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Choosing a Personal Trainer 
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Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:29 pm
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Location: Northnern California
Unread post Choosing a Personal Trainer
Please do not read this and think that we are all dirt bags (but unfortunately some of us are).

This is some insight based on my personal experience in the fitness industry to help you get the most out of a personal trainer.

New Years is coming and along with that comes new years resolutions and along with that comes big personal training sales!
We are a very spendy lot for the most part, personal trainers can set you back $50-$80 per hour (please don't complain about the price to us, we only get half if we are lucky).

Many gyms count on new years to boost their sales and generally give you a break on training in January. Many gyms offer specials to new members or first time buyers. Ask about sales and specials. Most gyms offer half hour sessions at cheaper rates, ask!

There is much more thought that should go into picking a personal trainer than just looking at their picture on the wall. If you are new to a gym sometimes the membership rep that sold you the membership will push you towards a certain trainer just because they are friends. Sometimes the fitness manager at a club will recommend a certain trainer because that person is hurting for business or is new and needs some starter clients.

Here is a list of (not so advertised things) to keep in mind when choosing a trainer.

1. You are hiring this person! Your personal trainer is going to have an impact on your body in one way or another and its important to know what you are getting. Would you let someone that you just met pick out your doctor for you? You are hiring a personal trainer, so think of your first meeting as a job interview. Most gyms will give you a complimentary meeting so use this to your advantage. During this meeting the trainer may put you through some fitness tests (weight, body fat, cardio, squat test) if any of these tests make you uncomfortable - you don't have to do them!

2. Ask about their education and experience. Some trainers have a B.S. in a related field (kinesiology, exercise science) and while they might not have much work experience - they went through 4 years of school for that. There are endless cheap and easy tests that many trainers pay for to pad their bio. Many people see "corrective exercise specialist" on someones bio and think "wow, they might really be able to help with my shoulder" when all that person did was pass an online test. The minimum requirement to be a certified personal trainer is to pay $300ish dollars for a text book and a test. Someone could go from zero to certified in as little as a month. Some people that do this end up being great, some well...not so great. I have seen some nasty injuries resulting from under-educated trainers.

3. Personal trainers are sales people!! some are more vicious that others, some will lie to you, some are more sales oriented than others and some really love their job and want to help you. Just keep in mind that they are in SALES. No matter how good a personal trainer is they still have to sell to make money. So don't get suckered into training 3 times a week if you can't afford it because someone made you feel like you have to. Have a plan when you go in, have a budget!

4. if they are being too pushy or make you uncomfortable - you don't' have to work with them! you can always request to meet with someone else. Find someone that you like, you are going to be spending time with them. Even if you have already bought a package of training you can usually transfer those sessions to another trainer. There most likely will be some hard feelings, but do what is best for you. If you are uncomfortable with switching trainers, ask the manager to take care of arranging it.

5. personal trainers are NOT physical therapists! many will try to convince you that they can fix a knee or a shoulder in order to get you to buy something. Being in bad shape, overweight or have bad posture will cause a LOT of problems. Exercise may fix those, but no personal trainer should be guaranteeing you such results..

6. Most gyms have a scale of trainers that resembles something like "personal trainer" "specialized trainer" and "master trainer". the higher the rank, the higher the cost. I have a B.S. in kinesiology and i got started out at the lowest rank! Gyms want trainers to get those online certifications in order to promote them up the ladder. So take the ranking with a grain of salt.

7. Trainers do not like losing clients! I have seen many trainers intentionally not teach their clients how to workout. These clients become dependent on their trainer and feel they cannot get their results without them. Tell your trainer that you want to learn how to workout on your own. A good trainer can teach you the basics in 3 to 5 sessions (depending on your current skill/knowledge/condition). You wont know everything in that time, but you can get the basics of being safe and effective.

8. TELL THEM WHAT YOU WANT! if you have specific goals in mind then say so!!! If you really liked an exercise then say so! there might be similar things that you might also like. If your trainer has you do something that hurts (not muscle burn, but HURTS) then say so!! your joints should not be hurting!

about personal training:

Its not necessarily going to be fun. It should be hard. People get better results with trainers because we make you work harder than you do. I expect my clients to do cardio on their own. Its a waste of your money for me to stand there and watch you run/bike/whatever. If my clients want to learn about exercise i give them a written copy of their workout for them to repeat on their own before they see me again - its homework - if you want to learn then do it.

Please remember that we are people too! Do not expect us to clean up after you or mop your sweat off of a machine or mat (ick). Do not expect us to hold your glasses or ipod or whatever. If you need to cancel a session - give 24 hour notice (or you might be charged anyway).

I think i'm starting to ramble, so I am going to cut myself off.

If you have any specific questions I would be happy to help you out.


Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:46 pm
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Joined: Sat May 08, 2010 2:52 pm
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Location: Brentwood, NY USA (Long Island)
Unread post Re: Choosing a Personal Trainer
Thank you for the advice. As always, it's concise and direct.

My first athletic injuries (in my late teens) came about because of a poor personal trainer/coach, pushing me to run faster due to her own competitive streak. I ended up spending half a year in a wheelchair due to the damage to my legs, especially ankles and knees. (Thankfully, time cured the worst of it and I didn't have to undergo risky surgery.)

I am an 'empowered' patient/client/whatever, having usually done my research and set reasonable (this is a key concept) goals before I speak to my doctors, physical therapist, trainers. (Kulu can tell you all about the list I brought her of 'this is what I do, this is where I am, here are my goals, here is what my doctor has said I may do' and so on). Most people aren't this way. Most people think/wish that a trainer can just wave a wand and then they will lose 5 lbs a week and have muscle definition in a month.

Like Kulu said, they aren't physical therapists. This is important to remember. My PT is awesome, and he lets me know when my exercise choice is not so awesome for me and brings my thinking back into line with what my body can do.

"Slow is smooth; smooth is fast" -- shi-fu's mantra for learning and executing combat. It seems to apply to all things in my life except sleep.

Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:29 pm
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Unread post Re: Choosing a Personal Trainer
Big thumbs up for the honesty and practical advice :D I have some fairly extreme physical limitations so I've pretty much had to figure out a lot of stuff on my own but have thought about a PT who is trained in these things.

I did just read about a gym here that offers exactly that and they also pretty much said what you did about being able to get clients on their own after a few sessions and that they can't fix everything. I have to be honest I'd rather give my money to someone who says just that than tries to tell my my Rheumatoid Arthritis will be magically cured with exercise and giving up milk ;) In fact my hand physio told me much the same thing. She was not able to help but she still gave me exercises to aleviate the tendon shortening and hopefully slow down deformation.
I can't use weights or put any pressure on my hands (I have about 1/2" erosion in each wrist) and stupid low iron levels due to high levels of inflammation. It's a bit of a nightmare really. pain and low energy mean I can barely cope through the day let alone get health driven exercise let alone appearance driven.

To sum up, thank you for your post, it's actually far more encouraging than any other on the topic I've read :)

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Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:51 am
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Unread post Re: Choosing a Personal Trainer
You are a prime example of how people with physical boundaries can still become and maintain a fit state. You inspire me, Neim.

"Slow is smooth; smooth is fast" -- shi-fu's mantra for learning and executing combat. It seems to apply to all things in my life except sleep.

Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:21 pm
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