I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say, “Because of you, I didn’t give up.”
As fitness is growing more and more popular in developed countries, there are also more and more personal trainers and a variety of personal training modes, ranging from 1-on-1 online training to in-person, small group training.
With all these choices, how do you pick the right option for you?
This article will explore three factors you may find helpful to consider when you’re trying to decide.
1. How do you want to train?
The way you want and can train is of the utmost importance in the selection process, but it may not be as obvious as it sounds.
Think about it like this: Which style of training allows you to make the most gains without compromising the rest of your life?
Since you are investing your time and funds into this lifestyle change, you want it to produce results. At the same time, you need exercise to fit around your life commitments, like your job, family, holidays, and so on.
For example, you may only feel motivated to work out when you can do it with a group of like-minded people. In this case, a personal trainer offering small group training for you and your colleagues during the lunch break may be a great option.
As an alternative, an instructor providing fitness classes could be great if you are a people person and enjoy socialising with fellow gym goers.
Similar options are available online: there are online challenges you can join for four to 12 weeks on average; private social media groups where follow-along workouts are uploaded on a regular basis; and online small group coaching, where a trainer signs around five to 10 people up for a tailored fitness and nutrition program, sometimes with additional 1-on-1 support.
On the other hand, you may have experience training on your own, but you don’t have the expertise or the time to design your own training program.
In this case, 1-on-1 online coaching might be an affordable and valuable choice. You get someone to design the program for you and offer you guidance along the way. At the same time, you maintain your own independence and opportunity to train whenever and wherever you like.
However, even if you do like to train alone, you might not have the experience and self-motivation to perform the exercises safely and effectively. So online training may be a good option in the future, but for starters you may benefit more from at least one in-person training session every one or two weeks.
2. Who and how does the trainer train?
Once you choose your preferred way of training, your pool of potential trainers narrows down considerably, but it can still be tough to make a decision.
If you plan on joining a gym or you already have a membership, you may want to pick one of the trainers working there.
In that case, it’s a good idea to take a look around the gym floor during your workouts. At least one or two personal trainers may be there, maybe working with someone. This is the easiest way to find out whether you like what they do and their attitude with their clients.
If you are looking people up on the internet, you could check out their website, but I recommend social media. Instagram in particular seems to be where all the cool fitness kids are (including me).
A well-curated social media account can tell you a lot about the trainer, such as:
They will post videos and pictures of their own workouts as well as their clients’, so you can easily find out whether you like what they do.
Are their captions full of complicated terminology you don’t understand?
Are they full of complicated terminology you do understand and appreciate?
Or are they tailored to your average gym goer, who might just want easy, actionable steps, not the whole science behind them?
Don’t underestimate the importance of language. Personal training is 80% communication, so the way your prospective trainer delivers information will have a huge impact on your training experience.
Some trainers are drill sergeants, great planners, “no pain no gain” type people. Others are more chill, more understanding, and more flexible.
You might connect really well with one personality type, but not so much with another. I usually ask my clients to take the MBTI personality test. The results give me a good insight into the way they receive, elaborate, and communicate information as well as the way they like to present themselves to the world, and the way the world is likely to see them.
Even without a personality test, a social media account can reveal a lot about what someone is like.
3. What qualifications does the trainer have?
This again sounds obvious… but it might not be.
For example, in the UK becoming a certified personal trainer can take as little as five weeks. Sometimes, course providers cram bothfitness instructing and personal training into this short time.
To clarify, a fitness instructor is an entry level position into the fitness industry (Level 2); a personal trainer requires a more advanced certification (Level 3).
So, if you are in the UK, a Level 3 certification from a reputable course provider is a good place to start when looking into trainers’ qualifications.
I chose to get a complete personal training diploma from Future Fit Training because they offer online courses, practical in-person workshops, and comprehensive assessments.
To me, the most valuable aspect of the course was the opportunity to work with a real client for six weeks before the exam. This provided priceless hands-on experience of what personal training is like.
UK-based trainers can also become members of CIMSPA or REPs. CIMSPA is a professional body and REPs is an independent register of exercise professionals. If a course is recognised by either or both of these institutions, then the training provided can usually be considered trustworthy.
Moreover, exercise professionals who register with either of the two are required to collect a certain number of points every year in order to keep their membership active. Points can be earned by taking additional courses, attending fitness conferences, reading certain books, and in other ways that allow the fitness professional to increase their knowledge.
In other words, if a UK-based personal trainer has an accredited certification and is a member of CIMSPA or REPs, not only did they get good training; they are also actively trying to stay up to date with evidence-based practice.
In addition to certifications and continuing personal development, there are two more factors to take into account:
Trainers exhibiting these qualities may enjoy reading research papers, listening to fitness podcasts, and watching fitness or nutritional documentaries; follow researchers, other coaches, and various experts in the field of nutrition and exercise science; and invest into further courses, which go above and beyond their initial certification.
A lot of trainers might have obtained this certification from a not-so-great course provider not because it was the easy way into the industry, but because they didn’t know any better at the time. If they are serious about the role, though, they will be constantly trying to expand their existing knowledge.
A great personal trainer will educate you, build you up, motivate you, entertain you, give you confidence, and hopefully make your exercise session a little more enjoyable and your life a little healthier.
On the other hand, the “wrong” trainer might put you off fitness for a long time.
If you have already considered all of the aspects mentioned in this article, and you aren’t quite sold on a certain trainer yet, my final tip would be, don’t hesitate to get in touch with them.
They might specialise in what you’re looking for, and have great certifications, experience, and passion. But, if you don’t feel good about them after a five-minute chat, then it may be better for you to look elsewhere.
Ultimately, if you want to work with a trainer, you want to make a lifestyle change. So make sure to choose wisely.
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A personal trainer who likes superheroes, bread, lifting weights, and studying “fitness stuff”.
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