Starting a new fitness regime is exciting, but it can also be a time of confusion – not knowing what to do, where to begin, how to use the gym equipment properly or how to get the results you want. Depending on your budget, one popular (and effective) way to get going is to hire a fitness trainer to inspire you to push towards your goals.
But even there, there are obstacles to overcome to get the most out of your experience. As with almost everything in life, the best first step is to go in prepared with some questions to ask your personal trainer. This will help you clarify what you will achieve, what they can do for you, and if you are a good match.
Remember, just because that fitness trainer has a fantastic bod, doesn’t mean they will get you the results you want. So, start off on the right foot with these 9 essential personal trainer questions.
9 essential questions to ask a fitness trainer
1. What qualifications do you have?
This is No.1 on the list of questions to ask a personal trainer about their job. It’s easy to think that the term personal trainer is in some way protected by a qualification or license, but this isn’t always the case. Depending on where you are located, the regulations might widely differ.
In the UK, a personal trainer is required to have 4 essential things to begin – Gym Instructor Qualification Level 2, Personal Trainer Qualification Level 3, a First Aid Certificate, and Personal Trainer Insurance. But, that’s only the beginning of their journey, most personal trainers use their years of experience to get the best results from their clients.
In the US, however, the situation is a little different. There is no federal law that regulates the fitness training, and little legislation exists* meaning that when you walk into a gym that fitness trainer may just be a guy who was working at the local fast food joint last week. Even if they have a certificate, the lack of accountability makes it difficult to understand what this means exactly. In this case, it’s best to do your homework, get to know your trainer, their experience, and what that piece of paper actually means.
Washington D.C. is the exception as FT are required to register.
Other countries vary in their policies, so check yours before you head to the gym. You might also consider checking if your fitness trainer has a membership to any nationally or internationally recognized organization.
Checking your fitness trainer is properly trained is vital to keeping you healthy, getting you results and avoiding injury.
2. What’s your working process?
How exactly does your trainer get the results they promise? During your first meeting with your coach, you might consider asking them about their working process – How do they evaluate your health? In what ways do they track performance? How do they motivate their clients?
This will not only give you insight into their previous experiences but also let you know if their style will work for you. If you need a tough-love approach to get you moving that soft and gentle inspirational style just won’t work for you, and vice versa; going in hard and fast, when you need just gentle encouragement can put you off your workout. So, know what you’re getting into from the get-go.
3. Do you have a particular fitness specialty?
Even if you don’t know exactly which types of exercises will suit you just yet, there’s a good chance that you have an idea of what you don’t want to do at all. Perhaps your new trainer is a yoga guru will all the flexibility of a gymnast, but you can’t stand anything to do with downward-facing dog pose for more than 5 minutes. Or alternatively, they’re a bodybuilding champion with a focus on weights whereas you feel you need more cardio.
That’s not to say that your trainer isn’t equally as competent in one of these other areas and they may indeed be a match, but if their entire focus is on something you hate then this relationship is doomed from the start.
Get to know your fitness trainers’ particular interests and find out if they also cover other areas – you might just be surprised, or you might avoid a narrow miss.
4. What adjustments do I need to make for X, Y, Z condition/injury?
Don’t expect your fitness trainer to act like a doctor – they’re not – and if you have a preexisting condition, you should always check with your doctor before embarking on any fitness routine. But you should expect your trainer to act with awareness when discussing any physical restrictions with them.
This might be something as simple as a pulled muscle you want to avoid further injury to or adjusts that need to be made due to your bad back. Bring your doctor’s recommendations with you. Any fitness trainer worth their salt will take into consideration your overall health and well-being, so seeing how they adjust a program to meet your specific needs is essential to knowing if they will be a good fit for you.
The same goes for any dietary products they may recommend. Both you and your trainer need to be aware of any contraindications between those “healthy supplements” or dietary changes and your health. For example, those with kidney disease would be best warned to stay away from whey protein, so check and recheck before you take anything.
5. How often do I need to work out to get the results I want?
We all know that we should be getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day to keep healthy, but is that going to get you the results you want? Knowing when to push yourself a little harder, for example, a 2-hour hike or 90-minute spin class, and when to slow down and relax are crucial to getting results.
Your fitness instructor should be able to devise a plan that suits your needs for exercise and rest and gets you the results you want to see at the end of the day (provided you put in the hard work).
Ask your fitness trainer how often you should meet, what exercises you should be doing at home between sessions, and when you should rest to get the most out of your sessions.
6. What should I do between my workouts?
Following on from the last question, getting a good, well-earned rest in between sessions is essential to giving your body time to recover. However, letting it all go and gorging on all the fast food in sight is not a reward for a workout well done.
Knowing what your fitness trainer recommends for those days outside your sessions is essential to maintain steady results. Perhaps you need to take a bath, get a massage, or even just go for a walk to keep your muscles moving; but you won’t know until you ask.
7. Do you deal with diet?
Getting healthy isn’t just about pumping iron at the gym. It takes a complex approach to get you where you want to be, and a huge part of that is diet. While not all fitness trainers will be equipped to advise on the in-depth specifics like a qualified nutritionist, they should have some idea about how to help you create a meal plan that suits your needs.
Diet plays a massive role in your life from how you feel, to what you weigh, to how healthy you actually are. Ensuring your fitness efforts aren’t compromised by dietary mishaps is one way to get results a little fast.
Your fitness trainer should be able to advise you on what to eat and what not to eat to make the most of your routine and get those results you want to see.
8. How do our schedules match up?
Does your trainer love 6 am starts whereas you’re more of an evening owl? Do they have certain restrictions on their time that limit their commitments? In any case, it’s best to know early on whether the logistics of both your schedules will work together. After all, there’s nothing worse than waiting on someone continually running 10 minutes late – that goes for both of you – if it can be avoided.
Ask your personal trainer about which times work best for them and try to match them to your schedule and vice versa. You might also want to take into account any busy times at the gym to ensure you have access to the equipment you need when you need it. There is nothing worse than turning up to a crowded gym and paying for yourself and your trainer to wait around until something is free. That’s why doing a little groundwork in advance means you’ll have more time to focus on your fitness later.
9. When should I expect to see results?
While this question will depend significantly on how much effort you put in, after all, you can’t expect your trainer to move your arms and legs for you and see results, they should be able to give you an overall idea of how your fitness will process and in what ways during the sessions you spend with them.
For example, they may warn you that it’s normal to plateau at a certain point and what to do about it, or even how to adjust your routine if it’s just not meeting your needs.
Your personal trainer should be able to take into account your individual abilities and build on them to help you make the most out of your workouts and see the results you want to see – within reason.