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What happens AFTER you hire a personal trainer?
(Plus ways to save money when you do.)

The process of hiring a personal trainer is relatively straightforward. There are simple steps you should take to make sure the person you want to use is certified, insured and that his or her references check out. It's what happens afterward that's a mystery to many people. This is what you can (and should) expect.

The first thing a trainer should do, before they take any money, is to interview you. Most trainers provide this first step free. They'll be asking you questions about your goals and experiences. A woman who's 30 years old and trying to prepare for a fitness competition will have dramatically different needs from a man in his 60's who wants to lose some fat and be more active.

The next step is personal. This is when you're asked to fill out a Medical Questionnaire. Because some information on that form is sensitive, it might be a good idea to ask how it will be stored and maintained. While no system is foolproof, at the very least, you'll want your trainer to treat the forms and information on them as confidential, hopefully stored in a locking file cabinet. The best-case scenario is if the trainer protects your information following the guidelines of HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Those are the same guidelines doctors are required to follow when protecting their patients' privacy.

Filling out the Medical Questionnaire truthfully, to the best of your ability, is crucial for two reasons.

1. The Medical Questionnaire will give the trainer information about potentially serious conditions you may have that would require a change in training programs. A personal trainer is not a doctor, so if concerns are raised, you'll be referred back to your doctor for a release before any workouts begin.

2. If your trainer doesn't have you fill out a Medical Questionnaire, run away as fast as you can. Without that information, there's no way a trainer can be reasonably certain they won't harm you.

You're then usually asked to sign some form of Informed Consent or Waiver. This should clearly spell out the risks of personal training, your right to stop or quit at any point and any cancellation policies. Many trainers post copies of these forms online. Download and read them before your first meeting, in case you have any questions.

Next, a trainer will typically evaluate your current physical condition. It's not a medical screening; it's a series of tests to determine basic fitness information. How much bodyfat do you have? How fast or slow does your metabolism run? Where do you have muscular imbalances?

The costs for these tests vary widely, from free to over $100. The costs are typically dependent on how many sessions you're signing up for and the extent of the tests. Ask in advance what tests they perform and the total time and costs involved.

When you have a factual assessment of where you stand, you can start setting goals for where you want to be in the future.

With all that information, a trainer is now going to design a workout program specifically for you. Before your first workout, a professional trainer will typically spend 1 to 2 hours of non-billable time before you touch a weight or machine. That's why there's such a difference in cost from purchasing a single session to a package with multiple sessions.

When you start working out, the first few workouts are generally going to be concentrating on posture, breathing and how fast or slow you should be moving. To learn these basics can take as little as 4 (for more experienced athletes) to as many as 15 or 20 sessions. The idea is to give you immediate feedback and help you so you don't develop bad form or techniques.

How you use a trainer from this point on depends on your ultimate goals, time and financial abilities. The perception that you can only hire a trainer if you can afford to use them three or more times per week isn't true. These are several ways to maximize your sessions while stretching out your budget.

  1. Sign up for three to six sessions so that you can go through the fundamentals of resistance training. Ask your trainer if they'll give you some guidance or routines you can then do on your own.

  2. One session a week, with two or more on your own, to help you learn specific routines and give you an extra challenge.

  3. Short sessions (typically promoted as 30-minute sessions) that concentrate on specific body parts. They are typically much cheaper than Long Sessions but still give you a lot of information and work into a small time frame. They're also ideal if you want to pack a complete workout, from warm-up to shower, into an hour or less.

  4. Brush-up or routine changing sessions, a couple every other month. Programs generally should be changed at least every 4-8 weeks. Instead of thumbing through a muscle or fitness magazine and tearing out the "workout of the month," hire a trainer to design a new routine specifically for you and spend a couple of sessions having them teach it to you.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

Updated 1/8/2021