Let's be honest, most of us have jumped on the 5k or 25 push ups a day bandwagon to keep fit, which is great, but most of us have also eaten twice as much too. The thought of hiring a Personal Trainer may be on a lot of people's minds. It can be such a minefield if you've never had a Personal Trainer before, and it's a lot of money to spend, so you should be looking for the best service possible. So, here is what you should know when hiring a PT:
Personal Training is not regulated.
Firstly you should know, Personal Training is NOT regulated! Once you have done your 6 week course, you're fully qualified and need not do any further education! There is a huge difference between the standards and knowledge of PTs, when they might have exactly the same qualifications on paper. So, when booking a trainer, simply being qualified isn’t all that you should look for. As a potential client make sure your personal trainer has done more than just a 6 week course. A strong background in the industry is a good indicator that your trainer has some experience.
Is your Personal Trainer up-skilling?
Whether it’s formal (degree, other related courses, coaching courses) or informal (podcasts, reading or videos), make sure your Personal Trainer is constantly up-skilling. Times are always changing and you don't want to be with a trainer stuck in the past. In the fitness industry, there is always more information and new skills that PTs can be learning as science progresses, so they should be making the effort to do this!
Your training program...
You pay for science not opinion. Your program should be designed using tried and tested methods that work for you! Not what your PT thinks is best in his/her personal opinion or what works for them. You are a paying client, not someone taking part in a trial, so your PT should treat you as such. An opinion on which proven method suits your lifestyle and goals is very different to them choosing a training style because they like it or it worked for them.
Have they given you a thorough assessment?
Before your Personal Trainer starts putting you through your paces, it's important that they have worked out exactly what is the safest, most efficient and appropriate way for you to train. And no matter what they tell you.... they do not know this until they have done a screening. Screenings can be done in a number of different ways but the most important parts are addressing postural issues, strength issues and fitness issues. This can be done through testing and visual assessment. Many issues such as imbalances cannot be detected without proper screening, and these are things that can have a large impact on your training and therefore your health if undetected. It is crucial that this takes place before you jump into a session. Not performing a thorough screening involving testing and going through exercise and injury history can result in an inappropriate training style which could lead to long term issues or injury.
A good program managed properly is better than a brilliant program managed poorly. Although every program that we provide is thoroughly thought out in relation to each clients individual needs, this counts for very little if there is not an adequate level of support, accountability and general program management.
Attention to detail
When exercising your PT should be monitoring you, giving you tips, encouragement and correctional tweaks. Not sitting down chatting to you! We have all seen the PT who sits down and chats about their weekend while you're struggling on your 400th rep because they aren't paying attention to how many reps you have done or how many you're supposed to be doing, let alone analysing your form or spotting you. Your trainer is there to observe, critique and correct your form. There is a time for friendly chatting but really ask yourself your trainer is giving you their full attention, or if you could easily be doing the same session with equal success without them there.
Should my program be included?
Remember you are paying for a PT not a gym instructor! A gym instructor can deliver a basic session, but a Personal Trainer should be planning a periodised program and delivering your sessions as part of that, to ensure progression, results and enjoyment. You should never be given an off the cuff 'made up on the day' session with no thought behind it. If your trainer turns up with a scrap of paper and brings you through a glorified circuit with no rhyme or reason behind it, get rid of them! You need to know how each session will connect to help you achieve the bigger picture/end goal. A good test is to ask your trainer some questions every so often:
Why am I doing this exercise?
Why are we doing this many reps?
What is the purpose of this activation?
Your trainer should always be able to give you these answers as every aspect of your program and session should be planned with reasoning behind every detail.
If one day you have to stop having a PT, your trainer should have equipped you to be able to understand how to manage your own sessions.
This topic is approached differently by most PTs. Some give detailed plans, some give advice and some don’t have a clue. To qualify as a Personal Trainer, you have to learn very basic nutrition modules, but a PT is not a qualified nutritionist. The main issue that every PT should be able to address is making sure that their clients understand why they are eating what they are eating. Nutrition shouldn’t be a restrictive process. Putting a client on a meal plan is fine, but a PT has a responsibility to educate their client on why they are eating in the way they are. Otherwise your PT either doesn’t know or is afraid that by empowering you to understand your nutritional choices they become obsolete.... and if that’s their thinking, they’re probably right.
Metrics (your measurements statistics)
Your Personal Trainer should be tracking as many metrics as they can, regardless of if they are within your pre agreed goal metrics. A common theme here is clients not wanting to know their weight, and wanting to focus on their body measurements which I absolutely agree with. It isn't necessary to know how much you weigh to assess progress. However, just because a client doesn’t want to know this, doesn’t mean that this information isn't a useful tool for a trainer when trying to help a client achieve a different goal. Many of my clients have no idea what they weigh, but I still take the measurements so that I can have as many progress parameters as possible. Make sure that your trainer takes the numbers into account and logs them, even if you don't! Feeling good and healthy may sound like a great target but to hold your trainer to account you should have some measurable goals.
You should be comfortable around your Personal Trainer
This is a lot more general, but your trainer should make you feel comfortable; they are supposed to be the doorway to a healthier you. If you're not comfortable asking them the difficult questions then you don’t have the right PT. It’s understandable that some workouts can be daunting but going to see your PT shouldn’t be an uncomfortable process.
An appropriate relationship with your trainer.
It’s important that you get along with your Personal Trainer but remember, this is someone you have hired. They need to do their job first and be your friend second. You are probably paying them quite a lot of money and if they are your friend first and your PT second, you may find that they are less inclined to push you to your limits or give you honest advice and opinions at the risk of hurting your friendship.
So there you have it. As a Personal Trainer I try to live by these rules with all of my clients, and I hope that my clients agree that these are the standards I uphold. I have however worked with many trainers who get away with some questionable training methods, so when choosing a PT, or indeed evaluating your current one - choose wisely!