5 Essential Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Personal Trainer
by Kristin Hedstrom
So let’s say you have visions of a new body, a rock solid commitment to your health, and hearing yourself say, “oh, me? I just love eating salads.” You’re feeling the motivation coursing through you – you’re ready to go! Just when you’re about to get this party started, you realize: how do I even use that complicated looking gym equipment? What should I eat to get the body I want? And how do I make those changes stick? (Please, not another fad that fizzles out in a couple weeks…)
Because you’re a smart woman who knows what she needs, you open up your trusty Google tab and do a quick search for personal trainers in your area. You click on each trainer’s picture and find yourself rating them on how closely you think your training sessions will resemble Jillian Michaels’ (I swear, we’re not all like that).
Pretty soon, you’re thinking, she looks nice, but do I need nice? Maybe I need tough. But not too tough. What if she yells at me? What if she makes me throw up?
Suddenly you’re lost in the deep, dark Google sphere (been there!) and the idea of taking the first step towards getting your health where you want it feels even farther away.
I got you. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2012, and while I now train my clients at a private studio, I started out at a big corporate gym, then moved to a smaller, local gym. So I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to trainers: styles, skill levels, processes, and results.
Your choice of trainer can mean the difference between wasting your time doing random, unplanned workouts (read: no actual results) and having an all-encompassing, life-changing experience. A good personal trainer will get you results much faster than you would get on your own: weight loss, building strength, and increasing energy. You’ll work closely with your trainer to build new habits and skills you’ll keep for LIFE, so it’s essential that the two of you are a good fit.
With the right direction and plan, finding the perfect trainer will be a breeze.
Start by going on Yelp or Googling “personal trainer ____ (your city’s name).” After getting an initial vibe check from each trainer who pops up, narrow your number to five prospects and email each of them. If she doesn’t already suggest a phone call, ask for one. A quick 15 minute call will give you an instant feel for her style, energy, and expertise. She’ll get to hear your story and goals in ways that aren’t as easily communicated over email.
Once you’re on a live call, here are five essential questions to ask your trainer-to-be before hiring her:
- WHAT RESULTS HAS SHE CREATED FOR HER CLIENTS?
You’re someone who looks for results, not just a hang out sesh. If the trainer you’re interviewing has reviews online, read them ahead of your call. If not, ask to be put in touch with a current or former client. Getting an inside look at how training sessions are run, whether there’s a long-term plan, and what kind of support clients are getting outside of their sessions is essential. If that client has similar goals to you, ask what kind of results she’s seeing, and whether she’d do it all over again if she had the chance.
Client testimonials are the most powerful way to understand what the experience will be like.
- WHAT’S HER ATHLETIC EXPERIENCE?
Being a Certified Personal Trainer is a must. It’s the base level certification we all have to get to work with clients. But it’s just that: the base level. We’re required to take Continuing Education courses to keep our certification active, but I lean just as much (if not more) on the knowledge I gained from my 15-year athletic career as I learned in these curriculums.
If you’re not sure what this means on a practical level, think about injury. I flipped open my thick personal training textbook and found a grand total of two pages devoted to injury, yet clients come to me all the time with chronic back pain and knee stiffness, asking how to ease the pain.
As an elite athlete, I was constantly in a physical therapist’s office to keep me tuned up or to treat injuries. I not only spent hours talking with PTs about effective recovery strategies, I then applied those techniques to myself to see the difference. You’d regularly find me icing my muscles as an athlete, but the word “ice” can’t be found in the textbook’s index.
How to manage an injury, knowing when to push and when to stop, how to structure a weekly training plan for results, and the mental challenge of pushing yourself through a workout are core concepts that you won’t find in a personal training textbook, but they’re essential to your success.
You wouldn’t trust someone who’s not a pilot to teach you how to fly a plane, so why would you trust someone who’s not an athlete to teach you how to be athletic?
- HOW WILL SHE PREPARE FOR YOUR SESSIONS?
When you’re looking for a great personal trainer, you want someone who is going to sit down with your file a few days before your session and craft a workout 100% tailored to you. She should take into account your limitations (flexibility and previous injuries), what workout you just did (so you don’t do squats two sessions in a row), your goals, and any progressions she’s working with you on, like posture.
You don’t want someone who recycles workouts from one client to another or writes your workout 5 minutes before you arrive.
Find out if – and how – she’ll customize your sessions to your needs.
- HOW WILL SHE HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE?
There are 168 hours in a week. If you see your trainer twice a week, that leaves 166 hours a week that you’re not with her. If you’re coming to sessions and getting a great workout but then going home and eating poorly, your results will be slow or nonexistent.
The decisions you make in those other 166 hours have a huge impact on your success.
Ask your potential trainer if she’ll guide you on healthy eating, sleep habits, and stress reduction. Then ask how she plans to keep you accountable outside of your sessions. Can you expect weekly goals? What about meal planning resources? Will she text you to see how you’re doing between sessions?
These above-and-beyond measures are the hallmark of any great trainer – and they’re essential to your success.
- DOES SHE RUN HER OWN BUSINESS?
Look for a trainer who runs her own businesses rather than one who works in a corporate gym. Why? Because a #girlboss will have genuine intentions and unlimited flexibility to run your session however it serves you best.
I started out training clients at a corporate gym and I know for a fact that there are fabulous trainers to be found there. However, being an employee usually means you have to hit a minimum number of hours or have a minimum number of clients to keep your job, get health insurance, or just survive financially.
These gyms encourage their trainers to troll the floor, talk to members, and sell them personal training services, even if they don’t need it. I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t seem like the most well-intentioned way to do it.
A trainer who runs her own business or works at a boutique studio doesn’t have to hit any minimums. No one is handing her clients, so she’ll know how to articulate her value and deliver meaningful results to you at the moment you’re looking for them. She’ll have the flexibility to train you in whatever way makes the most sense for you, rather than being tied down by what her employer requires.
In short, she’ll have your best interests at heart.
With these questions answered, you’ll have a solid grasp on what to expect from your training sessions. Before you know it, you and your new trainer will be riding (or…running?) off into the sunset together.