How to Choose a Personal Trainer

Four Parts:Identifying the Type of Trainer You NeedLocating Potential TrainersAssessing a Potential TrainerMaking Your Choice

Hiring a personal trainer can get you started or take your physical fitness to the next level, and bring focus and structure to relative beginners. A trainer can give you a well-rounded workout that will work every muscle group, and help you develop core strength as well. A trainer can help motivate and teach you to become confident in using the gym equipment, perform better in a sport, or share techniques for improving your quality of life.

Part 1
Identifying the Type of Trainer You Need

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    Figure out your goals. Knowing what you need and want to accomplish will prepare you for choosing the right personal trainer. Some trainers will be well-suited to your needs, whereas others may seem lacking in the experience needed to help you. Consider your goals: many people start by saying they want to lose a certain amount of weight. Others aim for running in a marathon. And for others the goal can be simply to regain strength and health after an injury.
    • Keep nutrition in mind when considering your goals. You may want to alter your diet as you get more physically fit.
    • Some common fitness goals include improving your balance and flexibility, improving your immune system, or even just getting out of your comfort zone.
    • Make these goals as specific as possible. So not just, “I want to get stronger abs,” but “I want to be able to do 50 regular and 50 inverted sit-ups in one go by the end of next month.”
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    Look at the activities you enjoy. Before you commit to a workout routine (let alone a trainer), it is helpful to see how the physical activities your already enjoy could be a part of your training. That way you can avoid potential boredom and have fun at the same time you're getting healthy. Is straightforward weight lifting all that you're looking for? Maybe you want to improve your cardiovascular health but find most fitness routines boring. In that case you may want to find a trainer who does dance aerobics.
    • Consider what sports you have played during your lifetime. Maybe you want to do workouts that incorporate aspects of these sports.
    • Once you start interviewing trainers, share this information and see if the trainer connects with it too.
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    Consider one-on-one training. There are many benefits of working alone with a trainer. Solo classes give your trainer more time to focus on your specific needs. He can also spend more time observing you, tracking progress, checking your vitals and improvements in health. You'll be the center of attention every time you meet. For some people this is ideal, but for others it may be a drawback.
    • With one-one-one training it's even more important that you are socially comfortable with your trainer.
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    Think about group classes. Some personal trainers lead multiple clients at a time. Since there are more people working out together, you have more opportunity for a fun and social time. This can counter the boredom that many people claim they feel around working out. Classmates can also help keep you motivated and hold you accountable for doing exercises completely, correctly, and pushing yourself further.[1]
    • Many group classes are designed to be more engaging. Aerobics, choreographed dance, pilates, indoor cycling, kickboxing, muscle conditioning, and fall prevention are all examples of group classes with a range of style and experience.
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    Consider a weight loss clinic. Some people are not as interested in becoming an athlete, training for competitions, or anything that intense. For many it's just about dropping pounds, which is as good a reason as any to train. A weight loss clinic is a facility where you can consult with doctors and create a personalized weight loss plan. Medical professionals will then help you stick with your weight loss plan through weekly meetings at the clinic and check ins.[2]
    • You may want to call around to several different weight loss clinics in your area to find the right one for you. You can also ask the clinic about the quality of their fitness coaches and read reviews online for the weight loss clinic.
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    Decide if you want a virtual trainer. Working with a trainer in person could be the wrong fit for several reasons. Maybe you can't afford it, you don't want to commute to train, or you simply aren't comfortable with anyone you've met. It's also possible to use videos and video games as a replacement for a personal trainer.
    • Many people have posted training videos on YouTube that can be accessed for free.
    • Some professional trainers and athletes have their own video series devoted to different workouts routines.
    • Nintendo has motion-sensor based video games that lead you through workout routines. These have become popular with kids and adults alike.
    • Be advised that any videos you find online may not be done by an accredited trainer. And so you cannot guarantee they are showing proper form or that they are as knowledgeable about health and injury. They also can't see you, so they can't check to make sure you are using correct form.
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    Identify specific types of training you're interested in. Are there programs you've heard of and want to give a shot? CrossFit, Pilates, YogaFit, and kettle bells are a few skills that different trainers specialize in.
    • You may then want to look into trainers who offer the types of training you are interested in. Search for a trainer who is a pro in CrossFit or a master yogi. Seek out a trainer who integrates kettle bells into her training programs. Often, the more specialized a trainer is, the more skilled she is at a specific workout or training style.
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    Know your price limits. It's not necessary to throw your entire budget into havoc just to afford a trainer you're sold on. Even if you find a trainer who is a good fit, if he charges more than you can afford, you might need to make another choice. Make a budget and decide based on your income and expenses how much you're able to spend each month on physical training.
    • Personal trainer rates can range from $60–$70 an hour to as low as $25 an hour. Trainer rates are usually lower in small towns and cities. But there is usually not a big price difference between a trainer you go to at a gym and a trainer who comes to your house to train you.[3]

