Hiring the right health professional to support your well being for the long term is the best investment you can make for yourself. Making informed decisions about exercise, nutrition, stress management and sleeping habits not only contributes to your continuing good health, it also helps you avoid disease such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer. Although genetics may put you at higher risk for certain diseases, you can significantly reduce your risk and prevent disease by making the appropriate lifestyle changes. You may have great research skills and there certainly isn’t anything wrong about being your own healthcare advocate; however, most people don’t have the experience, knowledge nor skills to decipher what a “healthy” lifestyle is and isn’t. Investing in the services of a trained professional who has far more experience in health and fitness is just good common sense, particularly someone who specializes in it 24/7. The most critical thing of your life – your health – deserves nothing less than the best! There are a lot of great trainers out there, however, as in many areas of life, the bad seem to out number the good (unfortunately), and it’s the people who need help who ultimately pay the price. Listed below are my top qualities that demonstrate if your trainer is a score or a scam!
PASSION FOR FITNESS AND IS FIT THEMSELVES
- Being fit is in large part a function of passion, determination, and dedication (whereas an elite athlete is in large part a function of talent). Your trainer should lead by example and practice what they preach. Not every trainer will have a lean and fit physique, but your trainer should put their best efforts towards their goals and should be committed to living a proactive lifestyle.
- Your trainer should have more muscle, less fat, and a better health profile than the average person. Why would you listen to any advice on building muscle, losing fat, and getting healthier if the trainer themselves isn’t healthy and fit – and doesn’t practice the behaviour necessary to remain that way?
- Having a strong educational background in health and fitness is a must. If your trainer doesn’t have a post-secondary education in health or fitness, then make sure they have other certifications and credentials in health and fitness to ensure they are properly certified and educated in their area of expertise.
- Obviously, your trainer should have knowledge of human anatomy and the concepts of functional exercise, basic nutrition and basic exercise science.
- A trainer’s job is to help clients adapt, grow, and change. A great trainer must do so also. Therefore, continuing education is also important. If your trainer isn’t growing and learning, neither are you. You want someone who has clearly made it a priority to seek life-long education. Your trainer should be someone who has gone out and sought a diverse knowledge profile and is learning about training methodologies, body composition, nutrition, supplementation, and more.
- It’s vital to keep up with the latest scientific research. Since science is always changing, it’s crucial that your trainer reads research articles on a regular basis. A great trainer can provide you with valid, peer-reviewed scientific evidence to back up everything they are telling you and teaching you. They should be able to explain their reasoning behind why they are making you do certain things (e.g. exercises, food, liquids, supplements, etc.).
- Your trainer should have experience training people, especially for the specific goals you are trying to attain. If they don’t have many years of experience training people as personal trainer, then they should at least have experience in a similar field (e.g. rehab, physiotherapy, massage therapy, athletic training, etc.). What’s important is that the fitness professional has experience that relates to your health and fitness goals, as well as your limitations.
UNDERSTANDING OF WHEN TO PUSH HARD AND HOW HARD TO PUSH THE CLIENT
- Anyone can make someone do a hard workout, but they key is knowing when not to push and when to pull a client back in with understanding, empathy, and a little rest. Your trainer should know when and how to safely push you outside of your comfort zone, but will also know when to ease back. Your trainer shouldn’t be pushing you to maximal effort on a regular basis nor follow the “no pain, no gain” method as it will only run you down and increase your risk of illness and injury.
- You should be making progress and getting closer toward your fitness and health goals. Realistically, it takes several years for most people to reach their goals. But, if you’re making progress in general, then that’s what matters most.
- Since most people train with their trainer only a few hours each week, what you do outside of the gym is just as important, if not more important. Don’t blame your trainer for not making progress if you aren’t making the appropriate lifestyle changes outside of the gym. If you truly are putting in your best efforts and aren’t seeing results, then at the very least, your trainer should be trying to find out why you’re not getting results.
- No matter what your goals are, your trainer should have the desire to help you reach your health and fitness goals through appropriate cardiovascular, flexibility and resistance exercise. No matter what your goals are, every program should incorporate a variety of different training methods (i.e. mobility, flexibility, strength, and endurance) to ensure your improving your overall health.
