And is it a legitimate certification? There are respected certifications like those from The American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and then there are gimmicky certifications that don’t actually mean anything. Avoid trainers that aren’t certified by respected institutions and make sure they keep up with renewing their certification and knowledge of the industry. You can check their certification status with each organization, or look them up on the IDEA Health & Fitness Association website.
Trainers need to know about you in order to help you improve. Questions about your medical history, past experience with exercise and your fitness goals are standard and absolutely necessary. If they’re not concerned with that important information it’s time to find a different trainer.
In order to objectively see your progress you’ll need a fit test or evaluation of some kind. You won’t be able to fully appreciate gains unless you know how far you’ve come. Your trainer telling you that you look so much better doesn’t count—you’re paying her.
Trainers are essentially walking billboards for their business; they’re more or less showing you what their own routines can do. That’s not to say you need the most ripped trainer in the city, but you shouldn’t be picking the guy who has a bigger gut than you.
There’s nothing more annoying than putting in your best effort and attention only to find your trainer’s head in the clouds. Probably the only thing worse is when you realize you’re paying them $80 an hour to be there. Even when you’re in the middle of a circuit your trainer should be watching your form and helping you power through the workout.
Anyone can memorize a routine and repeat it week after week—actually you could do that yourself, so why would you pay someone else to give you the same stale workout? Obviously some repetition is standard but your trainer should never steer you into a plateau. The whole point of hiring a fitness instructor is steady improvement, not harping on the same moves.
If you meet your trainer for hour-long sessions and the majority of the time is spent on chit chatting and water breaks, you’re not working out—that’s a problem. It’s been proven that effective workouts can be done in 30 minutes, and sometimes less. If you don’t think you’re using the entire hour efficiently, you should ask if you can shorten the sessions (and lower the price). Your trainer doesn’t need to watch you run on the treadmill.
Motivation is an important aspect in training and in general fitness, but that’s not your trainer’s only job. If they’re not challenging you and giving you honest feedback (and sometimes light criticism), they’re cheating you. You hired a trainer to meet goals, and motivation will help along the way, but only if you have a tough regimen and a trainer to keep pushing you. It’s also important that you develop self-motivation for when you’re training (and dieting) on your own.
So we don’t want soft and cuddly, but we don’t want someone who’s on a mission to kill you either. Trainers who either don’t know, or just flat out ignore their client’s limitations are subjecting them to injury. Even if that overtraining doesn’t result in injury, it will stop you from hitting the gym in the following days, preventing progress.
Anyone can put together a body crushing workout, just because it’s a hard session doesn’t mean they’re a qualified trainer.