What do you look for in a trainer?

Aside from gym group classes and many martial arts instructors in private dojos, I've only had two gym trainers. Being inexperienced, I didn't know what to look for. My first trainer, who I paid privately at a small gym, in retrospect, was excellent. He had me do progressive resistance with kettle bells, sand bags, barbells, body weight, balancing, TRX bands and a lot of variety, and mostly helped me to be independent of the gym in case I didn't always have access so I could always keep up my strength training anywhere I went. He didn't always explain the importance of each exercise, but I did feel the improvement and understood that it was functional. Unfortunately, he moved and the gym closed, and I had to look for someone else.

After that I went to a franchised gym, and paid the gym for one of their trainers. She didn't seem as planned or methodical, though did pay more attention to details in technique in a different way. Progress was much slower though. I didn't stick with her, the program she suggested or that gym.

I since talked to my wife about it, who actually managed a gym (when she was younger), for about 12 years. She told me it's generally better to hire a private trainer and pay them directly, then a salaried trainer at a franchise. The former tend to have more expertise, depending on their experience of course, than the latter, who may just be starting out and also not getting paid as much.

I don't always know what to look for, and as I get back to strength training, could use a refresher by hiring a good trainer. I know I prefer someone who details the purpose of what I'm doing and pays attention to detail, and takes a more encouraging and positive approach, verses a scolding/strict approach (I have enough of that voice in my head already)!

What do you look for in a trainer?
What questions do you ask or what do you look for when you "interview" them?
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Replies

  • HilTri
    HilTri Posts: 377 Member
    I always look at them and determine if they have what I want. I observe them training others to see if what they are training seems appropriate and with proper form. The bio’s of all our trainers are posted listing their credentials, you could always ask for them so you can compare.
  • firef1y72
    firef1y72 Posts: 1,578 Member
    I was incredibly lucky with my trainer, we gelled well and I find her style incredibly motivating. I already attended some of her classes and knew what that style was. It also helps that she runs and that's my main focus.

    We workout outside no matter what the weather, using our surroundings as our gym, whether that's benches along the river or the beach.

    We regularly talk about what my goals are.and work around any races I'm doing. She corrects my form, and doesn't just work on the physical side of my training,but also my attitude and any mental blocks I have.

    She knows my weaknesses and knows that the softly softly approach doesn't work for me. (I've been to another PTs class and she asked me if I wanted to do a burpee, that approach may work for some but not for me)

  • SnifterPug
    SnifterPug Posts: 746 Member
    Personally I look for someone who is in it for the long term. I'm not after a refresher and I need someone to do boxing with, hence the long term requirement. I've not found trainers within a gym setting to be ideal, mostly because the gyms here tend to cream off too much of the money the client pays, so the staff turnover is high. That is annoying because it does take a while to gel with a new trainer, however good they are.

    I want to know that they are very picky about form. I don't want to crank out loads of sets of substandard work simply to get out of breath.

    I want a trainer who will listen to any concerns I have and accept that I have a valid point of view even if they disagree with it. I do a hell of a lot of research into new stuff. For instance my first ever trainer (who I am now back with) once tried to get me to do a crossfit style overhead kettlebell swing. I refused, gave him my rationale, and he was fine with that. Had he tried to force me to do it his way we would have parted company. Ultimately it's my body and the risks I am prepared to take with it are up to me. However when I trust a trainer I will push myself to my limits.

    I like a trainer who will push me with encouragement. I could (now) cope with someone a bit shouty, though I'd probably swear at them and they'd have to be able to cope with that. But at the beginning anyone trying army style "encouragement" would have had me running for the hills.
  • jjpptt2
    jjpptt2 Posts: 5,547 Member
    - knowledgable in the area I want instruction
    - decent personality, ie someone I can talk to and learn from, not just be directed by
    - attractive and accomplished
  • firef1y72
    firef1y72 Posts: 1,578 Member
    SnifterPug wrote: »

    I like a trainer who will push me with encouragement. I could (now) cope with someone a bit shouty, though I'd probably swear at them and they'd have to be able to cope with that. But at the beginning anyone trying army style "encouragement" would have had me running for the hills.

