Hiring a Personal Trainer – What to look for…

First off – ya gotta watch this... my pro-trainer showed it to our class the first day… flipping hilarious…

This topic seems to be popping up a lottrainer2 lately and seeing as sometimes our community can feel a little “small”, I thought I’d take the opportunity to clear a few things up!

Hiring a trainer can seem a little luxurious. I know that for most people this is something that will be scratched off the list as soon as times get tough and for many something that would never make sense to spend disposable income on, that is, if anybody has any disposable income these days.

I wrote a while back about ideas to help save for a trainer, if it is something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time. But today, I want to focus on getting value for those hard-earned dollars. You work hard for your income and I make sureĀ I go the extra mile so that my clients feel that their time with me is well spent.

Does Certification Matter?

I just had someone say to me yesterday, “no disrespect, but having certification doesn’t mean much without experience.” I believe this to be very true. Anyone can get their personal training certification. You take a course for 30 hours, write a theory exam, do a practical exam, get your first aid ticket – and – BAM! Welcome to the world of fitness! – you can put someones health and fitness into your hands… right after you figure out how to do your first bicep curl… ok, well maybe that is a bit exaggerated – but there is some truth to it. I studied very hard for my theory exam, I actually ended up with a 96%. I took it seriously – the anatomy, physiology, energy systems… I wanted to know it inside out and backwards. But when it came right down to it, the three hours in the exam room – I just placed myself in the gym. It was a lot of what I already KNEW… I’ve been in a gym since I was 13, I already had my Fitness Theory from Canadian Fitness Exercise Services, as well as my Group Instructor Certification. For me, it wasn’t rocket science. It was a lot of personal and practical knowledge. It was also something I was extremely passionate about.

So to answer – yes, I do believe certification is very important. It gives a trainer credibility. If you can’t write and pass your theory and your practical – then you definitely shouldn’t be training. You need to know your anatomy and physiology. You need to know when NOT do things with your clients even more than what to do with them. What movements are they contraindicated to? What if they have high blood pressure, are diabetic, have had previous injuries?

Also, certification ensures you stay up to date. With my certification through CanFit Pro – you need yearly continuing education credits, annual first aid re-certification and a professional membership. As with anything else, fitness changes, there is always new research, new ideas, new methodology, new studies… if your truly passionate about something – you NEVER stop learning and investing in your knowledge.

Certification and professional membership also adheres you to a code of conduct. There are certain ethics and standards that personal trainers should adhere to. You can read the ones I am bound by here.

So what else should you look for in a trainer?

First Aid
They should have a current first aid. There should be comfort in knowing that if someone who has a history of heart disease or heart attack – or not – is in good hands if heaven forbid trainer4something terrible were to happen during your session. Do they know how to perform CPR? What if you hurt yourself? Its definitely a must.

Experience
Well, we all have to start somewhere. But when you have your initial consultation with a trainer – your “interview”, you should be able to get a pretty good feel for their knowledge. If they start spewing a bunch of technical terms and fancy terminology – it could be a cover. Experience is definitely something you should look for.

Are they Genuine?
This one kind of takes a bit of that “gut” feeling. Do they sound like they care? Do they seem excited about the opportunity to work with you? Do they ask you more questions about YOU than you have for them? I know with my sessions – I try to keep the focus 100% on my client. How their week has gone, how they are feeling, their weekend, their stress levels, their work, their family, their kids, their frustrations. Its a bit like a therapy session. But they’ve paid for this hour with me – its all ABOUT THEM!!! It has nothing to do with me. Of course, my clients are interestedtrainer1 about my life as well – but I definitely NEVER portray any negativity or spew my own personal stress to them during our sessions.

Do they discourage you from other activities other than the time they spend with YOU?
This one makes me chuckle. Sometimes trainers feel threatened when their clients want to register for someone else’s bootcamp or take someone else’s class or go to a yoga class outside of their gym. Really? If your trainer truly cares about YOU… they will be encouraging you to take part in ALL types of physical, emotional and spiritual activities that you are able to commit time to. We can’t be specialized in EVERYTHING… I always encourage my clients to partake in classes or recommend yoga or other activities to round the whole person. Its a bit egocentric to lead your clients to believe that they should only train with you!

Other Qualifications
Is your trainer a well-rounded individual? Have they only ever worked out in a gym? Have they worked anywhere else? What is their life experience? Again, when it comes to training people in fitness in health – each and every client is completely individual. No cookie cutter program will do. Also, a lot of times trainers are asked for nutritional counselling. This comes back to the Code of Ethics we follow as trainers. Without other Nutrition Certification, personal trainers are NOT to give meal plans to clients. The guidelines and regulations here are very loose but if your trainer takes their job seriously and wants to give nutritional counsel, they should have some sort of Nutrition Certification. They should also know when to refer out to a Registered Dietitian. Does your client have diabetes? Kidney issues? What if they go into renal failure because you’ve prescribed them too much protein… again, you are putting your health into someones trust – make sure they know what they are doing AND if they don’t, they are humble enough to send you to someone who does.

Word of Mouth
Nothing gives you a better idea of who a trainer is, what they do, and if they are good at what they do than word of mouth. Ask around, see what others experiences are… keep up with their social media. Again, if your trainer is passionate and serious, you’ll see a reflection of that through what they post. Is their Instagram full of half-naked selfies showing a six pack or their new hair or their latest muscle growth? Or is it of motivational quotes, recipes, REAL LIFE???

A last piece of advice:
Trainers have variableĀ incomes. When the economy is up – our income is up, when its down, we may not see a paycheck. Most trainers need a more secure, secondary source of income. A lot of times, trainers are linked to some sort of multi-level marketing company that they then try to convince their clients to buy into. I personally believe that this is extremely unprofessional. I was just asked last week, if I had heard of or tried a certain brand of nutritional supplements and if so, why didn’t I use it for my clients. While this topic is a whole other post, I strongly believe that trainers should not attach themselves to any brand. If anything were to ever happen with a company and you had seventy-five percent of your clients enrolled “under you”… what happens to your credibility if it goes wrong? Yeah… not the best thing for your business model.

I have clients come to me each week asking me about the latest and greatest trend. My response is always the same. While I do not believe in “systems” for nutrition, I tell my clients to research them to death, I ask them how they think they could see themselves far into the future using this same system, and how much of an investment it would require as opposed to shopping for real, nutrient-dense foods. If its something that will work for them – go for it… if it makes them think a little deeper – all the better – they are now engaging in the process of taking the best care of their entire person.