big factor as study after study shows that to be a key to success. Is the facility in your normal flight plan? On the way to work, close to home, near kid’s school, etc.? Does it have easy parking? Spending time finding a parking spot can cost exercise time, not to mention parking fees added to session cost. Is the facility clean, well stocked, not crowded?
Trainers are notorious for trying to increase their personal profits by sacrificing the space they see clients in. Can a squat rack in a garage work? Sure. But will you love your experience, will you use the gym outside of training sessions, will you feel your best walking in and walking out? These are questions worth asking.
Author Jeremy Hyatt is a personal trainer and co-owner of Hyatt Training. He believes it’s important to start with the basics and move from there. Too often, people get into complicated movements and goals before they have the proper fundamentals, which can lead to negative results.
Hyatt Training is a team of certified, enthusiastic and innovative personal trainers in Portland, Oregon.