Anyone, at any point in a fitness program, can benefit from consulting a certified personal trainer. Professional athletes and others hire trainers for various reasons.
People may hire trainers for:
- Program design—to build a program to help reach goals as efficiently as possible
- Motivation—to show up for the workout and to keep the right intensity throughout the workout
- Safety—to learn how to perform exercises correctly with good form
- Special programming—for permanent or temporary conditions such as pregnancy, arthritis, and injury recovery
- Boredom relief—to help you find activities you can enjoy and feel challenged by
What Should You Expect From a Personal Trainer?
In your initial meeting, the trainer should spend time listening to your goals, exercise history, likes, dislikes, and barriers. The trainer can use this information to design a program specifically for you. If the trainer spends the first session having you workout without knowing your perferences or exercise history, look for a different trainer.
The next step after understanding your goals, is to assess your fitness and agility. Your trainer may measure your body fat, weigh you, and check your blood pressure and heart rate. The trainer may also measure your strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. The type of measurements will depend on your goals.
These initial meetings will help your trainer assess your preferences, condition, and determine the types and intensity of exercise to prescribe for you. They also give you a way to mark your progress, so expect periodic re-evaluations.
Your trainer should give you exercises to do, teach you how to perform each exercise properly, vary your exercises regularly, and challenge and motivate you. Expect your trainer to watch your exercises for proper technique. Document your workouts so you and your trainer can track your workouts and monitor progress. Careful monitoring and observation will allow the trainer to safely push your limits for the best results.
If you have any physical condition(s) or are rehabilitating an injury, inform your trainer. A trainer will help you adjust your program or design a new program for temporary physical conditions such as injury recovery or pregnancy. Safety precautions will help you stay fit until you are back to full speed.
People with health concerns such as arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes can consult with a trainer to understand what elements of a fitness routine are most effective to them. Trainers can also monitor clients for any negative effects to exercise common to their conditions and suggest alternatives. A fitness program can help many people with chronic conditions improve quality of life but may require some special guidelines. Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise routine.
Climbing Off a Plateau ^
Basic programming assistance is just one tool a personal trainer can offer. Many exercisers experience the dreaded plateau, a time when after experiencing great results, they suddenly have a period with little or no changes. A trainer can help you push your way beyond a plateau.
The trainer will again use various assessment techniques to determine where the snag may be. If the exercise program seems appropriate, it may be diet or lack of sleep that is preventing the body from progressing.
A re-vamped program, minor lifestyle changes, and new exercise techniques can have you back on track toward your goals in no time.
Should Your Trainer Provide Nutritional Counseling? ^
A trainer should not be giving clients a diet, but should have a good understanding of general nutrition and nutritional requirements. Your trainer should ask you about your diet if your progress is less than you both expect.
Many people drastically reduce their caloric intake when they begin a fitness program, since they are frequently trying to lose weight as well. They don't give their body enough calories to sustain an exercise program. Your trainer can refer you to a licensed nutritionist, if necessary.
Go, Go, Go ^
Motivation can be tough to find in the early morning hours or after a long day of work. Having set appointments with your trainer encourages you to get up and get going. Not to mention, if you miss an appointment or call to cancel, you're going to have to explain why, and in some cases, still pay for the session.
While you are working out, the trainer will be keeping any eye on your intensity level. If you are not at your best, the trainer will give you a push so that you get the most benefit from your workout. Some studies have found that people who workout with trainers do tend to see better results. Results are always very motivating!
At Home ^
The gym environment may not be attractive or convenient for you. Qualified trainers can train you at home if that is where you want to work out. It may be challenging to find a trainer who will work with you at home, depending on your location.
There are many exercise options that can be done without typical gym equipment, and a creative trainer can design a program around your resources. When looking for a home trainer, ask about equipment needs and types of exercises that you will be doing in and around your home. You may need to purchase some equipment or your trainer may bring some equipment to your home.
The Right One ^
Above all, what you should expect from your trainer is a personal program. The trainer should be able to work with you to build a program that moves you toward your goals, suits your interests, and fits into your lifestyle. Now of course, you need to put your effort into the workouts but your program should reflect your preferences not the trainers.
To find your trainer, start by looking for appropriate certifications and education. Then, look for the personality you think best fits you. Are you looking for a drill sergeant, a coach, an ultramarathoner, or a general fitness lover? Finally, talk to the trainer before your first session. During this discussion, the trainer should be listening to you. If you don't feel like you've been heard, you should interview another trainer.
American College of Sports Medicine
American Council on Exercise
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology
Healthy Canadians—Government of Canada
How to choose the right personal trainer. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy_living_fit_facts_content.aspx?itemid=19. Accessed July 23, 2015.
Personal trainers as professionals. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://certification.acsm.org/blog/2013/august/personal-trainers-as-professionals. Accessed July 23, 2015.
Using a personal trainer. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/brochures/using-a-personal-trainer.pdf?sfvrsn=4. Accessed July 23, 2015.
What can I expect when working with a personal trainer? American Council on Exercise website. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/60/65/what-can-i-expect-when-working-with-a. Accessed July 23, 2015.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 7/23/2015