There’s a reason all the top sports stars have a coach. Having a professional with you throughout your fitness journey should give you the motivation, accountability and education to push further than you could by yourself.
I say “should” because there are some truly terrible personal trainers out there. Every time I go to a new gym I keep an eye out for what other trainers get up to with clients, and what I see is often unintentionally hilarious, staggeringly inept or, occasionally, downright dangerous.
So what should you be looking for in a trainer? First up is passion: without this, you can probably write off getting the results you want. The most successful trainers love being a part of the health and fitness industry. You can spot these men and women a mile off – they’re the ones enjoying themselves, pushing their clients, congratulating them when they put in extra effort. Being a PT is more than just a job: you have to live it.
Listening to your client
This is something many trainers do badly. The client-trainer relationship should begin at the initial consultation and be a constantly evolving dialogue. A trainer should be trying to find out as much as they can about a new client: why they’re there, what they want to achieve, how they measure “progress” and “success”, what they don’t like, in what time-frame they want to see results, do they have any injuries... If a trainer meets a client and immediately sits them on the rowing machine, alarm bells should start to ring.
The best trainers are the ones who adapt. They will all have their specialist areas or go-to exercises, but they need to tailor their routines for the individuals. If a trainer specialises in boxing, and the client wants boxing training, great. But if a client wants to lose weight and the trainer loves Olympic lifting, they will need to adapt their repertoire or they’re setting their client up to fail.
A program that works really well for one person, may be terrible for another, and a trainer needs to quickly identify this, and come up with solutions. I have one client who flat-out refuses to go on the rower, so I adapt his regime to suit that. A trainer is there to help the client, not torture them!
People usually hire a trainer to achieve something specific. Only about a third of clients will actually hit these targets, however, which is pretty abysmal. When I’m interviewing new trainers, one of my first questions is: show me proof you can get results. A good trainer will have before and after pictures of clients they have worked with. They will have breakdowns of weight-loss, strength gains, improvements in sleep and concentration. Results are key, and the more evidence they can show you, the more trust you can put in them.
Caring and connecting
The best trainers care about their clients. They enjoy making a difference in people’s lives. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your PT – four or five hours a week if you’re doing an intense transformation – so you have to make sure you can put up with them for that amount of time. A trainer can have all the knowledge in the world, have the best looking body, but if they don’t show any interest in you, you’ll find your motivation drops rapidly. Look out for things like your trainer sending a text during the week to see how you’re getting on with your training, or congratulating you on an achievement.
There needs to be a level of trust so clients will admit when they’ve had drinks, or over eaten or not trained. People shy away from this because they feel they’re letting the trainer down, but you can only come up with solutions if you have all the facts.
Good personal trainers play a much bigger part in a client’s life than just telling them to do some push-ups. They need to set an example, which can include their appearance, social media usage, lifestyle and education. I can’t stress the latter enough: there’s so much research out there to process and apply, especially when it comes to nutrition.
So if you’re looking for a personal trainer, have a think about some of these points and you should bag one of the good ones.