How To Choose A Personal Trainer

The Fit 5: Choosing a Personal Trainer

How To Choose A Personal Trainer

For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our and Page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen.

This week, Sean Hyson C.S.C.S., Group Training Director for Muscle & Fitness and Men’s Fitness magazines, answers questions about hot to pick a personal trainer. Be sure to read up on all of Sean’s articles here on or in Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness magazines each month. You can also catch Sean on .

1) What to Talk About— asked by Robert Hall:What items should I absolutely always discuss during my consultation and evaluation?
“The trainer should look at how you move to assess your mobility and potential to do various exercises safely. If your goal is to lose body fat, your body composition should be measured. The trainer should also ask you about any past injuries you may have and get you to keep a food journal. He or she should also try to get a sense of your lifestyle and how much stress you’re typically under—this can be a big factor in programming workouts.”
2) Certification Clarification — asked by Russell Moon: What’s the best certification?
“It depends what kind of clients you want to train. The C.S.C.S. (offered through the NSCA) is geared mainly toward training athletes and most colleges require their trainers to have it. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is a widely respected certifying organization that offers education in training all kinds of clients. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is one of the easier certifications to obtain and is good for general population clients, but it won’t give you the same depth of education as the other two.”
3) Spotting a Fake — asked by Thomas Rigs:Are there any telltale signs of a bad personal trainer?
“Any trainer who isn’t invested in his/her client’s goals or insists on only one way of doing things is wasting your time. More important than certifications or having the right ‘look’ is being able to coach and program exercise properly so that you see steady results and avoid injury. Someone who’s passionate and open-minded will learn along with you and keep you motivated so you see continued success.”
4) Taking Responsibility — asked by Casey Jobson:How do I know if a lack of progress is my fault, or the trainer’s?
“Ask yourself if you’ve done everything the trainer told you to. If you followed your diet to a T, got enough sleep and gave your all to your workouts and still aren’t seeing results, then your trainer may be to blame. But you’ll probably know this instinctively. If the trainer doesn’t seem as animated about your progress as you are, he or she probably doesn’t care enough. Also, remember to give programs time to work. Expectations need to be realistic.”
5) Trainer Tally — asked by Justin Chapman:How many different types of personal trainers/specialists are there?  
“Too many to count. Generally speaking, you have general fitness trainers (the kind you see walking the floor in your average health club), strength and conditioning specialists who work with a variety of athletes, and special population trainers, who specialize in one area such as older trainees, pre/post natal women, people with injuries, etc.”

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What to Look for in a Personal Trainer

How To Choose A Personal Trainer

People hire a personal trainer for an array of reasons. Some people want a trainer to show them how to use equipment. Some need a scheduled day and time to exercise as motivation to workout. And others want someone who can help them create and reach attainable and achievable goals.

Trainers can be found anywhere, with the most common avenues being your local gym, which has many trainers you can choose from, or basic word of mouth. If you'd rather work out at home, you can consider a private personal trainer. It's more expensive but can be more convenient.

You'll be dedicating a lot of time and money to a trainer. So it makes sense that you want to choose someone who's right for you. We've rounded up a few qualities and criteria that you should look for in a personal trainer. Don't get overwhelmed at the idea of finding someone who fulfills all these factors. Pick and choose a trainer what works for you.

The right certification and experience.
Trainers should have and be able to show you the right certification for their area of expertise.

Some common certifications include the National Academy of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, American College of Sports Medicine, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and American Council on Exercise. They should also stay updated on the latest and evolving trends and research in fitness.

If you're looking for training in something specific such as preparing for a marathon, you want a trainer who specializes in running as opposed to another field bodybuilding. They'll know the area better and ly be more interested in it, too.

Comfort factor.
This trainer is seeing you at your most vulnerable self. You want someone you feel comfortable with and trust.

Maybe you do well with someone who doles out lots of praise, support and encouragement. But someone else may need to be screamed at and “scared” into doing another lap around the track by a drill-sergeant- trainer.

Find a trainer whose style works for your personality and how you to be motivated.

Philosophical agreement.
If you to exercise outdoors but your trainer prefers gym-only workouts, he might not be right for you. Does he use only free weights and no machines? You want a trainer whose fitness philosophy meshes with your preferences and goals.

Convenience and availability.
See if the trainer has available time slots in her schedule that work for you. Ask if she is always booked solid or has some room to see you another time if you need to change your regular time.

