Finding your perfect personal trainer partner
Sadly there isn’t a Tinder or equivalent for finding your perfect PT match when it comes to identifying the right personal trainer for you! While all PTs should have certain values in common – a desire to provide motivation, encouragement and sensible targets for their clients – the individual approach and ethos can vary considerably. Just as teachers, academics, coaches – all professions involved in educating others – will have their own system of beliefs or approach – the same is true of PTs. Finding the one that matches you is critical if you are to get the most out of the relationship and the best value for money.
So in the sea of information and science, how do you go about identifying a Personal Trainer that is best suited to your needs (and vice versa)?
1) Credentials: The most obvious and critical starting point. Do they have a background in dance, sport, science? Where have they trained? What qualifications do they have? Ensure that they are recognised by the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) and that they have achieved at least level three in the National Occupational Standards (NOS) which are agreed by the industry and underpin the REPs categories. Don’t forget to also check that they have a valid first aid qualification.
2) Experience: How long have they been practising? Have they been around the block? Someone newly qualified may well have the enthusiasm and skill required but you may want to partner with someone who has developed their approach and got some experience under their belt
3) Philosophy: What is their approach or philosophy? This is harder to gauge but arguably as important as their experience. Find out how they will approach your fitness challenge. Do they talk in terms of developing a programme or offer any protocols that encourage a consistent approach to setting (and ensuring you reach) key goals or does it feel more fluid? Will it all be gym-based? Will it involve free weights and machines?
4) Ethos: Are they motivated by your achieving sustainable fitness and better health or are they more about the body beautiful? Pay attention to how a PT includes any cosmetic advantages to an exercise. eg this will help broaden your back or elongate your thighs. This can reflect a lack of scientific knowledge and possibly offer a clue as to their personal drives
5) Specialisms: Think about what you want to get out of the engagement. If it’s to train to run a marathon then it makes sense to find someone whose personal interest and experience lies with running, over, for example, weight lifting. Be wary of a PT who seems to follow fitness trends or fads. Suggesting you follow the most popular method training may not necessarily be the right option for you
6) Personality: People respond differently to training styles. Some need cheerleading and enthusiasm, others prefer to be pushed to their limits with a more forceful approach. Have a chat to the trainer and work out their personality and whether they are likely to provide a good fit for you
7) Testimonials: don’t forget to ask the PT for testimonials. PTs should have a bunch of happy clients who will be pleased with what they have helped them achieve and more than happy to share their successes and provide a recommendation. This is also a chance to dig deeper into the PTs approach to training and personality which can be harder to gauge in your initial meeting
This is by no means an exhaustive list – other factors such as cost, location, availability all of course have their part to play. Nor am I suggesting that each of the criteria should be given equal weighting. The important point is to focus on the aspects that are of most importance to you and refine your search on this basis.
Next week I’ll be looking at what PTs look for in their clients! This will help you get even more out of your PT sessions…