Part 2
Locating Potential Trainers

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    Ask for recommendations. Word of mouth, whether from friends or acquaintances can be a solid source of information. Talk to people whose physique and health you admire and want to achieve. See who they work with and look into that trainer. Oftentimes talking to people who already have experience with a trainer is the most helpful way to make a smart choice.[4]
    • Keep in mind that not everyone likes the same kind of training. If you and the people you talk to have very different needs, goals, and respond to different kinds of motivation, their recommendation might not be helpful to you.
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    Go through a gym or fitness center. Joining a gym has the benefit of giving you access to a range of workout equipment. Some gyms also have technology for testing clients' physical health. Whether you are already a gym member, or still just considering your options, it's possible to visit different gyms in your area to learn about their trainers. Ask the people in charge for background info, credentials, and skill sets of each trainer.
    • Usually gyms offer personal training as an add on cost. You can sign up for personal training and pay another fee on top of the monthly fee you pay for general use of the equipment and the space. They may also have contracts with trainers so they can only offer their services at that gym.[5]
    • Before signing up, try to find out how the trainers are paid and whether they work on commission sales. Sometimes commercial gyms hire personal trainers as sales people. Although they are well-meaning, these people can be more driven to sell you memberships and services, than they are to help you with your fitness goals.
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    Use online directories. The NSCA, ACSM, IDEA, and ACE all have search tools to locate credentialed personal trainers based on area code. Using these databases can give you a strong list of people to check out. And furthermore it can guarantee anyone you find will have the necessary skills and training to help you.
    • It's possible to have trainers come to your home. This is convenient and may appeal to you. However if you go this option, make sure you run a background check on the trainer for your own safety.[6]

Part 3
Assessing a Potential Trainer

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    Observe the trainers at work. If you are at a gym, pay attention to the trainers who are working with their clients. If they work in their own gyms, move from place to place as a consultant, or work outside of a gym, ask if you can come observe them work with a client. You'll interview them yourself later, but first you can gain valuable knowledge by watching them work with other clients.
    • Staring in a gym is rude, but if you are using a machine near a trainer and client you can hear how they interact and get an idea of how knowledgeable the trainer is.
    • Do the clients seem to enjoy being around her? Are her clients trying hard and do they seem motivated?
    • Different people look for different qualities in trainers. While some people enjoy the intensity of a drill-sergeant, others need a more light-hearted and supportive approach.
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    Have a conversation with all the trainers. See who you gel with and pay attention to your comfort level. Personality matters. No matter how good a trainer is, if you don't get along with him, you won't be happy. Some people want someone to scream at them, but others are intimidated by forceful trainers.
    • Don't engage him as a potential client. If he asks, you can say you're just working out on your own for now before making a decision. Have casual conversation and trust your emotional instincts.
    • Test his sense of humor. Tell jokes that reveal a little about who you are and what your perspectives are. His reaction will help you judge how you two may understand each other and get along.
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    Interview the trainers who interest you. Once you've found a few people who interest you, based in your observations and conversations, interview them one-by-one. Although you are the client, you're the one who is actually employing the trainer. So it is perfectly normal to ask any questions you have before making a commitment.
    • A good trainer will listen to you, find out what your goals are, and help you reach those goals.
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    Check her credentials. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) are considered the most rigorous and respected programs for athletic trainers in the US.[7] The National Academy Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) are the other two most reputable establishments.[8] Any personal trainer who is certified by one of these establishments will have the skills and training necessary to help you with your fitness goals.
    • Take a look at this chart for a comparison of the three accrediting agencies.
    • Other countries, like Canada, have different governing bodies in each province, and many disciplines (yoga, martial arts, sports associations, pilates, etc.) certify various types of trainers and coaches in various disciplines. Trainers pay fees and must take ongoing training to maintain accreditations with these governing bodies.
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    Ask about his experience as a personal trainer. It's important to know how long the person has been working as a personal trainer, as well as what kind of physical fitness he has been involved with beforehand. You might not want to work with someone who is new to working professionally. Or maybe you enjoy the vitality of a younger, albeit less experienced, trainer. That decision is up to you.
    • Ask about his work experience, but also ask about any sports, competitions, performances, dance, and other physical activities he has spent his time on throughout his life.
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    Discuss your goals and how she will help you. Find out how she plans on motivating you to accomplish your goals. Once you've shared your goals, ask what kind of routines she envisions to help you succeed. Also find out how she plans on tracking your progress.
    • Trainers can show you weekly routines she will lead you through to accomplish your goals. She will break down the hours trained and how all your time is divided between various workouts.
    • Stay realistic about your goals. For example if you tell a trainer that you want to lose 50 pounds in a week, and she says that's unhealthy and pretty unreasonable, don't be upset. People who promise you the impossible or don't point out reality may not be trustworthy.
    • Ask about any specific routines or programs you are interested in (CrossFit, YogaFit, etc.).
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    Bring up any health conditions and injuries you have. Injuries happen with training. Ask how he plans on preventing and working with any injuries you have or may get later on. Also, he will need to know your health conditions so he can avoid harmful activities.
    • If you have major injuries and are working on overcoming them, you may want to find someone who has experience with physical therapy. Ask if the trainer has any experience with physical therapy or rehabilitation.
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    Ask for references. If you found a trainer through a gym or search database, get some direct opinions and information from her former or current clients. People who have worked directly with a trainer can offer insightful details about the trainer's personality, abilities, ups, and downs.
    • When contacting strangers, be polite and grateful for the help they're offering you by giving their time.
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    Ask for his schedule. Whether you like a potential trainer or not can become less significant depending on his availability. Have your own weekly/monthly calendar ready to compare with each trainer's open time slots. Look for someone who is free at times that accommodate your lifestyle.
    • It's possible that you like and believe in a trainer enough to change your own schedule. Be sure to weigh your other responsibilities and desires before going through with that kind of adjustment.
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    Use a free monthly training session. Observation, conversation, and interview can tell you a lot. However, nothing will give you a better idea of which trainer is right for you than actually working out with her. If your gym/athletic club offers free monthly trainings, take advantage of this opportunity. Use the free monthly session to get acquainted with the different trainers in the gym.

