Deciding to work with a personal trainer or coach is one big step in the right direction when it comes to tackling your fitness goals. But sometimes finding the best personal trainers can be tricky. The prerequisites make it seem harder than dating, and while there isn’t a Bumble for finding the One, there are a few things you can do to ensure you find the right trainer for you.
1. Do your research
Kristin Callahan of AMP Fitness says to remember your potential coach isn’t interviewing you—you’re interviewing them for the position. So start by doing your research. No one walks into a car dealership without a plan of attack, or at least some thought as to what they want to drive away with. The same rings true for finding a personal trainer. Do your research on different gyms in the area and look at what they offer. Ask yourself what it is that you want to improve and how this person can help you get there. If you’re already at a gym, Tony Gentilcore, a strength and conditioning coach in Brookline, says to simply observe other trainers. How do they interact with their clients? Are they engaged? “This is your chance to window shop,” he says. “You can’t test drive a personal trainer, like you would with a car, but you can certainly watch what they’re doing and ask their current clients what they like best about working with them to draw your own conclusions.”
2. Ask them what the last three books they’ve read are
“To me, this would be an important question,” Gentilcore says. “But it probably wouldn’t be the first thing other people come up with.” No, it’s not intuitive, but it shows whether or not the trainer cares about expanding their knowledge. Just as you’d prefer a doctor who kept up with the latest medical advances, you wouldn’t want to trust the guidance of a personal trainer who isn’t up to date with the industry. If they’re not reading new literature, attending conferences, or surrounding themselves with people who are better than them, how are they going to provide you with the best service? Jason Pak, owner of Achieve Fitness in Somerville, says the best personal trainers have a clear passion for learning. “If they’re passionate about learning, they’ll be trying to get better at their craft always.”
3. Find someone who meets you where you are
You will be spending a significant amount of time with this person. Do they give off energy that you want to be surrounded by? Gentilcore says to ask the trainer who their ideal client is as well, because that matters, too, and plays into whether or not the relationship is going to work. Because ultimately that’s what this is: a relationship. And a relationship involves meeting you where you’re at and diving deep into your health history and goals. “A coach should guide you on your journey,” Pak says. “They should be a map or a blueprint, but they should never dictate where you’re going, or how fast you get there.” You need to come up with that plan on your own.
4. Do they have a coach? And a network of people to refer out to?
Why would you buy a product from someone who’s not using their own product? “Coaches need coaches, too. I can’t give a good cue if I don’t know how it feels in my own body,” Callahan says. It’s a way for the best personal trainers to try out new things and to see if someone else’s philosophy might work better with what you need. Health and fitness trends are constantly changing and one-size-never-fits-all, so if someone tells you that there is only one right way to do something or that they’re the only one who can help you, run away.
“To be successful, you don’t need to know it all,” Gentilcore says. He understands the need for having his toes in multiple areas of expertise, but that the best personal trainers will respect their scope of practice and recognize when they should refer out to another professional. So, ask what massage therapists, physical therapists, dietitians, etc. are in their network—because you might need one of those services that your trainer is not qualified to provide.
5. They should just care
At the end of the day, the best personal trainers will simply care. They should ask you about your day, your family, and your job. They should smile when you walk in the door and be more attentive during your sets than simply counting your reps. They should support you in your endeavors outside the gym and they should respect your boundaries and personal wishes when you have to say “no” or walk away. There’s no shame in “firing” a personal trainer or telling them to back off.
“You are worthy and deserving of this type of service,” Callahan says. “Do your research, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and always, always listen to your gut—because it’s almost entirely right all of the time.”
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