Fitness is an easy concept for me to understand. I use weights to get strong, cardio to get ripped and proper diet (yes, calorie counting) to bring it all together. I probably wouldn't hire anyone to help me with my diet and fitness goals, but I can see why there's a market for those services. Let's take a look at what a trainer can do for you, how to spot a good one and few signs you should watch out for when hiring one.
You hire a professional because you assume they know more than you in a certain field. You hire a dentist for dental issues, a mechanic for car problems and trainer for exercise needs. A personal trainer is [supposed to be] a fitness professional.
A true professional practices what they preach. If a perspective trainer is out of shape, fat or otherwise doesn't look the part, how are they going to successfully transform you? Part of creating a healthy lifestyle is adopting new behaviors that cause permanent and positive changes in your body. The keyword here is "permanent." The point of a healthy lifestyle isn't to lose weight so you can look good for a party next week.
The point of a healthy lifestyle is to make fundamental changes to your habits. A healthy lifestyle means no more weight problems; you'll always fit into your favorite clothes without even trying. If a trainer can't put these important concepts into practice for themselves, why would you trust them to do it for you?
Signs You Need a New Personal Trainer
1. Unqualified Trainers. A common misconception is that all trainers are extremely qualified in their field. The truth: a lot of trainers have no idea what they're talking about. Most trainers have some sort of certification, but there is a huge difference between the good and bad certifications; not all certifications mean the same thing.
One way to differentiate between good and bad trainers is to ask which certification they have. For example, a trainer who is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is required to have at least a Bachelor's Degree. The exam for this certification has both a written and practical portion. You also can't test for the CSCS online. You have to register and visit a test location (much like the college entrance exams: ACT and SAT). If a trainer has this certification, there's a very good chance they know what they're doing.
If you Google "quick personal training certification" you'll find an almost endless number of options allowing an aspiring trainer to test online without any degree or specialized experience/education. One such option is the American Sports and Fitness Association (AFSA). You test without paying allowing you to take the test over and over again until you pass (which doesn't really take much effort in the first place). Try it out yourself and see what it takes to get one of these quick certifications. A trainer certified by the American Sports and Fitness Association probably does not know what they're doing.
Imagine how much credibility the SAT or ACT would have with universities if students were able to take the test at home, without registering and having the ability to Google all the questions. Everyone would score perfectly.
It's always a good idea to research a trainer's credentials before you hire them. Try and hire someone with a degree in Exercise Science or other related field.
If your trainer got certified in 10 minutes through an online quiz, it might be a good idea to get a new trainer.
2. Who's the Trainer? Image matters; a trainer should look the part. If they can't stick to their own exercise plan, maybe the problem is their plan is unrealistic. Trainers don't need to look like bodybuilders or fitness models, however, they should look healthy (not fat). If they are failing at their own plan, what makes you think they'll get you to succeed? The problem could also be they're not even trying at their own plan. If they don't care much about their own body, how much can they care about yours?
If you look in the mirror and your trainer is as out of shape as you are, it might be a good idea to get a new trainer.
3. Trainers Selling Unrealistic Goals. Trainers can't make miracles happen. If you want to lose 30 pounds in two weeks so you can fit into your wedding dress, chances are come wedding day, you won't fit into your wedding dress. You should be weary about hiring a trainer who promises to make all your dreams come true. If you are overweight, it's unlikely you'll have a six pack in the near term. If you're skinny, it's unlikely you'll gain 30 pounds of muscle in a month. Some things can't change overnight. A trainer who promises to make miracles happens will leave you disappointed in the long term.
If your trainer isn't honest about your goals, it might be a good idea to get a new trainer.
4. Trainers Eating Off-Limit Foods. Trainers shouldn't give diet or nutrition advice unless they have the qualifications to do so, but they should practice the principles of healthy eating. A healthy lifestyle encompasses both diet and exercise habits. What sort of message is your trainer sending if they're constantly eating foods they tell you to stay away from? This is especially true if they do it right in front of you. Trainers who eat junk food in front of their clients are insensitive. It's like an AA member drinking a beer in front of recovering alcoholics (well, maybe not that bad, but still insensitive).
If your trainer doesn't practice what they preach, it might be a good idea to get a new trainer.
The Bottom Line
Personal trainers have the ability to help you reach goals. Unfortunately, some trainers are more concerned with making a quick buck than truly helping improve your overall health. Spending money on a trainer is no different than spending money on any other product or service; if you don't want to get swindled, do the research before hiring.