For a start, there’s basically no barrier to entry. Any idiot can put a tracksuit on and call themselves a ‘professional’ personal trainer. At commercial gyms, where you might expect better, the quality control on this front is often practically non-existent.
And yet, in the same breath, being a personal trainer is extremely difficult. An effective personal trainer, that is. You need multi-disciplinary knowledge to get under the skin of your client, a willingness to put in long hours, and the ability to read how to get the most out of people.
Substandard trainers are often nothing more than gym babysitters Nick Mitchell
The best personal trainers are genuinely invested in their clients’ progress. They care. Ask yourself: whatever the profession, how many people do you know who really care about the people they work with? It’s a rare and unusual quality in any walk of life; those who demonstrate it go far in life because they stand out from the crowd.
Personal training is a luxury spend and the best PTs – almost an oxymoron but not quite – do not come cheap. Here are 11 ways to tell that you’re dealing with a clown and not a connoisseur.
1. More interested in their own reflection than yours
A good personal trainer uses mirrors a lot – but not vainly. Rather than looking at their own reflection, they should be using the mirror to check your exercise form from every possible angle. This will help them provide cues to correct your exercise form, which always slips during a workout as fatigue sets in.
2. As inspirational as a wet lettuce
Part coach, part motivator, part movement specialist, part nutritionist and part inspiration. You need to be able to look at your trainer and see that he walks his talk.
Does that mean he has to be Mr Universe? Absolutely not. Do his physique, energy and attitude need to reflect a life well lived and bear the fruits of an effective exercise regime? Beyond all measure of doubt, yes.
3. Less coach, more rent-a-friend
Weak trainers don’t have faith in their ability to help you get results so they live in constant fear of losing clients. That means the only way they know how to add value is by being an “Entertrainer” – or rent-a-friend.
Is your lawyer or accountant your friend or a trusted adviser? The latter option is the same type of relationship that a quality trainer will always adopt.
4. They put you on the treadmill during a session
If this ever happens, fire his ass.
No doubt someone reading this will bleat about the usefulness of cardio or the concept of interval training on a treadmill. Yes, there are exceptional cases – but 99pc of the time if you see a trainer standing next to a client who’s jogging on a treadmill while paying for the time, then the client is being ripped off.
The average trainer has less than two hours a week with his client, so his focus should always be on quality work and making every single minute count.
Your rule of thumb should be that if you can do it by yourself on your own time, then why bother paying for a babysitter?
5. No record keeping
You’re working with a trainer to help you make progress that you wouldn’t make working alone. It’s an investment, and like any investment, you need to see a quantifiable return. Which is why you need step-by-step records of how you’re doing.
Lazy trainers who can’t be bothered to keep records clearly don’t care about your progress. You shouldn’t care about paying them your hard earned money.
6. No plan of attack
If your trainer comes into the gym and wings it, then find a new one pronto. Whilst workouts can often change on the fly, there’s zero excuse for your trainer not having prepared your entire session in advance. He or she should know exercises, weights, rest intervals, and even the exercise tempo. All must be pointing in one direction: towards your ultimate goals.
7. Says hello and goodbye at the gym door
Very few personal trainers think about their clients other than the hour that they’re with them in the gym. Being a great personal trainer means being invested in your client’s progress and that necessitates a whole array of lifestyle changes, all of which need a mix of support, encouragement, nagging and sometimes even a bit of judicious bullying!
It’s your trainer’s job to know everything about you, not vice versa
This makes the job of personal trainer so much more than a 9-5 and is one of the many reasons why substandard trainers are often nothing more than gym babysitters.
8. No results board
This one should be pretty obvious but if you look at most personal training businesses they have no real results to offer.
Success leaves clues. So, just as you would want references before hiring a construction firm to do your attic conversion, you should also check out your personal trainer. Videos and photos are the thing to look out for here – evidence that the person you’re thinking of hiring has significantly helped people like you in the past.
Of course, neither pics nor vids are perfect and there’s a lot of unscrupulous charlatans out there who will tweak timelines or use Photoshop. However, by and large, if you find a company with hundreds of results, then you’re entitled to feel that you’re in safe hands.
9. Fixates on the goal
All good personal trainers should be goal driven. If there’s no endgame then you’re just arbitrarily hoping for a result. However, you don’t want a trainer who is solely outcome driven. If you come to me in order to lose 20lbs and all I care about is the outcome then I starve you half to death and in no time at all that weight will be lost. Bank transfer will do nicely, thanks very much.
A good trainer will take a different approach. He will always work with you on achieving your outcome, but more than that he will work with you on fixing your behaviours so that whatever happens to the specific goal, you will come away with an education, better habits, and the understanding that great health and fitness is a lifelong pursuit rather than something that you do for a 12-week personal training plan.
10. Cell phones
How would you feel if your doctor pulled out his phone mid-consultation and started texting his mate?
Your indignation should apply to PTs, too. Far too many commercial gym trainers fail to understand the unacceptable nature of this kind of behaviour.
My personal favourite is the trainer I once saw who had a paying client jogging on the treadmill whilst he sat on the floor next to the machine, his phone in between his legs, a newspaper in his hands and a sandwich and latte by his side!
It was actually this example that finally persuaded me to start becoming a Personal Trainer, I just couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to prove to the world, and maybe even to myself, that there was (is) a much better way.