How To Choose A Personal Trainer

Five questions to help you find the right trainer for you

If this is the year to keep that oh-so-familiar resolution to get fit, you might want to consider hiring a personal trainer. “A trainer will keep you accountable and the intensity of a workout with a good trainer is much greater than what you’ll do alone,” says Stacy Irvine, a personal trainer and founder of Totum Life Science in Toronto. But how do you pick a good one? She says you should ask a potential trainer these five questions before you start any sessions:    

#1 “What are your qualifications?” You are looking for a trainer with a university degree – preferably in physical education or kinesiology – and a personal training certification from CanFit Pro, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) or the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCS), says Irvine. “Also ask about continuing education certification courses,” she adds, and to ensure the trainer is keeping up to date, ask if the last course he or she attended was in the last year.

#2 “Who are your clients right now?” What you want is a trainer who has had success with people like you, says Irvine. “Then you know your trainer understands your lifestyle so he or she can help you overcome your challenges and reach your goals.” If the trainer you’re considering works mostly with guys who want to put on lots of muscle, it might not be the best fit if you just want to lose those last five kilograms. Don’t be afraid to ask for references from current clients.  

#3 “Can we do a complimentary session?” Talking to your potential trainer is a great start, but meeting them for one training session will give you real insights. “You need to know that your personalities work well together and that you enjoy the trainer’s company,” says Irvine. After all, if you don’t really like the trainer it could become an easy excuse for cancelling sessions and bowing out of your routine.  

#4 “What’s your knowledge of nutrition and injuries?” To help you achieve your fitness goals he or she will also need to give you advice on nutrition and be able to help you avoid injuries. “A trainer may not have direct education or experience with nutrition, but if they can give you resources or connect you with an expert, that’s good enough,” says Irvine. If he or she has experience dealing with injuries and rehab then you know you’re in good hands should you push too hard during a session.

#5 “How will we do an assessment and reassessment?” These two crucial parts of working with a trainer should be based on what your individual goals are, says Irvine. If you want to lose inches, your trainer should take measurements at your first session and then again in six weeks, and at three months to measure progress. If you want to run 5k faster, the assessment will be different. “This demonstrates that they are committed to seeing you succeed and to keeping you motivated,” she says.