    My trainer shouts at me (a lot) and I swear back, especially when she's making me do something I hate

  • sineadt84
    sineadt84 Posts: 51 Member
    I went to lots of different fitness classes and chose the trainer at my gym that was most engaging and motivating. He's also really pro-active with developing himself, taking courses, becoming really strong in certain key areas, and that's reassuring to show he's in it for the long haul. I got to know him first to make sure our personalities gelled as well as for me, first time training properly, I wanted someone I could be comfortable with. I went into training to help with my mental health and having a trusting relationship really helped keep me motivated to keep going.
  • surfbug808
    surfbug808 Posts: 251 Member
    I'll be going to check out a couple gyms this week, and some trainers. It doesn't matter to me whether or not the trainer is male or female (I'm female), but I see one trainer's bio saying she specializes in women's fitness, health and professional body building. I'm not interested in pro body building, but since I'm approaching peri-menopause, maybe she'd have some greater insights into how to train best as a woman in my 40s.

    My first trainer and I developed a friendship, which made training really enjoyable. We stay in touch personally, though he now lives several thousand miles away!

  • dbanks80
    dbanks80 Posts: 3,687 Member
    edited September 2019
    My trainer is phenomenal. He knows my strengths and weaknesses. In areas that I am weak he personalize exercises that helps me to be stronger. Where I am strong he challenges me to lift even heavier. He is extremely knowledgeable. He emphasizes and constantly pays attention to form. He is no nonsense but in a nice way. We cannot talk during our sessions. My body has transformed in a major way.
    He tailors his workouts to what you want to accomplish mine was weight lifting for strength.
  • sgt1372
    sgt1372 Posts: 3,966 Member
    Never used one but, if I did, I'd look for 1 that:

    1) I liked personally
    2) paid attn to MY goals, not what s/he thinks my goals should be
    3) implemented a plan to achieve MY goals, and
    4) Didn't chg too much to do it.
  • Cherimoose
    Cherimoose Posts: 5,210 Member
    Watch them train others (discreetly) and see if they do the things you mentioned. Avoid ones who do the same workout with different clients. If you want to learn to workout independently, ask up front if you can have a written program eventually (If they don't give an enthusiastic yes, that's a red flag). Personally i'd prefer at least 2 years experience and a degree in exercise science, physical therapy, or similar field - or at least a good trainer cert like NASM, not just ACE or NESTA.
    jjpptt2 wrote: »
    - decent personality, ie someone I can talk to and learn from, not just be directed by
    - attractive and accomplished

    I'd actually prefer a trainer who looks average. It tells me they didn't rely on their looks to stay in business, so they probably have good skills. :+1:
  • lorrpb
    lorrpb Posts: 11,465 Member
    Ask for a trial session or even pay for a single session to see if their approach syncs with your needs. I think this would be especially useful since you’ve already worked with a couple of trainers and have an idea of the approach that works best for you.
  • surfbug808
    surfbug808 Posts: 251 Member
    Cherimoose wrote: »
    Watch them train others (discreetly) and see if they do the things you mentioned. Avoid ones who do the same workout with different clients. If you want to learn to workout independently, ask up front if you can have a written program eventually (If they don't give an enthusiastic yes, that's a red flag). Personally i'd prefer at least 2 years experience and a degree in exercise science, physical therapy, or similar field - or at least a good trainer cert like NASM, not just ACE or NESTA.

    I didn't even consider looking at certifications and have no familiarity with any of them. I'll look into these too. Thanks!

  • surfbug808
    surfbug808 Posts: 251 Member
    lorrpb wrote: »
    Ask for a trial session or even pay for a single session to see if their approach syncs with your needs. I think this would be especially useful since you’ve already worked with a couple of trainers and have an idea of the approach that works best for you.

    Yep, that's what I'm gonna do this time!
  • Cahgetsfit
    Cahgetsfit Posts: 1,913 Member
    If possible watch them training other people. That's how I ended up with my first trainer.

    She was awesome and worked with me on my goals. And taught me the how and the why - not just "do this". She was private and cost twice as much as the trainers from the gym. She used to cover some classes there that's how I got to see her train people and I took a couple of circuit classes that she subbed in for and I liked that she actually went around and corrected form, which the usual trainer never did.

    After her, the only other trainer I had was also a private one that cost a packet but was worth every cent. Very specific bodybuilding trainer and I went to her with specific needs which she helped me with (lagging body parts).

