The personal training industry is a highly competitive industry and in my opinion, highly under regulated – after all you, are putting someone else in charge of your body. You may think exercise is exercise but at the end of the day no two bodies are the same and the way you exercise now may affect the length of your life, your quality of life and how your body feels in the future. We know exercise is good, but just like medicine it needs to be of the right dosage as well as the right type for you and your goals.

Personal trainers come in all types. Some will have completed 6 week courses and some complete degrees in human movement. The qualification is one thing but there are other things that are important in choosing the right PT for you. Let’s have a look at the top 9 things you should know about your trainer before you commit.

1.     Their ‘why’. Why are they a personal trainer?

This speaks to no end of the quality of the trainer and what they are willing to provide you with. When I first started out personal training I envisioned it as a highly fun and motivating job. It would have job flexibility and the money would be great for just prescribing a few exercises. Don’t get me wrong it can be extremely fun and motivating but it isn’t always glamorous. Like the name may suggest you are working with a person on a very personal level – their physical health and believe it or not, very much on a psychological level. When you choose a trainer you should get the impression they understand these factors and they thrive on helping people develop all facets of health.

2.     Have they expanded their knowledge?

What other educational studies have they done. All PT’s have to do professional development each year. There are many areas in which they can increase their knowledge base and some PT’s may have specialised in areas more specific to your needs. If this isn’t openly shared on their website or bio, ask them what other studies they have done and get an understanding of what relevant experience they may have specific to your needs. A PT that is aiming to work as an allied health practitioner is a really good sign you’ve found a winner. This shows that they are willing to learn and are motivated far beyond money to help you achieve your goals.

3.     How did they become a PT?

Their background is important. Human anatomy and physiology is extremely complicated, even when prescribing exercise, it is of huge benefit to understand it in detail. If a PT has only completed a 6 week or 1 year course to be accredited they may have sufficient skills to work with a healthy person who has been previously exercising but that’s as far as I would go. A PT who has a 3-year degree behind them will understand various attributes of your body and its condition and be able to prescribe exercise accordingly. More importantly, they will have the knowledge of when things aren’t in their ability set and will refer you on to a professional who has.

4.     Do you get on with them?

A relationship with a PT can be pretty personal, they are assisting you in looking after your body after all. A PT that genuinely cares that you are getting the most out of your sessions and time outside of your sessions can be hard to find. If you are trialling a PT and they stay in touch occasionally outside of your sessions to ensure you pull up well, are on track, or have any issues – you know you’re on to a good thing.

5.     Do they vary up their sessions and challenge you gradually?

All too often I hear of the story – I started doing PT and I was ruined after the first session. High intensity exercise isn’t for everyone and initially it can cause more harm than good. Building up to this allows for adaptation of our body to this stimulus ensuring you get all the benefits of exercise in the appropriate dose. A good PT will be able to understand your body after 1-2 sessions and work you appropriately.

6.     Do they educate you as you go?

You are paying to have someone help you look after your health and body. You are paying for their knowledge and the more they can teach you about how to do that, the more you can do yourself. A big problem with our health industry is that many trainers or practitioners promote treatments or services that lead to dependency. We should be doing the exact opposite and promoting independency with health so you as the client is empowered by the time that is spent with their PT. An educating PT is extremely valuable.

7.     Are they able to problem solve?

The first thing we make sure our PT’s understand is problem solving. In my book this is the biggest difference between any good and bad practitioner whether it be PT, physio, exercise physiologist, podiatrist and so on. There are two types of PT’s; the ones that know you have an issue and work around it to ensure they don’t aggravate it or; the second type – the problem solver. The problem solver won’t avoid it but have the skills to assess your issue, and start developing a safe solution. These PT’s will also often know when a referral is required to another practitioner to ensure you get the care you require.

8.     The higher the price the better the quality?

No. There doesn’t seem to be much correlation between quality and price. Don’t necessarily shy away from a trainer who is a bit more expensive but you’ll be wanting more of the aforementioned points ticked before you commit.

9.   Is it enjoyable? 

Lastly – exercise isn’t always enjoyable but it should have an element of fun. Whether that be in the conversation, the type of exercise or just the environment. If your PT can provide these elements, you are more likely to continue on and achieve your goals.