The Why and How of Hiring a Personal Trainer

Improving one’s health and wellness can be intimidating, even daunting, to those individuals with little to no history of physical activity, perhaps lacking education in the sciences of nutrition and exercise, and even needing basic confidence. Enter the personal trainer! Nevertheless, personal trainers aren’t just for beginners. Experienced participants can benefit from the alternative or greater experience(s) of a trainer. Since a good trainer is a help and a bad one is a hindrance, it’s important to know why and how to hire a personal trainer.

The Why

A personal trainer is part of a team. You’re the other part. You still need to do the work, endure all the emotional highs and lows, and feel the pains and pleasures of training before you reach your desired physical and mental state: presumably, better fit, healthier, exhibiting a more healthful appearance, and feeling better about yourself. The personal trainer provides:

  1. Direction in that they can envision a result and devise a plan on how to achieve it.
  2. Experience from a history of involvement and exposure that lends itself to successfully taking you under their wing as a transformative and/or improvement project.
  3. Confidence because, instead of being alone, you have attached yourself to someone that is at ease in an environment performing activity at a depth outside your comfort zone.
  4. Encouragement toward pursuing your goal, raising and maintaining your belief in attaining the ultimate prize.
  5. Motivation through their achievements, actions and words that sets an example and feeds your enthusiasm.

Personal trainers have the important job of both actively and passively pushing you to compete against yourself. They should provide instruction like a coach, set an example like a captain, and enforce boundaries like a referee. While your personal trainer should be both personable and professional, they are not there to waste training time with idle chat and to enable you to be slack. They are there to guide and direct you toward doing the things you don’t know enough to do already, could be doing better, or haven’t been willing or disciplined enough to do. Consider it a bonus if you become friends without sacrificing the trainer-trainee relationship.

Your personal trainer’s professional responsibility is to ascertain your goals; evaluate your ability, bring their share of enthusiasm to training sessions; establish a structured approach and keep you on track; set expectations; deliver clear instruction; quiz you on what you’ve been taught; answer your questions; carefully observe your performance; pull you back when you’re overeager and push when you’re obstructively reluctant; remain ready to correct, stop, and rescue you on the execution of activities and exercises; and praise you when you’re making a whole-hearted effort.

A personal trainer should be telling you not only what exercises you need to do but how to do them correctly and, if necessary, helping you, if ever so slightly, complete a task to avoid danger or to give you a needed ego boost. Importantly, trainers can do their trainee a disservice by not challenging their clients and instead indulging, rather than confronting and dissuading, their unfounded fears. This often takes a little time; but, for their own benefit, a trainee eventually has to trust the presence of a demonstrably knowledgeable, competent trainer. They must have confidence that they will be corrected and have help if they truly need it and realize there is no need to hold anything back in their effort.

Your personal trainer can intelligently direct you on the movements, exercises, and actions; intensity, repetitions, resistance, distance, and time; techniques and focus points; and performance expectations and targets. Over time, your trainer will come to know your capabilities and limitations and your body language; so much so, that they might very well be able to gauge your breaking point better than you. As such, they are able to drive you to be your best, better even than you might think you can be.

You can also expect, from a good trainer, an education on the etiquette of your training domain, be it pool, track, field, beach, gymnasium, or weight room. Courtesy, not just intensity, embodies a good, positive, constructive attitude in your approach towards training; so, it helps everyone when there is an atmosphere of respect and consideration. A facility full of individuals oblivious to one another creates distraction, inefficiency, and hazard. Your trainer should impress upon you not just the mechanics of an action but the importance of things like stripping the weight from equipment after use, leaving it ready to accept and inviting to others.

The How

Meet your prospective personal trainer. Share you history and intentions. Inquire about their education and sports history, availability and client base, and testimonial photos and written recommendations. Do they know what it’s like to put in hard work? Can they empathize with your current condition? Can they be firm enough with you or will they show you too much pity? Do they really care if you reach your goals or are they content to simply be paid? All of these things are relevant because some trainers:

  • Are in great shape and can “do” but can’t teach.
  • Have certification(s) with no history in athletic competition or preparing for competition.
  • Are full of knowledge but are lousy communicators.
  • Don’t have the appropriate temperament to mentor others, perhaps lacking patience or empathy for their client’s mental or physical challenges.

Trainees with some experience looking for more help in their area of interest, perhaps bodybuilding, might not be served best by a trainer whose history is as a swimmer. Conversely, a bodybuilder, while a potentially great trainer for the right client, may be of limited value to the aspiring triathlete.

Results are a fair but not the best indicator of whether your trainer is good. For the results you imagine to be realized, they must be tangible and attainable; some body transformations and levels of fitness and performance are not possible. For instance, it’s unrealistic to expect changes to limits set by bone structure. Putting the burden of results on the personal trainer is unfair if the trainee makes a half-hearted effort and disregards instruction. As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” However, once hired, what you can expect and should look for in a personal trainer is someone that:

  • Doesn’t easily let you skip out of training sessions and your repeated disruption of agreed-to schedules.
  • Brings enthusiasm to your fitness quest.
  • Offers constructive criticism, even when it might frustrate you.
  • Gives you their undivided attention during your training session.

You need to hire the right personal trainer to channel your enthusiasm. Personal training is a benefit to those with experience just as it is to those without. For beginners as well as participants and athletes looking to reach a higher level of fitness, performance, or competition, it is often necessary to seek out the people that have been where you want to go and can introduce you to untried methods.

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