Inquire about her cancellation policy and if you can reschedule missed appointments. You also want someone who will train you in a convenient place.

You may be fine with driving across town, or you may need someone near your office to accommodate your schedule.

Good reputation.
A trainer is only as good as the results his clients have been able to achieve and attain. Ask the trainer to provide referrals from clients who've had goals similar to yours. A good trainer should be happy to share references and success stories. And yes, every trainer needs his first client. But you ly don't want to be that guinea pig.

Trainers' rates vary factors such as experience, location and how much time you spend with them. They range from about $20 per hour to $300 per hour.

The hourly fee for a trainer in an urban gym may be around $50 per hour, while an independent trainer may cost $75 per hour or more. Consider your budget when choosing a trainer.

If you found someone you love who is your price range, see if she can offer you any sort of discount, such as group training sessions.

Still not sure?

Go with your gut to select someone who is a good fit for you. Just remember to always speak with your health care provider before starting any new exercise regimen.

If You Can't Afford a Personal Trainer …

Can't afford a personal trainer? No problem! You can still get fit in many ways, some of which cost no money at all. A few of your many options include:

  • Jump rope. Inexpensive and portable, you can get in some cardio wherever you may be with a good jump rope. It will ly unleash your inner child—and your kids may want to join in.
  • Get a workout buddy. A personal trainer helps keep you accountable to your goals. A workout pal who challenges and motivates you can be a good substitute for a personal trainer. And you can also use your workout time as an opportunity to catch up with your friend, which makes the session fly by.
  • Take advantage of your gym. If you belong to a fitness center but can't swing paying for a trainer, try some of the gym's classes. Many offer options yoga, Pilates, dance, spin and more. Class leaders are typically happy and eager to dole out advice.
  • Do some bodyweight workouts. Planks, sit-ups, push-ups, squats. They'll all help work your body and can be done anywhere.
  • Go online. Often for free or minimal cost, you can download or stream sessions ranging from yoga to fitness boot camps. Ask friends for recommendations, try some out and see what works to keep you motivated and fit.


How to Choose a Personal Trainer, Difference Between Personal and Athletic Trainer

How To Choose A Personal Trainer

If you’ve decided to get fit (bravo), working with a personal trainer can help you get started.

But how do you find someone who can make sure your workouts are both effective and safe? After all, not all personal trainers are qualified or skillful enough to design an appropriate fitness program that matches your needs. (Note that personal trainers shouldn’t be confused with athletic trainers; see end of article).

A good way to find a personal trainer is to ask someone you trust—a friend, relative, coworker, or your health care provider. And if you are considering a particular trainer, don’t be shy about getting references.

Here’s what to ask a potential personal trainer before picking up the dumbbells:

  • What is your educational background, and are you certified? Whether employed at fitness and health club facilities or in private practice, personal trainers in the U.S. often have a fitness-related college (or higher) degree and some sort of certification. But more than 100 different organizations certify personal trainers—and there are no national standards. The level of knowledge needed to get certified varies widely among the organizations—from having a degree in exercise physiology and passing a comprehensive exam to simply laying out the cash and taking an online open-book test. According to a survey of trainers, done by researchers at Brown University and published in Orthopedic Reviews in 2016, “personal trainer fitness related knowledge improves with a bachelor’s degree and a more rigorous certification.”
  • Where is the certification from? Among the most respected certifying organizations are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), which require personal trainers to pass an extensive exam, maintain continuing education credits once certified, and be certified in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillation). While many certifications, NSCA, require a bachelor’s degree, others ACSM and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) require only a high school diploma or equivalency diploma; some have no education prerequisites at all. A good resource for differentiating between the certifications (and all these confusing initials) is this article from Campus Rec Magazine.Whatever certification the trainer has, it should be accredited by a third-party agency, such as the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA, which is most reputable) or the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).
  • Do you have a specialty area? Does the trainer mostly work with hard-core athletes (such as marathoners and bodybuilders), seniors, pregnant women, or people with biomechanical issues (such as knee and back problems)? If you have a medical condition that can affect your ability to exercise safely, such as osteoporosis, scoliosis, asthma, or a prior heart attack, make sure to tell the trainer and find out if he or she has experience in that area. Some certifying organizations give trainers the opportunity to attain a specialty certification or more education in a specialty area. For example, an ACSM trainer may become a “Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer,” while under ACE, a trainer may be further trained in such areas as fitness nutrition, senior fitness, and orthopedic exercise.
  • How long have you been a trainer? Look for a trainer who has at least a couple of years of hands-on experience (or at least someone not brand-new to the job). But other important factors to consider are if the trainer communicates well, is supportive and motivating, is suited to your personality, and can help you meet your fitness goals.
  • Do you provide dietary advice or recommend supplements? With few exceptions, personal trainers are not qualified to provide nutrition advice. Be especially wary if they promote or try to sell you any dietary supplements. And no trainer should advise about medical treatments, ever.

