IN BALANCE — How to pick a personal trainer

February 1, 2017

By Lisa Gibson

So we are truly deep in winter, and the first weeks of the New Year are rolling by. If one of your resolutions was to lose weight and get in shape but you find you are now running out of steam, don’t feel badly!

Six to eight weeks into a diet and exercise program is typically when people start dropping their resolve.

If this rings true for you, what can you do to get over the hump when that initial blast of enthusiasm is depleted, and worse, you are not seeing enough results to keep you going?

One of the things you can do is hire a personal trainer.

Frequently when you mention personal training, people think of weightlifting, kettlebells, and cardio work and that certainly is what many personal trainers provide. However, personal training is not confined to weight work. There are all kinds of workouts that trainers provide. They all produce results, so you should pick one that you like because that will give you a much better chance of sticking with it until you do start to see results.

So how do you determine if a personal trainer is right for you? Perhaps you’ve joined a health club and told them you were interested in personal training and they assigned a trainer to you. How do you determine if the trainer is a good fit.

First look for a trainer who is certified by a national organization like NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), ACE (American Council on Exercise), AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America), and SCW (Sara City Workout).

During your first meeting, your trainer should give you a thorough assessment. Provide accurate information. You need to disclose injuries you’ve had, health conditions, and any and all medications you take.

You must be 100 percent honest about any medical conditions you have and medications you take because many blood pressure drugs change heart rate. Clients with diabetic or asthmatic conditions may require more extensive monitoring during the training process. Depending on your medical history, your trainer may stipulate that you provide permission from your doctor that would outline the restrictions the trainer will need to be aware of and adhere to during your workouts.

Your weight, measurements, body fat percentages, heart rate, strength levels, and endurance will also be assessed in your initial meeting to establish a baseline in order to measure your progress.

That’s great advice, I hear you thinking, but how do I know if this is a person I want to entrust with my body and health?

First, does the trainer listen to you and give you appropriate feedback? For example, you tell them your right knee is a mess, you are terrified of lunges, and you don’t want to do them at all. A good trainer will not force you to do lunges. Instead, they will find other exercises to accomplish the same goals, and possibly gradually introduce lunges later on in your work together when you have established a sufficient level of trust.

Similarly, any trainer, who, in the first weeks of training, is working you to the point that you are so sore you can barely move, should be fired. You want to be slightly sore, but not to the degree that your ability to perform the activities of daily living is impaired.

You should seek and be provided with appropriate feedback from your trainer. That includes realistic goal setting. For example, during your first assessment you say, “I want to lose 50 pounds in a month.” A good trainer will let you know that is not a realistic goal, nor is it healthy, and they will present you with alternatives, even if it means they might lose you as a client.

You also want a trainer who tailors your workout for you. Does your workout change depending on your circumstances or is it identical every session? If there are other people in your session, are you all doing the same work or is it tailored to each individual in the group?

I had a client who was a cancer survivor and what she was capable of doing in a given session depended a great deal on how much sleep she had the night before and where she was at in her medication cycle. I tailored her workout accordingly. Although this is an extreme example, the fact is, our ability to exercise varies from day to day and a good trainer knows when to nudge you and when to back off.

Lastly, and equally importantly, do you like the trainer? I know it sounds like a no brainer, but no matter how highly someone is recommended, if you don’t like them, you won’t stick with them. A professional trainer is never insulted when someone leaves for another trainer because sometimes the fit just is not right. The overarching goal of any fitness professional is to encourage clients to reach their goals, set new ones, and eventually not need the trainer anymore.

Good luck with your life and health goals for 2017!

Find an ACE-certified trainer:
Lisa Gibson is a national and international fitness presenter, certified through ACE, AFAA, AEA, SCW Fitness, and Physicalmind Institute. She can be reached at or at 920-535-0504

Copyright 2016 by Bay View Compass. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Comment on this Bay View Compass item.