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How to find a personal trainer

This article was provided by Kev Betts of aka @52marathonman

Finding a personal trainer (PT) is easy. At last count, every other person in the United Kingdom appeared to be one, so statistically if you chose to punch a stranger in the head, you have a 50% chance of hitting a PT. This statistic is not true, of course. It’s just a joke. There are actually over 19,000 PTs in the UK, according to the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). And that’s just the registered ones. Many don’t affiliate with REPs and many more call themselves PTs (or wellness coaches or fitness trainers or similar) and do not have any qualifications at all. The market is very clearly saturated with people making a living from your and picking your diamond from a potentially toxic turd can be a difficult proposition. 

Because there are so many PTs out there, the options available to you, the client, are great. But it can also make it a confusing business – how do you know one PT is better than another? How will you know if they are right for you?  After all, we don’t just marry the first person we meet on Tinder (do we?). We spend an inordinate amount of time finding the person we want to settle down and form a strong and coherent relationship with. What works for one person will not work for another – you have to consider yourself and your goals as the centre point and work outwards from there. The PT you choose will understand your goals and your limitations, have the correct experience and qualifications and will take your lead – not lead you. We’ve come up with our key considerations for what you should look for in your PT. They’re in no particular order, apart from the first one…

Are they qualified?

If your PT is unqualified, they are probably uninsured. If they are uninsured and you get hurt, that’s your problem. A qualified PT shows they have at least undertaken some training and invested time and money to learn about what they should do. If they’re not, you have the potential to be trained by somebody who has learned from people who learned from other people about how to learn to do exercises incorrectly. The technical term for this is ‘Bro Science’ – a game of Chinese Whispers that passes down the legend of making huge gains using seriously flawed technique. The purveyors of Bro Science are generally found in the free weights area, wearing nipple-peeping beach vests and a silly pair of deck shoes. 

The base level qualification for a PT is ‘level 3 personal trainer’. A good PT, though, will be higher level and have any number of specific ‘bolt on’ qualifications that suit your needs. Ask the PT what qualifications they have and do not be afraid to ask to see certificates. You might not believe it, but the human race contains some people who are willing to lie to sound good!

Whats is their reputation like?

How did you find out about the PT? Fancy posters, jazzy websites and glossy business cards are the materials created by marketers, not PTs. That’s not to say a PT can’t be good at marketing, BUT remember they are the holiday brochure to the PTs destination. They won’t give you feedback. Look for testimonials and opinions. Ask around about them and ask the PT if you can talk to a couple of their current clients.
Chances are, the very good PTs have lots of clients already and therefore have limited space. It’s a competitive market so it might be that you have to free up some time to see them. If a PT tells you they can see you any time of any day they’re obviously not that busy! 

12 weeks to a new you!

One thing that gets our goat more than anything are unrealistic claims of weight loss, muscle gain and performance targets. There will no doubt be ‘before and after’ pictures but be aware, these can be in a slightly misleading way. 

What do they specialise in?

A very good PT will have an unrivalled reputation in just a few specialist areas. It is impossible to be brilliant at everything (unless you’re the writer of this article). Gym notice boards and advertising space will show you pictures of PTs with a biography. Most PTs will tell you in these that they specialise in weight loss, fat loss (for some reason PTs differentiate these!), muscle growth, flexibility, rehabilitation, kettle bells, strength and conditioning and everything else. That’s just not possible – they’re trying to entice every type of client.
Ask yourself – what is my goal? What do I want to achieve? Once you know these, you can find a PT who can do those things with you. 

Do they look and sound the part?

This doesn’t mean they should be ripped with muscle and flexing all over the shop. It means are they well presented? Do they wear neat and tidy gym gear and speak with confidence and conviction? Many PTs, would you believe, look quite normal. But that doesn’t mean they’re not passionate about sports, fitness and development. Their communication skills should be great because they have to instruct you and need the confidence to tell you when you are doing something wrong. Do not mix confidence with ego, though. A confident PT will correct you whilst an egotistical one will make you watch them do it perfectly.

How much do they cost?

PT prices will vary depending on where you are in the country, what the local PT availability is like and the reputation and experience of your PT. Less is not always more and consider that the headline price of a PT is not their earning level. There are a number of factors that will influence the price, which are outlined on the Honest Fitness webpages. Any PT who seems too good to be true with regards to price is probably cutting corners. Those employed in large gyms may be obliged to charge a set rate so it might not be so easy to distinguish quality here.
The best will charge you more than those with less experience or expertise. In car terms, you may want a Mercedes with all the trimmings or you may simple want a runaround Vauxhall Corsa. There is always someone out there in your price range.

Is there an incentive or added extras?

There are any number of pricing structures with many PTs offering 10% off block bookings, for example. Look at what your ‘package’ includes (ahem – stop it!). Nutritional advice (are they qualified), training plans for outside of sessions, body composition tests, assessments and goal setting sessions may be offered at extra cost. So the headline price may be cheap but once you buy the extras, you may be paying more than the PT offering everything at a set price.
Look for satisfaction guarantees and steer clear of PTs who want long term commitment early on. Don’t marry them until you’ve been through the lustful early sessions. Wait to see how the relationship develops before agreeing to a one year contract of monthly direct debits!

Will they meet you for free?

Our simple guidance on this is that if a PT will not offer you an initial consultation (meeting to discuss goals and targets) for free, do not entertain the idea of employing them. Even solicitors will meet with you for free without charging you. You need to make sure you both agree and have the right personalities to work together!

Where can / will they train you?

Does the idea of training in a gym make you recoil at the thought of being watched? Or do you hate the cold, windy and rainy weather that August inevitably brings? Some PTs are mobile and will come to you, or meet you in a (well lit and safe) park. Others are contracted to gyms and will only see you there (where you may need to be a monthly customer). Should your PT be closer to your work and be able to meet you at lunch? Or come to your house early in the morning or at the weekend? Their flexibility around travel may affect their prices as, of course, they will need to take time to get to you – potentially losing other business.

How often do you want to see them?

Budget will probably dictate this one. Once a week appears to be the norm and is good for a PTs timetable. If you want to see someone a few times per week, you may be expected to make a significant commitment to ensure there is no loss of earnings. Conversely, ad-hoc appointments (a la hairdressers) may limit both your and their availability. Regular is good!

Do you definitely need a PT?

This seems silly, given that I’m a personal trainer myself, but sometimes people don’t need a PT, but instead need somebody to write them a programme and prescribe activities and exercises. An honest and ethical PT will tell you if this is the case, and will suggest that you instead purchase a training programme from them with regular ‘check ups’ to progress exercises, assess improvements and suggest alternatives. In effect, they are fitness consultants who are there when you need them as opposed to being there all the time. It might be that you start with them as a PT and when you have the confidence and knowledge of how to do things, you move on to using them on a consultancy basis. Yes, this technically loses the PT a bit of business, but it also saves them time and enhances their reputation as an open, honest and skilful trainer who is able to help clients gain independence and confidence to work on their own. 


This article was provided by the great Mr Kevin Betts of  aka @52marathonman. We highly recommend Kev Betts as one of our personal trainers of choice as he's a true 'both feet in / sleeves rolled up' kind of guy. Whether training for a marathon or simply struggling to remove yourself from your armchair... Honestfitness will take you all the way! 

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