Fitness 101: Finding a “Personal” Trainer (Part 1)

bad-personal-trainerCongratulations!  Whether you are reading this article because you are interested in hoping on the fitness train or the title caught your attention, my plan is to expose the truth about the fitness industry.  The human body is a marvelous machine and is designed to perform remarkable feats of movements.  This makes the job of a performance specialist aka personal trainer duties difficult.  One has to have a wide knowledge foundation in order to achieve what the client desires.

I am in the middle of designing my first customized online coaching program.  I thought it will be easier, but as I sat down to design a fitness program to help my client gain strength and run faster, I realize there are lots of detail components of a program.  The main goal is to make the program safe for the joints while loading the muscle to prevent injuries.  The next goal is to understand who my client is and how his body functions so we can maximize every time he decides to work-out.   The last goal is to understand what makes him tick so I can keep his mind and body focused on his goal.  I can be the best performance specialist/trainer but if the client gives up on him or herself, then my job is meaningless.

Enough of the rant.  Let me make a list of what you should look for when finding a personal trainer.

  1. they assess and screen
  2. credentials
  3. you do most of the talking
  4. they listen and take their time
  5. they walk the walk
  6. they do not make bogus claims…makes sense
  7. they can explain every exercise and why it is done and when it is done and how it impacts tomorrow
  8. they address sleep, nutrition

The first step is important to counter any good sales tactics.  The problem with the fitness industry is that they capitalize on your vulnerable state of insecurity and make bogus claims.  This does not mean that it needs to be 100% evidence based because experience plays a valuable role in the intangible of exercise prescription and dosage.  Assessing and screening is designed to pin point your weak links and injury risk so you capture more upside of training and minimize the downside.  It is not uncommon to get the desired weight number change but be more at risk of injury.  Postural imbalances can be a factor in being at risk for injury or performance inefficiency.  There are many times as work towards weight changes, you sacrifice muscle and joint integrity and its ability to produce efficient force.  For a more nerdy explanation of this concept, check out this article.  A trainer should ideally test your ability to perform athletic or basic movement tasks and/or your baseline strength and flexibility levels.

Credential can be a good first step tool in screening the qualifications of a trainer’s expertise.  This is not the only tool one should use but can indicate how committed the trainer is to his or her profession.  A certification that most fitness professional can agree to carry more weight is the Certified Strength Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  A good question to ask a trainer is “Can you tell me five or more fitness professional that influence in how you train?”  If they do not have a blog that demonstrates their expertise, you can at least research the five people that he or she mentioned.  See if their sources demonstrates sound logical thinking.

The art of listening is something that everyone needs practice with.  Some have it more natural but the art of listening and being able to sense the nonverbal distress or reading through the lines is important.  People do not offer their true face initially especially when it comes to a sensitive topic as weight or performance.  I know that if the trainer is doing most of the talking, then there is NO WAY they can be listening.  RUN AWAY!  As you work with the trainer more or hear within your referral that the trainer “just gets me” or “is always one step ahead of what I need” then I think you reach a winner.  Do not stop there and still do your homework but this a HUGE intangible that people do not realize can impact your motivation to work out.  People thrive off of relationships and community.  If you have a sense of importance because the trainer wants to get to know you, you will more likely be excited to go to the studio or gym.

I will address the latter four factors in another article.  If you are interested in a 1-on-1 consultation on a fitness program or need any fitness advice, please feel free to email me at  Congratulations on putting in that extra step to nourish your body through movement and fitness.  Did you know that blending exercise with acupunture can be a powerful one-two combo that can get results faster?  Email us if you are interested in how that works.  ONE LOVE!