5 Traits to Look For in Your Personal Trainer
By: Paul W. Park M.S. CSCS
Winter is nearing its end, and the hibernation and take out foods from Seamless that have kept you feeling snuggly and warm have started to peek through in the mirror and on to the scale. All you can think about now is how you’ll look on the beach in a few months, and that June wedding that you’re going to be in. “Let’s get that gym membership and lean the hell out!”, you tell yourself as you book that free consultation the gym has provided you.
The trainer that works with you seems nice enough, and he’s confident he can get you in tip top shape by the time Memorial Day comes around. “My health is worth it. Everyone is going to be amazed at how I look for the wedding.” So you commit to a 3 month training package worth a down payment for that new car you’ve been eyeing, and start getting ready to put in some hard work.
3 months have passed and not much has changed except for the nagging pain in your back. You think to yourself: “I’ve done everything my trainer asked me to. What’s going on?!” Your trainer says, “Not a big deal, let’s up your frequency to a couple more times a week. This will really boost your progress, and soon we should be hitting all the goals we talked about”, while charging you for the next round of sessions, as you say good-bye to your BMW. You start reflecting, “What happened? All those burpees and kettlebell swings must of done something!”. And then you remember your trainer’s texting habit during sessions, his constant tardiness, and inattention to detail.
The responsibility of your trainer/coach is to get you to your goals as quickly and safely as possible. Unfortunately today, personal trainers and fitness coaches like the above example are more common than not. Our country has started to realize the importance of our health and wellness, causing a rise in demand for fitness instruction since the last decade. With this rising demand for trainers, and not enough qualified ones, a ton of “hobby” or “side-gig” trainers are getting into the field, and not providing us the quality coaching that we need.
So how do you make sure you’re working with a real professional fitness coach? Working in the industry for just over 10 years now, I’ve noticed some common differences between genuine, legitimate coaches worth your time, money, and trust vs. those who really have no business being in the industry. Here are 5 distinguishing traits between a high-quality fitness coach, and an inferior trainer that could possibly be hurting your health AND your checking account.
A huge component of training is the mental aspect; traits like perseverance, grit, and discipline need to be developed to see consistent and sustained improvement. Does your trainer bring an enthusiasm into your sessions that help you grow these characteristics? Is he/she someone that brings your energy up and inspires you when you are around them? These type of people have a genuine passion for their career, and don’t view their time with you as just another paycheck. They have made it their life’s mission to help their clients and it shows through their undeniable positivity and belief in their clients.
Is your trainer/coach punctual? Do they value your time with them and try to pack as much coaching, information, and learning into the session as possible, or are they distracting you with personal stories of how they spent their weekend? There’s nothing wrong with getting to know your trainer, but their time spent with you should be focused on getting YOU better. They should be giving you the attention to detail and technique that you need to get the most out of your exercises. If you feel like you’re doing an exercise wrong, and not getting detailed and actionable feedback, your trainer is being unprofessional and they are not doing their job.
3. A Plan/Program
Getting stronger, leaner, in better shape, and more energized requires a structured training plan with progressive overload, and SPECIFIC exercises that work for YOU. Anyone can work a trainee to exhaustion, making them feel as though they are getting a great workout, without any focus on technique or quality movements. There are no plans to progress or regress based off your fitness and experience levels, no tracking of your progress, and disregard of all of the other demands/stresses of your life. The human body needs a consistent progressive overload coupled with proper technique, rest, and nutrition to see sustainable improvements without injury. Ask to see at least a multi week training program based off the agreed upon training frequency for your fitness needs. If your trainer/coach does not have one, it’s time to reconsider your training and coaching options.
4. Genuine Empathy/Belief for Their Client
Much of the training process involves the mental effort and discipline it takes to continually improve and sustain growth. To have a coach who can understand and empathize with the pains, challenges, and obstacles of what you are going through can make all the difference, as this support can bring out the best in you. Imagine a trainer who constantly barks orders, and tells you do things you know he/she probably can’t do. The motivation to continue working hard with this trainer will run out FAST, and so will the realization of your fitness goals. On the contrary, a coach that completely empathizes with the difficulty you are going through and encourages you through those moments will make it easier for you to give it your all. Your consistent best efforts will guarantee the results you are looking for.
5. Continuing Education
The human body is a very complex entity; there is so much to learn in the realms of physiology, biology, anatomy, and psychology that directly relates to improving your health and wellness. The field of health, fitness, and wellness is constantly evolving, and your trainer should be looking to expand their repertoire of knowledge and tools to best serve you.. At the same time, your coach should not be training you exclusively with the latest trends and fads they that they have just learned, or the workout of the day from an Instagram fitness model for the sake of doing something new. A professional, educated, and well-intentioned trainer can filter through all of the information and choose which methods will be most applicable and effective for YOU!
The health, fitness, and wellness coaching industry is growing everyday. Learn the differences between an all star coach who can get you to your fitness goals with enthusiasm and professionalism, and the trainer who is more focused on his social media likes than your squat technique. There are plenty of career fitness coaches who have dedicated their lives to positively impacting their clients; use these traits to distinguish them from the rest of the pack!