What to Look for When Choosing a Personal Trainer

By November 5, 2020November 16th, 2020Blog

In this day of social media it seems there are unlimited numbers of new fitness professionals created every day. When you decide to work with a trainer to help you achieve your health and fitness goals, how will you spot the differences between a bad trainer, a good trainer, and a great trainer?

Once you have that ironed out, knowing how much a personal trainer costs might impact your decision on who to hire.

To make the best decision, it is important to know how personal trainers are created.

How to become a personal trainer

Personal training is a career with a low barrier to entry. That means that anyone who decides to train others can legally do so without any specific certification or education. Because of this, it is Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware when it comes to choosing a skilled coach.

The very minimum education you should look for is graduation from a certification program that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Arguably, the most well-known and respected of these certifying agencies include American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

All the gym chains, or “big box gyms” hire trainers who are certified by an accredited agency. The personal trainer certifications must be renewed every 2 or 3 years, and include continuing education requirements to be sure the coaches stay up to date on training and nutrition methodologies.

Independent coaches may or may not have one of these certifications. And if they do have it, they might not stay up to date with it. Renewing one’s certification costs money and additional time spent on obtaining the required CEUs. Plus, most potential clients don’t inquire about a coach’s certifications, so many experienced coaches may not see value in maintaining a certification.

Personal trainers also must maintain current CPR/AED certifications. Most employers and the certifying agencies listed above require in-person CPR classes versus an online course.

For a more educated coach, look for a someone who is college educated in one of the health sciences: kinesiology, exercise physiology, nutrition, biology, biomechanics or biochemistry, to name a few. The inner workings of the body go further than what is generally discussed in social media or magazines, so a college educated coach will be better able to create a program that is founded in solid, evidence-based information; not just what they saw on an account they follow on Instagram.

Good Coaching & Great Coaching

A good coach will sit down with you before any coaching begins and will make sure s/he understands your goals and expectations. The consultation is a great time to see if you two are a good fit for each other. As much as you are interviewing the coach, they are also interviewing you. Great coaches want to understand what motivates you and where you struggle so they can choose a good course of action for you to reach your goals.

Planning in advance of your sessions is a must. A good coach has a general plan for their clients, and then they tailor it specifically to your needs & goals.

A great coach can make changes on the fly depending on any variety of circumstances that arise: injuries, you had a terrible night’s sleep, or had terrible nutrition the previous few days….

Good & great coaches will have some way of assessing your progress (body measurements or strength gains, for example), and they will advance your coaching appropriately based on your successes & your struggles.

Do you have some friends who are already using a personal trainer? Ask them if they’d recommend their coach. Ask about their demeanor, their empathy, their experience, and their style of coaching. Great coaches often get their business strictly from referrals.

Quite frankly, being able to make a full-time living over many years as a coach & personal trainer means they are doing something right! The turnover in this industry is incredibly high.

What style of coaching should you choose?

There are all types of training programs to choose from: boot camps, group classes, semi-private and private coaching are some options. Here are the differences:

Boot camps might be military-style but over the years, it has come to be just a name for a group class that incorporates calesthenics (body-weight training) with some light dumbbell work and high-intensity intervals. These are often done outdoors, but can also be found at big gyms and boutique studios.

Most boot camps require a flat monthly fee, but some may be available on a per-class basis. Accountability varies. These are great for people who are looking to be more active and may not have specific strength or body composition goals. Boot camps are not tailored to the client.

Group classes could be anything from CrossFit-style strength & conditioning to aquarobics and anywhere in between. There is a huge variety of group classes available and class sizes range greatly. Like boot camps, accountability varies based on the coach/program and the classes are not tailored to your specific goals. You would need to find a class that most closely resembles what you want to achieve. Pricing is generally a flat monthly fee but classes may be available individually.

Semi-private personal training is a small group of 2-4 individuals who are working with a personal trainer in the same hour. You might team up with friends to schedule this, or it might be just a strategically planned group of individuals put together by the coach. The personal training sessions are individualized even though there are several clients at the same time. This can be a way to get quality coaching at a fraction of the cost for that coach’s time. Accountability is high because appointments are created just for you, and you are expected to be there.

Private personal training is just what it sounds like: a coach has time set aside solely to train you toward your goals. This is the most expensive version of coaching, yet should also yield the best results because of the high level of accountability and personalization for you.

How much does personal training cost?

Not considering boot camps or group classes, the cost of personal training varies depending on the local market and the experience of the trainer. In our local area of greater Flower Mound, a personal trainer might be $35 – $120 per hour-long session, with $60 per hour being the most common. The price for a specific coach can also very based on the number of sessions per week you attend.

At some locations you might also have the expense of a gym membership to go along with the cost of the personal trainer. This could be anywhere from $10 – $120+ per month.

Questions to ask your potential personal trainer:

  • What certifications do you hold?
  • What is your education level?
  • How long have you been training? Is this your only source of income?
  • How do you measure progress in your clients? How do you keep clients accountable?
  • What are your expectations of your clients?
  • What assessments do you do before we start training?
  • What fitness technologies do you recommend, if any?
  • How can help me reach my goals? Describe other clients you’ve helped with goals like mine and a similar starting place as me.
  • And, in the current state of the world, what COVID safety precautions do you follow?

When you choose your personal trainer you should feel confident that this person can work with you to accomplish your goals. There are many qualified individuals who just might not be a right fit for YOU based on your motivations, struggles, mindset, goals, and most simply your personality.

As you listen to the responses of these questions, imagine yourself working with this person. What parts of his/her personality bother you? In the assessment, did the coach provide clear instructions? Is the coach interested in you as a person? The consultation should feel like a conversation and not a sales pitch. But sometimes, feeling too comfortable isn’t good either. If you become best friends, can this person still inspire you to make positive changes?

You have to be aware of your limitations and how this coach can move you past them.

 

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