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How to choose a Personal Trainer

Your words about finding a “fitness professional” and not just a trainer, are really what struck home with me.  I find working out with a trainer essential for me to stay motivated to actually exercise.  But, they are definitely not all the same.  And, the cost (or the investment, as I like to consider it) can be daunting.  How do you find a “fitness professional” without bleeding yourself dry?  Why does it have to be so expensive???  Do you have any suggestions for finding someone?  I live in NYC and have a “trainer” right now, but I’m getting nowhere with improving my fitness level.  Plus, after nearly two years, it’s getting extremely boring–the anti-motivator! ~ Judy”


In order to know how to choose a personal trainer that’s right for you, you need to know what the difference is between a “trainer” and a “fitness professional” and yes, while the services of a “fitness professional” will be more than a “trainer”, in the end, you will save yourself not only money, you be saving yourself precious valuable time and getting more value as well as results.

What is a Fitness Professional?
A fitness professional is certified through a reputable association such as the ISSA, ACE, NASM, NSCA and is very knowledgeable and focused on helping you meet and reach your goals beyond telling you what exercises to do and counting reps.  A fitness professional wears many different hats and will educate you, inspire you, keep you motivated and accountable.

Most fitness professionals will have a web site that will provide information about their background, education, philosophy, services and will include testimonials from satisfied clients.

Most “Fitness Professionals” are independent, self-employed, and are career professionals. If you are working with someone and not satisfied with the results you’re getting, speak to your “trainer” or “Fitness Professional” and let him/her know of your concerns.  Your “trainer” or “Fitness Professional” should be receptive to your concerns, ask questions, and come up with a solution to correct your concerns.

Beyond Counting Reps
Buyer beware. Many of the “chain gyms” choose a “trainer” for you.  Most of the time, they are not independent, fitness professionals and work for the gym.  You have no idea what this person’s education, training, experience, knowledge, etc., is. There is also a very high turnover rate of “trainers” who are employed by the gyms, so if they leave, the gym simply assigns you a new “trainer”.  If you go this route, insist that you meet with the trainer before you sign anything or pay anything.

If you are thinking of working with an employed gym trainer, I recommend you take some time to observe the trainers while they are working with their clients.  There are several tell tale signs to look for to differentiate a good trainer from a rep counter.

  • Is the trainer teaching the client proper form and technique?
  • Is the trainer correcting the clients form or making adjustments as necessary to modify an exercise for that client’s particular level?
  • Is the trainer focused on the client and not talking on their cell phone or constantly texting?
  • Is the trainer spotting the client during strength bearing exercises?
  • Is the trainer re-racking weights he/she used with a client?
  • Is the trainer putting away any equipment used to where it belongs?
  • Is the trainer making sure that all benches, chairs, mats, etc., aren’t covered in sweat their client used?
  • There are many good trainers working in gyms and you want to make sure that you have a trainer working with you who is knowledgeable which is why I recommend that you meet with your trainer first.  You should be interviewing the trainer and the trainer should be interviewing you.

While there are many “trainers” out there that are nothing more than rep counters, there are many Fitness Professionals who are very knowledgeable in health, fitness, nutrition and supplements and will have your best interest when working with you.  A true “Fitness Professional” stays up to date and educated on health, fitness, nutrition, supplements as well as self-improvement.

When choosing to work with a Fitness Professional either in person or on line, I highly recommend that you speak to that person on the phone first.  That will give you an opportunity to ask questions and know if that person truly is a match for your goals.  Whenever someone shows an interest in my services, I always encourage that person to allow me to call them or have them call me.

The Workout
There’s so much more towards helping someone improve their health and fitness beyond working out a few hours a week.  As a Fitness Professional, I do my best to teach my clients the reasoning behind the type of workout they’re doing and how a particular exercise works a particular muscle to get the result they want. When you teach people about the whats, hows and whys about an exercise, it  helps to motivate them that much more so that they don’t feel they’re doing an exercise just for the sake of doing it.  I also vary the workouts so that my clients remain challenged, motivated, don’t get bored and avoid plateaus.

