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Choosing Your Personal Trainer

How do you choose a personal trainer?

Personal training is an unregulated industry. Physical Therapists, Dietitians, Hairdressers and Massage Therapists are all regulated. All it takes to say you're a personal trainer is a business card and clipboard, and for many, the clipboard is optional.

It's your duty to protect yourself against the untrained, uninsured and downright dangerous. Before you hire a Personal Trainer, these are the things you should look for.

Is your trainer certified? There are dozens of companies that offer "certifications," but they range from rigorous classes and testing to "mail us the money, and you're certified."

Some of the more reputable certifications are:

Aerobic and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

American Council on Exercise (ACE)

American Fitness Professionals and Associates

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)

National Endurance and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)

National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)

National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

Certification by one of these organizations is no guarantee of a good trainer, but it's a start.

  1. Your first visit with a personal trainer should NOT be a workout. They should go over your goals (making sure they are realistic) and assess your physical condition. Serious health problems will require clearance from a doctor.

  2. Get in writing the hourly fees and any rules about whether you pay for sessions you missed or have to cancel. Be wary if a trainer tries to sign you up for a long-term commitment or asks for cash under the table.

  3. Make sure your trainer is certified by the American Red Cross in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.

  4. A trainer is hired to push you, but there is a fine line between a healthy push and an unrealistic shove. Generally, workouts should not increase by more than 10 percent each week. Consider it a warning sign of a poor trainer if you are experiencing extreme muscle pains or injury. Mild soreness should be expected; it shows your muscles are being torn down and rebuilding themselves stronger. But if you can't walk upstairs or wash your face, your muscles are seriously inflamed, and you might have been pushed too hard.

  5. You should get a new workout routine every 6 to 10 weeks. Changing routines keeps your muscles challenged and helps you avoid boredom.

  6. Your trainer should never leave you alone on a piece of equipment. You are hiring them to help YOU improve, not chat with their friends.

  7. You should get a workout program customized for YOU. Someone who wants to improve their tennis game would have quite a different workout from someone who wants to put on 20 pounds of muscle.

  8. A good personal trainer will write down (or record in an app) every set, rep and weight. Plus, they should make notes if you have any particular problems so they can work with you to improve. Nobody can remember every detail of every client. If your personal trainer isn't writing everything down, they aren't doing their job.

  9. If your trainer guarantees you will lose weight, tries to sell you supplements or is pushing a diet plan, dump them. Some trainers are given basic instructions on diet and nutrition. But it's just that, basic information. For detailed dietary information or a nutritional plan, a trainer should always refer you to a registered dietician.

  10. A personal trainer is not a doctor. If you ask your trainer about drug interactions and working out or the medical consequences of certain actions, they should say, "let's talk to your doctor together."

  11. Ask for references. What do other clients think of their training style? Did they help them make progress? Would they use them again? If they don't use them anymore, why not? If you've got specific health issues, try and talk to other clients they have helped with the same problems.

  12. Does your trainer carry liability insurance? They should for both their protection and yours.

  13. Finally, how comfortable do you feel with your trainer? It is their job to motivate and encourage you. It's your money. Spend it wisely, work hard, and by this time next year, you should have a reason to celebrate!

Are you paying to have your personal trainer workout with you?

Don't do it! Would you like a waiter that ate food off your plate? How about a bartender that took a drink from your glass? When you hire a personal trainer, the focus should be entirely on YOU for health and safety reasons. Unless the sessions are free, paying a personal trainer to workout with you is cheating you out of a good workout.

Call for a FREE Consultation (305) 296-3434
CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

Updated 7/17/2007
Updated 12/30/2007
Updated 5/16/2010
Updated 2/2/2021