Fitness Articles

What You Forgot to Ask Your Personal Trainer

7 Questions to Find the Very Best Trainer for You

You already know how personal trainers help you reach your goals and push you to the next level, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned exerciser. You probably also know a little about how to choose the right trainer with the proper qualifications. However, how do you find the absolute best trainer for you and your goals?

I'm about to share a secret with you: Not every personal trainer—no matter how fabulous or talented he or she is—is going to be right for you. You may be dazzled by proven results, certifications and background, but by asking just seven questions, you can tap into exactly whom the personal trainer is and whether he or she will gel with you. Approach it as if you're in human resources and hiring for a big position in a big company. After all, you're pretty darn important, and you're handing over a big piece of your life here. When meeting with a personal trainer for the first time, most people ask solid basic questions, but these less traditional and less conventional questions really give you a sense as to why the personal trainer has chosen his or her career and what he or she can do for you. Read on to learn what questions to ask to find YOUR best trainer!

1. How do you stay in shape? Most personal trainers will train themselves similarly to how they'll train you. If they love to run, then they'll probably suggest that you run, too, as long as you're able. If they swear by daily yoga to stay fit, then they'll most likely suggest that you try yoga. Although this question doesn't guarantee what type of exercises they might have you do in a personal-training session, it does provide a window into their workout soul.

2. What's your fitness philosophy? A personal trainer should—without hesitation—be able to tell you exactly what he believes when it comes to fitness. Does he train his clients for better health? To improve body confidence? To show off a six-pack? This question really gets into what makes a personal trainer tick and will let you know better what goals the trainer will have in mind for you to set and achieve.

3. Do you recommend supplements? Although healthy eating is key to losing weight and getting in shape, personal trainers are not registered dietitians, and therefore should never give out specific nutritional advice such as meal plans or supplement recommendations beyond a multivitamin. When you ask this question, if a personal trainer starts going on and on about what supplements (or worse, diet pills) he or she uses and recommends to her clients, beware. It is outside of a personal trainer's scope of practice to give specific dietary recommendations.

4. Are you CPR and AED certified? You probably already asked whether the personal trainer is properly certified by a personal-training association, but double check that he is currently CPR and AED certified. AED stands for automated external defibrillator and if you or someone else at the gym has a heart attack, it can save a life. Make sure your personal trainer knows how to use it and is properly trained to respond during potential emergencies.

5. Are most of your clients long term or short term? If a personal trainer has mostly long-term clients, then you know that he or she is probably good at relationship building and at keeping workouts fresh and challenging over time. On the flip side, if they're all short-term, this might signify that the personal trainer is either brand new to the industry (you should definitely ask about previous training experience) or fitness facility. At worst, this could signal an underlying training or personality issue. If you're just looking to invest in a few personal training sessions and you really like a personal trainer who has mostly short-term clients, that's OK. It's when you're looking to invest in a large package of sessions that you need to be careful whom you choose to work with for the next six months. When all else fails, go with your gut.

6. How many times per week do you train clients? A lot of personal trainers train as a part-time job, so if this number is below 10, don't be afraid. Just follow up by asking whether they have a full-time job. If they don't have another job, then ask why they train so infrequently. If they do 30-plus sessions a week, ask them how they keep things fresh and how they avoid burnout. Most trainers who do more than 30 sessions a week are working very long hours from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., almost every day of the week. With that much training, burnout is inevitable, and you don't want it to happen during your session!

7. Why are you a personal trainer? Similar to, but different from, question No. 2, this one addresses why the trainer got into the fitness field. If it's to see people transform their bodies, then you know the trainer focuses on the physical. If the trainer says it's to help people transform their lives, then you know they'll probably have your well-being in mind. If the trainer takes a few minutes to answer or isn't sure, run far, far away!

If you've been working with a trainer for awhile now and ask these questions without receiving the answers you were hoping for, here are some more tips on how to break up with your personal trainer. Asking these questions and breaking up may be hard to do, but your fitness journey is all about you, so ask away!

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Member Comments

  • Fit mind. Fit body. Fit soul.
  • A trainer, personal or otherwise, is alas not in my budget.

    However, my real personal trainer has 4 paws! :-)
  • I AM a Personal Trainer, and completely AGREE with this article!
    When I first meet with a potential new client, I first ask them about themselves, then I tell them about me, my personal struggle with weight, my training view, my certifications, and how long I've been training!
    I usually can tell, at the beginning, if we're a good fit! If not, I ask one of my co-workers/traine
    rs, if they would speak with them!

    I train each of my clients based on their own fitness levels. I train a lot of overweight people. My theory is, which should be EVERY PT's thinking, is to start a client where they need to be! Meaning, you don't start an obese person out doing plyometrics, or running a mile! They need to be walking...or better yet, eliptical or stationary bike, and working on basic balance!

    I do NOT train my clients based on how I train! I have a Personal Trainer, that I pay, to get me, and keep me in tip top shape! He trains me in a Body Building format! Unless someone ASKS me to train this way, I do NOT take this route!

