Choosing a personal trainer

In just five weeks, my one-year membership to Retro Fitness will be over.

And with that ends the twice-weekly visits with my trainer.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year. Time has seriously gone fast.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next for me in terms of fitness, if I should renew my membership to Retro or join a different gym and what I’ve gotten out of my year of training sessions.

I’ve loved having a trainer because working with him has given me confidence in the gym to use different machines or free weights and to know I’m using them correctly.

A year ago, I was one of those people who probably would have said that I wouldn’t like exercising with a trainer, but now I’m definitely going to miss the guided gym sessions.

I think it’s a great experience that everyone should try, and if you’re thinking about signing up for a trainer here are some of the things I’ve learned and tips on how to choose one that will be right for you:

1. Ask about their certifications and background. I feel like I hit the jackpot with my trainer. He is the epitome of someone who talks the talk and walks the walk. The man lives and breathes fitness and nutrition. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical and resistant to trust him when we first met but he changed my mind in the first five minutes by being able to identify weak areas of my body just by watching me do a few exercises.

If I were to look for another trainer, I would ask what kind of people they have experience working with and what certifications they have. For instance, my trainer is certified to work with a whole range of people from the very elderly to pregnant women, and I know he’s one of the few at Retro who can do that. Along with his training certifications, he holds degrees in fitness and in microbiology.

He also speaks three languages, but that’s just an added bonus :).

2. Ask the trainer what they do to stay healthy. My trainer is a bit at the extreme – he won’t drink alcohol or eat sweets or unhealthy food ever and is very into how his body looks and moves – but I like that about him. While I’m more moderate in my approach to healthy living, it’s very motivating to be around someone who never gives into pressure to take a day off from an active healthy lifestyle.

We talk a lot about food and cooking and he yells at me when I tell him I drink alcohol and he thinks peanut butter is the devil – although I’ve been trying to change his mind on the latter.

Personal training is more than just a job for him, it’s his life and passion, and that absolutely has made a difference.

3. Watch how the trainer acts with other clients. I got a great deal money-wise for my sessions ($20 for a half hour), but affording a personal trainer still created a deep crater in my meager budget. In light of that, I wanted to make sure I made the most of every minute of time I was paying for. I see a lot of trainers at the gym texting on their phone while their client is working out or drinking coffee or engaging in a lot of small talk and I wanted to make sure that the trainer I worked with didn’t do any of that.


My trainer is at my side every second of the half hour pushing me or making sure my form is correct.

I let him know from the very beginning that it was a sacrifice for me to pay for the time and that I took my goals very seriously and expected the same of him.

I told him about the progress I had already made and told him this was not just a phase of me, or part of a resolution, but a total life change.

On my end, I made sure to never, ever show up late to an appointment and never skip an appointment – I think after he saw how dedicated I was it made him work harder too.

4. Have reasonable expectations. This tip is less about choosing a trainer and more about IF you should choose a trainer.

Here’s the reality: if you’re not already devoted to working out, signing up for a personal trainer and even joining a gym is is probably not going to change that.


I know too many people who are paying for gym memberships that they never use. I also can’t tell you how many times I would be working out and the other trainers would be standing around waiting for their clients to show up.

When I joined the gym I was already working out 6 days a week. I signed up because winter was approaching and I didn’t want to let the cold weather be an excuse to not work out.

Before I had the trainer I was also doing things like pilates and yoga vidoes on Netflix.

There are a lot of free resources out there, so make sure you’re already committed to being at the gym or dedicating time to exercise before you sign a contract because they’re hard to break and expensive.

Yes, a trainer is helpful in providing things like meal plans and showing you exercise routines, but at the end of the day it’s going to be up to you to follow through on your goals consistently.

5. Know what you’re doing and why. Obviously there has been physical progress from using a trainer, but I think the number one thing I’ve gotten out of my sessions has been knowledge. This is your time with a professional, don’t waste it talking about a stressful day at work or fight with a friend. Use the time to pick their brains about healthy living. You won’t have a personal trainer forever and you want to be able to work out just as effectively without one so it’s good to know why you are doing the exercises and what they will do for your body.

6. Speak up if something hurts but don’t complain if it’s just hard. As good as trainers are at knowing bodies, they aren’t mind readers. Make sure you always say something if a certain move hurts or if you’re already sore from a previous work out. My trainer starts every session with me by asking how I’m feeling, if anything hurts, etc. Talk honestly about how a move makes you feel so your trainer knows if you are doing it right. Mine constantly checks in with me to see where I’m feeling the burn or feeling the stretch to make sure the exercise is doing what it’s supposed to. Alternatively, if you’re doing strength training and the weight is too light – speak up! You get out of training what you put in so definitely become an active participant in your sessions.


5 thoughts on “Choosing a personal trainer

  1. Great tips! Also…79 FREAKIN POUNDS?! Its been so awesome to witness your evolution. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you are amazing!

  2. Pingback: Color me full - Jodi, fat or not

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