    So, I think that you should

    1) observe them training others
    2) talk to them about what you want/what your goals are and what they can provide you
    3) get a trial lesson if you can

  • jjpptt2
    jjpptt2 Posts: 5,547 Member
    edited September 2019
    Cherimoose wrote: »
    Watch them train others (discreetly) and see if they do the things you mentioned. Avoid ones who do the same workout with different clients. If you want to learn to workout independently, ask up front if you can have a written program eventually (If they don't give an enthusiastic yes, that's a red flag). Personally i'd prefer at least 2 years experience and a degree in exercise science, physical therapy, or similar field - or at least a good trainer cert like NASM, not just ACE or NESTA.
    jjpptt2 wrote: »
    - decent personality, ie someone I can talk to and learn from, not just be directed by
    - attractive and accomplished

    I'd actually prefer a trainer who looks average. It tells me they didn't rely on their looks to stay in business, so they probably have good skills. :+1:

    For me personally...

    One of the big reasons I'd go to a trainer is for motivation/accountability. I'm much more apt to hold myself accountable to someone I'd want to impress... and average isn't impressive/admirable. It's just one of those quirks I know about myself.

    It's the same reason I prefer to have attractive, successful people on my FL. Not because I'm a collector, but because I want to impress people I admire.
  • surfbug808
    surfbug808 Posts: 251 Member
    My biggest challenge doing individual work-outs at the gym is enthusiasm. I can go consistently and frequently, but I don't enjoy it much, at least not long-term. I also read an interesting article recently on exercises for personality types. Basically, since I'm more of an extrovert, it stated I would do better with groups. I prefer to surf alone (though I like to socialize on the beach and see others around me in the water), and can actually work-out at home by myself as well (with the help of videos so it feels like I'm in class), and I do find that having a community at the gym really helps me enjoy going there more. And definitely a friendly trainer. I booked an appointment this week for one, and will be checking out some other trainers in the next while.
  • its_cleo
    its_cleo Posts: 544 Member
    edited September 2019
    I have a great trainer. With the exercises he teaches me about what we are doing and why. He has taught me a lot about physiology and kinesiology. I am interested some may not be.

    He develops routines to fit me and my need, not cookie cutter. He watches when I do the exercises and corrects my form.

    He keeps things interesting and we do variety.

    I like him and we have a good rapport- he is intuitive and can gear things to my energy levels if needed.

    I've tried 3 or 4 trainers he was the best. The others were bleh so it's hard to find.

    ETA he is incredibly fit himself and has a degree I think in Kinesiology. He has some other certs as well.




  • surfbug808
    surfbug808 Posts: 251 Member
    its_cleo wrote: »
    I have a great trainer. With the exercises he teaches me about what we are doing and why. He has taught me a lot about physiology and kinesiology. I am interested some may not be.

    He develops routines to fit me and my need, not cookie cutter. He watches when I do the exercises and corrects my form.

    He keeps things interesting and we do variety.

    I like him and we have a good rapport- he is intuitive and can gear things to my energy levels if needed.

    I've tried 3 or 4 trainers he was the best. The others were bleh so it's hard to find.

    ETA he is incredibly fit himself and has a degree I think in Kinesiology. He has some other certs as well.

    This person sounds like the kind I would want! I prefer to know the purpose of each exercise, and definitely not get cookie cutter workouts. Correcting form is important to me. I feel there's a bit more credibility with the sciences behind it too. That's great you found someone excellent for you. I hope to find a good one soon!

  • surfbug808
    surfbug808 Posts: 251 Member
    Well, I met with a trainer today, picked by the gym as per availability... I didn't realize the first session (which I was charged for) would be almost all for an assessment... 1 hour. When I've worked with gym trainers before (only two others), they didn't charge for the assessment time, even if it was long, and made sure I got a full hour in for some kind of exercising/workout afterwards. I told my partner what happened and she said that at the gym she ran, assessments were not charged for prior to the actual "training" time... I felt a bit mislead with how today's gym sold me their personal training sessions. Anyway, not to complain, but just reporting back on my experience trying to find a trainer. This trainer doesn't have any certifications, but I found out is new. So I'm already looking elsewhere. Good news based on the assessment though, is that it turns out I'm much healthier (less fat mass) than I thought, and within a normal weight range.

    I'm going to be checking out another gym and trainer next week!