Fitness advice: How to choose the perfect personal trainer – connection, education, nutrition and more

Harry Thomas
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It's that time of year when the thought of looking good for your summer holiday starts to play on your mind. For many people, getting into amazing shape proves to be very difficult and, often, unsuccessful.

Personal training is usually a solid route to go to if you are looking to get the results. But there are literally thousands of personal trainers in London – how do you know what to look for?

During my 11 years in the fitness industry, I have worked with many trainers, some very good and some absolutely terrible. Since owning No1 Fitness however, I have actually had to start employing trainers to work for me and have realised how big the gulf can be. Unfortunately the standard out there is actually very poor – it's scary to think how some of these people get their qualifications.

But there are ways to improve your chances of landing one of the good ones. Here are a few things to look out for before investing:

The Consultation

This is the most important part of personal training and often an area that trainers rush through or even skip completely. A lot of trainers will start by offering you a free session, which usually will involve you starting on a piece of cardio kit, and the trainer asking you, "What are your goals?" After a few minutes you're straight into the session without anyone really knowing what you want to achieve – instead the trainer is training you based on what they think you need. Your definition of "toning up" and "losing weight" will be completely different to theirs.

To really achieve results, you have to know what your goal is – visualise where you want to end up in the given time-frame – and you need to be on the same page as the person training you.

Tracking and Measuring

A good trainer will always record sessions, take measurements regularly and will constantly monitor your progress throughout. It always surprises me when trainers take you through a workout without discusing your progression. If your trainer gets you straight onto the gym floor, they have no way of showing you how you're doing, and this often means poor results.

There are so many ways of measuring, and everyone will have their own ways, but I'd advise tracking at least two or three of these:

  • Photos, taken weekly so you can see how your body-shape is changing (the most important thing for most people)
  • Body fat
  • Lean mass
  • Nutrition tracking
  • Training programmes
  • Circumference measurements

Practice what you preach: Harry's own transformation

Personal Training is all about connection

If there is no connection between you and your trainer, there will be no results. He or she could be the smartest, most knowledgeable person who designs some of the most effective training programmes known to man, but if they cannot motivate and inspire you, then you will never get results. If you feel like they are going on the hard-sell to sign you up, that's a sign that they may not be the best trainer.

There are a number of questions I would ask before selecting your trainer. Here are a few I ask interviews, and I usually know straight away if they are the real-deal or just a bullshitter.

  • How long have you been a trainer for? Experience helps. If they don't have much experience, you need to make sure that you get on with this person and that they have best intentions for you to get results
  • Can you show me some results you have achieved with your other clients? This is a great question, a good trainer will be able to show you results. If they can't show you any, then usually this means they haven't achieved any or don't take any measurements.
  • What happens when you are ill or on holiday? A good trainer will always make sure you are getting your sessions in, if you don't train, you won't get results. If they are away, they should be finding you cover. At No1 Fitness, your sessions will be covered, but will be always be based on the program written by your trainer so that it is still specific to your goals.
  • What courses have you recently done, or who do you learn from? I think a good trainer should always be re-educating themselves. Its scary knowing how many trainers don't do any extra education once they get their Personal Training Certificate. I know trainers who haven't been on a single course in years. The industry has changed so much over that time, and its important to stay up to date, but also it shows if they are interested and passionate about what they do.
  • How is your knowledge on nutrition? Although not essential, I still believe that a trainer should have a good understanding of nutrition. If this is not their strong point, hopefully they will work closely with someone who does. It is very difficult to out-train a bad diet. Nutrition will play a key part in getting results.

We're really passionate about the Fitness Industry at No1 Fitness and we're always fighting against personal trainers who might give us a bad name. This is why we set up No1 Fitness Education, so that we can really focus on teaching quality. Hopefully these tips will help you get the best out of your sessions and they end up being money well spent.

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