What To Ask in an Initial Personal Training Consult

I’ve been training clients for about two and a half years now, which is crazy because it feels like yesterday when I was writing posts about prepping for my exam and what I wish I had known beforehand.

In that time, I’ve sat down with a number of potential clients to discuss their goals, fitness background, and get a general sense of whether we would be a good fit or not. I’ve compiled a list of questions that I think it’s important for you as a client to make sure to ask a trainer when considering hiring him or her. Hopefully this will help you make an educated decision!

If you're considering hiring a personal trainer, here are some things to make sure you ask in an initial personal training consult!

Qualifications

Before you start working with a personal trainer, find out what their qualifications are. Trainers must go through a certification process before they can legally train you. There are several different training programs, with two of the most popular being from the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Make sure that your trainer is specifically certified as a personal trainer, since there are also certifications in group exercise instruction. This would be someone who teaches group classes in a gym, for example. It is good to note that personal trainers can also be group exercise instructors, but that group exercise instructors can not be personal trainers without a specific personal training certification.

Experience

How long has he or she been training? Make sure to ask your potential trainer this question as well as how many clients he or she has trained. In general, the longer a trainer has worked in the field, the more experience he or she has to offer. Personal trainers are also required to renew their certification every 2 years, which means that there are continuing education credits that need to be accrued.

Experience is always a good thing, but keep in mind that there can be excellent trainers who have only practiced a short time and mediocre trainers who have been working for many years. Use the answer to this question in conjunction with all the other answers to have a more thorough basis for your decision.

Fitness Philosophy

Even though personal trainers will hold the same certification, that doesn’t mean that they all share the same fitness philosophy. Find out why he or she became a trainer and how the concept of fitness is approached.

Some trainers believe in treating the whole person, that is, developing a rapport with clients and digging deeper to find out what motivates them or what holds them back from a healthy lifestyle. Some trainers are all about providing a workout and don’t feel the need to develop that deep of a relationship with you. Think about what kind of personality works well with you to determine if a trainer is the right fit.

CPR/AED certified

If your trainer is properly certified through a nationally accredited program, the answer should be yes. Applicants are required to take a CPR/AED class prior to sitting for the exam. If your trainer is not certified in these, chances are that they are not certified as a personal trainer.

Cancellation Policy

Make sure you know your trainer’s cancellation policy before you sign up. Every person and every facility is different, so make sure you know how long you have before a session to cancel. A late cancellation may lead to a forfeiture of your session, so make sure that your schedule allows you to work within the confines of the policy.

If you work an unpredictable job that may require you to cancel last minute, see if you are able to schedule closer to the actual time rather than planning out a weekly schedule that you may not be able to adhere to.

Specializations

On top of a general personal training certification, there are many different specialization certifications that trainers can complete. They can range anywhere from nutrition to working with special populations such as women or the elderly. By asking your trainer for a complete list of his or her certifications, you will have a more complete picture of the type of regimen that may be offered.

For example, if you are having a tough time maintaining a workout plan or you feel like there are aspects in your life which are impacting your dedication to your health, a trainer with a behavior change specialization may be able to help you overcome those obstacles.

Duration

Make sure you have a thorough discussion with a potential trainer to determine how often they think you should exercise and for how long. Make sure to inform them of your goals and based on that information, they should be able to tell you how many times a week they foresee working with you and an overall time period.

Some people only work for trainers for a short period of time, while others need continued motivation from another person to move into action. If you are a beginner to exercising, two times a week is usually a good starting point. If you have more specific goals of strength improvement, for example, you may utilize a trainer 3 or more times a week.

What should I eat before/after/at all

Diet is an extremely important part of a healthy lifestyle.  A common question to ask your trainer once you start working with him or her is what to eat before and after you work out and also how you should be eating on a regular basis.

Personal trainers have some training in nutrition as part of their certification, but make sure you understand that you shouldn’t go to your trainer for detailed nutritional information. A registered dietitian is formally trained in this area and should be your resource for specific meal plans and nutrition monitoring. Personal trainers can give you general guidelines, but legally they aren’t allowed to get into the nitty gritty of nutrition with you.

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4 Comments

  1. I’m always on the edge about personal trainers, especially where I live in Hong Kong. Feels like I can’t trust anyone here unless I pay a hefty price. There are so many dodgy and bad trainers, so thank you for this great list to help weed out any of those!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
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  2. October 25, 2017 / 1:07 pm

    This is helpful! I want to ask what your input is on hiring a personal trainer when you already have a grasp on fitness and workouts? How could a personal trainer take me to the next level and teach me things I don’t already know? I’ve been toying with the idea of hiring one once a week to mix it up, so I’d love your feedback!
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