Back in 2012 when I hired my first personal trainer he asked me a question: What are your fitness goals? I wasn’t quite sure how to answer the question. I knew I wanted to achieve a certain look but it wasn’t one that I could intelligently put into words. My answer came out as: I want nice shoulders.
My training started out slowly and we worked on overall strength and conditioning and slowly but surely I got those shoulders plus much more. Then when I decided to become a figure competitor I was once again traveling into unknown territory and I relied on my trainer to lead me in the direction that I needed to go. After training consistently for a period of time, I was able to learn my body and I discovered what I needed to achieve my goals. Prior to my first show my trainer supplied me with a long list of supplements to take and recommended double cardio sessions per day. Additionally, he suggested that my competition weight should be 114 pounds!
I looked at those numbers and I told myself that he was out of his mind. One hundred fourteen pounds on my frame would leave me looking sickly, not strong. I discovered that it didn’t take much for my body to shed fat and get lean so I decided that double cardio sessions were not necessary for me. The list of supplements were expensive and I decided to do some research on my own and I chose what was necessary for me. On competition day I weighed in at 123 pounds and placed in the top 5.
My point is this: the combination of my trainer’s guidance and my own research allowed me to be successful.
When you are working with a trainer or a coach, communication is key. You have to choose a trainer that is willing to listen to you and determine the best plan of action based on your specific goals not on what the trainer wants to teach you. Bottom line: it’s not about the trainer, it’s about YOU.
At the same time, if you don’t communicate properly with the trainer he/she will not know what your specific goals are (e.g., fat loss, strength training, endurance training, etc.) and they will proceed with a more generalized program which may or may not benefit you. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that the trainer knows your body better than you know your body. Make sure that you take responsibility for your health and fitness goals and not leave it 100% in the hands of your trainer. They are there to guide you but you are the one that is responsible for doing the actual work.
It’s a two-way street. A qualified trainer will help you to articulate what your actual goals are if you are having trouble like I was. I wanted “nice shoulders” but what that meant was “more definition” and in order to get more definition I had to lift heavy weights to build up the muscle and lose fat to reveal the muscle. Only a qualified trainer will know that. When you interview a trainer, you should try to provide as much information as possible in order to help them understand your goals.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself and the trainer/coach before you hire:
Do I really want to make this investment? Because that’s what it is, an investment in your health and fitness. If you have a house full of equipment that you never touch, a stack of exercise DVDs that you never look at and a gym membership that you never utilize, you may want to stop and think for a minute. Take some time to use what you have on your own before you decide to make another purchase. Make sure you know the difference between investing in yourself and throwing money at a problem.
Is the potential trainer/coach certified and will their particular certification help you in terms of your goals? Ask them where they got certified and do they have experience working with people who have similar goals as you.
Does the potential trainer/coach practice what they preach? You should not base your decision to choose a trainer solely on how they look, however, would you want to train with someone if you are in better shape than they are? Probably not.
Are you comfortable with this person? Trust your gut. If something feels off, regardless of the person’s credentials, keep looking. At the end of the day, you are spending your money and you need to know that you are making the best decision for YOU.