When people shop around for a personal trainer, many times they simply do not know what they’re looking for and how to decide if one trainer is better or more qualified than another. Here are the main guidelines to look for when considering which personal trainer is the best fit for you. You can also look up trainers and verify their credentials using the Fitness Connect website.

Education: Does the candidate have a college degree? Only trainers without a college degree will argue that this component is overrated. However, at the end of the day, who are you more likely to trust; someone who put years into obtaining their credentials or someone without a degree who put months into just obtaining certifications? The choice is clear—you are usually better off with a degreed personal trainer than one who did not finish college. Relevant degrees that you should look for are: kinesiology, exercise science, physical education, fitness and wellness, public health, etc. The more education the candidate has, the better.

Certifications: Don’t let anyone fool you. Not all certifications are created equal. Some require a college degree to obtain, while others can be obtained at a weekend workshop. The great thing about certifications is the fact that most require continuing education in order to recertify after 2 or 3 years. This means trainers have to stay up-to-date on the latest science and research. Be sure to ask the candidate if their certifications are current. Here is a list of the most respected certification organizations in the fitness industry with a link to their website in no particular order:

ACSM –American College of Sports Medicine

NSCA – National Strength and Conditioning Association

NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine

ACE – American Council of Exercise

CI – Cooper Institute

NCSF – National Council of Strength and Fitness

Experience: You obviously don’t want your trainer telling you that you’re his or hers first client.  However, there are times when trainers will exaggerate how many years they have been in business. For example, a 30 yr old trainer might say they have 15 years of training experience. Well, let’s do the math and come to the conclusion that this particular trainer started training clients at age 15! What the trainer really means is that they started working out or helping their friends with exercise questions when they were 15. So here is the take-home message: Be sure to ask the potential trainer how many years it has been since they obtained their first certification. This will be the true number of “training experience” years that he or she has been a “fitness professional”.

Specialty: Some trainers specialize in helping seniors, while others may specialize in training elite athletes. If you are a mother who just had a baby, you better find a trainer that specializes and has experience in postpartum exercise. If a trainer says they specialize in everything for everybody, keep on looking for a trainer that understands what they specialize in and realizes that sometimes it’s best to refer certain clients to other trainers who will be a better fit for that client’s specific needs.

Personality: Most likely, you are going to be around your hired personal trainer a lot. If they annoy you, smell funny, creep you out, or clash with your personality after the first couple of visits, it’s probably not going to get better! Be sure that you feel comfortable and enjoy being around your trainer, because trust me, there will be days when they will be the last people on earth you want to visit! This just means they are doing their job.  Happy shopping!