Final note. Personal trainers are sometimes confused with athletic trainers, who specialize in the evaluation, prevention, and rehabilitation of acute and chronic injuries and illnesses, and often provide emergency care at sports events.

Working in health care settings or with sports teams (and not as commonly at gyms), athletic trainers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (though master’s degrees are common) and are certified through the national Board of Certification.

They are also licensed in most states.

Also see 9 Safe Exercise Strategies.


5 Things to Keep in Mind While Choosing A Personal Trainer

How To Choose A Personal Trainer

Purchasing the services of a personal trainer is one of the best investments you can make in yourself. Good personal trainers have the potential to change your life and are worth their weight in gold.

But choosing a trainer is a process that too many people rush. When it comes to buying a home people make sure to do adequate research before committing. Well, your body is your home for the duration of your life, and you owe it to yourself to make an informed decision while picking a personal trainer. Here are 5 things to keep in mind while doing so.

1. Certifications and Qualifications

Gym trainers are usually required to have a certification before joining a gym or health club. ACSM, ACE, NASM, and NSCA are all accredited by the Registrar of Exercise Professionals (REPs UAE). NCCA accreditation is generally held as the standard for the field. Ask to see their certificate, and make sure that it is up to date.

Other than certifications, qualifications are also important. University degrees in the fields of exercise science, kinesiology or nutrition further prove a personal trainers credibility.

Keep in mind that when it comes to fitness, nobody knows everything, and new research is always uncovering better alternatives. If they have not upgraded their skillset in the past five years, be wary.

2. References and Testimonials

Good personal trainers will be happy to put you in touch with other clients with the same goals as you have. Hesitation to do so is a huge red flag.

Getting to know their previous clients will give you a hint as to whether they are the right fit for you.

For instance, if they have successfully transformed people of a similar age and body type as you, then you can safely assume that they are up to the task.

Ask previous clients about their experience with the trainer and whether they were satisfied with his methods.

Remember that there is more to personal training than personalized training plans and fitness programs, so don’t forget to enquire about their punctuality and professionalism.

Talk to fellow members of your health club and attempt to learn how the trainer really is in his day-to-day practice.

3. Experience and Specialization

You can hire the best trainer for marathon preparation, but it will still be a poor fit if your goal is to be a powerlifter. Similarly hiring a champion bodybuilder coach is not a good idea if your goal is to optimize your sport performance. One trainer may be excellent for one person but not another.

Before initiating a program, make sure you communicate not just your expectations and goals but also your limitations and needs. The right trainer will have the expertise to be able to work around medical problems and past injuries. They should also be willing to work with your primary care physician if the need arises.

4. Convenience

You’ve found the perfect trainer for you. They have the right qualifications, they have the experience and this looks it has all the makings of a successful working relationship. Only issue is, you cannot agree on a time. They have no free slots to accommodate you in your preferred time.

The personal trainer you have hired must be able to accommodate your schedule. The worst workout is no workout. Mornings, afternoons, evenings – what is important is that you get to your session.

5. Compatibility

Hiring a personal trainer doesn’t just spice up your workouts and motivate you to do better. It is an addition to your life, and you will be in contact with this individual for a significant amount of time. You will entrust this person with your goals and desires, and there is a level of raw honesty involved in the process of attaining those goals.

Trust your instincts about the first impression they make on you. Ideally, it should be someone who you would to spend time with outside of a client-contractor setting. They should motivate you by positive, not negative, reinforcement.

Equally important is to select someone who you believe is genuinely interested in helping you. That is the professional who will get you the best results.

So there you have it. A personal trainer is usually the missing piece of the puzzle, someone who will guide you to be a better version of yourself. Keep the above parameters in mind and find the perfect personal trainer for your goals.


