Choosing a Personal Trainer: 6 Must Ask Questions

Running at San Jose boot campFinding a personal trainer that’s right for you can be a daunting task. Unlike many health care professions (like physical therapy and nursing), there is currently no state licensing or educational requirement for personal trainers. An individual calling themselves a personal trainer could have just passed a weekend or online course. Or, they could hold an advanced degree from a University program. Consumers must do their due diligence when looking for a personal trainer that best matches their fitness and health goals. When interviewing individuals, here are 6 questions to ask before signing on the dotted line:

1. What’s your experience?

Nothing makes for a better personal trainer than experience. Lots of it. As I look back over my 25+ year career, I’m a much better personal trainer now than I was when I first earned my Master’s Degree in kinesiology.  Ask your trainer candidate how long they’ve been training and elaborate on the types of clients they’ve helped.  Listen carefully to determine if their real-life training experience applies specifically to your fitness goal(s).  For example, teaching group classes like yoga or boot camps is very different than hands-on personalized fitness training. Don’t be shy. Delve into your candidate’s background to see if their “in the trenches” experience will benefit you.

Personal_Trainer_Certification2. What kind of education or certifications do you have?

There’s a significant difference between personal trainers who hold a bachelor’s degree or master’ s degree in an exercise science (exercise physiology, kinesiology, etc). That said, some trainers can become very skilled through a combination of self study and achieving various certifications that test their knowledge. Which is best depends upon your needs, like wanting to lose stubborn belly fat with high intensity workouts or train for an upcoming marathon.

3. What’s your specialty? Why did you choose it?

Personal training specialties can vary depending upon fitness goals and special needs. Do you have low back pain? Diabetes? Ask your trainer candidate if he/she has worked with people like you before. You’ll want specifics on their approach and the results they’ve achieved for their clients. This is also an opportune time to consult a physician before beginning a new workout program if you have serious health concerns. In this Mayo Clinic article there are several conditions where caution may be warranted.

4. How would you describe your training approach or personality?

The personal training relationship is just that—personal. It’s important that you feel synergy with your trainer and can get comfortable with them. Some people prefer a nurturing personality while others want a no-nonsense drill sergeant. Be clear about what would motivate you (or not) as you’ll be spending several hours a week with this person.


5. What kind of results can I expect from working with you? Do you have references?

Most likely you’ve done some research before meeting with your personal trainer candidate. Ask if they have testimonials from happy clients and if you can contact them. If you don’t see testimonials in their marketing materials, that’s a red flag.

6. What’s your process in getting started?

Personal training is a business, and asking how they manage their business is a indicator of how they work with clients. Do they provide assessments? How do they measure results? Be sure to ask about their billing and cancellation policies and read the fine print to avoid any misunderstandings. Agreements up front will make it easier to keep focused on your fitness goals.

Have you ever looked for a personal trainer before?  Leave a comment below listing the attributes that are important to you in a personal trainer!

Image Credits:

Runner photo courtesy of LuLuLemon 

Diploma image 

Personal Trainer image