There are many qualities that make a good Personal Trainer (PT). Whether you're looking for a PT near you or want to reinforce your choice of hiring a PT, we are going to look at just a few features that make a good PT. This is by no means a fully extensive list as certain PT styles suit certain personality traits. Therefore, the points that are about to be made are those that should apply to nearly all PT's regardless of their training style.
We've already covered the warning signs in the article here. This time though we want to focus on what will give you hints that you're on to a winning relationship. We all wonder if the grass is greener elsewhere. So this may well show you that your patch of grass is pretty green and healthy enough. Some base prerequisites should be considered such as the PT being qualified, insured and professionally registered. In no particular order let's look at the good points, also known as 'Green Flags'.
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PT Green Flag - Knows your name
If the Personal Training professional you've hired knows your name, then you're off to a good start. It seems obvious but don't take it for granted. Trainers usually work with a lot of people, see a lot of faces in classes and are trying to be on good terms with many more people in the community. That's a lot of names to put to faces. Plus each of those names usually has a goal attached that the trainer must remember plus any personal information they can talk about to help you feel more comfortable in the environment.
We will go one further. If they can't remember your name but have the courage to ask for it again (thereby admitting they forgot your name but recognised your face). It shows they are willing to be honest with you, shows that they are making an effort for you, and shows that your relationship is more important than their image or pride.
PT Green Flag - Doesn't get you top results
This one toes the line on that balance between personality traits and PT styles. Being ultra lean, insanely strong or unbelievably fit often has consequences. Olympians peak their fitness for the Olympics, they're not that good year round. Bodybuilders use bulk and cut cycles to hone in those ripped physiques. These two examples among many others show pinnacles of what the human body is capable of (often with the help of debatable drugs).
A PT that brings you away from these pinnacle goals has more care over your health than your ego. Steering you or someone else away might just loose them business but the PT would rather keep you safe showing exemplary morals before taking your money. Likewise, a PT that gets you results but not tip top is probably working with you to help you learn how to manage your own body and is less likely to be hounding you to live what is usually an unpleasant existence to reach human extremes. If the PT you have/want works with normal people to get them realistic results, put them at the top of your wanted list because they care more about you than your wallet.
PT Green Flag - [Not Your Name] [Business Title]
Now this one ins't a hard and fast rule and is somewhat debatable. However, if their name isn't in their business title it may be a clue that your PT is humble. They aren't looking to have their name plastered all over the gym. They are though, looking to create a symbol of inspiration. Subconsciously being a symbol adds deeper meaning to your training. When you train under A An Other Fitness you're representing their name, building their fame. When you train under Dumbbell Fitness you represent your connection, you wear pride in your choice.
Symbols evoke profound emotions and memories—at a very primal level of our being—often without our making rational or conscious connections. They fuel our imagination. Symbols enable us to access aspects of our existence that cannot be accessed in any other way.
Think of the best performing businesses out there. Apple, Nike, Under Armour to name a few. All promote high quality. All aren't linked to a single individual. It's Apple....not Steve Jobs Tech Inc. When you become attached to a symbol, an idea, you stick with it. Training consistently is the absolute key to getting fit and healthy. Before you've even started, your PT is working your primal level to be associated with a team, to be a better you, to maintain your consistency through an emotional connection to a visible set of standards and morals.
That's not to say [My Name] [ Fitness/PT/Coaching/etc] isn't any good. One could argue though that a PT who uses symbols is trying to work on your psychological drive to get fit as well as deliver high quality training that they too will represent.
PT Green Flag - You're the boss
Your PT accepts feedback! Nice and simple, black and white. Better yet when they listen, implement changes or at least explain why certain things can't be done. Feedback can take the form of questionnaires to complete or just chats about how things are going. We as humans don't like to open up about things going wrong. Having a PT ask for feedback opens that door for you to express any concerns before they fester for too long. It helps keep you happy, your training on track and improves the quality of service provided by a PT. Next time your trainer is asking for your opinion or your input try to think less of "that's what I pay you to do" and more "this person is actively seeking to make my time more enjoyable".
PT Green Flag - Good warm up
Getting your muscles, mind and joints ready for the workout ahead not only helps get you better results but improves the safety of the session. It's a chance for any aches and pains to present themselves before high load or intensity. It's a chance for the PT to have a chat, summarise the session ahead, see how your day is going.
Many PT's will plop you on a cardio machine and say to come find them in 5 mins. So if your PT does a joint mobilisation warm up with you it's usually a sign they have the session planned ahead of time, not trying to whip something up whilst you're distracted. Standing around to talk with you during the warm up also shows they have an interest in your day and your mental health. You might mention you're having a bad or not feeling great. Before starting the workout properly the PT can make quick mental adjustments to the existing plan to keep your head in the game by giving you some quick wins that session. Likewise, if you seem energetic and motivated they might take the opportunity to take you up a level. All whilst preparing your body for a safe and effective workout. Multi-tasking professional right there!
PT Green Flag - They lack knowledge
Provided the PT openly states they don't know about a particular subject, it is a great indicator of trust. Personal Trainers have certain areas of responsibility and to remain a professional with a duty of care they should not go beyond their scope. Being a diligent client you will have already done your research to see if the PT you want to use will be able to help you. Therefore, it's unlikely a gap in knowledge will come up straight away unless you have a medical condition or injury. However, things come up in sessions. When your PT admits they don't know something in depth, it's a good sign they know the boundaries of your safety. We know a lot but not everything!
Can you get a bigger sign to trust a PT than when they decline clients that are requesting goals beyond their area of expertise? It could be possible to take the music teacher approach whereby a PT would just be just one step ahead of the client but things can go wrong and there's many interlocking factors to consider. As PT's we don't earn very much and there's a lot of unpaid hours that go with the job so we need every client we can get. To turn a prospect away or refer them to another professional is truly going that extra mile for you. Your safety and quality of service is that important to them that they would rather miss out on an opportunity to put food on the table in the hope that you get the training you deserve, from an expert who will serve you better.
At the time of writing I, won't take on clients that want to train marathons as I lack the specialist expertise and experience to take you beyond a 10 km run. I've sent some older generation clients, when I desperately needed the income, to a local competitor as I know I lack the additional knowledge to support older exercisers. If you know someone that was turned away for a good reason and want to hire a PT, start with them.
There are so many more qualities that can make a good Personal Trainer. We tend to focus on the bad points but we need to look out for the gems too. Knowing your name is an underrated start. Being a symbol of training is a good point that probably didn't even occur to most. Keeping your health and happiness in regard by training you in a healthy sub-optimal manner or even refusing to help you with a condition/goal might be frustrating but often worth it for those with daily lives, kids, jobs and commitments. What attributes would you add to the list? Add your desired qualities in the comments below.