Fitness | Happy Holidays! Let’s Start Training... (Tips for Choosing a Personal Trainer)

Once again you’ve decided that THIS will be the year to get in shape. Look out 2019, because this time you’re serious. You’re going to stop devouring pizza like a college freshman, curtail that taste for Fireball you seemed to have developed since Thanksgiving, and finally...FINALLY try out this exercise thing that you’ve been hearing so much about. But it all seems so daunting. And you don’t know where to begin. Maybe this year you should get a little professional help. (And while you’re at it, think about hiring a personal trainer!)

A personal trainer can provide you accountability for your fitness and nutritional goals, show you what that steel cable thingy by the mirror actually does, and give you the support and motivation you need to be successful. So what should you look for when hiring a personal trainer, and how can you tell a good one from a bad one?

Basically, you want to be able to check “yes” to the following four (4) questions:

1. Is your trainer certified, experienced, and insured?

2. Do they look fit themselves?

3. Do you feel a basic rapport with them? Are they LGBTQ friendly? Are they empathetic? Are they good listeners?

4. Does the price and location work for you?

CERTIFICATION AND EXPERIENCE: Choose a trainer with a current certification in their specific area of expertise. Nationally recognized certifications include ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association), NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). These “certs” demonstrate that your trainer has achieved certain standards of professionalism and competence from a trustworthy organization. And if your trainer is independent, they should be fully insured. Your trainer should also hold a current certification in First Aid and CPR... just in case your ass passes out on the treadmill on day one.

LOOKING THE PART: Your personal trainer doesn’t have to look like they just stepped off a body building stage but they should demonstrate a high level of fitness and health. So if your personal trainer looks like they could use a personal trainer, keep looking. A personal trainer needs to be able to demonstrate each exercise, hour after hour, at a reasonable level of resistance.

RAPPORT: Empathy is huge. I cant emphasize this trait enough. Look for a trainer who doesn’t judge you for being out of shape, who has no disdain for your challenge pushing through the difficulty of exercise, and who can acknowledge the hurdles you’ve overcome JUST BY BEING HERE. This is someone with whom you’ll be spending a lot of time, so you want to feel free to blow off some steam and talk about your day, your spouse, the traffic...whatever! An empathetic trainer is especially important for LGBTQ individuals because gym class was often a time when we felt most different and unwelcome. If your trainer isn’t on board with you being queer, sashay away.

PRICE AND LOCATION: Make sure personal training is something you're willing to afford before you begin. Starting a program and having to stop because of finances can torpedo your progress. Most trainers offer discounts based on the number of sessions you buy so find one that suits your budget. Be sure to check out the facilities where you’ll be training. Do you prefer a private setting or are you motivated by seeing the progress of others. What amenities does the facility offer? Is the location convenient?

Although the above considerations are important, at the end of the day, you should trust your gut when choosing a personal trainer. All of the above rules have exceptions and some criteria may be more important to you than others. Choose a knowledgeable trainer who feels like the most comfortable fit because that’s the one who will keep you feeling interested, ignited, and inspired.

Philip Hitchcock is an independent, Certified Personal Trainer specializing in “Fitness after 40,” Resistance Training and Weight Loss. He maintains his own client base and is also the exclusive trainer for the Four Seasons Hotel. Check out


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