So you’ve decided to hire a personal trainer, good for you! That’s a great step to take in what will hopefully be a long and successful fitness journey.
What you’ll find here is a guide for how to use your personal trainer in the best way possible, get a ton of value for the money you’re spending, and create results that you can maintain for life. We’ll clear up some common misconceptions and get you on your way to having successful sessions every time.
What a trainer is not:
A trainer is not your *friend, *therapist, punching bag, wingman, accessory, mediator or magic pill.
You cannot buy weight loss by hiring a trainer. Although you will definitely get more out of a workout with a trainer than by yourself, 100% effort trumps 50% effort + trainer every time.
The reason that the first two are asterisked is because a trainer can become a friend over time, and can become a trusted adviser in certain circumstances, but these are not their primary role. Attempts to obtain a trainer for these purposes can come with a certain degree of resentment from both parties because neither one’s expectations are being met.
What a personal trainer is:
A trainer is a coach, a motivator, a slave driver, and a ruthless overlord. It’s the ‘personal’ part that allows them to customize their relentless passion for your well-being into something palatable for your specific goals and lifestyle.
A trainer is a motivator, teacher and expert that is able to map out your journey from where you are right now to where you eventually want to be.
Step 1: Find your Goal
The first step in having a good training experience is to have a goal. If you’re goal is to, “I don’t know, get healthier and feel better” than your workouts will probably be, “I don’t know, some squats and lunges probably.”
While that type of training is fine for some, you’re not getting your money’s worth.
I’ve had clients pick all kinds of goals, from losing weight before a wedding, to getting an education on some exercises that will help their neck pain.
One client told me that she wanted to be supermodel skinny with no visible muscle. Is that what I think is the best option? Probably not, but I was hired to help her reach that goal, so that’s what I did.
Step 2: Find a Trainer that Matches your Goal
Now that you know what your goal is, the next step is picking a trainer that falls in line with that. If you’re interested in improving your triathlon time, pick a trainer that does triathlons, not bodybuilding competitions.
This is not to say that a bodybuilder can’t help you, they probably will get you stronger and more fit, but it’s not the same as having someone who has “been there, done that”
Experience is an important factor, so be sure to ask potential trainers what they bring to the table and why they would be the best fit. Some gyms have bios for all their trainers, which can be an excellent resource.
Step 3: Dominating your Initial Evaluation
Most gyms will do the first session free as a means of helping you meet the trainer, talk about goals, and to get you to purchase training sessions.
Don’t go into this evaluation empty handed. Doing your research will allow you to have a much more successful initial appointment. If your goal is losing fat, do a quick Google search for “Fat loss workout.” Look at the top 10 results and ask your trainer what their philosophy is on tabata training, crossfit, boot camps, etc.
This will help you establish right away if your goals and the trainer’s philosophy are in line. It’s important to trust your trainer, because they are going to be asking you to do a lot of difficult tasks, and you need to believe that they know what they’re doing, and they care about your success.
Ask why. Ask them why they like certain exercises, why they want you to work out 4 days per week, why you need to do cardio. A good trainer should be able to explain all the answers in a way that makes sense to you in order to get you to fully understand and comply with their methods.
This inquisitive spirit will serve you well later in helping you recall that the stair master is not just a high tech torture device, but is indeed helping you get to your beach body by July.
Step 4: Buy In: Crushing your Workouts
So you picked a goal and you have a trainer that you trust. That’s great. Now comes the part when your trainer asks you to do 20 pushups, but you swear you can only get 10.
Now is not the time to buy in, that decision should have been made at the beginning. Now is when you need to listen to your trainer, trust the process, and work your ass off.
Don’t think you can finish the last quarter mile? Shut your mouth and do it anyways. At some point, your brain will lie to you and tell you that you can’t. Your trainer is in your corner, telling you that you can, and helping to talk you through it. You’ve already picked who you trust, now prove it.
Besides, if you can complain about how hard it is, you can definitely work harder.
Step 5: Do your Homework
Another step in trusting the process is doing the work that your trainer gives you outside the gym. If you work out 3 days per week with a trainer for an hour, that leaves you with 165 hours per week without your trainer, or 98.2% of your time.
This makes it very important that you not let the work you put in go to waste by not following through on your homework.
You need to be doing the cardio and resistance training as prescribed by your trainer on the off days, and eating well to fuel the workouts. If you’re meeting with an additional expert to talk about diet, the same rules apply.
If you kill it in the gym every time you workout with your coach, but never do anything on the off days, your results will be minimal, and I can guarantee you’ll be frustrated with lack of progress.
If you’re struggling with a certain food item, or holiday snack, consult your trainer as to what they think is the best course of action. Often times I’ll have clients bring in the offensive plate of cookies/donuts/beer, and I will dispose of them.
Step 6: Reflect and Assess
After you reach a point where a deadline has come and gone, it’s important to take a moment to think back on your journey.
What did you like about the process? What would you do differently? What would you like your coach to do differently for the next goal? What exercises did you love/hate?
Asking yourself questions like these will help ensure that you will be able to sustain the results you’ve gotten, as well as helping to cement all the knowledge you’ve learned over that time period, which should be a substantial amount.
Don’t be afraid to give you trainer some feedback. Trainers love feedback. That means that you’ve thoughtfully considered the workouts and the experience and would like to help them improve their skills, or just improve your own experience moving forward.
Step 7: Take Ownership.
Chances are you won’t have a trainer forever, and that’s fine. But that just means that you need to start learning and understanding some of these concepts for yourself, and take ownership of your physical fitness.
Your body is different from everyone else. Your body might not like bench presses, or eating gluten, but that’s OK! You need to understand that about yourself so moving forward, you can treat yourself correctly.
An often overlooked portion of the training plan is when your trainer switches from being a coach, to being more of an educator. Take advantage of this portion, ask questions, and strive to understand the why behind the how.
Many people are uncomfortable in weight rooms, and that’s alright too, but much of that prickly feeling can be resolved by having your trainer come up with a detailed plan that you can learn and replicate on your own.
Own the process, and you can be fit for the rest of your life.