It feels like Summer is just around the corner. How do I know that? Not only by the weather but also because many people around me have been signing up at gyms! And one thing I get asked a lot is “Do I need a personal trainer?”
First things first, not everybody needs a personal trainer and not every trainer is a good one. One of the reasons why I became a personal trainer is because I saw too many bad trainers out there ruining people’s life. But there are also so many good trainers, and sometimes you do need one. Read on to find out if getting a personal trainer is right for you.
Understand your goal
Everyone should start their fitness journey with this question in head, “what am I trying to achieve here?” Typically, the answers may be:
• I’m trying to lose weight.
• I’m trying to gain muscle.
• I just want to get toned.
• I want to become a competitive weightlifter.
• I’m preparing to run my first marathon.
• I want to get active and feel good about myself.
• Everyone is going to the gym so I figured I should do it too. (If this is your answer, then think again because this is not a valid answer for you to start working out).
It’s ok if your answer doesn’t fit in any of the categories above, but make sure you know what you want. And it’s natural if your answer changes along the way, for example, I started with the goal to lose weight initially, but now I find myself doing weightlifting and functional training like crazy. What matters is that you enter this journey with a solid goal in mind, so you if you do get a trainer, you know where do you need help with and how you are going to measure the result.
In addition to what are you trying to get out of the fitness experience, another thing is to look at who you are. Keep asking yourself questions; the first one is “do I have the skillset to achieve my fitness goals?” It would entail knowledge such as nutrition facts for weight loss and muscle gain, understanding of how to use different machines at the gym, how many sets and reps to do, the choice between weights and cardio, and how to target different muscle groups if you want to do weights.
These are the things a personal trainer can teach you, and you need the knowledge to start. Sure, you can also get this kind of information online, but I wouldn’t depend too much on the internet if I were a gym newbie. Because there are too many different voices online and the last thing you want is different opinions telling you how to work out when you have no clue where to start. Also, if you are looking for more specific goals such as running for a marathon, or training for a triathlon, I would suggest you work with someone professional to get things started.
The second question and it’s more important than the first one, it’s “Can I motivate myself to achieve my fitness goals?” Achieving your fitness goals is a long battle, and you need motivation and support along the way. Can you hold yourself accountable to stick to your workout routine? Are you strict enough with yourself to pass on fast food dates?
In this case, a trainer is not necessarily the only person that can take on this role. If you have someone in your life who understands the fitness world and make sure you get up on Sunday to work out rather than drowns in doughnut river with you, you don’t need a trainer for this.
If you answer these two questions with “I’m not sure” or “maybe,” then consider it as the same answer as no. Because when you hesitate, you are having doubts with yourself, and that’s what trainers are for, to dispel your doubts and illusions.
What to look for in a personal trainer?
If you do decide you need a personal trainer, here are the things you want to ask them or yourself before getting started.
• Are they certified?
Technically, one should only become a personal trainer if he/she passes the certification exam as it’s a way to prove the person has professional knowledge. It’s also a way to make sure they know what they are doing for safety reasons. So it would be a reasonable request to ask the person to show you his or her certification.
• What’s their specialty?
Each trainer has their expertise, so make sure they can deliver for your specific goal. Just because someone trains Victoria’s Secrets models or Olympic athletes doesn’t mean he is the right trainer for you. So go back to our question and ask yourself “what do I want to achieve and who can help me get there?”
• How much do they charge?
As much as it’s tempting to hire a celebrity trainer or to invest in many class packages, it’s a good idea to ask how they charge first to determine if you can afford it. There’s no need to spend most of your monthly salary on this, no matter how good a trainer is.
• Do you have chemistry?
This is the most crucial part of your assessment because “chemistry” or “harmony” based on both of your personality directly impacts whether it’s going to be an effective training. Just like dating, you want someone who understands you and whose style suits you in the long run. If you like the person, you will be motivated to see your trainer even on weekends, but if you get a trainer who’s skilled but not cares about you, you are not going to get much out of it. So find out whether your trainer is the supportive type or is the yelling type, and ask yourself which type motivates you more. Since I went through a weight-loss journey, I feel more connected with clients who want to achieve the same goal. Sure I could train bodybuilders since I know how, but my weight loss clients are always telling me how much they feel close to me.
Where to find a personal trainer?
• Gym trainers
If you are already working out at a gym, start with the trainers there. Don’t rush to get just anyone from the wall pictures, try to observe how they train clients (most personal training areas can be seen by everyone) to see if they are responsible and to research their styles as well.
• Studio trainers
Some trainers teach spinning or boxing at certain studios, if you have taken some of their classes and you like their style, ask them if they also do private training sessions. In most cases, they do. But the trick here is to ask yourself all the assessment questions again to make sure they are right for you. Also, if they teach at popular studios, there’s a chance that they charge high, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask!
• Ask your friend
The good old word-of-mouth method is usually the most effective way to find a reliable trainer. Trust me; if a trainer is good, people would be talking about it all the time. So ask around to see if anyone has any recommendations. But still, make sure that the one being recommended is the right one for you because your friend might not have the same goal as you.
• Online resources
Just like any freelance jobs, you can find freelance personal trainers at sites like Fitnesstrainer.com or Findyourtrainer.com. Make sure you check the client reviews before you make a decision.
How to work with a personal trainer?
Did I stress enough the importance of knowing your goals? Good, because you should always be aware of your goals. Walk into the first session knowing what to expect and walk out of the last session with these goals achieved or with confidence that you can reach them eventually.
Most of the bad client-trainer relationships are the result of a mismatch in expectation. So don’t be afraid to tell your trainer what you want and how you want them to guide you. And ask them what should you expect as well, to make sure you are both on the same page or at least make compromises for each other. It’s not only because you paid for the service, but also because trainers want feedback too! It helps them to be better at their jobs.
I’ve seen many cases where the client thought the trainer sucked, but the trainer assumed their relationship was great. It’s because they don’t communicate enough. If a movement taught by the trainer gives you pain, say it. If his or her workout plan makes you confused, ask them to clarify. And it’s not just about the physical conditions, any time during a training session where you don’t feel comfortable or have concerns, you should tell that to your trainer. Never be embarrassed to talk about anything with your trainer.
By the time you feel like you can work out on your own, don’t be afraid to end the trainer-client relationship. A good trainer would understand why you choose to stop, and you can still be friends with each other.
It’s important to understand that trainers can provide guidance and support, but you would be the one doing all the work. So the trainer who trained Arnold Schwarzenegger can’t make you get into shape overnight if you don’t put in the efforts.
Also, fitness is a lifelong journey, so anytime along the way, if you feel like you are stuck or confused, just reach out for help. My professional trainer friend still hires another trainer to train her because she needs the extra push and she likes a second opinion when it comes to workouts. So it all goes back to who you are and what you want. Easy as that! Now give yourself a few minutes to think about the questions before you make the decision.