5 Tips For Choosing The Right Trainer

(So, I started this post last night after hosting a baby shower in Brooklyn and I totally fell asleep. Better late than never, I suppose!)

Ladies and gentlemen, there are A LOT of bad trainers out there. They’re certified (not necessarily by reputable agencies, but they are technically “certified” because there is no national oversight committee for personal trainers…yet), employed by major gyms, some are even paid quite a bit of money to do what they do. This does not make them a good trainer. Some of the best, smartest, most talented trainers I know are so low key, you would need a reference from another trainer just to find them. So, how do you find the right trainer for you? The same way you go about finding a pair of jeans. You shop.

Very few people I know buy their jeans without trying them on. Even fewer buy the first pair they try on. It’s just not the way you go about finding your perfect pair. You first decide what you want to look like in your new jeans. Are you going for a perkier behind? What about (my personal quest) longer-looking legs? Guys-fitted but not skinny jeans? Then you browse. Check out what’s available. You try some on and then price them out. It’s a process. You should devote the same amount of effort to hiring a trainer.

1. Decide what your goals are. A marathon? Strength? Flexibility? Speed? Longer legs, perkier behind…etc. This will help you narrow down who will be a good fit for you. Odds are if you’re looking to run a marathon, you probably don’t want to train with someone whose idea of running is down the stairs to catch the subway. Experience is gold in the physical world. And while the body does what it does and there’s pretty much no deviation from classic human anatomy and physiology, there is something to be said for taking advice from someone who’s been there.

2. Shop around. One of my clients told me she “stalked” me before she asked for a trial workout. I love that! Check out what’s available and get recommendations from people whom you trust. Chances are, your friends and coworkers will provide the most honest and trusted reviews. Yelp and Google can be helpful for reviews on local trainers, but nothing beats word of mouth. Also, if you’re coming off of an injury, as your PT if they have a recommendation. I have reciprocal relationships with several PTs in the city because they trust me with recovering athletes and I trust them to fix my clients (and me, sometimes!).

3. Try some on for size. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few, make an appointment with each of them to experience what they have to offer. By the way, most trainers (and gyms, for that matter) offer complimentary first workouts, which are a great way to decide whether or not a trainer is a good fit for you.

4. Price them out. The going rate in the city is about $85-$125/hour, but that’s Manhattan. Most trainers offer discounted packages if you buy 5, 10, 25 sessions at a time. If it’s too much for your bank account, ask about partner sessions and go in on it with a friend. Or, ask about half-hour sessions instead of the full hour. Show up warmed up and stay to stretch afterwards in order to maximize those 30 minutes.

5. Decide who “feels” best. You have to be comfortable with your trainer. You will be giving up control of your body for an hour to this person and, if you don’t trust them, it could be disastrous. Also, if you get the feeling that they don’t know what they’re doing or talking about, you’re probably right. Trust your first impression and go with your gut.

Red flags that tell you they aren’t the trainer for you:

-They talk about themselves the whole time.

They work out while they’re training you.

-They talk on the phone during your workout (I did this once, but in my defense, my boyfriend–now husband, was in Iraq with the USMC at the time and I never knew when he would be able to call. When this was happening, I warned my clients in advance and gave them the option to work out at a different time or with a different trainer)

-They cut your time short.

-They train someone else while they’re training you.

-They are unprofessional (in any way, shape or form: appearance, vocabulary, manners, etc.)

-They aren’t certified.

-They make the time about them and not about you. You should be their focus the entire time, not the chick/dude across the room or their friends on the treadmills.

-They don’t listen to what you want. You want to work on your legs and they have you doing chest press for 20 minutes? That’s a problem.

Contrary to what you might have seen on TV, vomiting mid-workout is not normal, nor is it indicative of a good workout. If you are sore for more than 4 days post-workout, this is also NOT a sign of good workout. Rather, these both tell me that the trainer you worked with pushed you too hard. Delayed onset muscle soreness is 48 hours, not a week. Feeling sore after more than 4 days means that your muscle tissue is damaged, which is bad. Passing out is also not a good thing. The trainer should be able to accurately assess your fitness level before you begin your workout by having a conversation prior to the start. They should also be able to tailor the exercises through the workout if it seems you are struggling. If not, they aren’t paying attention and do you want a trainer who doesn’t pay attention to you? I think not.

I’m pretty picky about what jeans I buy. They’ve got to fit juuuuust right. You’re trusting your trainer with your body. Take the time to find the right fit for you.

Now go out and run!



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