So you are paying out good money for a PT who you assume is qualified and therefore has a good knowledge base in order to create a training program to help you achieve your goals, right? Well alarmingly this isn’t always the case!
It seems that becoming a PT really has never been easier, in fact there are many online courses advertising that they will almost guarantee (“we have a 93% pass rate first time!”) to “make you a PT in a mere 3 weeks!” for only a few hundred pounds. Now honestly I find this ridiculous and frankly a little insulting! How can anyone be expected to acquire the level of anatomical and physiological knowledge required to safely and effectively train someone in just 3 weeks!!? It blows my mind!
I am a qualified Pilates Instructor and a qualified Personal Trainer and let me tell you it took me a whole lot longer than 3 weeks and a well into the thousands to get anywhere close to being ready to call myself a trainer and I already had a really good basis of anatomy from my degree! Yes ok some of the more high end gyms/studios will require you to have trained with one of the more well known training schools like Premier or NASM but many big name gyms don’t even care where you trained as long as they can tick the box saying you have Level 3 and your own insurance!
I have encountered so many people over the years who have been paying a lot of money to so called PT’s who honestly haven’t had a clue what they are doing and many have been injured as a result of poor session planning and down right stupid exercise instruction! I have witnessed PT’s time and time again training client after client using the same exercises in the same order with the same weights with zero variations. When questioned as to why they are doing it the response is often “oh it really burns loads of calories!” “its a great fat burning sequence” or my personal favourite “I saw it on youtube”!! Many of these trainers aren’t offering a personal service, partly because they don’t have the underlying knowledge about what they are trying to teach and often because they are more interested in getting your money by getting you to sign up to more sessions!
Let me just clarify a few things, the term “Personal Trainer” is not actually a protected title in the way that Dietitian, Physiotherapist, Speech Therapist etc are, this is in part due to the fact that there isn’t one single regulatory body governing Personal Trainers in the UK. One of the most recognised regulating bodies within the fitness industry is REPS (Register of Exercise Professionals) but even it is not a mandatory body and so many people continue to walk around calling themselves Personal Trainers with little to no idea what they are doing and nobody really challenges them!
So what can you do? Let me share with you a few tips to finding out just how good your Personal Trainer really is!!
- A good fit
All good Personal Trainers should offer you a one off trail session or consultation session to see how well you mesh together and to determine whether or not they can meet your needs. After all if you want to train at 6am twice a week and they don’t have any early morning slots available then you need to know that before you fork out our hard earned cash! Equally if your trainer has no experience working with pre/post natal and you have one in the oven then its not going to work! You do not need to be anyones trial and error client!
- One size fits all
Ask you potential trainer what they have in mind for you in order to help you meet your goals. If they just rhyme of a list of burpees, jumping lunges and sprints on the treadmill week in week out then you might want to rethink the relationship. If you notice that your sessions are exactly the same every time then move on.
- How am I doing?
Any trainer who isn’t watching you like a hawk during every move and aiming to correct you when your form isn’t good isn’t worth your time. One of the major problems I see as a Pilates Instructor is clients getting injured during personal training sessions because their trainer just wasn’t watching! One client hurt her back pretty badly during a box jump because her trainer had increase the height of the box even though she had been fatiguing pretty badly on the last lower set, the trainer hadn’t noticed because he was too busy on his phone, the client missed the jump and her trainers response? “Well you should have said it was too high”
- How many sessions do I need per week?
This is a bit of a tricky one as it really does depend on your circumstances, goals, motivation and financial situation. Some clients really do need 2 or 3 sessions a week if they are aiming for a short term goal which is looming on the horizon (think panic brides!) but generally most people will only need 1 or 2 sessions a week to allow them to achieve their goals and make their training fit with their lifestyle. Unless you are a body builder you do not need to be in the gym with a trainer 6 days a week. If your trainer is pushing you to commit to more sessions that you think you are comfortable with them you really should question their motives. A good PT will be thinking long term and be able to plan your programme with that in mind.
- Whats the plan?
Your trainer should always have a plan, whether its written down or not doesn’t really matter but they should have an idea of what they want to do with you session by session, week by week to achieve your goals. If they are just glancing around the gym looking for a free machine after each exercise then honestly you are dealing with a cowboy (or cowgirl!).
- Results results results!!
Are you seeing the results you want? If the answer is no (and lets be honest you need to be supporting any training with the correct nutritional foundation!) and you aren’t happy about it then you have 2 options.
1. speak to your trainer and highlight your concerns, give them a week and if they come back with a new plan in place then maybe give it a try
2. Use your feet and walk away and find a new trainer that you have confidence in
I have been known to refuse to train clients who just aren’t a good match for my training style and personality as I know they won’t achieve the best results possible. It would have been a waste of both my time and theirs!
- What should I eat?
This is another area that really get my goat! Personal Trainers are not qualified to provide you with a diet plan. Period. The only people qualified to provide a specific diet plan is a Dietitian (protected title remember!). Nutritionist is also NOT a protected title and therefore any Tom, Dick or Harry can do another wonderful £50 online course or just read an article in a magazine and call themselves a nutritionist and start given out advice on what your should or shouldn’t eat! Now I am not saying a good Personal Trainer can’t provide you with some guidance as to what you should be eating or drinking (yes he is right to tell you 3 cans of diet coke a day is not a good plan!) or provide you with some tasty recipes to try at home but thats pretty much all that is within their scope. If your Personal Trainer is trying to get you to fork out extra money for their “Diet plan” or directing you to try the latest fad diet then once again you need to pick up your heels and run!
Online training programmes
Just a little side note on the rise of the online training programmes which honestly seem to be popping up all over the place! Now there are some pretty decent examples out there developed and written over months and months by highly qualified Personal Trainers who have had years of experience training a huge range of clients in order to provide them with the knowledge to develop a programme that actually works! These often provide online support from the trainer and weekly check ins and feedback sessions (a sort of virtual session). And then there are the flashy, content lacking versions created by people who just want a quick penny and a little publicity for themselves (ouch harsh I know!). The problem with these publications is that they do a pretty good job of false advertising, selling the idea that if you do what these guides say then you will look like a bikini model in no time without ever mentioning that the photos are photoshopped and that the content doesn’t take into account any of the things a Personal Trainer would consider before giving you a programme! Things like previous injuries, body shape, age, gender, baseline fitness level, medical history, medication and motivation! Do you think you really understand how to do a deadlift from looking at a picture and maybe watching a video on youtube? Didn’t think so!
You have been warned!
Finding a trainer you trust and get on well with can be a bit of a minefield and to be honest I have found the situation here in Northern Ireland to be particularly stressful and down right shocking at times but put in a little effort to find “the one” and you are much more likely to start hitting your targets safely!!