How to Find a Good Personal Trainer

One of the best investments you can make in your fitness is hiring a personal trainer. Here's what to look for to get a good one

Credit: Dr. Jimi Glide

Dr. Jimi Glide

Personal trainers can make your workouts more effective

I may be a little biased since I’ve worked as a trainer for more than 10 years, but I honestly believe if you’re serious about getting fit you should hire a trainer.

You don’t need to have a trainer for every workout, but hiring one every four to six weeks for a session or two can provide a lot of benefits.

Benefits of a Personal Trainer

Having a qualified professional teach you proper workout techniques and design a personal program can speed up your results and keep you healthy. Doing exercises incorrectly wastes your precious time and sabotages your results. Poor technique also increases your risk of injury.

And if you’re having problems sticking to an exercise program. having a trainer to whom you’re accountable will keep you on track. Research has shown that people work harder and stick to a program better when they have a trainer.  

You also don’t want to do the same workout for longer than six weeks because your body will adapt to that routine and you’ll stop making any gains.

Here are some things to look for when trying to find a good, qualified trainer.

Personal Trainer Certification

To be legally employable as a personal trainer in B.C., you need to have basic CPR, First Aid, liability insurance plus some sort of certification. These are the minimum requirements.

There are numerous certifying bodies that allow someone to call themselves a “personal trainer”. Some are better than others. I was at a fitness conference recently where I heard of a trainer in the U.S. who got his dog certified through one of the mail order certification programs. Good thing we live in Canada.

In B.C., the British Columbia Parks & Recreation Association (BCRPA) is one of the most popular certifying organizations and provides a good, basic personal trainer certification. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a U.S.-based body that also provides a reputable basic certification.

Certifications that require more rigorous preparation include the:

These are all reputable and respected organizations offering basic and advanced certifications.

There are a couple of professional registered designations that trainers can possess. Registered Kinesiologists (RK) are registered with the British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists (BCAK). RKs do a lot of work in rehab settings.

Another registered professional designation is the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) offered by the NSCA. These trainers are qualified to work with athletes at all levels.

Any other letters you see behind a trainer’s name represent either formal education or are an abbreviation from the certifying body. The most common, CPT, refers to Certified Personal Trainer, though that term doesn’t hold any legal distinction.

Fitness Trainer Education

The basic certifications provide entry level education in anatomy, physiology and exercise. A trainer with a university education should have more advanced knowledge of these subjects. Degrees in human kinetics, kinesiology and exercise science are the most common and relevant.

A degree certainly isn’t necessary to be a good trainer, but a higher education will never hurt.

Relevant Experience

As important as education is real world experience. Make sure your trainer has worked with people similar to your level. Ask for references from current or previous clients. A potential trainer should be readily able to provide those for you. And if they can’t show they get results with their clients, keep looking.

Setting a Good Example

A trainer should walk the walk and practice what they are trying to teach you. I don’t mean that every trainer needs to have single digit body fat and be sculpted like a Greek statue or live a monastic life. But a trainer should be an example of a healthy, active lifestyle.

Clear Communication

You should have a good communication with your trainer. Can they relate and understand your situation? Likewise, do you respect their skills and knowledge? While a good trainer should push you beyond your comfort zone, like any good coach they will know when to push harder and when to back off.

A good trainer should do an assessment before working with you and should keep a log of your training sessions. Periodic assessments will track your results and let you know how you’re doing.

Shop around for Your Personal Trainer

Don’t be afraid to shop around and interview a number of trainers. Ask if you can hire a trainer for one or two sessions before committing to any long-term contract.

Like any profession there are great trainers and there are terrible ones. Do your homework when looking for one and you’ll be pleasantly rewarded; though at times during your workouts, it may not feel like much of a reward.   

Vancouver Wellness Show         

I’ll be speaking this weekend at the Vancouver Wellness Show on Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. Come out and get some great tips for working out at home. I’ll tell you how to maximize your time, how to build a home gym for $100 and much more. I’ll be at the BC Living booth afterward so drop by to say hi and ask me any fitness questions you have.