What You Need to Know to Choose a Personal Trainer

How To Choose A Personal Trainer

In Australia, everything can kill you. In the Land Down Under we have the Sydney Funnel Web Spider, a spider whose bite kills you within forty minutes. Go for a swim and risk being killed by a box jellyfish and lets not forget the saltwater crocodiles. Growing up to 5.45 meters in length, they attack and kill water buffalo and humans using the ‘death roll.’

Lastly, we have the personal trainers.

For every good personal trainer who periodizes a client’s program, stays up to date on exercise and nutritional research, and motivates clients to change their lives, there are countless other trainers who create their sessions as they walk into the gym, use out-dated information taught to them in year twelve health class, and still believe periodization was a class they fell asleep in during high school.

But it is important not to chastize these trainers too much. After all, even the best trainers once sporadically changed their training mindsets to align with whatever fitness fad was trending at the given time. In a fast paced, information driven world, it becomes difficult to slow down. Want a pizza? Jump online and order it in seconds.

And what about that dress from Spain? No problem, thanks to the Internet it will be at your door in three weeks. The days of delayed gratification are slowly dying and some personal trainers are inadvertently cashing in on our need to have everything now.

As you begin walking down the yellow brick road, dodging bro-zillas and divas, your trainer should be imploring you to take things slow.

Unfortunately, some trainers make a living by spouting outrageous promises that they will never be able to fulfill.

During your first session, your trainer should be conducting a movement analysis to check for dysfunction and putting you through a basic program, not telling you that you can lose eight kilos in ten weeks and pulling out kettlebells and Prowlers.

It takes time to build strength, gain muscle, and lose fat and you may not see any significant changes for the first four to six weeks, but it is your trainer’s job to ensure that you understand that health isn’t a sprint but rather a marathon.

So, maybe your trainer has politely sat you down and explained that.

He or she has told you that, unfortunately, you won’t have a bikini ready body in three weeks, despite what that article you read in the glossy woman’s magazine said.

Theoretically, your trainer may understand that looking Miranda Kerr or Wolverine after two weeks of training is unrealistic, however once some trainers hit the gym floor everything changes.

With the popularity of metabolic conditioning, inexperienced trainers are easily seduced by the powers of overly complicated toys and, while these may be scintillating and help to create a sense of accomplishment within you, it often leaves you bereft in understanding how to perform the five core lifts that will actually get you stronger, sleeker, and sexier.

Everybody should know how to perform the five core lifts: bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, and pull-ups.

During the first few weeks of your training, your sessions should focus on understanding the necessary movement mechanics of these five exercises.

Toys such as battling ropes, sleds, plyometric boxes, and kettlebells all serve a valuable place in training, but not until you’ve mastered the basics and your trainer can explain why you’re doing it.

And that one question could unravel a trainer’s entire exercise philosophy.

During your training session, ask your trainer why you are doing specific exercises and how all the individual training sessions fit into a bigger picture, otherwise called periodization. Especially for beginners, periodizing your training is imperative yet most personal trainers won’t bother to plan out four weeks of training beforehand to ensure consistency and cohesion.

As you go through your training sessions, your trainer should also be writing down your weights, reps, sets, times, and everything else short of how you decided to style your hair that day.

If your trainer is not logging your workouts, weights, and progress, then there’s no definable proof that you’ve progressed (or not) since you started your training, and your trainer will be able to consistently produce spur of the moment workouts under the banner of metabolic conditioning.

It is your trainer’s job to make sure you are progressing. How can they do that if they can’t tell you what workout you did last week, last month, or even last year? 

Lastly, people hire personal trainers for a myriad of reasons. Everything from requiring extra motivation, to feeling uncomfortable around the grunting gorillas that preside in some gyms, to being able to hit cruise control with their training and have the personal trainer do all the programming work.

When most people attend a personal training session, they spend one cathartic hour being told to step here, pull that, push this and, as they do as they’re told, they talk. They talk about their day, their worries, their troublesome children, and their hopes and dreams.

If you don’t believe me now, trust me, once you start training with someone, you’ll begin to confide in him or her things that would make your hairdresser blush.

But your trainer has to keep you on track. It’s no good for them to simply point you in the direction of a machine, because it’s also their job to make sure that one day you’ll become an autonomous exercising machine. You’ll understand that when you perform the bench press, you need to create tension on the bar and row it down towards you.

