Q: I am in Australia and I am considering hiring a personal trainer for a few months just to get me going! What should I look for in a trainer?
A: Hiring a ‘drill sergeant’ is always a good idea, especially initially. Not only does this take the guess work out of your workouts, it gives you the ‘lay of the land’ at the gym so you get the feel of all the equipment etc but it also makes sure that you feel you have to show up, which works wonders for your discipline until it becomes a habit! So well done on that decision. Now just to figure out the right type of trainer for you!
Step 1: ‘stalk’ a few trainers at the local gym. Keep your eyes on them and watch out for these qualities, then we will move onto step 2. Try not to make this weird, hahah. stealth mode.
* Decide whether you would prefer a trainer of the same or opposite sex. This matters. You need to be comfortable. No use training with someone you are concerned is oogling your rump while you lunge or alternatively, you spending an entire session not focusing because your trainer is too scrumptious. This is how injuries happen.
* Obviously they must look the part and ‘talk the talk’, they don’t need to look like a physique model but you should at least be able to see some athletic ability there. They must also at least know basic nutrition as well so that they can give you a few pointers on how to combine exercise and proper nutrition for optimum results. Or be comfortable enough to refer you to a nutritionist that can help.
* MUST BE QUALIFIED WITH A LEGITIMATE FITNESS INSTITUTE. no use putting your body in the hands of an individual who has earned rank at the gym by spending millions of hours there, handy yes, but there are so many factors and physiological intricacies that are crucial when it comes to training an individual and putting together their program.
* If you can, spy on what they are eating and drinking. Pointless enlisting the help of someone who is shoveling chocs and energy drinks into their mouth on their tea break and then trying to preach to you about eating healthily. nope, not on! Lead by example, as they say.
* Watch what they are like with their existing clients, do they engage and motivate their clients, do they spend the entire session yacking away to buddies nearby instead of helping, do they listen to their clients when the exercise seems too tough/easy and adjust it or do they just insist they carry on (there has to be a little bit of room for modification! Everybody differs and not all exercises are suited to everyone).
* Are they constantly chatting on their phones while you are doing death defying moves on the pull up bar? Answering a message or two while you rest is one thing, but when you need them to watch and assist, they need to be focused!
* How busy are they? You don’t want someone who is burning the candle at both ends, they may not be able to give 110%
* If you can, try see whether each of their clients programs differs from the next. Generic programs are not okay! We are not all the same.
* Chat to their clients and get a feel for how happy they are with the service they are getting.
Step 2: Once you have put your super sleuth skills to the test and have narrowed down your options, move on to setting up a meeting with the potential ‘candidates’.
* Assess your comfort level with them, is chatting to them easy or does it feel like pulling teeth? If so, move on.
* Take note of their assessment protocol. Do they give you paperwork to complete? do they want to know your medical history? Do they measure you and take fat percentage? Do they ask you about your current training and nutrition habits? Etc. It is not okay if they are happy with just starting off with sessions, they need to know whether you have injuries, illness, goals, concerns etc.
* Compare their prices with other trainers.
* Do they make an effort to work out a different program based on your individual needs? If they just print something off the computer, run for the hills!
* Do you get some say in what you like to do and prefer not to do. I am no distance runner, never have been, so someone making me run kilometres and kilometres would just make me angry. Not the good kind of anger that you can channel, the bad anger. hahah You should be allowed to have a say, to a degree. No use hating every session.
* Will you be alone for your session, or sharing it with others? If you are paying good money but are having to share with 3 others then rather look for someone who can take you one on one. If you are going to be paying good money then you want individual attention! IF it has to be ‘group’ work then your fees should be adjusted accordingly!
* Do they encourage additional workouts? Especially outdoors and of various modes (swimming, hiking etc)
* Are you ‘forced’ to buy fat burners and shakes etc. This is not essential. I don’t condone any use of synthetics so if you feel the same way then someone who does insist you use them is not for you.
* If you have special considerations, such as severe injuries, pregnancy or muscular conditions etc then rather seek the help of an advanced exercise specialist or biokineticist, even a trainer with specialty in that field. This is more their department.
Lastly, how excitable are they? Do they make you want to arrive at the gym half an hour earlier, or sign up for the next ironman/woman or do they make you want to put on some classical music and hide under your blankie on the couch. Energy breeds energy. This person needs to ignite the motivation in you and keep you focused and driven!
Good luck. I’m sure you will find the exact right person that will walk that fitness road with you! Be patient, be picky!