    Every trainer should be compassionate to your goals!
    Personally, I believe that the best trainers are the ones who have had weight issues! They (we) can relate to the struggles and obstacles of the journey!

    Ask questions! Don't be afraid to ask to speak with another trainer, BEFORE signing that contract!

    Most of all, communicate with your trainer, AND Be DEDICATED! We can only push you for an hour or two a week! YOU have to do the work OUTSIDE of the session, if you want to see results! Just hiring a trainer, will NOT make you fit and healthy!

    Have FUN and Best Wishes on your journey!
  • Me being me I know that if someone isn't beating me, I would never work out ... never. I know me and no amount of motivation will have me working out at home. In comes the personal trainer. Is it expensive, sure not OMG expensive but enough. I've been working out with PT for probably 3 years and, for me, it is worth it.

    I've had two PTs a man and a woman, both excellent. The guy worked me, built strength and stamina. The woman gave me a woman's body slim and lean - like a dancer. I had surgery this year and was working with the guy trainer at that time and had to stop while recouperating.

    Once I received the OK to start working out again, I thought did I want the male trainer or return to the woman? The woman won out because in my opinion a woman knows what parts of our body needs to be trained to achieve a woman's sleek body. I've been training with her again for 4 weeks and am so glad I chose her to retune my woman's body. There is a difference between a male and female trainer and how they approach working a woman's body. I'm sure many folks would disagree, but this is what I believe is best for me.

    Have I "broken up" with the male trainer ... not officially, but I cannot afford to have two PTs. It will be a difficult conversation because I consider him a friend and he gave me good strength and stamina with his workouts. Arghhh
  • I've actually compared finding a personal trainer to dating... sometimes you know right away that you don't "click;" sometimes it takes a couple months to realize things just aren't working... but then, you find that right one. I didn't go to a trainer for a long time because of some bad experiences, but after suffering some injuries thought a trainer would be the right way to go to make sure I didn't do anything that aggravated the injuries... I now have a great trainer and it has been one of the best investments in myself I have made.
    I've never had a personal trainer, either. I've never even had an impersonal trainer, but I slog along goal...
  • Great article but never had a trainer.
  • According to this article I have found myself a superb trainer. I have never asked him about any of this, he himself has told me most of it.
    He is helping me in so many ways and always with a smile on his face and humor on the side. Ready to make me feel like I can achive anything I set my mind to! His help is also on the mental side which I find really important.
    Im sure that one of the reasons I have come this far is because of him :)
    Can hardly compliment him enough
  • I had the most wonderful personal trainer while living in Michigan. I had never worked out before, was physically limber but overweight. I thank God for him and miss him every single day I don't see him (because I am in Illinois.) We stay in touch! I did not ask any of those questions, because I didn't know ANYTHING about fitness. I told him I wanted my beach body back. And he took it from there. I owe it all to Tony, to Spark People, and of course, to God.
    I agree with Rhoadan about a trainer who will listen to your statements about limitations. I left a trainer once for that reason. I told her that I had back problems and an old injury to my left knee, both of which flared up when I did 'jumpy stuff'. I think she thought I was a whiner; and, after I got injured trying to do elements of plyometrics that she worked in my routine, I refused to do it anymore. It took weeks to get over the injury, but then when she asked me to an exercise that I knew was plyometrics in nature, I flat out refused and said she would have to find another way to work those muscles. When the block of sessions was done, I cancelled my gym membership and moved on. I now have a trainer that I love and who has got me to within 5 lbs of my goal weight.
  • Another important question is how does the personal trainer respond when you explain your physical limitations. For that matter, does the PT even ask about such issues before putting together a plan?

    I ditched one guy who a) didn't bother asking me about health issues before putting me on a particular cardio machine and b) didn't listen when I told him that said machine was hard on my already injured knees, and that there were other types of cardio that I was fine with. Basically, we did not get past the first session.
  • I tried a personal trainer once, but I was really uncomfortable with them just hanging out watching me workout. I don't need a babysitter, just a plan. Perhaps if I try it again I will know to ask more about things like that.
  • JDBD17
    Today at my gym, there were signs posted that they were hiring new "fitness counselors." I guess they're not calling them trainers anymore?
  • I've been with my pt now for two years and as long as I can afford him, will continue.
    I now meet with him about every 4-5 weeks to assess and get new sets. Best investment I have ever made.
    Excellent article - I have been training with my PT for 3 years now and I just LOVE her. There was a period of several months that she needed to back off her schedule for personal and health reasons. I asked most of these questions to a group instructor at my gym who's class I really enjoyed. After 2 sessions I told him that although I loved his group class I was unhappy with his one on one style. He never gave positive reinforcement (which I thrive on) and the sessions were always more about what I couldn't do instead of what I could do. He made a few changes, but it was never the endorphin high I got with my regular trainer. We parted company - no hard feelings - and I just waited for my favorite PT to recover and pick me up again.

About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites, and A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

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