You’ll know the importance of retracting your scapulae during a barbell back squat and you’ll know why crunches and sit-ups are ineffective exercises.

But, if your trainer is more interested in what you did on the weekend than providing explanations and correcting form, you’ll never understand why you’re doing something and that my friends, is a recipe for failure.

Personal trainers are a valuable commodity and an essential tool for progression and even innovation – if the job is done correctly. Next time you see your trainer, check for the following to ensure you’re getting the most value for your money:

Remember, getting the body you want and living a healthy life won’t happen overnight. It can be a long and slow process but it’s your trainer’s job to ensure you succeed.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.


What to look for (and avoid) in a personal trainer

How To Choose A Personal Trainer

It’s well understood that exercise is integral to health, but all exercise is not created equal, and depending on numerous factors such as body type, age and fitness goals, one person’s preferred workout regimen may look very different from the next person’s.

How does one make sense of it all and figure out what works best for them?

If you can afford it, a personal fitness trainer could be your best bet. The problem? There just so many personal trainers out there and more coming on board every day.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projected a growth of 10 percent from 2016 to 2026 in the employment of fitness trainers and instructors, while IBISWorld determined industry revenue growth of nearly three percent in 2018 in the category of personal trainers.

To help you find the right fit, we consulted exercise experts and fitness junkies to compile an expert list of what to look for — as well as what to avoid — in a personal trainer.

In the age of social media, anybody can identify as an “expert” and promote themselves as such without necessarily backing it up. You want to make sure that your trainer is certified and qualified to train.

“You need to make sure that your trainer has the education to back up the workouts they're leading you through,” says Juliette Walle, a personal trainer and education director for modelFIT.

“Whether they studied athletic training or exercise science in university, or they have a certification (NASM, ACE, and ACSM are the most common), this means there will be a method to their workout plans and coaching style, as well as a level of safety for you as the client.

Similarly, make sure your trainer has their CPR-AED certification. This is so important for your safety in any exercise program.”

Walle notes, “this doesn't mean they have a ton of Instagram followers or that they look really fit.”

“Before you even interview a personal trainer, you will want to make sure you are very clear about your own expectations,” says Darleen Barnard, a NASM-certified personal trainer, ACE-certified health coach and the owner of Fit4Health. “If you want someone to hold you accountable between sessions, make sure you let them know and ask them if it is okay to contact them between sessions.”

Ultimately, you want a trainer with whom you have good professional chemistry. You should be able to tell if you can work well together after just one session.

“It is best to only purchase one session instead of a package at the beginning, [to tell if] that trainer work well with your personality,” says Cary Williams, a boxing coach and CEO of Boxing & Barbells. “Some people love to be pushed really hard, some to be dealt with delicately. Be sure the trainer fits well with how you learn and respond to training.”

Once you find a trainer you and have done three sessions with them, Nicole Glor of NikkiFitness and the author of “The Slimnastics Workout: The Intense, No-Equipment Routine Combining Gymnastics, Plyometrics, and Advanced Yoga” recommends checking off the following questions:

  • Did they remember what you did last week and how you [for instance,] didn’t want to do those triceps dips because ithurt your wrist?
  • Do you look forward to seeing them or dread it?
  • Did they push you hard enough?
  • Were you at least a little sore?
  • Did they ask about your goals?
  • Did they combine muscle, cardio and flexibility?
  • Did they get down in the floor with you or stand above (trainers should move down to the level of the move that is taking place)?
  • Did they correct your form?
  • Did they make the workout a little fun?

Ideally, you’ll answer “yes” to all of the above.

Walle provides the following checklist of behaviors that are red flags. These are indicators that you should dump your personal trainer.

  • They don't listen or seem to care when you're experiencing pain or discomfort.
  • They can't or won't explain how their workouts will help you reach your goal.
  • They lean on body-shaming for motivational purposes.
  • They utilize the exact same workout format, number of repetitions/sets or the exact same exercises every session.
  • They spend more of the session looking at themselves in the mirror than coaching you
  • They aren't asking you how things are feeling, checking in with you or coaching you through the exercises.

We’re all familiar with the phrase “no pain no gain.” While this is partly true (you do want to feel challenged), your personal trainer should be sensitive to your body’s limitations.

