How to choose a personal trainer.

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and hire a personal trainer. Maybe you want to lose weight or improve your cardiovascular fitness or perhaps you want to tone up and gain some muscle. Whatever your reason for booking a PT you need to make sure that the person you pick is worthy of your blood, sweat and hard earned cash. So how do you find a PT that fulfills your needs and expectations? Should be easy, right? Finding one will be easy, sure, But finding the RIGHT one, maybe not so. Here are a few tips you should consider before hiring someone.

You charge HOW much?

PTs charges vary greatly and can be dependent on a number of things including location, experience, qualifications, how busy they are and how much they think they can get away with (sorry, but its true). London rates can vary quite widely but are on average between £40 to £60ph; finding someone newly qualified may mean you pay at the lower end of the scale while booking a superstar celebrity PT may mean paying a top rate, for example, celebrity PT Matt Roberts currently charges around £100ph at one of his studios. Before looking for a PT decide on a budget that you can comfortably afford and stick to it otherwise you will quickly end up broke and unable to continue with regular sessions.  Your initial consultation should be free – I would seriously not consider hiring anyone who wants to charge for a consultation – use this time as an opportunity to size up your investment and allow you to see how you interact with each other before you’ve parted with any cash.

Don’t be taken in by just how they look, seriously.

So your PT has the looks of Cheryl Cole and the body of Jessica Ennis. Marvelous! Or maybe he looks like David Beckham in a certain light without your glasses. Great! This is how you expect to look in 12 weeks isn’t it? To a certain extent you may look at your PTs physical appearance to give you some indication of what you may achieve (but bare in mind unless you have a total body transplant you won’t look like them, physiology and genes make sure of that),  but your decision shouldn’t be based on JUST how they look. Sorry, but however hot they are you can’t be shallow here, and fancying the pants off them may interfere with your training too – you need to get on with them as well. Your personalities need to gel. You need to be able to talk to your PT and they need to LISTEN to you. Ask yourself these questions; what kind of interaction will motivate you and what will make you want to punch them in the face? Does being beasted and humiliated work for you or does it make you want to throw a roundhouse into their kidneys? Does lots of gentle positive re-enforcement make you work harder or does it make you want to fall into a coma? Remember, this person will see you at your sweaty, most desperate, weeping and irritable state after a hard training session. If there is a clash of personalities then you won’t want to open up to them or give them your best.

Qualifications and experience

There are a zillion qualifications for fitness instructors and PTs so which ones do you look for when hiring a PT. I personally would suggest that you chose someone with a degree within sport or exercise such as Sport Science, Strength and Conditioning or Fitness and Health. Why? Because the more in-depth knowledge a person has in this field the more competent they usually* are. This person has spent 3 years partying, sorry, studying, to gain this qualification and it simply doesn’t compare to many other fitness qualifications that last 6-12 weeks. However, I would say that the American Council of Sports Medicine (ACSM) qualification is the exception and is very good foundation for a PT who does not have a degree. If your PT does have a degree I would also look for registration to the British Associaton of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) as this has lots of up to date research and information for them to keep on top of whats going on in this field. You can also ask if they are a member of the Register of Exercise Professional (REPs), although this is a voluntary organisation and does not recognise the ACSM qualification so you may find that some PTs are not registered on there if they have this qualification – this does NOT mean they aren’t suitably qualified. These are  just two of a number of organisations that PTs can sign up to and registration usually means that your trainer agrees to adhere to a certain ‘code of conduct’ -including working in a professional manner (so no chatting you up while straddling you over a bench press) and not working outside of their scope of knowledge or capabilities. Working beyond what they are actually qualified and capable of doing can have serious consequences, especially if you as a client have a health condition that requires an exercise programme tailored to your health issue. Your trainer will be qualified to work with the general public but you may need to look for one who specialises in working with clients with particular physical and mental health issues. A GP referral qualification will give them more in-depth knowledge to enable them to tailor a programme to your specific condition. Also, is your trainer giving advice on your diet? Unless they are qualified as a dietitian they should only be giving you general guidance – especially if you have a physical health issue such as diabetes where your diet can have a significant impact on your health and exercise programme.

So how about your PTs experience. They may have been working as a PT since time began so they must be good, right? Probably, but not always. Some people get set in their ways and see their old school ways of working as THE ONLY way to work. They may be totally inflexible to new ideas, equipment or current research. One of the good things about having a PT register with REPs is that they have to do certain number of ‘professional development’ courses and workshops to stay on the register – this means that they have to stay ‘in the loop’ with new information and research, only a good thing in my opinion.  On the other hand someone who has just qualifed and has of a lack of experience working with clients will probably be rubbish, right? Again, maybe, but not always so. You will usually find that people who work in this field have been training themselves and their friends for years before taking the plunge and qualifying, so although they may not have loads of experience as a paid PT they are actually bloody good at what they do. Try people out, and don’t just assume the ones with the most experience are the best.

*usually, but not always. There are still some rubbish ones, as in every profession.

Don’t forget the practicalities

When finding a PT you should always ask about *how* they work. Things like their availability, how you pay, cancellation and refund policy, how they will assess and monitor your progress, and how they plan to train you (in a gym, at home, outside, equipment they have). Also, will you able to use the skills they teach you to train yourself. Some PTs use fancy equipment that you may not have access to or be able to afford once they have gone or use terminology to show how knowledgeable they are that you may not understand. Chances of you sticking to a programme long-term where you cant use this lovely equipment anymore or remember which exercise is best for your rhombus is pretty low. So your PT should be giving you a programme that is accessible to you in both practical and monetary terms and that you understand. Remember they will not always be there (unless you are a millionaire) so they need to be able to teach you to carry on the good work yourself when you have cruelly dispensed of their services. For me, as well as giving clients a programme that is achievable after I’ve gone, I also encourage clients to use things such as visual aids like post-its with positive affirmations on them (very zen, I know, but they do work for some), photos to monitor progress and developing a diary for structuring exercise into daily life and outlining daily, weekly, monthly goals. These can all help motivate and encourage a client to stick to regular exercise and to develop their own programme for the future.

So, there is my guide to hopefully help you find your perfect PT. Or of course you could just not bother with all this and just hire me.