What to avoid in a personal trainer.


Today was leg day for me.  It is probably my most dreaded (yet most effective) workout day of the week.  And I really wasn’t feeling it today, but I trudged through and got it done and actually felt much better afterwards which is often the case.  During my post lifting run, however, I was scanning the gym and I found myself watching some of the trainers–in horror.  Now, we all know that there are bad trainers out there, but as I watched this one particular trainer stare off into space while an elderly man performed what, I can only guess was supposed to be a seated cable shoulder press, I wondered how many people don’t know that they are being had.

A personal trainer is a pricey commodity, and at anywhere from $40-$100 a session, you want to get what you pay for.  Here are some things to look for and things to avoid in a personal trainer.


  • Not Paying Attention to You. If a trainer is looking around the gym, talking to other patrons regularly, or worse-on their cell phones-fire them.  This is not worth your money.  Your personal training time is about you and you’re the boss.  You should have their undivided attention from start to finish.
  • They Push You Too Hard, or Not Enough. A good personal trainer should be able to push you just past your point of comfort to get results, but not so hard that you can’t walk the following day (or faint, or puke.  this ISN’T The Biggest Loser and we shouldn’t be training like it is!).  On the flip side of that same coin, you’re paying someone to help motivate you when you “don’t feel like it”, so they should be able to push you a little further than you think you can go. You want to be held accountable.  If you tell your trainer that you missed two workouts that week, because you didn’t feel like it, they should be telling you that you screwed up.
  • They Allow Poor Form. This may be my biggest pet peeve.  At the very basics of personal training, is learning proper form.  And it needs to be enforced!  It’s not “proper form” for no reason!  It is to prevent serious injury and to get results.  You can get seriously hurt by lifting improperly,and a lot of times, that damage is hard to undo.  If your trainer isn’t properly explaining and demonstrating exercises for you, you need to ask.  And if they are not strict with your form while you workout, you need to find someone who will be.
  • They Talk About Spot Reduction. I know that a lot of people come to personal trainers with requests like “I just want to lose my love handles”, or “I want thinner thighs” and that is fine.  That is why you hired a trainer; because you don’t know what to do.  A good trainer should be explaining that spot treatment is not a real thing.  You can build muscle in those areas and lose overall body fat, but you cannot specifically lose fat in one area.  And it’s not just spot treatment.  There are a lot of common misconceptions about exercise that people have (thanks mainstream media!), and trainers need to be able to explain to clients what is and is not possible, instead of feeding into these delusions.  There is always a way to improve fitness and physique, but a good trainer should explain how that works, and also how it doesn’t.
  • They Never Ask About Your Diet. Now, this is tricky, especially for vegans.  Vegans, on average, know more about nutrition than the average American.  It’s in our very nature to evaluate what we eat, whereas many people just don’t even think about it. Unfortunately, this includes a lot of personal trainers who think that we are all protein deficient. 😉 Sometimes I am relieved when a trainer, doctor or other professional doesn’t ask me about my diet, because I don’t always feel like having a debate.  BUT, it makes me wonder, “do you have any idea what you’re doing?!”.  Diet is 80% of your results (I don’t know who comes up with figures like that. haha.  But, in my own experience, it seems to be pretty accurate.), and if you’re in the profession of helping people reach their fitness goals, you think it would come up?  But it often doesn’t.  Use your own judgement here.

There are a lot of bad trainers out there.  But there are a lot of good ones too!  Not every good trainer will be a good trainer for you though.  You need to really feel your trainer out.  This should be done in an initial consult where you talk about goals, obstacles, lifestyle and the like.  You really need to find a personality that you click with.  This person will be an important person in your life.  They will see you struggle, sweat, fail, succeed, and they’ll see you when you’re pretty freakin’ gross too.  If you don’t get click with them in a friendly office setting, chances are, you will butt heads on the gym floor.


Tell me about your good, bad and ugly personal training stories!!!

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Being a trainer myself I agree 100% with everything you said, great post. Wehen I worked in gyms I saw much of the same thing and it was shocking to me especially since I take it so seriously.
    Letting a client do somehting with bad form is probably my biggest issue, obviously this can lead to injuries and then missed workuts and a slew of other issues. Its unfortunate that shows like the biggest loser have made people feel thats what personal training is…NOOO! My sessions are not even close to that, I dont think anyone would want to come back and I dont think it’s a way to gt people to respond. Pushing people out of their comfort zone but still keeping them confident in their abilities is the way to go. They need to feel accomplished. I like to stick with clients for the long term, for a lifestlye change not a quick fix, so I hate when I see things like “4 week boot camp drop 25lbs” really? then what happens after the 4 weeks? Are you even teaching people how to get healthy the right way? ughh I could go on about the industry but theres a lot of good things happening out there too and matching up with someone and helping them acheive whatever goals they may have is an awesome process!
    Getting people to understand that what they eat is a major componenent of how they feel,function,think etc is a giant hurdle sometimes for sure!! oh boy! Usually I ask clients to sign up for myfitnesspal then I can view their food diary and they can look at mine, I try to gradually assist with that and of course give them tons of recipe ideas etc. the hardest part is that no one wants to prepare food at home and plan ahead. 🙁

  • A good personal trainer is definitely worth having, even just to get you started into an exercise regime. In addition to the physical benefits brought about by a regular, structured exercise programme, you will notice an improvement in your mental well-being and be more readily able to cope with the day to day demands of life… When others notice that in you too, then its money REALLY well spent!’


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