“The ‘no pain no gain’ quote everyone has heard is only partly true and your trainer shouldn’t believe this to an extreme,” says Vince Sant, an ISSA-certified trainer behind the online fitness platform, V Shred.

“There’s a difference between feeling a burn while doing squats and feeling actual pain in your hips or knees. Understanding the difference between pain and soreness is something your trainer has to be able to listen to you about.

Making you push through pain could be seriously threatening to your body.”

Your personal trainer should advise you on cardio workouts if you have questions, but they shouldn’t instruct you to do cardio (which eats up time) during your session.

“The time you’re spending with your trainer should be spent doing exercises that you need them for,” says Sant. “Spending half your time on a cardio machine is nonsense because that’s not what you’re paying for. You’re paying to learn methods to build strength, lose fat and be and feel healthy.”

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5 Helpful Tips for Choosing the Perfect Personal Trainer

How To Choose A Personal Trainer

Setting goals is important, but setting attainable goals is crucial. Consider how much time you’re able to invest and how soon you want to reach your goal.

Personal trainers work best with specific goals—especially ones that are more than just weight-loss related! While weight-loss is a common goal, there are plenty other milestones that are worth working towards! Think pushup goals, running speed or distance goals, and flexibility/range of motion goals.

Observe the Personal Trainer with Their Clients

What kinds of exercises do you see them doing? Is the trainer into it or does he or she seem bored? Does the client look he or she is working hard and having fun? Do you notice the same exercises being taught to different clients every time? These are all important considerations when searching for the trainer that’s right for you. Most trainers will be able to effectively train you, what matters is finding the trainer who will coach you and keep you motivated throughout your relationship.

Ask for a Consultation

Many personal trainers will offer a free consultation to talk about goals, answer questions and potentially give a 30-minute complimentary session.* During this time, it’s best to come prepared with a list of questions. Use this time to get a feel for their personality and how well you two will mesh. A few questions you may want to consider:

  • What is your philosophy on fitness?
  • What is your background and how did you make the decision to become a personal trainer?
  • What are your costs? Do you have specific packages or plans?
  • What is your desired frequency of sessions and how long do they last?
  • What hours are you available for training?
  • What would a long-term plan look for me?
  • How do you stay up-to-date with the latest information and studies in the health and fitness world?
  • What do you do to stay healthy and fit?


You may want to talk to your gym’s manager about what other clients have said about certain personal trainers to get a better feel for the candidate. In addition to gaining a better feel for the trainer you have in mind, the manager may be able to recommend personal trainers what you’d to gain from personal training.

Consider Gender

This isn’t important for everyone, but for some—gender matters. If you’d feel more comfortable working with a co-ed personal trainer, it’s a good idea to ask your gym’s manager if the trainer you have in mind has experience working with the opposite gender.

When you’re ready to achieve your health and fitness goals, choosing a personal trainer requires a bit of research and patience. However, it’s worth the effort knowing the trainer you choose is right for you!

Share your story in the comments below!

*The 30-minute free-session varies from location-to-location and trainer-to-trainer. They may not offer this, but it’s always okay to ask.


How to Choose a Personal Trainer

How To Choose A Personal Trainer

Personal trainers can help people reach their health and fitness goals, or they could be big wastes of money. It's tough to know whether or not you need a trainer's expertise. And if you do, it's even more difficult to pick the right one.

Many gyms offer personal training services for their members (at additional fees that can be pretty expensive), and their high-pressure salespeople might try to convince you to buy a package.

But before you sign on the dotted line, it's important that you're making the right decision with the right person to help you reach your goals.

Personal trainers are not just for the rich and famous.

If you lack the motivation to work out on your own, variety but don't know how to create your own program, or you have very specific training goals, you might benefit from hiring a trainer. 

If you decide that you need a trainer, how do you get started? 

Where Do I Find a Trainer?

There are a number of different ways to find a trainer. The most common is through your local gym or fitness center. These facilities typically offer personal training packages for an additional cost (on top of membership fees).

The gym you belong to may also allow you to bring in an outside trainer (not affiliated with the gym), but this is the exception to the rule as most gyms have exclusivity contracts with the trainers who work at their location. If you don't belong to a fitness center, you still might be able to train at one.

Not every gym will require you to be a member to use their personal training services (although the cost might be higher for non-members). Contact the facility to learn more about their policies. Word-of-mouth is also a good way to find a trainer, since it helps to get feedback from someone who has already used the trainer's services.

