You hired a personal trainer — congrats! But will you get the results you want? Here’s what a good trainer should do.
Beginning with your first session, your personal trainer should assess where you are, your injury history, and your goals — and how to safely and steadily reach them.
“To create a program that works, we need to know everything we can about your workout and medical history, eating habits, sleep rhythm, and stress levels,” says personal trainer Jennifer Fidder, MA.
Know Your Sweet Spot
“Your workouts should be challenging but not over the top. Starting off with a bunch of burpees is a red flag,” says Tony Maloney, an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist.
Too many trainers put clients through intense sessions that are way too advanced, says NASM-certified personal trainer Alex Robles, MD. They do it to make you feel like you’ve had a good workout, he says, but it’s the wrong move. “They should begin with a regimen that’s right for your skill level and gradually increase volume and intensity,” Robles says.
“Didn’t sleep well last night? Let’s take it a bit slower. Woke up with knee pain? Let’s skip high-intensity exercises,” Fidder says. A good trainer will adjust workouts on the fly to keep you motivated and injury-free.
Be Crystal Clear
Your trainer should clearly explain and demonstrate exercises, says Ali Greenman, NASM-certified personal trainer. If you don’t follow what she’s saying, does she explain it differently? Does she take time to clearly answer your questions or throw big words at you and move on?
A good trainer doesn’t send you off on your own. “The reason you’re paying a trainer is to take the guesswork out of the fitness process,” says ISSA-certified personal trainer Jamie Hickey. During warmups, for example, he should explain how to stretch, how long to hold, which muscles to focus on, and why.
Your trainer’s attention should always be on you. If you’re doing reps and she’s distracted by other people or her phone, it’s a red flag. “I hate when I see this,” Hickey says. “Any coach that texts, browses the web, or takes calls while working with you isn’t worth your time.”
Other signs of distraction are being late, disorganized, unprepared, or unfocused. If your trainer isn’t 100% present, it may be best to move on.
Questions You Should Ask a Personal Trainer
Ready to book? Start with these questions, says personal trainer Chris Cooper, NSCA-CPT.
Which certification(s) do you have?
You’ll see many types of certifications. Look for someone who’s been certified by a reliable organization like NSCA, ACE, ISSA, NASM, or ACSM, Cooper says.
Have you worked with people like me?
It’s a plus when a trainer has experience with clients who’ve had similar goals or a similar injury history to yours. He can apply that experience to you.
Are you up to date on fitness news?
Make sure she’s in the know. Ask which continuing education classes she’s taken recently or the last thing she read about fitness and training.
How will you create a plan that’s right for me?
Your trainer should design an individualized program tailored to your needs. It should include an assessment and a plan for slow but steady progress.
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