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Looking for a personal trainer? Here's what to know before you hire one

It's not always easy to find a personal trainer you click with. Consider these tips before you commit.

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Finding a personal trainer that's a good fit can take time, but it's worth the investment.

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Working with a personal trainer comes with a ton of benefits. A trainer can help you get in great shape without having to second guess what you're doing while you work out. Besides being helpful fitness guides, trainers can also save you time and potential pain from doing exercises incorrectly and injuring yourself (like I did while lifting weights on my own at home). 

When you find a great trainer, it just feels right. Finding a personal trainer you click with is not all that different from dating… except the end goal is to find a health partner versus a romantic one. And like in dating, your search for a personal trainer can start online or you can try to find one IRL. The tips below will help you find a trainer who'll help you reach your fitness goals and stay safe and motivated along the way.

Why hire a personal trainer?

If you've never worked with a personal trainer before, you may wonder what makes it so different from working out alone or in the gym. But having a pro by your side (or even on-screen) does make a world of difference for several reasons.

Social connection and partnership

One of the biggest perks of working with a personal trainer is the connection you form with another person who is committed to you and your goals. Especially when you work out with someone in real life, the connection becomes very personal since you could potentially spend a lot of time with this person. "Being with another person physically, you tend to create a very different bond than you would with an on-screen trainer," says Harley Pasternak, certified trainer and chief fitness advisor at FORME

Someone to spot you and correct your form

One of the keys to avoiding injury and learning how to do exercises properly is having a trainer teach you the correct form. Usually the easiest way to do this is by watching someone perform an exercise correctly in person and try to mimic that. Having someone who can give hands-on corrections is also helpful, especially if you are new to exercise or a specific workout. 

"The body language and physical contact make a real difference, as your trainer can also physically spot you and correct technique, as well as being able to customize and personalize your workout on the fly," says Pasternak.

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Personal trainers can help keep you safe by spotting you during exercise.

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Motivation

Like a fitness-savvy accountability buddy, your personal trainer is there to make sure you stay motivated and committed to your workout. One of the most motivating factors in a workout routine is seeing or feeling results, which is something a trainer can help you do. They can also help troubleshoot if you're not getting the results you want.

"Whether it's tough love you need, simply supporting you without judgment, or motivating you by quoting your favorite movie; your coach will learn how to push the right buttons by building a strong relationship as the foundation of your training," says Josh Bonhotal, VP of performance at Future

What to look for in a personal trainer

Finding the right personal trainer is a process, so you might have to meet with a couple before you find one you love. Here's what to consider to find a personal trainer you can stick with.

Credentials 

You should always start with verifying that the credentials your trainer cites are legit, which you can do by asking them directly or doing a little research based on what's listed on their website or social media profile. "Not everyone needs to do what I did (nearly 10 years of university with degrees in exercise science and nutritional science, followed by a few years as an exercise scientist), but if you can find a trainer with a degree in kinesiology or physical education, that's a bonus," says Pasternak. 

"Seek a trainer who has a solid certification (like an ACSM, NSCA or NASM), make sure their certifications are up-to-date and they have lots of experience," says Pasternak. A good balance of credentials and real-life experience will make for the best experience possible. 

Personality

Since your personal trainer will become an important person in your life, you want to find someone whose training personality is compatible with your needs. 

"You want to find someone who is genuinely curious to learn about you -- what has worked for you in the past, what hasn't? What do you like, and what do you hate? It's critical they are someone who takes an active interest in your life, what's important to you, who listens and is attentive to pick up on the small details to truly create a bespoke experience that builds your path to success," says Bonhotal. 

Feel free to scour social media profiles to try to get a feel for the trainer's vibe and personality, but don't read too much into social media when it comes to their credentials and skill as a trainer. "Try not to pay too much attention to their social media. Too many trainers spent far too much time working on creating that perfect 15-second bit of fitness video content, rather than learning more about their craft," warns Pasternak. 

To figure out whether a trainer is a fit for you, ask to meet them in person or over the phone first and don't be afraid to ask for reviews from previous clients. If you're investing your time and money in someone, you want the best experience possible for both parties. 

Cost and convenience

Personal trainers typically charge per session, and they can range in price. Virtual fitness can help you save time and money when working out with a trainer in person isn't possible, either because of finances, health or logistics. 

"Working out virtually with prerecorded content is much more economical and often more convenient, as it does not require any planning or scheduling ahead of time," Pasternak says. 

There are also plenty of fitness apps and programs, such as Future and Forme, that pair you with a personal trainer remotely. This gives you many of the same benefits as working out with a trainer IRL, except you can be located anywhere. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.