Without further ado let's get stuck into the next question.
Q #6 - What are we going to do in our first session?
If they answer anything along the lines of a actual workout it's a bad sign. The first session is where the trainer needs to find a starting point and a direction to go in. This is the session where they get the information necessary to develop a plan. Every trainer has a slightly different way of doing this (another reason I, along with other educated trainers, are begging for a governing body; this stuff needs to become a standard operating procedure across the industry). Body measurements and body mass are some examples of the anthropometric measurements that can be taken. In addition to these standard measurements a postural, movement and table assessment may be conducted. Finally, maximal strength, strength endurance, power, aerobic capacity along with other performance based tests can all be conducted if necessary. Don't expect everything I've listed to be part of your assessment; but expect a assessment, not a workout.
Also, your trainer should inform you how the assessment has directed the training program. There is no point in doing a assessment if they are just going to give you a generic training program. Everything done in the assessment should have a rational. Never be too shy to ask "Why are we doing this?"
Q #7 - How are we going to monitor progress?
I can guarantee this question will scare a lot of trainers because it'll mean they will have to give you something they probably have never given a client before - actual progress. Now you're really scaring them as that progress is going to have to be defined AND tangible. You're actually asking them to be accountable to their job description. This is going to be a first for a lot of trainers!!
Expect documentation and expect to be apart of the process. Retesting the original assessment is one way to monitor progress, but you should also expect every workout to be written down. It's the only way that you will be able to see where you've come from, and it's the only way the trainer will learn what training programs work best for your body.
Q #8 - Do you have a referral network?
Every single smart trainer I know has a large referral network. As personal trainers we only work with healthy people. It is outside our scope of practice to train someone who is in pain. Therefore, all professional personal trainer have to refer out. When you hire a quality personal trainer, by default you should be gaining access to a network of quality health care professionals. If a trainer doesn't have a referral network they care more about their own ego than the well being of their clients.
So that's 8 key questions you need to be asking during the interview. The next thing you need to do is watch the trainer working. Watch them do what you are going to pay them for. Workout next to them when they are training a client. If you're not inspired to workout harder AND better you need to continue your search. This is something that you only get to do with personal trainers. You can't watch a doctor treat another patient, you can't watch a physio tape someone up. This is a huge advantage you have when picking a trainer, so make sure you take advantage of it!
Things to look for;
- A warm up that isn't on one of the "cardio" machines. You're going to pay this person over a dollar per minute. If the best they can give you for a warm up is 10 mins on a cardio machine you need to walk away.
- A trainer who allows chit chat throughout the session. You hired this person to train you, not to exchange life stories. A few minutes chat during the warm up is fine, but never forget why you decided to hire this person in the first place. There is something you are looking to improve, something that clearly means a lot to you as you are considering hiring help. The "help" you end up hiring should be assisting you, not befriending you. Regardless, if you are doing a set correctly you will not be able to talk and during your rest you should be receiving feedback on the set you just completed. Where is the time for chit chat in a proper training session?? If you do become friends with your trainer that friendship needs to solely exist outside of that training hour when your are not paying them. Friendship shouldn't cost anything.
- 100% concentration on the client, nothing less is acceptable. Staring at a T.V. or off into the distance instantly disqualifies that person from becoming your trainer.
- Movement. If the trainer is standing still they are missing things, guaranteed. The trainer simply has to walk around the client as they are completing a set in order to see it from different angles. Put simply, if the trainer is standing still they are not doing their job.
- Corrections (and plenty of them!). I have never in my life seen a perfect set of 10. There's always something to improve on....always. Make sure the trainer is giving good feedback and that the client is moving better as a result of the corrections.
- Progress. If you see a client of the trainer moving and looking the same as they did when they started you need to move on.
- If you ever overhear a client complain of a pain and the trainers response is something along the lines of "you're not trying hard enough" and then tells them to continue the exercise, you need to run. This might seem so obvious but the amount of times I overhear a client complain of low back pain in a plank and then hear the trainer respond with "just squeeze your abs harder" is simply ridiculous. Proper form might fix that too...but ya "squeeze harder", hold your breath and hang your stomach 2 inches off the ground while your inner ear makes friends with your shoulder will fix it just as fast.
- If the trainer EVER lets them do a weighted squat or deadlift with a rounded back you need to run away. This is personal training basics 101, lifting heavy weight with a rounded back is the fastest way possible to herniate a disk. This is the exact way not to deadlift...
....think he needs more weight ;)
Finally, you need to find a trainer you like and more importantly respect. You need to find someone who makes you want to push yourself harder. Someone who you look forward to seeing in the gym. Don't give this the highest priority when choosing a trainer because you'll end up hiring a friend, but don't discount it either. If a trainer ticks every single box you have but you just don't like them, DON'T HIRE THEM. You are going to cancel sessions, skip workouts and your progress is going to come to a screeching halt. You need to find a trainer who you are comfortable with pushing you, not someone who you will dislike for it.
I hope this blog helps people find better trainers. Quality trainers do exist, but they are in the minority and always will be until this industry becomes regulated. Until then it's up to you, the client, to set the minimum standard and set it high.
B.Sc. SES, NCEF