sport, fitness, training

Choosing A Personal Fitness Trainer

You want to be a healthier you? You’ve joined the gym, watched YouTube instructors and tried online fitness programs but can’t seem to move to the next level. It’s time to consider obtaining the expertise of a Personal Fitness Trainer. The support of a personal trainer could be what you need to stay motivated, on a schedule and held accountable when it comes to your weekly workouts. Even more, a trainer will help you perform your exercises correctly so as to obtain the greatest benefits and avoid injuries.

Not all Trainers are the same

Before choosing a Trainer it’s important to understand that their are different kinds of Fitness Trainers. Take time in choosing the trainer that is right for you so you won’t be wasting your time and throwing money out the window.

Credentials and Experience Matter

A professional trainer should have the education and certification to be classified as a trainer. One doesn’t have to have a BS or Masters degree (although that’s good) to be a decent trainer, but should have a qualified certification from a reputable and Nationally recognized organization (NASM, NESTA, ACE, others).1


Is the Trainer’s philosophy geared more to body building and gym-based workouts. Will the programming be restricted more to machines or free weights. Does the trainer prefer to work outdoors or come to the home, use bands, TRX, or prefer body weight exercises. Is the emphasis on weight lose, endurance, gaining muscle mass, flexibility, etc. Do you align with the trainer on philosophy of nutrition. All these are important to determine if the trainer will be able to develop a program that will help you with your goals and preferences.


Consider the interest levels and specialties the Trainer. Does the Trainers interest align with yours. Are you a golfer, dancer, former gymnast, runner, cyclist, body builder, cheerleader, tennis player, etc. A trainer with an interest or specialty in the area that interest you should be able to give advice and see the specific needs that you have personally. You wouldn’t want a trainer that only works with body builders if your want to be a better tennis player. If you plan to start running marathons or 5ks pick a Trainer that is or has been an experienced runner (you may also consider joining a local runners club). If you think you’d enjoy cycling consider attending a spinning class at your local community center, YMCA or other gym and ask around about about a good cycling instructor. There are some Personal Fitness Trainers that just love to exercise and enjoy helping others develop a program that will interest them.2 If your primary interest is in loosing weight make sure that your trainer has knowledge in nutrition, has education in nutrition or has a certification in the area.


Do you need a drill sergeant or a cheerleader to keep you motivate? Do you want an encourage or a pusher? It’s not just about the trainer’s personality but yours. What kind or coaches or teachers have motivated you in the past? Do you want a trainer that is scientific and facts oriented, focusing on technical skills? What are your goals and what kind of personality will help you reach those goals.? Is the trainer someone you can like or does their personality go against your grain. Remember, you want someone you want to get with and work with for months or longer.

Also consider your personality and personal needs. Do you prefer a particular social environment (gym, YMCA, outdoors), or do you prefer private, individualized lessons. If you’re a social extrovert you may prefer the context of a good gym. However, if you’re more private, you may desire to have someone work with you in the privacy of your home or in a park. Some trainers work better in group instruction whereas others prefer to help their clients in a one-on-one environment.


When choosing a trainer, don’t just go for bargains. The more specialized, educated, and experienced trainers cost more and are worth it. For instance, if you want to get trainer to help you increase your balance, flexibility, strength and power to hit a golf ball an extra twenty to thirty yards you need to find one with experience in golf, preferable certified as a Titlist Performance Instructor (TPI) or at least with a Golf Fitness Specialization through NASM.3 Trainers that have experience with professional and college athletes will also cost more. You wouldn’t expect a former trainer for Tiger Woods or Tom Brady to work at a discount or even be available. Have high expectations but be reasonable. All this said, be reasonable. Don’t go beyond what you afford. There are great trainers that are within your price range.

Availability and Location

If you plan to use a trainer at a local health club, community center or YMCA you probably don’t have to ask them if they are certified. Most clubs have already gone through the process of checking out the trainer’s certification before hiring them. You also don’t need to ask if your simply attending a club or YMCA to participate in one of their many classes (Spinning, Zumba, Yoga, Karate, Palates, etc). Some of these teachers are not Personal Trainers but are specialist in their particular area and have a good reputation in teaching classes or individuals in their specialty. Also, the YMCA uses fitness coaches on the fitness floor that they have specifically trained just for teaching people how to use the fitness equipment. Most of these are not Personal Trainers but many are preparing to be trainers. One thing nice about the YMCA4 is that they require all their fitness coaches, trainers and lifeguards to be trained in first aide and CPR. Not all clubs and personal trainers outside the Y have this training, though they should. Another thing about club Trainers you should keep in mind. They’re cost is determined by the club and they split their cost with the club. Even when you think they charge to much, their profits are low. They are trainers because they like helping people.

