Choosing the right trainer or gym can be an intimidating process. As a certified trainer of many years, I am ashamed to admit that the certification processes are not as rigorous as they should be. Looking for a personal trainer or a class-based gym to attend? There are several signs that should make you say “RUN!” Here they are, in no particular order:
The trainer asks you zero questions about you before starting your session. At least 70% of quality coaching is understanding where your client is - especially in terms of injuries and goals. As a coach, it is nearly impossible to tailor a personal training program or a class to fit our clients’ needs without first understanding their physical limitations and their objectives. For example, if you are suffering from a back injury and your coach doesn’t ask you about your current physical state, how will that workout turn out for you when just so happens that they have prescribed heavy deadlifts that day? Bottom line - if they don’t focus on YOU, dump them! BEST CASE SCENARIO: find a trainer or gym that not only asks you about your goals and injury history prior to your first session, but that also offers a complimentary 30-minute consultation as part of your first month’s membership.
The trainer encourages you to push past physical pain or limitations. A good coach knows the difference between normal mid-workout complaining (exercising can be unpleasant) and a legitimate warning sign. If you tell your trainer in the middle of a workout that a certain exercise hurts your knee, and not only do they not ask any follow up questions, they ignore you or even encourage you to go heavier, run the other way. Remember: trainers are NOT medical professionals. We cannot diagnose, treat, or prescribe. And believe me, if we were trained medical professionals, we would have ALL been taught that pushing through legitimate pain is often a one-way ticket to unnecessary injury. BEST CASE SCENARIO: when you tell your trainer that something hurts, they scale back or change the movements however necessary to ensure that you don’t experience any legitimate discomfort (outside of soreness/fatigue).
You feel unwelcome as a newbie in your new gym. Most of us go to the gym in an effort to feel better than we did when we got there. In order for that to happen, we need to feel that we genuinely belong. If we feel unwelcome or uncomfortable in our new environment, we won’t perform to our potential, nor will we have the same motivation to stay compliant on our program. Be sure that the trainer at your gym introduces you to the class (or greets you with warmth in the case of a personal training relationship), and never singles you out or belittles you. BEST CASE SCENARIO: find a gym or a trainer that offers an introductory workout or onramp program that allows you to naturally integrate into your sessions with a group of like-minded people. Be sure that you feel welcome and comfortable every day.
Your trainer cannot offer sufficient scaling options or modifications to fit your needs. Our bodies are different every day. One day you may be able to complete a full range of motion squat without a hitch; two days later, that same movement may make you feel like someone is stabbing you in the thigh. If you ask your coach or trainer for a scale or a modification and they can’t or won’t give you one, run. Movement adjustments are always needed in the fitness world, and a coach who can’t or won’t provide them is either inexperienced or is putting their goals before yours. BEST CASE SCENARIO: Your trainer should have a “menu” of alternative exercises and modifications available and help you to figure out what your options are for that day, and make you feel secure and supported in your decision to do what’s right for your body.