If you’re looking for a personal trainer, chances are you can be overwhelmed at the number of options available. A simple Google search for a personal trainer can prompt hundreds of results — all of whom are trying to sell you their latest and greatest.

There are five aspects the average client needs to pay attention to when searching for a personal trainer. Omitted is the obvious: Your trainer must practice what they preach. If they’re educating you about weight loss, they better have a lean physique. If they’re training you in Olympic lifting, they better have practiced themselves. With the obvious aside, the five aspects in searching for a quality personal trainer can’t often be overlooked:

9117215991_b949cae3be1. Experience Matters. Sometimes we get so caught up at the individual’s official certification that we forget the importance of actual, practical experience. Here’s a little secret you may or may not know about the fitness industry: Certificates and licenses in the fitness industry expire and there is no official governing body to mandate renewal or uphold current standing to run an operation. Anybody can train and it doesn’t take much to throw on a few abbreviations after your name to show the completion of a fitness certification. What matters more is practical experience. Has this person attended college and if so did they receive hands-on internship at the university or performance institute? Does this person have a mentor and if so do they contact them for questions? Experience is a vital part of any job especially in the health and human performance industry for which the job is directly linked to helping others with their health. But do understand that lacking experience shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. We all start somewhere and there are plenty of fresh bright minds who are not only willing to make you their experience, but willing to ask questions and get help from mentors.

2. Teachers Not Sellers. Sometimes it’s a person’s way of manipulation that allows for trust and ultimately a paying client. I can argue that is not trust. That is convincing. If a trainer works hard to impress you, then the quality in the product may be lacking. A good service speaks for itself. A good product doesn’t always need an embellished story. It stands the test of time and is repeated from customer to customer with success, positive feedback, and referrals. Don’t mistake a good manipulative story with that of a true coach because talented coaches have less to prove and are confident in their product. The same cannot be said for sellers of the industry.

If a trainer works hard to impress you, then the quality in the product may be lacking. A good service speaks for itself. A good product doesn’t always need an embellished story.

3. The Art Of Translating. I would argue the most difficult part of the job is translating. Translating intricate,  scientific terminology into easy to understand, often watered-down, concepts for the average client to digest. Translating in such way is truly an art form. Some of the biggest success stories in my scope of practice occurred only when complex technical situations were translated and understood in layman’s terms by the paying client who then proceeded to follow directions because it simply made sense. Some of the brightest minds in the industry can translate any intricate subject matter into words that would be understood by a nine-year-old child. The average paying client doesn’t have time to study their old college physiology book, read the latest research on cholesterol metabolism, or understand why ankle dorsiflexion is linked to squat mechanics. The average client is busy doing what they do best: Being a mom, an accountant, a writer, or a lawyer.

Some of the brightest minds in the industry can translate any intricate subject matter into words that would be understood by a nine-year-old child.

4. Program Your Workout With Context. Does your trainer program your exercises in a way you can learn? Or do they come up with the exercises ten-minutes before you begin your workout? Remember that the goal of personal training isn’t to simply get personally trained. It is to learn. It would be a disservice to you to pay for a service and not learn. A great way for you to learn exercise instruction is to write it down. How many sets did you do? How many exercises did you do? Did you perform a lower body workout or combine it with something else? Don’t mistake this as the trainer enjoying counting reps and sets. One big mistake a trainer can do is count reps for you — you’re an adult and you can count on your own. You’re not paying a trainer to count, you’re paying a trainer to teach. A quality, structured exercise program not only teaches you what and why you’re doing it, but allows you to learn to lift on your own; unless your goal is to have a trainer the rest of your life. A good program is flexible enough to allow for unexpected last-minute changes (e.g. running late, sprained ankle, didn’t move your bowels all day, etc) yet strong enough to allow for adherence, adaptation, and quality instruction through context rather than reps and sets. Ask your trainer how they structure your workouts and if possible, use a cloud-based service for your workout logs to free yourself from folders, emails, and PDF files. I use Evernote and have received wonderful feedback from trainers and clients.

5. Willingness To Change. Can your personal trainer accept a mistake? One of the biggest problems in the health and human performance industry is stubbornness. If something isn’t working, a change better be made. In a fast-food culture of instant gratification and low attention span, we often demand quick answers. Answers that are often viewed as being the final say. What I’ve learned in the fitness industry is to seldom write or speak the words ‘always’ and ‘never.’ It will be very rare to tell somebody they will ‘always’ need to do something or ‘never’ do something. Trainers are in the business of educating other humans and when dealing with other humans, the trainer must understand that infinite variables exist. Whether it’s demonstrating strength training exercises, teaching corrective drills and stretches for pain, or consulting about a person’s diet, the trainer must approach the work with a blank white canvas and an agnostic mindset. It is not uncommon to go back to the canvas and sketch something else halfway through. We’re all humans and often times we need to go back to make changes. I’ve made changes countless times in my practice and consult with my mentors for questions that I may deem not qualified enough to answer or simply don’t have the confidence to comfortably translate it in layman’s terms. A trainer’s willingness to sometimes change is vital to the success of the service.

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