I’m a Personal Trainer. Therefore I’m Better Than You. (And Fitter.) (And Better Looking.)

During a recent certification, the instructor was talking about his difficulty in recruiting new trainers and said, “No offense, but your industry is full of flakes.”

“You forgot ego-maniacs,” I replied.

Trainers don’t necessarily corner the market on flakiness and ego-mania, but this industry does attract the types who think just because they’re toned and buff they are better than you.  During my personal training certification workshops we were frequently expected to pair up with others. I’d spend all morning checking people off my list, wondering if I’d find someone with whom I could comfortably partner up and practice what we’d learned.

He’s way too arrogant.
She hasn’t stopped talking about herself.
That woman is saying terrible things about her clients.
That guy keeps checking himself out in the mirror.

It’s natural for people to feel more confident and self-important when surrounded by presumably like-minded people, as we are during our trainings.  But the preening and eye-rolling are elevated to a new level when we sit around brainstorming ways to help poor schmucks like you get more fit.  More fit like us.

Not all trainers are like that, though.  Of course not.  In fact, if I’m being realistic, it’s probably only those especially loud and negative few who color the experiences I’m remembering.  And I did manage to find several people to partner up with, and we shared a similar philosophy (and passed our tests!).

But those guilt-inducing ego-maniacs do exist and that’s why it’s important to be selective when you choose a trainer.

What makes a good trainer?  Here are six things to consider when hiring a trainer.

Certification & Training
Certifications are important, but so is on-going training.  Trainers should strive to stay informed about new research and new training methods, and up to date on CPR and First Aid.  Not all certifications are created equal, but accredited organizations turn out “bad” trainers, and lesser-recognized organizations can turn out “good” trainers.  What makes a trainer good or bad?  Read on.

Trainer’s Philosophy
What is the trainer’s personal philosophy on fitness?  There are many ways to skin a cat. (Gross.  I’m sorry.)  Does she believe in one-size-fits-all programming?   If the answer doesn’t include some form of figuring out what works best for you, and take into consideration your goals, your strengths, and your limitations, you might want to keep looking.

I highly recommend you observe the trainer working with other clients at the gym.  Is the trainer focused only on the client?  Or is he chatting with other people, preening, or picking spandex out of his…  you-know-where?  And if he has a cellphone anywhere on his person?  NO GO.  Your trainer should also respond and adapt based on your feedback.  If weight-bearing wrist exercises hurt, and you repeatedly say so, modifications should be provided.  If they aren’t, he’s not paying attention.  If you don’t feel like you have the trainer’s undivided attention at all times, he probably won’t take great care in designing your customized workouts.


Was your phone call returned within a reasonable amount of time?  Did she introduce herself by shaking your hand?  Is she wearing appropriate clothing?  It’s one thing to dress for the role, and quite another to wear anything inappropriate, scanty, or adorned with obnoxious phrases like “100% Red Meat.”  (Don’t ask.)  The relationship should begin with sharing information, followed by a discussion about what will happen and when.  You should feel like you are in good hands.  And speaking of hands, while it can help greatly for a trainer to place her hands on a client to make adjustments, she should ask first, and there should be no confusion as to the professionalism and appropriateness of the touch. 

Taking Liberties in Other Areas
Of course your trainer has an opinion on various diets, supplements, or rehabilitative therapies, but unless she is specifically licensed or credentialed in those areas, she may not be qualified to address them.  If you get stomach cramps after eating your daily bagel, your trainer can help you figure out the problem but should recommend you see your doctor or a nutritionist for specific advice.   Trainers can work around injuries, but not diagnose or treat them. Advice on such matters should be referred out.

Unrealistic Promises
Your trainer cannot guarantee you’ll lose a certain amount of weight, or promise you’ll bench press a particular weight, but he can vow to do her very best to design a program to help you achieve your goals.  What works for one doesn’t work for another, and what motivates me isn’t what motivates you.  The world is full of quick fix promises.  There’s no such thing.  You should, however, feel the training program is helping you reach your goals, and the trainer should provide ways to assess your progress, then adapt and adapt some more based upon the assessment results.

Remember the adage, the customer is always right.  You are paying for the trainer’s expertise, attention, and assistance.  If for any reason you are not fully satisfied, you should not continue.  Client/Trainer relationships can be fantastic and fulfilling, but are sometimes one-sided and disappointing.   It’s your money, and more importantly, your health and your body.  With the right research, you’ll be able to find the right trainer. 

Be your own kind of fit!


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