It’s a great question, because to the fitness outsider, they often don’t really know what separates a really good coach or trainer from one who’s not so great until it’s too late and they’ve already invested lots of time and money into the experience.
In hopes of saving you that time, money, and ultimately frustration, I put together a list of 5 things to look for in your future trainer or coach when you first meet them and go through your consultation.
- Are they listening to you and asking lots of questions?
This is in my opinion the most important. We’ve all heard the expression, “You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that order.”
A good coach or personal trainer will understand this well.
They will ask you ton of questions, and after they ask, will shut up and listen to your answer. Then, after you answer, they’ll probably even ask you some follow up questions about your answer. They want to know as much information as possible so they can help you to the best of their abilities.
For example, if they ask you what your goals are and you answer with, “I want to get fit and in better shape,” there should be an immediate follow up question for you from that answer. Something along the lines of, “That’s a great goal! What does getting fit mean to you specifically?”
If they just leave your answer at face value and don’t dig any deeper, chances are they aren’t really listening to you as well as you think, and probably had their own ideas for what your program should look like regardless of what you answered. No bueno!
- Are they Supportive and Understanding without Coddling you, or the opposite, being a Drill Sergeant?
At some point during your conversation about what you’re looking to achieve with their help, the topic of roadblocks/pitfalls should come up. They should want to know what the possible barriers to success might be for you. Everyone has them, so don’t be ashamed of them.
When you begin to speak about them, they should be listening attentively and sound genuine and empathetic when acknowledging them. They should not, however, let them slide by as insignificant or the opposite and give you some speech about will power.
Instead, they should start to help you brainstorm strategies to manage these potential pitfalls, so that you can be successful, and celebrate your small victories to help keep you motivated along your journey.
- Are they good at coaching you?
That’s not only an opportunity for them to see how you move, and what your strength levels look like, but should also be an opportunity for you to see if they can effectively communicate with and coach you through different exercises.
For example, if they have you doing a squat on day one, and you know something doesn’t feel good, but they either don’t help to correct the issue and just give you the uninterested vocal “good” or try to over correct your technique, but confuse you, this is not a good fit for you.
One of the biggest roles of a personal trainer or strength coach is communicating effectively to the client what they want them to do with a given exercise, and if the client isn’t able to do that at first, effectively coaching them into being able to do said exercises with their guidance or giving you a new and similar exercise that you can be successful at.
If they’re not doing either for you, then they may not be worth the price tag they are asking for.
- Do your personalities mesh well?
Many clients may stick with a personal trainer for years and years, without ever seeing results, because the personal relationship between them and their trainer is so strong.
It’s great that they have formed such a great bond, but, is it that what you came to the gym for? Did you really come in intending to spend in some cases over $120/hr for a friend or did you come in enthused about achieving some specific goals?
On the opposite side of the coin, is your coach so dry and task only oriented that the sessions feel like you’re only there for your daily/weekly ass kicking, and then that’s it?
I’ve had clients come to me to train, that had previously worked with some of the most elite and knowledgeable coaches out there, ones far more experienced than me, because their personalities when coaching were so dry and they wanted more of the “personal” aspect in the term personal training.
The truth is that what everybody needs is different with regards to personality, and this one is on you to honestly figure out whether you feel like this prospective coach is someone with the right balance of being invested in you personally but also will keeping you task oriented.
- Do they speak in terms of workouts or programs?
In the simplest explanation possible for you, a workout is a set of exercises that you perform (hopefully with some rhyme or reason to them) on a given day at the gym. A program is essentially the plan comprised of workouts which will take you from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be).
Using these two terms interchangeably would be like using the words penny and dollar interchangeably. If you still think that workout and program are synonyms than I would like to trade you all my pennies for an equal amount of your dollars.
When chatting with your potential trainer or coach at the end of the initial consultation, don’t be afraid to ask them about how they are going to get you towards your goals.
If they’re even halfway decent at what they do, they’ll mention coming up with a program for you. That’s great, but again, don’t be afraid to dig even deeper and ask more questions like, what would that program entail, etc.
Often times, an I see this slightly more often in your big box commercial gym, trainers will tell you they have a program for you, but in reality it’s just a hodge-podge of workouts without any real plan. Worse yet, they could be totally winging it, but they understand that the term “program” makes them sound legit.
Look out for Part 2 of this series, what coaches need to know about their potential/new clients.