If you’re looking for a Personal Fitness Trainer to work with you independently, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out their certification. Ask for the references. Ask them about their experience. Find out if they’re certified in First Aide and CPR. Ask if they’re insured or if they are associated with a company or have their own LLC. A trainers rates will have to be adjusted based on travel. If they live nearby rates can be lower. If they have to travel a considerable distance to get to you, don’t balk on being charged extra for time and travel.

You want a trainer that will push beyond what you think you can do, but not beyond what you can actually do. In other words, pick a trainer that will help you to become what you’ve always wanted to be, but don’t pick a trainer that will ask you to do something that can hurt you. If you’re an older adult you may prefer an older trainer, or at least one that has experience with older adults and understand physical limitations.

Assessment and Progress

The first time you get with a trainer, expect them to do an Assessment. They should ask you about your health history and limitations. They should also assess your physical capabilities. This isn’t just checking your weight and measuring your waste line.. They need to look at your posture and see how you perform certain routine exercises. These assessments can be general or sport specific. They should include assessments of the following:

Your Balance/Stability – These maybe as simple as having you stand on one leg. or making steps with one foot in front of the other (traditional DUI test). Difficulties with these tasks may be indicators of weak stabilizer muscles in the ankles or other balance issues which need to be addressed early. This is important. Poor balance is a real issue, especially with the elderly and can lead to a fall,which could cause a broken clavicle, wrist or hip. A Trainer needs to start with simple exercises that will help with stability issues. During one of my assessments I discovered that a client had vertigo. We weren’t going to instantly cure him of it, so did very few exercises where he had to lay on his back. Though he was a fairly strong guy I couldn’t have him do bench or inverted leg presses because he could faint or get sick. We solved this with alternative exercises.

Flexibility – We tend to loose our flexibility with age. What was easy when we were young sometimes gets difficult in our later years. Even tying our shoes can become a difficult task. It’s difficult to hit a golf ball far without good flexibility in the hips and shoulders. For example, the average shoulder rotation of most golfers is about 78 to 102 degrees and the average hip rotation is 47 to 55 degrees. If a golfer comes to me, I need to assess his flexibility to determine if he/she is within this range. If not, we need focus our exercises to improve flexibility. Most golfers however, think they just need to swing the club harder. They often think weight training is the answer when the issue isn’t strength as much as it is flexibility. If during an assessment it’s revealed one has impingement of the shoulder, we have to work on fixing the shoulder before working on flexibility to the swing. If the client has had a hip replacement we will have to modify his swing to accommodate for a decrease in mobility.

Strength – Some trainers will have their clients perform a one-rep max in the bench press. That’s the maximum amount of weight that someone can lift one time. I don’t do this. We may do this in a future assessment, but I’m to concerned of injury in the first assessment. I may have a client do a plank to evaluate core strength. This is an easy exercise to analyse progress.

Endurance and Power – Most first assessments don’t evaluate endurance and power unless we are working with more advanced athletes. If you’re participating in or plan to participate in activities that require endurance (cycling, running, tennis, others) the trainer may address means of assessing your present levels of endurance. The equipment needed for this however, is not usually available accept in your more advance facilities. Power is one’s strength combined with speed. A standing long jump would be one way to assess power, but this seldom done in first assessments.

In addition to the initial assessment, the trainer should schedule subsequent assessments to measure progress. Benchmarks such as Personal Records, weight loss, strength gains, improvement in flexibility and mobility are all significant. A good trainer wants you to see your progress with your goals, but also wants to make adjustment to improve progress where it’s advisable.

I’ve had coaches I’ve loved and coaches I didn’t care much for personally, I’ve had very few coaches that didn’t help me become a better athlete and person. Some coaches knew more than other coaches, some coaches motivated better than other coaches, I learned from every coach. The same is generally true with trainers. Trainers aren’t perfect. They each have their strength and weaknesses. Find the one that fits your goals and can help you become better than you are. Lean on their strengths and overlook their minor weaknesses and enjoy the progress.

  1. I have a BS degree in recreation from FSU and My Personal Trainer Certification is with The National Exercise and Sports Trainer Association (NESTA). []
  2. My personal interest is golf, running, and general fitness, specializing in weight training with bands, TRX, and core development. []
  3. I presently have the later and once this corona virus is over intend to work on the former. []
  4. I’ve worked at four YMCAs either as a director of fitness, fitness coach or personal trainer []