For those who feel like they need a professional trainer either to teach them how to work out properly, or to hold them accountable on meeting work out goals, here is a checklist and some key points from an older guy’s perspective, on how to shop for and select a good trainer.
- Know your goals. Before you can make progress, you need to know where you want to end. Decide this at home, before you go to a gym, so they don’t put the “typical” or the wrong-for-you ideas in your head.
- “Test drive” more than one trainer. Don’t just stick with the one assigned to you by the gym or the first one you meet, try them all and see who you like, or who meets your needs and goals better.
- Re-evaluate your trainer after 3 and 6 months to make sure you have the best fit. Do not be afraid to change if you are not making progress or do not have a good fit.
What to look for:
- Knowledge. Are the potential trainers you are considering certified? By whom? Do they know nutrition as well as the physique? Are they well rounded or single focused? Do they continually read or otherwise seek out new information and knowledge?
- References. Ask around, especially people who you think might have the same goals as you. This includes you directly, watch the trainers as they work with other clients, do you like what you see and hear? (yes, eavesdrop)
- Scheduling, is it easy to make and/or change sessions?
- Personality, do you work well together? Do you feel comfortable and not intimidated or spoken down to?
- Convenience, is the gym located in your normal circle of activity, close to work, home, etc.? If not, can you make it so? I changed groceries to the one close to the gym to make it feel more a part of my regular “home turf”.
Once you have selected a trainer, continually evaluate your trainer and your progress:
- Are you being continually challenged, or have things gotten relaxed and too chatty instead of working hard? You want someone who is part cheerleader, part drill sergeant, and part nagging mom, but also someone who will pat you on the back when you do well.
- Is the trainer’s focus on you at all times, not stopping to talk to other clients or their workout buddies on your time?
- Are you being held accountable? Is the trainer asking you about your workouts, eating, and other habits outside of the gym? Are you two writing down your goals and checking weekly or monthly to see if they are being met?
- Are you getting suggestions for activities outside the gym like how to safely shovel snow, ride a bike, or a reminder to take the stairs instead of the elevator? Or getting suggestions for other activities to work into your weekly routine like swimming or yoga?
- Are they giving you a variety of exercises (while working together at the gym) to keep you interested and progressing?
Red Flags, what to watch out for (yes, these have all happened to me):
- The trainer who spends more time looking at himself in the mirror than at you.
- The trainer who talks too much about non training related topics. Worse, the trainer who uses you as a bartender/counselor complaining about life issues.
- The trainer who just goes through the paces, not really caring about your progress.
- The trainer (or sales staff) who pushes you to buy more sessions than you can fit into your schedule, or buy a new package before the one you are currently working on is used up.
I have been working with a trainer (actually 5 different ones) over the past 4 years. The one I am with now I have been working with for more than 18 months and he is excellent. I have learned a lot about my body and my limits, and setting realistic goals. I have lost weight but still have more to go, but I am also stronger than I was 30 years ago. I still need to work on flexibility and balance as I age, but I look around as I go out in public and see that I am in way better shape than most other men my age. I am happy and think that every penny I have spent on a trainer (except the narcissist) has been well spent.