As much as we dig the convenience of virtual workout programs from superstar trainers like Kayla Itsines and the Tone It Up girls, there’s something to be said for having a live fitness coach standing by your side, making sure you don’t flake on that last tuck jump (or 10).
And thanks to apps like Handstand, Fitspot, and Find Your Trainer—think Tinder, but for personal trainers—it’s easier than ever to find a fitness pro to give you some one-on-one attention, whether it’s at home, at the park, or in the gym. But when you’re faced with megabytes-on-megabytes of options, how do you narrow them down to determine which trainer you’ll truly click with?
We checked in with some of the fitness-specialists-for-hire at Find Your Trainer, which recently launched in Los Angeles, to find out what to ask both yourself and your prospective coach before you sign on the dotted line.
Read on for their advice, and try not to be afraid to ask the tough questions—especially when it comes to negotiating your burpee-to-water break ratio.
1. What’s my intention?
It’s important to get clear on your goals before you can expect a trainer to help you smash them. “I like to ask my clients what they expect out of themselves and what they expect out of me,” says Ticia McIllwain, a former Silicon Valley corporate trainer who now lives and works in Los Angeles. “You want a trainer that understands your needs, your environment, your stress factors, and your why.” It’s also smart to seek out someone who’s an expert in what you want to achieve. “If you’re training for a marathon, you probably don’t want to hire someone who specializes in bodybuilding,” adds LA-based trainer Dionne Fleming.
2. Who have been my best teachers?
Believe it or not, your ideal trainer will likely be similar to your beloved eighth grade biology teacher. “I propose to people to think about teachers, coaches, and bosses who have gotten a lot out of them,” says John Ford, a Harvard grad and New York City-based exercise physiologist. “What was it about those people that made you respond? While you think you might need someone to berate you into showing up to do your workout, how long will that approach actually work over time? Look to your own past experiences to see what might be the type of approach that’ll get the most out of you.”
3. Who do I like to hang out with?
It might seem obvious, but you should (generally) look forward to spending time with your trainer—that connection is what will keep you coming back, says Daray Hill, a former pro basketball player who now lives and works in NYC. “If you like being fun, choose a trainer who will help you have fun. If you’re more serious, choose a trainer who is serious. You need your trainer to match your energy…. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a trainer’s background and their philosophy.”
4. Trainer, instructor, or coach?
There’s a difference, according to New York fitness pro Maurice Christovale. “If you want to move better, find a trainer—their role is to minimize the risk of injury while insuring proper movement patterns and muscle recruitment,” he says. “If you want to look better, find an instructor: a drill sergeant who will make you stronger, faster, and more powerful by instituting lessons and drills that safely test limitations. And if you want to be better, a coach creates clear-cut direction and expectations, while holding athletes accountable if they’re off path.” Figure out which style works for you, and ask potential trainers which one they consider themselves to be.
5. Are they certified?
“Fitness knowledge and best practices are constantly evolving, and if your trainer isn’t keeping up to date on their certs and continuing ed, you could be getting outdated—and even unsafe—guidance,” says New York-based trainer Judy Kuan. “In my opinion, the most reputable ones are NASM, ACSM, and NSCA for personal training; Yoga Alliance for yoga; and PMA for Pilates.”
6. How much can I afford?
“You don’t need to hire someone who’s going to charge an exorbitant amount—typical rates range between $55 and $105 per hour,” says Fleming, who adds that most trainers generally offer package discounts. She does, however, note that you should plan to commit for the long haul, and budget accordingly so you don’t come up short before you’ve reached your goal. “Expect to train for at least three to five months, between three to five days a week in order to see the full benefit,” she notes.