Just keep in mind that what works for one person doesn't always work for another. For example, your friend might respond well to their trainer's “tough love” approach, but that might not be for you. You can also find trainers in your local paper or online. Some trainers will come to your home.

If you have your own workout equipment, this could be a convenient and time-saving way to use their services. As a safety precaution, though, be sure to conduct a thorough background check on any person you might invite into your home for a private session.

What Should I Look For?

One of the most important things to ask about is a trainer's credentials. Your trainer should have a reputable certification and, preferably, a degree in the exercise/fitness field.

Here are a few websites of reputable certification bodies that allow you to search for trainers in your area: Websites these are helpful because they also give information about the trainer's qualifications, which are important when making a decision about who to hire.

Your trainer should have a current CPR and First Aid certification, as well. Don't be afraid to ask to see a copy of all of their certification cards to make sure they are current.

How Should I Interview a Potential Trainer?

Remember that you are hiring this person to work for you. Treat your first meeting a job interview. Don't be afraid to ask them questions about their training philosophy, what specific things they will do to help you reach your goals, and how they think they can be of service to you.

These questions will help get you started:

  • What kind of experience and credentials do you have?
  • What kind of motivational techniques do you use to help your clients reach their goals?
  • Knowing my specific fitness goals, what kind of workout plan will you develop to help me?
  • How often will you change my workout routine?
  • Do you have current clients I could contact as references?

This first meeting should be free, and if it's not, find a different trainer who will answer these questions before you have to commit to buying anything. There are lots of trainers out there with a variety of personalities and styles, so don't be afraid to interview a few before you decide which one is the best match for you.

Also ask about package details such as:

  • What kind of packages do you offer? Typically, the fewer sessions you buy, the more each will cost. Also ask about payment options, whether a full payment is expected up front, per session, or as installments over time.
  • Can I buy individual sessions? This refers to single sessions of personal training as opposed to a package of several sessions.
  • What is your refund policy? Especially if you are hiring a trainer affiliated with your gym, ask about this one. If your trainer is no longer employed there, for example, will you be able to get a refund for the sessions you paid for or will you be forced to continue with another trainer? If you are unhappy with your trainer, can you get your money back?
  • Do you offer multiple-client sessions? Group training usually costs less per person. If you can exercise with a few friends, you'll all save money.
  • If I buy a package, do I have a certain period of time to use it? Make sure the package won't expire before you have a chance to use all of the sessions you paid for.
  • What hours are you available to train me? If your trainer can't commit to a schedule that works for you, then find another trainer who can.
  • What kind of fitness assessments do you perform and how often? Fitness assessments body fat testing, blood pressure screening, and strength, flexibility and endurance tests will help your trainer gauge your starting fitness level and design a safe exercise program. Typically, she should perform these assessments over time and adjust your training program accordingly.
  • What is your cancellation policy? Many trainers will require 24 to 48 hours notice for you to cancel a session without having to pay for it.

What Should I Avoid?

Although there are many reputable trainers out there who know what they are doing, there are also those who don't. Here are two common warning signs to look for that will tell you if this trainer is one to avoid. The first “red flag” is a trainer who tries to sell you supplements of any kind.

Many trainers earn commission for the products they sell, which could be a conflict of interest. Unless your goal is to become a professional bodybuilder, you should be able to get all of the nutrients you need from a healthy diet (and perhaps a daily multi-vitamin).

The average person does not need protein powders, energy drinks and other supplements to help them succeed.  Find a trainer who isn't going to push these kinds of products. Just because someone is a personal trainer does not mean they are qualified to give advice about your diet.

Many will call themselves “nutritionists,” but that does not mean they have a degree or any formal training in this area. In fact, the only person legally qualified to give specific diet advice is a Registered Dietitian.

If your trainer is creating meal plans for you that are outside of the guidelines of the Food Guide Pyramid, that is illegal. Be careful when getting nutritional advice from a trainer. If you need help with your diet, consult a registered dietitian.

In general, hiring a trainer can be a good way to make your workouts more enjoyable, effective and targeted to your specific needs. It's important to do your homework before hiring someone to make sure you get the expertise you're paying for. Then you're more ly to be satisfied with your investment and will be one step closer to reaching your health and fitness goals!