10 Ways a Personal Trainer Can Help (or Hinder) You in Achieving Your Fitness Goals

During the course of my career as a personal trainer, I have seen, heard, and been told some horror stories about personal trainers — some of whom may mean well, but who approach their work with less than an attitude of service and good sense to their clients. So I decided to offer you a list of ten things a trainer both should and shouldn’t do if you plan to stay with them for the long term:

  1. A good trainer monitors your exercises after assigning them. If you are left on your own and have somehow misinterpreted the movements of a particular exercise, you are at risk of a potentially severe injury. If your trainer fails to pay attention to you until it’s time for the next exercise or just lets you go through your paces without watching you closely to see if your form is correct, it’s a red flag.
  2. Some trainers underestimate the calorie count you need to be at your optimum fitness or give you exercises and weights that are too advanced for your physical abilities. If all they talk about is fast results in hopes you’ll continue with them, run in the other direction! I have seen people get sick from not taking in enough protein or calories to offset the workouts they are doing and it just breaks my heart. It can take months and even years to see results from fitness training, and it’s not a panacea for being overweight, either. After all, how long did it take for you to get to the shape you’re in now?
  3. Trainers who guilt you or brow-beat you as a form of accountability drive me up a stair-stepper!  I can’t tell you how often I have seen women, especially, being treated like an abused spouse. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone would PAY another person to be treated like that. Good trainers are (or should be) about encouragement and about pointing out small, incremental changes as you work together. They are NOT about reading you the riot act if you miss a workout or fall off an eating regimen. We are on YOUR side, and it’s our business to help you reach your goals, even with all the challenges you face and habits that are hard to change.
  4. Good trainers honor your time. Their focus should not waver and they should not be easily distracted by texts, phone calls, other clients walking in, etc. Canceled workouts should be a rarity, and days they are not available should be broadcasted to you well ahead of time. You are paying for THEIR time, which means from the moment you are greeted by him or her, you should have their full attention, whether it’s fixing a technique, offering you a cup of water or handing you a weight.
  5. A good personal trainer plans ahead so that every moment you spend there has a purpose, whether it’s “leg day” or any other part of the body that is being worked. They even have alternatives (modifications) in mind in case the exercise or movement they’ve assigned begins to feel too challenging or uncomfortable.
  6. If your trainer doesn’t walk the talk, walk away. Personal trainers are usually in this line of work because we have a passion to help others, but consider ourselves examples of good physical form and healthy eating habits. They should also look (and smell) professional and tidy, flashing a great smile to help you get through your workout. After all, aren’t you more motivated to get up at an ungodly hour or take an important hour out of your day if the person trainer looks fantastic and exudes a great attitude?
  7. If a trainer “guarantees” you anything, you’ve already made the wrong choice. Results from fitness training are different for everyone and much of it relies on a host of factors, including your dietary habits. So when a trainer tells you he or she can get you to a certain size by a certain date, it can be a recipe for disappointment and disaster. 
  8. Trainers who tell you to come in when you are sick should be ashamed of themselves. As your body is mustering all its energy into healing you, exercise should be the last thing they recommend. You can do yourself more harm than good if your immune system is already compromised and you try to make it in for a workout. By the same token, if your trainer can see that you are sick, he or she should immediately terminate the workout.
  9. A good trainer talks to you about what you do on your own time to reach your goals. Discussions should include eating habits, water intake, aerobic activity on days you don’t work out and always, always getting enough rest. We are in the HEALTH business, and we can’t help you get results if you find ways to sabotage your progress, continuously making allowances for special circumstances. 
  10. A good trainer knows when to step things up after you’ve mastered a certain exercise or weight. Their job is to challenge you without hurting you. In our world, muscle soreness and real pain are completely different entities. We need to know which you are experiencing, and often ask how you fared after our workouts. If you are falling off curbs when walking to your car because we worked your legs too much, we need to know! But we also don’t want you to stay in the same place, or you won’t see results. Swear words? We’ve heard them all. But the sweetest words are the ones we hear when YOU begin to notice the changes you’ve worked so hard to attain.