Teaching a client about the mind-muscle connection, focusing on the movement, and feeling the muscle contract helps to put them more in touch with their bodies.  To maximize the time spent in the gym, you will learn how to workout with focus, drive and intensity rather than just going through the motions.

A true “Fitness Professional” will be focused on you, keeping an eye on your form and technique and making adjustments as needed.

Nutrition is vital towards building a healthy, fit, body. A calorie is not just a calorie.  It’s not what you eat, but what your body does with the foods you eat. A Fitness Professional will be knowledgeable about nutrition and will coach you on foods that detract from your health and fitness and foods that will enhance your health and fitness while taking in to consideration your lifestyle.

A Fitness Professional will help educate you about nutrition specific to your needs as well as help keep you motivated when it comes to embracing new lifestyle habits while letting go of bad habits.

Health news has become more and more prominent and there are many news sites that have sections devoted strictly to health and fitness.  There also are numerous scientific research and science journals reporting on the latest findings about health, fitness, nutrition, supplements, etc.

A Fitness Professional will be up to date and informed on the latest health news and can inform you about any news, as needed, specific to your health and fitness needs.

Nutritional Supplements
A “Fitness Professional” will be informed on the science behind many of the popular nutritional/sports supplements on the market and can help you choose products that are safe, won’t interact with a medical condition you may have or interact with any medications you may be on.  They will also have access to doctors, sports nutritionists and scientists within their network to defer to if necessary.

Improved health and fitness is a mental process as much as it is a physical one.  A true “Fitness Professional” will be knowledgeable about self-improvement and have a positive mindset.  When coaching a client, a “Fitness Professional” will pick up on innocent comments that reflect a negative mindset or signs of resistance that the client isn’t aware of.  Subconscious resistance or negative thoughts will keep your client from achieving their goal.

A true “Fitness Professional” will teach their client to re-frame negative thoughts or resistance into a more positive mindset.  Examples of this are turning “can’t” into “can; “have to do” into “want to do”; “should do” into “will do”.

Real life examples of initial conversations I’ve had with clients will go something like this: “Don’t tell me I have to give up my nachos, beer, french fries, etc.”  This is a negative statement and is a sign of resistance.  The client knows that a particular food isn’t going to help them achieve their goal; however, they are already resisting giving up a bad habit in place of a good one.  In the client’s mind, they think they need to completely give up a favorite food, feeling deprived or like they’re being punished.  This is the subconscious mind working against the client.  While a “Fitness Professional” doesn’t possess a degree in Psychology, it’s important to listen and be tuned in to these types of comments, help them change that mindset by making them understand that while indulging in that particular food won’t help them reach their goal, they don’t have to completely give it up and shouldn’t feel deprived or that they’re being punished.

An investment in you
Now that you have an understanding of the benefits of what a “Fitness Professional” can do for you, this certainly gives you a clearer picture that they are much more than “rep counters” and that they truly help improvement your health, fitness, lifestyle, while building your self confidence and encouraging a positive mindset.

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  1. 5 Comment(s)

  2. By georgette pann | Reply

    Great job…nice article that is right on

  3. By Raymond - ZenMyFitness | Reply

    Excellent guide I think this shows the importance of how a trainer can help you achieve goals quicker than if you were on your own.
    I know it always seems initially expen$ive but it will save you time and a lot of frustration in the end.
    (Btw I’m not a trainer) but I see enough people at the gym spinning their wheels and I know all they need to a bit of push in the right direction.

  4. By Angel L. - FindAFitnessPro | Reply

    Shari – this an article that I can definitely relate to. When I started my fitness journey in 2007 I joined a gym looking for a fitness pro and what I got was a rep counter. Long story short I eventually found the right fitness pro after two more failed attempts with rep counters. I hope people that are looking for help reaching their fitness goals read this article and really consider hiring a fitness pro because it works. I would definitely like to talk to you to exchange ideas on how we can get more people turned onto the idea of hiring a fitness professional. Please let me know when you have time to talk about this.

  5. By Andre Noel Potvin | Reply

    Great article!!

  6. By Nelson | Reply

    Shari, Angel said what I would have said, I wish I would have found this sooner! Thank you so much for what you do for the rest of us.

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