Hiring a personal trainer is a big decision. A good decision, but a big decision. You will be spending multiple hours per week with this individual, and you want to make sure that 1) they can help, 2) they will help you, and 3) you can stand their personality and style.

Let’s look at the first consideration: can they help you? Here is the short answer: yes. Unless you have years of experience and knowledge lifting weights and resistance training, even the worst of personal trainers will be able to help you. The question is rather, how much can they help you, and can they help without hurting you? And by hurting, I don’t mean causing pain. You should know now that working out is almost never pain free. However, training injury free should be a goal. You see, personal trainers are not required by law to have any certification or degree, whatsoever. Granted, most do hold a certification of some sort, if for no other reason to be able to compete in the marketplace.

You might be surprised, however, to discover how few hold college degrees, with even fewer holding degrees in a related field. A marketing degree, although it may help the trainer’s popularity, it not nearly as beneficial to you the client as a kinesiology degree, for example. Perhaps the best degree for a personal trainer to possess is an Exercise Science (or Exercise Physiology) degree. After all, that is exactly how the personal trainer plans to help you – through the science and physiology of exercise. Now, just like all degrees are not created equal, neither are personal training certifications. Be sure to find out if the certification of the trainer you are considering is recognized by the NCCA, or National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

So, we’ve talked about the personal trainer’s degree and their certification, but you need to find out if they’ve actually been able to deliver results for others. Search the trainer’s website and marketing materials for testimonials, or ask to speak with current or past clients. This will give you a good idea of the results the trainer might be capable of, and what other clients think about them. When reading testimonials or listening to clients, try to find hard numbers mixed in with emotional benefits and generally described results. For instance, “I’ve lost 8% body fat and dropped 2 dress sizes” might be a better indicator of personal training value than “I’ve lost weight and feel great!” Another consideration when evaluating a personal trainer’s ability to help you is the existence of a system. Does the trainer have a routine for assessing and measuring clients? If not, how do they know when they are delivering results? Or do they care? Maybe not. Remember, any one who cares about winning cares about keeping score.

Let’s discuss the “if they will help you.” Now, if you have never had a personal trainer before, you may think that is a weird consideration. If you are throwing money at a personal trainer, why in the world would they not help you? Well, although it certainly blows my mind, I have heard story after story of no-show sessions. Not a no-show by the client, mind you, but by the trainer. I have also been amazed by stories of unreturned phone calls and unreturned emails. You wouldn’t think that a profession with “personal” in the very title would suffer from a lack of customer service, but apparently that is often the case. Here is a simple rule to remember. If you aren’t satisfied with the speed and intelligence of communication before you purchase services, you will definitely not be happy with it after you purchase services. Quality personal training is just as much about the coaching, education, and communication you receive between sessions as it is the workouts you receive during sessions.

Finally, every trainer has a unique personality and style. Some are very quiet. Some are very, very loud. Some like to laugh constantly, while others refuse to ever crack a smile. Many trainers take the drill instructor approach, while others like to be teachers. Certain trainers motivate with words, while other trainers’ silent expectations are motivation enough. I can’t say that one style is necessarily better than another. It just depends on what you like, what you can put up with, or what simply gets you results – whether or not you like it or believe you can put up with it. Keep in mind, though, if you end up canceling sessions because you can’t stand your trainer, you probably aren’t going to be hitting your goals any time soon. If you are considering a personal trainer, be sure to take the opportunity to communicate with them via email, talk with them on the phone, or meet them in person before purchasing sessions. This will keep you from wasting valuable time and money.

In summary, once you’ve found a personal trainer that can help you, will help you, and will do it without annoying the hek out of you, by all means take the plunge and make a commitment. Seriously attending to your health and fitness is one of the most important things you could ever do in life. In fact, it just may save your life.