How to Choose a Personal Trainer
Oct 23, 2013 - 3:40:18 PM

( - Some 5.3 million Americans enlisted the help of a personal trainer in recent years, up from 4 million in 1999, according to Bill Howland, director of research for the International Health, Racquet and Sports club Association.

Certified NYC Fitness Trainer Mike Giliotti says, "Personal trainers can help people reach their health and fitness goals, or they could be inexperienced and cause injury.  It's tough to know whether or not you need a trainer's expertise. And if you do, it's even more difficult to pick the right one." Many gyms offer personal training services for their members (at additional fees that can be pretty expensive), and their high-pressure salespeople might try to convince you to buy a package. But before you sign on the dotted line, it's important that you're making the right decision with the right person to help you reach your goals. If you decide that you need a trainer, how do you get started? Here's a guide that takes you through the process.

Education: A personal trainer should be certified through a reputable personal training organization. An exercise science or other related college degree isn't necessary, but the more education your trainer has, the better your workouts will be.

CPR: your trainer should have an updated certification in CPR and/or first aid.

Experience: Make sure your trainer has experience, especially in relation to your goals. For example, if you're a bodybuilder, you want someone knowledgeable in that area.


Giliotti says that, "The trainer should be able to provide information regarding potential risks associated with exercise. The trainer should be able to respond to any reasonable and foreseeable emergency situation that threatens the safety of a client.  The trainer should ask specific questions, before the exercise program begins, about medical conditions, medications currently being taken, previous injuries and surgery as it relates to exercise, and aches and pains. Every client should be screened before training to assess whether he or she has medical conditions or risk factors that should be addressed by a physician. Every client should be offered an activity screening and fitness evaluation that is appropriate for the activity he or she will perform. The trainer should instruct you concerning the equipment use, safety aspects of the exercise, and physiological changes that are expected.  The trainer should assist you in developing realistic goals for the exercise program. The trainer should provide fitness assessments related to the specific exercise program to be performed. Periodic assessments should be done to determine your progress with the program."

Specifics: If you have a specific medical problem, injury or condition (such as being pregnant, difficulty getting pregnant, heart problems, diabetes, etc.) make sure your trainer has education in these areas and will work with your doctor.

A good listener: A good trainer will listen closely to what you say and make sure he/she understands your goals.

Attention: A good trainer will be focused only on you during your sessions.

Tracking progress: A good trainer will regularly assess your progress and change things if necessary.

Personality is important too since you'll be working very closely with this person. Make sure you get along with your trainer and feel comfortable asking questions.

There are other things to consider. One qualification that many of us tend to look for in a personal trainer is objectively superficial: do they look fit themselves? But is that a legitimate way of evaluating anybody?

Mike Giliotti thinks so, up to a point. But that doesn't mean that a male trainer has to be big and muscular or a female has to wear a size zero. "Good trainers come in all shapes and sizes. They just have to practice what they preach. For example, I know a lot of ex- football players who may not appear to be physically in shape but there level of conditioning is unmatched."

But it's important to resist the temptation to treat a session with your trainer as one-stop shopping for all of your exercise, nutritional, psychological, and medical needs. Mike Giliotti says, "That overly relying on personal fitness trainers is pretty common and that it is the trainer's job to establish the correct boundaries of the relationship. A properly trained personal trainer will know how to deal with that and how to establish the scope of their practice. They'll know when to hand off a client to a registered dietitian, physician, or physical therapist. By the same token, be careful if you feel your personal fitness trainer is offering suggestions on topics that he or she isn't trained in."  "If a trainer starts giving specific diet prescriptions or a lot of advice on ways of treating medical conditions, that's a problem," says Giliotti. That sort of information should only come from a medical professional."

How to Find a Personal Trainer

One place to look is your local gym. Most gyms have personal trainers on staff and offer attractive packages for personal training. You can also look in your yellow pages, use Personal Trainer Finder or IDEA Fitness Connect to find trainers in your area, or search for local personal training studios. The cost will vary depending on where you live and your trainer's experience and education.

About Mike Giliotti:


Certified Personal Trainer

Corrective Exercise Specialist

Performance Enhancement Specialist

Fitness Nutrition Specialist


Certified Personal Trainer

TRX: Certified Group Fitness Instructor

Fitness has always been an integral part of my life. I was my own first client as a personal trainer. I wanted to achieve the best results possible, so I put all of my efforts into reaching my goals. My energy was focused solely on learning and understanding new skills and techniques that I could apply to every areas of fitness. Through this process I was able to determine what worked for me and I found personal success. I became a fitness model and was featured in Muscle and Fitness magazine. The feeling of reaching a great level of fitness was so amazing that I wanted to share it with others. I want others to realize all they can accomplish for their health and fitness. My passion for fitness and the knowledge I have acquired through my research creates a link in people's lives that will allow them to connect to their best self, leading them to a happier and healthier life.


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