5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Personal Trainer

by Terry Kozmor

As a part of the Ixcela program, we recommend exercises to improve your gut health. Your personalized fitness plan is based on your workout preferences and fitness level. If you are new to training and interested in using our program at the gym, we encourage you to speak with a trainer. But how do you choose the best trainer for your needs?

Most people hire a trainer based on the trainer’s physique, which is often an inaccurate indication of quality. Sure, the buff guy at the gym may know how to work out, but that doesn’t mean that he knows how to train others. Think of it this way: the best NFL coach out there doesn’t necessarily play football himself. He has the background, skill set, experience, and education needed to motivate his players and help them succeed. Well, the same principle applies to personal training. The ideal trainer is someone who puts his or her clients first in terms of scheduling, programming, etc. You are hiring this person to motivate you and to help you make positive changes in your life. 

As someone who has been training clients—in both individual and group settings—for more than fifteen years, I find that success requires trust between the two parties. My clients trust in my knowledge and ability to help them, and I trust in their honest efforts and hard work. We have to be able to hold each other accountable in order to have a successful relationship and see results. 

Below are five key questions that I recommend asking any personal trainer prior to committing to working with them.

  1. What certifications do you have? Certifications are important for obvious reasons—you wouldn’t buy a home with a non-certified real estate agent, would you? Let’s hope not. You want to make sure that, at a minimum, your personal trainer has a certification from a national, accredited organization (such as NASM, ACSM or ACE). Also, you may prefer that the trainer has a specialty certification in any areas you are interested in, such as CrossFit or nutrition. Bottom line: do your homework.
  2. Do you have a college degree in exercise or physiology? Now, this is certainly not make-it-or-break-it, as many people without formal education in this field decide to become personal trainers. That does not lessen their ability or their knowledge; however, I think it is important to know your trainer’s educational background so you can better understand their level of expertise and how deep their knowledge goes.
  3. How long have you been personal training? Again, this is just for your own reference. Perhaps you want to take a chance with someone new to the field of personal training (Hey, we all have to start somewhere!) or maybe you want someone a bit more tenured. Typically, more experience equals more knowledge, so keep this in mind when selecting your trainer.
  4. Do you have any testimonials or referrals? Do you have other clients I could speak with? This is one of the most critical questions you could ask. Any trainer who is legitimate and trustworthy should be open to giving you references. Whether you look at before and after pictures, read client testimonials, or are referred by a colleague, you want to get an insider’s perspective here.
  5. What are your passions outside of personal training? I have always found it important to be able to connect with my clients outside of the gym. When you are spending multiple hours per week with someone in a one-on-one setting, it’s nice to know the two of you have similar interests. Many of my clients share my passion for the outdoors, for music, or for travel. These types of connections allow us to bond and, in turn, increase our comfort level and our trust. This is critical for any client-trainer relationship because open and honest feedback only helps both sides.

Working with a trainer can make learning new exercises more comfortable as you adjust to your new program. A trainer can also make sure you are exercising safely and keep you on track with your individual goals. When you ask the right questions, you’re sure to find someone who will keep you on the path to optimal fitness.

About the Author

Photo: Terry Kozmor

Terry Kozmor has been in the health and wellness industry for more than 15 years. After graduating from Northeastern University with a degree in exercise science, he began his career in fitness. In addition to being Ixcela’s fitness expert, Terry is also the Director of Fitness at Lynx Fitness Club in Boston, Mass., where he oversees a group of specialized personal trainers, group fitness instructors, and nutritionists. He is an avid athlete himself and you can often find him outside snowboarding, surfing, or hiking.

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Interested in learning more about Ixcela? Check out Ixcela’s microbiome test, personalized nutrition and fitness plans, and other tools to help you optimize your health.