- Your trainer should perform thorough and complete assessments when working with a new client, before doing anything else. This may include: movement assessment, baseline measurements (heart rate, blood pressure, body composition, weight), health history, stress management history, nutrition assessment, and more. Not only should your trainer perform a baseline assessment, but should complete assessments periodically to track progress.
HAVE A PLAN
- Before day 1, session 1, after all the assessments are complete, your trainer should already have, in hand, at least a 3-month plan based on their client’s level, needs and goals. Although sickness, injuries, and other factors can slightly deter the planned workout or program at times, your trainer should have a unique periodization programmed specifically for you. Every single body is different – so every single program should be designed specifically for that client (no cookie-cutter programs!).
- You trainer should be able to identify the problem and create a solution. If your having pain/tightness, then they should address it immediately. If they don’t know the solution immediately, then they should seek the right sources so that you feel better ASAP (e.g. they will do research so that they can fix the problem at your next session or they will direct you to the right health professional – dietitian, physiotherapist, etc.)
- Although some lifestyle changes are required to successfully reach your goals, your trainer should try to adapt to your lifestyle as much as possible. A great trainer will do everything in their efforts to ensure you can keep living a similar lifestyle and still enjoy some of your favourite things (e.g. eating your favourite food, watching your favourite TV show, etc.).
DEMONSTRATE PREVIOUS SUCCESSES
- Your trainer should be able to point to compelling testimonials from previous clients about their services. They won’t hesitate to introduce you to a few, so you can talk to them directly about the experience.
- The best trainers keep detailed statistics of their clients. They track client adherence, they log how their clients’ bodies are changing and over what time period, and they record performance and lifestyle changes. Your trainer should measure everything. They should monitor and record performance variables like reps, sets, and rest intervals. They should also monitor workout attendance, nutrition habit and behaviour compliance, body composition, and more.
- Without metrics, no one knows if progress is being made, so you’ll miss what you don’t measure and record.
INTEGRATE OTHER ASPECTS OF HEALTH AND WELL BEING
- In order to change your body, you must make lifestyle changes, and that means more than just exercise. Your trainer should offer solutions and do regular assessments on your nutrition, sleep, and stress management as part of the programming. At the very least, they should refer you to the appropriate health professionals (e.g. dietitian, sleep specialist, etc.) in the interim as they further their education in other areas of health and fitness.
BEWARE OF BAD TRAINERS!
INEXPERIENCED ONLINE TRAINERS
- Although an online coach may look the part and have lots of followers, it doesn’t mean they have the skills, knowledge and experience to train YOU. Some people build a huge social media following, then use that to sell online training or nutrition programs, but they have no experience as a trainer. It is possible to do a good job with online coaching; however, it’s very hard and it requires a lot of experience and discipline.
NEWBIE CONTEST PREP COACHES
- Some people with very little training background decide to do a physique contest and then market themselves as contest prep experts (after doing one show). Under the best possible circumstances, under the supervision of someone with true experience as a contest trainer, contest prep is an extremely demanding and even dangerous thing. Putting this into the hands of a fake expert could very well destroy your health, along with your bank account.
- Many people go into the personal trainer role because they have a passion for fitness and helping others. But if your trainer is solely giving you a good sweat session and nothing more, then you’re probably not going to see great results. Reaching your fitness and health goals is so much more than exercise, it integrates all areas of life including: nutrition, sleep, stress management, mental health and more.
- A lot of trainers think that the harder they push a client, the more they progress. Any trainer can demolish a client with excessive work. That’s the easy way to earn a reputation. Getting them results through proper programming is another story. It’s true you must train very hard to get results, but there’s a difference between hard work that will stimulate progress and pointless exercises that run you down and increase your risk of injury.
- A lot of trainers don’t educate their clients enough – fearing that if the client gains too much knowledge, then they’ll stop training with them and train on their own. If they don’t recommend science articles, books, or blogs, or simply don’t teach you why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’re wasting your time.
A personal trainer is supposed to support, motivate, and educate you. If you feel your personal trainer doesn’t possess the qualities to help you successfully reach your health and fitness goals, then its time to find a new one. If you’ve been with your personal trainer for a long time and feel a sense of loyalty, you may be nervous to end the relationship. But remember that it’s your money and your body. Don’t put it off. Be professional in your approach, stand your ground, take emotions out of it, and keep your sights set on your fitness goals.