Four Tips for Hiring the Right Personal Trainer

Four Tips for Hiring the Right Personal Trainer
Photo by Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

By Leslie D. Shuffleton
Guest Column

The battle of the bulge may be too tough to handle alone. Time to call in the personal trainer. But how? 

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” This little philosophical nugget by English writer Samuel Johnson describes exactly the overweight out of shape situation many of you may find yourselves after the Covid lockdowns … or even before, from many stressful years of working, raising families, and carving out a life. 

Somehow along the way all these distractions make many of us lose touch with our bodies, and all of a sudden (or so it seems!) we find ourselves in terrible shape, unable to do even half of the physical activities we remember doing in our youth. 

This realization can lead to a lack of motivation to do something about it. You just feel too far gone and unsure of how to begin to find yourself again, despite all the benefits you know come with keeping your body fit and healthy. 

Health benefits you’ve been ignoring

The Mayo Clinic identifies several benefits you can look forward to on your fitness journey through exercising: 

  1. Weight control; 
  2. Mood improvement;
  3. Energy boost;
  4. Better sleep;
  5. Sparked sex drive;
  6. Heightened social connections;

and probably the MOST important:

  1. Resilience to disease and other health conditions.  

 Just knowing these benefits is not enough to get you off the couch and into a training routine, however.

The road to fitness can be a lonely journey – and yes,  finding some external motivation like a training buddy can be very helpful and make the effort more fun. But if your buddy ends up being flaky and unreliable, you might want to consider professional help. Not a shrink. A personal trainer to motivate you to show up on a regular basis. 

This doesn’t make you weak or lacking. It proves you have the self-awareness to ask for what you need, and the strength of character to go after what you want. Paying someone to work with you, after all, is a real-world commitment, involving time and money. But it is worth the effort; YOU are worth the effort, worth focusing on, and worth spending your precious time and money on. 

Choosing a Trainer

Choosing the right trainer for your needs is imperative if you want  to maintain the consistency required to get and stay fit. It’s a big commitment and it’s easy to make a mistake, which could throw you off your stride. 

Here are four factors to consider when beginning your search for your ideal trainer. These are listed in no particular order. Each one is important to think about in its own right. 1) Motivation, 2) Location, 3) Financial commitment, 4) Scheduling.


This is an important first step. Defining your reasons for wanting to live a healthier, fit life means you have made the transition from just thinking about it  – that is, from precontemplation & contemplation, to taking action. Write out those motivations in a statement and place it where you can see it everyday: your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator, etc. Understanding why you want this for yourself will help you find a trainer that helps you achieve an avenue to fitness that you can relate to.  

For example, if you are interested in traveling to countries on walking tours, you would not necessarily choose a trainer who focuses on body building, and vice versa. Be specific with what you would like to be able to do with your newfound fitness and you will find it easier to stick to it when life tries to get in the way.  The more specific your goals are, the more likely you will find a professional who understands your requirements — and the more likely they will help you turn those stubborn unhealthy habits around, and achieve the active, healthy life you hope to live.

Also discover what type of personality most motivates you. Do you respond well to the drill sergeant-type? Maybe a gentler touch is better for making you look forward to your training session; maternal, or paternal energies, cheerleader?


Quora and Reddit have published quite a few public surveys regarding peoples’ actual practices regarding their training habits, while a Wall Street Journal article indicates your adherence to your fitness goals can be greatly affected by the time it takes to actually get to the  location. It turns out that 12 minutes or 3.5 miles by transportation is the average time and distance people will tolerate to get to their chosen location. 

And most agree that unless they were working on some sort of specialty training (to compete in a  specific sport, for example) or to train with an expert teacher, they did not stay with their training. So make a list of the clubs in your area that you can get to within that 12-minute window from either office or home, and start your trainer search there. Other considerations are  the size of the facility,  friendliness of staff, cleanliness, and perhaps the other patrons, because that can make or break the atmosphere that keeps you motivated. 

Your own home could be your chosen training location. It eliminates your commute time, and allows for more of your allotted training time to go to the training rather than getting there.  If you are comfortable with a trainer coming to you, they could bring extra equipment that you do not have to purchase. 

The other option for in-home training is video training. This has become quite popular during the pandemic and seems to have become a permanent fixture in the fitness scene. You may be required to outfit your home with some equipment, and you’ll need space at home to perform the exercises. But having this space and equipment right at home makes it easier to stay committed to your plan no matter what is going on around you. 

Financial commitment

This one can be significant, and should be discussed in advance. A good trainer will have an introductory protocol (usually the first 1-3 sessions) to assess your current level of body mechanics and body awareness before actually creating a training program and schedule appropriate for you. This assessment protocol may be an additional cost, or be wrapped into the first three sessions, but it is important for the trainer to have this information, especially if you have never worked out or have not worked out in a gym with weights in more than two years. 

Then, once you have your assessment, the trainer’s job is to get you at your current state of being and put you on the path to reach your goals. If you’ve never worked with weights before and are older than 40, you might start with 30-minute sessions three days a week. If you’re involved in vigorous physical activity outside the gym, you might try two 30-minute sessions a week. 

What you pay is directly related to the amount of time you spend with the trainer. Once you get in the swing of things,  you could save money by working with the trainer in a small group setting (four people, for example) or for a shorter period of time, yet still maintain a high level of accountability.

The moral of the story here is that if money is a barrier to your education and health goals, find a trainer who has programs to fit your budget.


You have a clear understanding of your reasons to get and stay healthy and active. You found a location that you can get to easily, is clean, and has trainers and options within your budget. Now you have to find a schedule that fits your life. You may need to make concessions.

Be willing to look for areas in your life that you can replace with workouts. For example, instead of happy hour after work three days a week, work out two of those days. Not only will that be putting your money to healthier work, you are likely to drink less and eat better food those days as well. Find a trainer who is willing to reschedule with you if something jumps in the way, and who is willing to call you out if it starts happening too much. 

Consistency counts

And remember: the most important part of getting and staying fit is consistency. The regularity with which you exercise is more important than the specific activity you choose.   Paying for a personal trainer adds a level of commitment, accountability, and consistency that is frequently lacking for most people.