Part 4
Making Your Choice

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    Don't rush your decision. You don't have to sign up for training sessions with the trainer who gives you your initial tour of the gym. Trainers often show a lot of enthusiasm in conversation and may try to persuade you to be their client. Don't let anyone talk you into making immediate decisions. Instead, take the time to observe and interact with all the possible trainers. This way you'll feel more confident with your final choice.
    • If a trainer pushes you to sign you up soon, just politely decline his offer. Let him know you want to see what everyone has to offer before starting a trainer-client relationship.
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    Get a detailed explanation of his prices. The average range for personal trainers in the U.S. is $18/hr and can range anywhere from $9 to $48.59/hr.[9] If anyone tells you he charges more than this, you are possibly getting taken advantage of and should move on. If he charges in the higher end of this range, look for experience, credentials, and a personality to justify it.
    • In Canada you can expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $120 or $150 per hour or per session (confirm this with your trainer). The average is around $40-50.
    • If you are meeting your trainer far from his "base," will you be paying his travel time? Trainers are often willing to meet in parks and other public spaces, but make sure you know if this will be an additional cost.
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    Ask about package deals and policies. Often times you can save money by buying multiple sessions at once. It's also possible to save money by joining in-group sessions. For either case, ask whether there is an expiration date on your purchased sessions. Also inquire about their cancellation and refund policy.
    • It's also common for trainers to include physical assessments in their deals. This could be testing for blood pressure, body fat, endurance, flexibility, and strength.
    • Most trainers have a 24 hour minimum cancellation policy. If you miss a session and give less than 24 hours notice, you may still have to pay.
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    Look out for red flags. There are trainers out there who are unqualified to teach or take advantage of their situation to profit from clients' inexperience. Don't buy into trainers who try to sell you workout supplements. Oftentimes they earn a commission, and for most people (who don't want to be body builders), there is no need for more than a balanced diet and proper exercise. Also look out for trainers who give excessive advice about your diet. It's okay to come up with a new diet together, but personal trainers are not certified to offer dietary advice, even if they go by “nutritionists”. Only Registered Dieticians can legally make a meal plan for you.[10]
    • Your trainer may have nutrition certifications which allows her to provide some advice about diet including macro nutrient balance (fats, carbohydrates, protein), calorie guidelines, good eating habits and hydration. Most trainers know a great deal about nutrition but should keep within their scope of practice, which will depend on their certifications.
    • Impatience is a critical attribute to avoid. Trainers need to work with each individual client's needs and capacities. Their job is to motivate you, not to push you out of frustration with your pace.
    • Professionalism is necessary. Even with trainers with whom you talk with informally and feel comfortable around are there in a professional capacity. And as such they should show care and service to you like any other professional.


  • Your personal trainer can't do his job if you don't do yours. Show up on time, bring a towel, bring your water. Between training sessions, do your workouts on your own as recommended. Don't expect to reach your goal without a lot of work and sweat.
  • If you sign up for a number of sessions and find that you're not getting along with the trainer, ask the management if you can switch.


  • Always consult your physician before you start an exercise program.
  • If any exercise hurts, tell your trainer immediately. She should be able to give you alternatives that won't injure you.

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