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What Questions Should You Ask a Personal Trainer Before Hiring Them?

by Matt Weik

Finding a personal trainer is like finding a new associate at work. Some candidates will be helpful, others, not so much. Some will come with lots of experience, while some might have just got their certification. It’s important for you to ask as many questions as you feel necessary in order to feel comfortable shelling out the money to work with a particular personal trainer. I’ve laid out this article to show you what questions you should ask a personal trainer before hiring them.

1. Why did you get into personal training?

Each personal trainer seems to have his or her own story and background. It’s not uncommon to find the personal trainer you are interviewing to have been in your shoes years ago. In fact, many of them find their calling when they themselves are told they need to lose weight or they were battling a health issue and needed to get healthier to improve their overall quality of life. It’s important to ask each personal trainer this question to see if there’s an immediate connection. It’s tough to relate to someone who says they’ve always had perfect genetics and don’t have to work very hard to achieve their Adonis physique.

2. How long have you been a personal trainer and training clients?

Another great question to ask the personal trainer you’re looking to hire is how long they have actually been a personal trainer and working with clients. Is this their first week? Have they been in the industry for over a decade? This is good information to know just so you know what to expect going into it. If a personal trainer has longevity in the industry, it shows they must be good at what they do. While this is just one of the questions to ask, don’t feel as if it’s a deal breaker if they are a newer personal trainer in the industry. Everyone has to start somewhere and while their experience might not be great, they could be a wealth of knowledge and extremely helping in getting you the results you’re looking for.

3. How many current clients do you work with regularly?

Does this personal trainer have a booked schedule that they are constantly with a client or is their schedule pretty open because they only have maybe one or two clients? I think it should go without saying that if a personal trainer only has a couple clients, a red flag should go up. Why does this personal trainer only have a couple of clients? But, ask them for the reasoning if they do indeed only have a couple clients. It might be because they are part-time and do other jobs within the industry. Or maybe their role with the gym or fitness center is as a director where they aren’t able to take on many clients because their time on the floor is limited. So, don’t completely shut down a personal trainer if they have minimal clients before you find out the answer why.

4. Do you specialize in anything that would help me reach my goals faster?

Not every personal trainer “specializes” in something. You have trainers that are well-rounded but aren’t considered a guru at one particular skill set. However, it is common to find a personal trainer who specializes in weight loss. Or a personal trainer who specializes in sport-specific training. Much of this information will come from their certifications which we will touch on shortly. Your best bet when looking for results is finding a personal trainer who specializes in what you want to accomplish. But, if you can’t find that individual, you can still get good results with other trainers in your gym or fitness center.

5. Are you certified, and if so, through who?

I don’t care who the individual is or what they look like. If the person you are talking to does not have his or her certification, they are not a personal trainer. I’ve seen way too many people who are in shape at the gym end up getting a job where they are a member simply because the gym believes they can sell a lot of personal training packages because of how they look. Or that the gym believes people will see what he or she looks like and members will immediately want to pay to look like them. Another thing I see is where fitness and bodybuilding competitors all of a sudden become personal trainers after placing well at shows. Most of them are working with new clients without even being certified. It’s not good business practices, but we can’t assume everyone plays by the rules. Therefore, ask the question and make sure they are certified through a nationally recognized certification group, NASM, ACE, ACSM, ISSA, NSCA, etc.

6. What are your personal training rates?

Everything these days comes down to the almighty dollar. We know first-hand that we want to make sure what we spend our money on is going to be worth the price. Be upfront with the personal trainer and ask them how much their services cost. Is there a cost break if you purchase multiple sessions up front or buy a package? Is there a price break if you bring a friend along? Do you get anything for having friends sign up as individuals to work with that personal trainer? While we like to think everything these days is negotiable, you aren’t going to get anywhere trying to haggle a personal trainer. In fact, if you do, they will probably want to send you to the bathroom in the middle of your first session throwing up from exhaustion. So, don’t try to haggle or negotiate, but do try and get your best bang for your dollar without sacrificing the quality of the personal trainer you want to work with.

