You don't need a personal trainer or coach to get fit and healthy, but it sure does help. This is why elite level athletes and Olympians need trainers and coaches, their work ethic is second to none but at some point guidance, motivation and the ability to progress is required.
I've been a trainer for a long time now in many gyms in multiple countries and I have seen every type of trainer possible so think I have a good grasp on what you need to look for.
We are approaching the end of January now and if the thought of working with a trainer has crossed your mind here are 5 things you need to consider.
1. A long list of credentials Is great but not a necessity
Most gyms aren't going to hire anyone without some form of credentials for insurance reasons and the same reason trainers should be certified in CPR and first aid. A University degree or diploma and multiple personal training certifications are ideal but I think it's obvious that all the degrees in the world do not necessarily make a good trainer. A basic knowledge is needed but some certifications can be achieved over the course of a weekend or even online.
What you want to look for is experience and a great previous (and current) client list. They should have a list of people that they can refer to you at the drop of a hat to show you their proven track record. These people are usually more than happy to pass on their experiences and results they got with him or her.
I can point out many examples I have seen of highly educated trainers with a boatload of certifications attached to them that were just horrific and I would not have recommended them to anyone.
On the flip side, some of the best I've ever seen were not necessarily the most educated but they learned their craft and continued to educate themselves to constantly be improving. They took pride in what they did with a genuine desire to help people and that leads into my next point.
2. Lines of communication are always open
It's no secret that the best leaders are great communicators and great personal trainers are no exception. The ability to relay information and explain concepts are crucial for a good experience. Just like a real relationship poor communication can lead to a lot of hiccups down the road.
The best trainers are able to share their knowledge effortlessly and naturally. What you want to see from a trainer is that they explain WHY you are to do something, not just "do it."
3. They are a good listener
Again it comes down to communication and a good trainer and coach should be constantly aware of the feedback you are giving them. Too many trainers don't really listen to their clients real desires and just mindlessly take you through cookie cutter workouts. A great trainer has their ears always open to know where you are at and to know how to adjust things based on your feedback.
They also will be probing you for information in case you are the type not to share feedback. They will have your goals always in mind and will be making it their focus on getting you to where you want to be.
4. They keep things simple and don't overwhelm you
A great trainer knows that new clients need to be eased into a new life of fitness. If you have been sitting on the couch for the last 30 years and the first session they have you performing hang cleans and muscle ups that would be a good sign to walk away.
Even as things progress they will still keep explanations and discussions simple instead of overwhelming you with a lot of technical fitness jargon but telling you what this will be helping you with.
4. They realize if things are not a good fit.
Some people just have a personality miss-match. It doesn't mean they don't get along but sometimes the dynamic is not conducive to a successful relationship and ultimately your goals. A good trainer will realize when a pairing is not going to work for whatever reason but having your best interests in mind will look to pair you with another trainer that's a better fit.
Trainers who are more interested in your wallet than your waistline will be oblivious to this and you become stuck in a setting that will leave you frustrated, unmotivated and discouraged.
5. Retention, retention, retention
No, not water retention but hands down this is the best sign of a good trainer. If people keep coming back to them this is probably your best indicator of their ability to coach, motivate and get people results. Simple as that.
As I mentioned a before, a trainer is not a necessity but if you're new to fitness and want to make sure you're doing things correctly, or looking to break through a plateau, it can be an amazing service.
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