If you need help reaching your fitness goals—and who doesn’t?—hiring a personal trainer could be the motivation boost you need. But trainers don’t come cheap, which means finding one you like is key to getting the most value for your money and your time.
So what should you look for? “Find someone who has a good track record, and look for testimonials,” suggests personal trainer Nathan Bower. “Look for trainers that love what they do.” He suggests starting your search with word-of-mouth recommendations from your friends, family and coworkers. “I think the best way is to ask around,” he says.
Ask the experts
Another way to find a personal trainer is to get recommendations from staff at your favorite fitness stores. And if you’re a member of a gym, they’ll also be happy to hook you up with a trainer—most gyms even have them on staff.
Have an audition
It’s a good idea to try out a trainer before you commit to a series of sessions. If you’re looking for a trainer in your gym, Bower recommends simply watching them work with other clients to get a feel for their style. “The really good trainers are continuously adjusting form and giving feedback,” he says.
Jordan also had luck working with a trainer who led group classes at her gym. “I was familiar with her exercise style and personality,” she says, “so right away I felt incredibly comfortable talking to her and letting her know my own personal limits and what I really wanted to focus on.”
And if neither of those options works for you, Bower suggests committing to only one or two sessions as a trial. “Don’t sign a contract until you’re confident in their ability to train,” he says. And trust your instincts, he adds. “If you can’t get along from the first conversation you have, chances are it’s not going to change two months down the road.”
Make the most of your investment
Working with a personal trainer is not only a big dollar investment; it’s an investment of your time and energy, too. So if you’re going to go for it, make it count. Here are some tips to get the most out of your sessions:
- “Make long-term goals and short-term goals,” says Bower. Know why you’re there and work toward those goals.
- “Try to train at least twice a week”, suggests Teresa Misty Mozejko, who had such a good experience with her personal trainer—she lost 120 pounds!—that she decided to become a trainer herself. If that’s not in your budget, make sure you’re getting in your own workouts two to three times a week and add cardio for the best results.
- Consider semi-private sessions, says Jordan. Working out with a friend or two will save you money and could make your sessions more fun, too.
- Be honest about your body. “You have to inform the trainer about any injuries you’ve had in the past,” says Bower. “Be very verbal in how you feel and how the exercises feel,” and tell your trainer if you experience any pain, especially in the joints.
- Work within your schedule. Make sure that the trainer you choose can meet with you when you want to work out. “If their availability doesn’t match yours, it’s not going to work out,” says Bower.
- Don’t forget about nutrition. “To gain the best results you must put diet and exercise together,” says Mozejko. Just remember that not all personal trainers are qualified to give nutrition advice, so you may need to go elsewhere if you need help revamping your diet.
- Consider switching it up. Don’t feel like you have to commit to one trainer forever, says Jordan. “Each one of the trainers I have worked out with has had their own unique fitness backgrounds,” she says, “and because of this each of them brought something new to the training for me.”
It’s all about you
Ultimately, finding the right personal trainer is all about what works for you. It’s like finding a doctor, or a hairdresser—there has to be a personal connection. “I need to be able to relate to my trainer and have a good laugh with them,” says Mozejko. So don’t feel like you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings if you decide to move on. “If the client’s not happy,” says Bower, “the trainer should be happy to let them find somebody else. It’s very personal.”