Training rates can vary depending on the personal trainer, their experience, what gym you are training at, and where you live. If you live in the middle of Pennsylvania, you’ll probably be on the lower end of the spectrum whereas if you live in Los Angeles, expect to pay an arm and a leg in comparison. Normal training sessions can range from $30 to well over $100. And if you expect to work with a personal trainer who works with celebrities, be prepared to pay for a second mortgage.

7. Can you work around my schedule or do I need to work around yours?

We are all busy and our schedules can fluctuate. Be sure to talk to the personal trainer and see if they have a flexible schedule or if there is only a certain time each day that they would be able to meet with you if you wanted to train. This doesn’t mean that you can walk in whenever you want and have their availability, this simply means if the personal trainer has the flexibility to change the time you train on certain days that it would give you some wiggle room to fit in your sessions. Always have your sessions scheduled for convenience. If your schedules don’t jive, no worries, keep searching for a personal trainer who meets your criteria. Don’t try to rearrange your entire life and schedule to make it to the gym to work with your personal trainer.

You need to find time to exercise, we don’t want you to turn your life upside in order to do so, otherwise, you’re less likely to stick with it and reach your goals.

8. How many days per week do I need to work out and for what duration?

The personal trainer you are interviewing should be able to give you a little guidance without charging you on how often you’re going to need to be in the gym, not only to see him or her but also on your own. I want to make one thing extremely clear though… if the trainer you are working with wants to see you every day of the week, RUN! Do not want to you waste your money. That personal trainer is simply trying to take advantage of you. Run as far away as you can from that individual. They aren’t there to help you reach your goals, they are clearly there to help you lose weight on the scale by emptying all of the money in your pockets.

9. Will you be checking my progress and how?

How will you know you’re on the right track? Is there a system in place where every week or every other week, maybe even every month the trainer takes your measurements, checks your weight, and calculates your body fat? Will your personal trainer help you stay accountable and motivate you to walk through the door to train? Ask them. If you aren’t making progress, will the personal trainer make adjustments or do they charge to tweak workouts or nutrition plans? Note—not every state allows personal trainers to give nutrition advice, check with your individual state for clarification or speak to the personal trainer.

10. What should I be eating throughout the day?

As mentioned above, not every personal trainer is able to do nutrition consulting. If they aren’t, find a registered dietician who can put together a program to help you reach your goals. However, if the trainer is able to give you guidance, ask them to help you. Let them come up with a plan for you so you know exactly what you should be eating and when. They should be able to break down your individual caloric needs to help you reach your goals along with your macronutrient breakdown for the day. Diet is an extremely important part of your results and why we focus on it so much. If you don’t have your nutrition in line, there’s no amount of exercise you can do in the gym that will have you achieving your goals. It all starts in the kitchen and what you put in your mouth.

11. Is there anything specific I should eat before my workouts?

Pre-workout nutrition is extremely important to fuel your body for the work it’s about to do in the gym. Your personal trainer should be able to give you some guidance as to what you should be consuming based on the activities you would partake in during your training sessions. They can recommend the best carbohydrate source as well as protein to prepare your muscles for the strenuous workout they will put you through. Some people will exercise in a fasted state where they don’t have any food in their system, and that is fine. But your trainer will be able to give you a better idea based on your body type and goals as to what would be best for you personally. No two people are the same, so everything needs to be individualized.

12. What should I eat following my workout (post-workout)?

Post workout is your window of opportunity to flood your exhausted muscles with the necessary macros to help them start the rebuilding and healing process. Ask the personal trainer what they recommend you do for your post-workout nutrition. How many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats should you be looking for? Do they recommend a protein shake to be the ideal source during the 45-minute window of opportunity? If so, do they have a preference of what kind of protein powder you should look for? Do they want you to add anything to the protein powder to beef up the macros at all? Some protein powders are low in carbohydrates and your trainer might want you to add a banana or a different fast-digesting carbohydrate source.

Not every personal trainer is going to want to answer some of the questions above. So, don’t be completely shocked if they don’t want to talk about nutrition in terms of pre/post workout and what to eat throughout the day until you sign on the dotted line. However, many trainers will give that information to you. It all depends on the personal trainer.

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