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How to Evaluate a Personal Trainer

Before cutting a check and submitting to your own fitness evaluation, put the weight on the trainer first.

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Personal training is big business, but is it giving you the best body for your buck? A salary survey conducted by the American Council of Exercise estimates that the average income for a full-time personal trainer varies between $40,000 and $50,000 per year. The research also reveals that those salaries have increased almost 20% in the last five years. So, while trainers can be life changers, they can also be money chasers. Like anything else in life, trainers come in all shapes and sizes, but what‘s most important is the quality of service they provide. Learn before you burn.

ASSESS THEIR TRAINING STYLE
The first, most obvious thing to evaluate is physical appearance. A trainer who stands at 6'2", 200 lbs. with 5% body fat is impressive—but is that what you want for yourself? Worse, of course, is if he’s out of shape. Make sure any trainer you size up can articulate the differences in his regimen from what he envisions for yours, and make sure to ask if he practices what he preaches.

Also, how are you best motivated? Do you require fatherly encouragement and gradual progress or does your inner fire come from being called a weak and worthless maggot? Know whether a trainer is Sergeant Slaughter or Dick Sergeant.

GET PERSONAL
Can you still be motivated to train if you hate your trainer? Get to know him by asking about his personal motivations for getting into fitness. Can he relate to you? Does his disposition and general outlook align with yours? Don’t be afraid to get personal and see if this is someone you wouldn't mind knocking you around.

SET GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS
Losing five pounds in a week is a goal; losing 20 pounds in a week is an amputation. Have a realistic idea of what you want from your training and know how your trainer plans to monitor your progress. How will he test you? What are his daily, weekly and monthly goals for you? Asking these questions will hold him accountable to deliver on his promises.

GAUGE HIS COMMITMENT
A training session may only last an hour, but the challenges of leading a healthy lifestyle are 24/7. Ask if you can reach him by phone, text or e-mail after hours. You never know when you might need some quick advice on what to eat at a restaurant or a tough decision between breads at the supermarket. How about a motivational email or message? A great trainer might be busy with other clients, but most will put forth the extra effort to be on hand in a pinch.

DEMAND A PORTFOLIO
Remember: you're hiring someone for a job. Solid, tangible evidence immediately increases a trainer’s credibility. So ask if he has a website, any published articles (only those appearing in reputable outlets apply) and/or testimonials from clients, which should be accompanied by before and after photos, details on how long it took to accomplish goals and the type of diet and training plan used to achieve them.

GET A TRIAL
Seeing him in action is the best way to know how well you work together. During this trial period observe:

  • Does he use his cell phone while training? If so, cut.
  • Does he engage in distracting conversations? If so, cut.
  • Is he actively by your side for every rep, set and stride on the treadmill? Protein brownie points.

There are a lot of good trainers on the market, but the great ones go the extra rep. If you want to be really bold, make them put their money where their muscles are and request a money-back guarantee.

You can follow Mike on Twitter: @Mike_Simone_MF

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