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Personal Training 101: What to Look for In A Personal Trainer and How to Know If You Need One

If you’re looking to get fit, lose weight or just stay in shape but don’t know how or where to start, that’s no cause for shame. Not everyone is an expert at working out (despite how it may seem on Instagram!). If you’re overwhelmed by the programs online or creating your own routine, and the equipment at the gym looks more like a torture device rather than a method for losing weight, it might be time to consult a personal trainer.

Hiring a personal trainer is an excellent option. Personal trainers are great if you’re struggling to get started or need a new challenge. You’re less likely to bail on your workout when someone, or something (like your wallet), is holding you accountable. When it comes down to it, you’re ultimately putting the time, money and effort into your new routine and lifestyle. Here are things to keep in mind when selecting a personal trainer.

“Finding a personal trainer is a very, well, personal thing. The trainer must match with your personality and learning style.

If you don’t know why you really need a personal trainer, then it’s not time to hire one. If you plan to invest money into something, it’s best to have a goal or plan outlined heading into it. Having broad goals like “losing weight” is OK, but you shouldn’t make a financial decision like hiring a coach if you don’t have well defined objectives. Instead, try to set goals like “losing 10 pounds in three months” or “be able to do 10 pull-ups by Christmas” in order to better utilize your personal training time.

There is a fine balance between what you can afford and what you’d be willing to spend. Prices vary based on geographic location, gym affiliation and more. But a trainer who has a large Instagram following and higher education will cost you. Normal prices can range from $125—$200 per session. Before you make the plunge into personal training sessions, be sure you can afford it. Once you find your potential trainer, work with them on pricing. Perhaps they offer certain packages if you’re willing to sign a contract to commit to a handful of months or certain number of sessions.

Just because that personal trainer has 100k followers on Instagram doesn’t make them great. Finding a personal trainer is a very, well, personal thing. They must match with your personality and learning style. If you respond well to a lot of shouting and motivational talks, you better find a trainer who can give that to you. Or, if you like moving slower and take longer to learn, a trainer with patience and the ability to speak slowly/softly is going to work better. A high follower count on social media doesn’t guarantee that someone knows what they’re doing with their clients.

On that note, always ask to see the trainers credentials. Anyone can advertise themselves as a personal trainer. But it’s those who have taken the time to learn about the human body and become certified that are worth the expense. Things to look for: If your trainer attended an organization that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which is nationally recognized. The NSCA-CSCS and NSCA-CPT are the other two to look out for. However, NASM-CPT and ACSM-CPT or ACE-CPT lend credibility as well.

Finally, if you’ve been training for a while but not seeing tangible results, it’s OK to move on. Sometimes, it’s just not the right match and that’s alright. Give it a good four to six weeks before you make your decision. The best trainers listen to their clients and try to accomplish their goals with the shortest, most direct path. If your trainers aren’t checking all of your boxes then it might be time to kick them to the curb.

Kelly Brown is a writer, marketer and egg-eater. Her writing has been published across Michigan and the US. When she isn’t writing, she instructs at barre classes.

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