How to interview your potential personal trainer.
So you have finally decided to do the unspeakable and start going to the gym. You have also come to the realization that as good as you are at your job, you don’t know where to start in the development of a training program, one that is designed to help reach whatever goals you have set . “I need a personal trainer,” you say to yourself not quite understanding how complex this decision really is.
Lets look at this from another view if I were to ask you about all the hoops you had to jump through to get your job I am sure we would have quite a story. Multiple interviews, resumes, cover letters, questions, letters of reference and background checks. I mean it’s your job after all and in order to get hired you needed to PROVE you were worth the salary and capable of performing the quality of work expected. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY was just handed his or her job without a proper vetting process. I personally would love a job that I got paid $150 an hour just handed to me.
Let me tell you about what I consider one of the most overlooked parts of working with a personal trainer, it is the interview (that’s right I said interview) process. Consider the person who you are trusting with your long-term health plan an applicant for a job, actually one of the most important jobs revolving around you. After all, you are paying quite a considerable sum of money to a complete stranger (most of the time) that you hope is a qualified professional, for a service you are not an expert in.
Look at this objectively, if you were hiring an important position at your office and your friend referred someone they worked with for the job, you would still ask for their resume and credentials and interview. You would sit and have a Q&A with them to ascertain qualification and compatibility and you would want so see a proven track record of success in the field. Why are you not insisting on this with your trainer?
Before I every start working with a new client I insist on a face-to-face meeting (interview). I have built my reputation at Waxman Fitness over the past 23 years so this meeting is actuality for both of us to get to know each other. I walk in as a professional approaching a client with my full portfolio in tow (I will address this in a while). The interview process is also going on for them to get the spot as my client. As silly as it sounds, I only have a limited availability so I actually do turn away or refer out clients who do not meet what I consider important starting qualifications. I expect there to be a discussion of expectations, goals, desires, interests and availability from both of us. Since most people do not understand the importance of knowing your trainer I guide them through the process, most of the time they do not even know that is what I have done. I make sure to touch on all of the points that will be discussed and several more that are unique to my individual style.
Many of my potential clients are not aware that this initial meeting is important, they do not see the significance of quantifying the professionalism of your trainer, how to assess their ethical morals and understand their formal training and level of expertise. They think of this process as a waste of time and wonder why we are not at the gym training, to that I answer “ we are here to see if our energy meshes and this is a good fit”. I then get into the explanation of how important it is to understand your trainer to build the foundation of trust necessary to achieve your goals.
Lets look at how to interview your trainer.
First I would ask how did you find this trainer, was it a flyer on a telephone pole, an internet search, friend referral or are they a trainer in the gym you go to, the possibilities are endless. One thing they all have in common is you don’t know this person, their credentials or training style and they for sure don’t know you or your expectations.
If you are hiring a gym trainer you can have a baseline confidence in their ability but this like everything else is subject to formal experience and education and I would strongly suggest you interview them as well. I have heard too many horror stories about gyms pairing up clients with trainers who were in no way a proper match for them and then refusing to refund money or credit time for bad experiences. Most gyms require trainers to have at least 1 certification from a respected organization.
Ask for a list of their credentials, past and present certifications. Just because a trainer does not have any current certifications does not make them less knowledgeable. With all my years experience I refuse to continually pay to renew certifications that are not mandatory by a state-licensing department. That being said I have held at one time or another multiple certifications from a multitude of organizations. Some of the more recognized are ACE, NACM, ISSA, ACSM and AFFA. Make sure they have had one at some point during their career.
It is VERY important to know as fact that there is no such thing as a licensed personal trainer. It does not exist you do not need a license to train or be a personal trainer. When I spoke about my portfolio I meant that I have an individual file with all my copies of everything I am about to mention. I provide this to my potential client and they are free to take it with them and reference check if they should choose.
1. A professional resume, if your trainer does not have the motivation, professionalism and integrity to have a current list of their prior employment, what they did and how long they did it, why do you want to work with them. Don’t you want to know that your “professional” trainer has only actually been in the fitness field for 3 years and was selling real estate for 4 years before.
2. Personal trainers insurance for at least 1M-3M (chain gym trainers will be covered by the facility policy)
3. CPR/AED certification (this must be current) don’t train with anyone without this. In a life or death critical situation this may save your life
4. Review their formal education and work experience question their last jobs ad why they are not doing them anymore, where did they go to school why are they doing personal training.
5. List of past clients who agree to give verbal referrals or at the very least letters of recommendation.
6. Discuss what their training style is and where they see you fitting into it. What is your trainer’s vision for you and what do you want from them. Do they provide the style of training you are looking for.
7. Motivational technique are they boot camp (negative feedback) and your food work praise (positive feedback) these things have to line up
8. Scheduling make sure availability will not be a problem
9. Refund police on unused sessions (you don’t want to loose your money if things don’t work out)
10. Cancellation policy (typically 24 hours advance) need to not be charged.
11. Waiver and health assessment ANY trainer worth their weight in salt will insist you fill out multiple forms and conduct an oral interview to assess any potential conditions you may have
As with any job interview ask where your potential trainer sees themselves in 10 years. As an example, I personally see myself with a team of trainers using my F1T© technique to help people achieve goals and still actively engaged in training and fitness. Too often personal training is viewed by hacks as a transient job like bartending and being a waiter. You do not want that actor wanna be, aspiring singer or out of work model to be your “professional”. They may look good but I can promise you they almost never have the credentials you are looking for.
Always remember you are paying a good deal of money for an educated, experienced articulate professional that communicates well motivates and creates ambition. Someone who has the level of education and experience you would expect to pay $80-$200 an hour to. You get what you pay for as a rule of thumb. The trainer who charges $40 an hour is most likely just getting started. The seasoned professional like myself charging at the upper end of the spectrum should have at least 1 university 4 year related degree and have held at least several advanced certifications. Personally I have my AA, BA, BS and I am a NY and CA state licensed medical massage therapist (massage therapists have to be licensed by the states board of health) plus over 22 years of practical hands on experience.
Ask questions, it is the only way you will ever get answers. If you don’t ask you won’t know and if you wait and see to find out it may be too late. Remember this is the person you trust your health with. One mistake and you can end up injured, in the hospital or worse. Be smart and interview your trainer BEFORE you give them your business. There are too many people calling themselves professionals that are not. Qualify yours.
Adam Waxman BA, BS, CPT, LMT
Fitness 1 Training LLC