Technology has made choosing the right personal trainer harder, not easier. Trying to decide between all the options for getting your workouts can leave you overwhelmed and unsure. How do you decide which personal training option – working in person or online – is right for you? Where do you start to find the right match for you and your goals?

The basics of choosing the right personal trainer

Before we dive into the differences between in person and online training, there are a few things you should consider when hiring any personal trainer.  The basics are the basics, no matter if your workouts are in the park or in the cloud.

What certifications do they hold? Perhaps you saw the recent Today show story on how shockingly easy it is to get a personal trainer certification? It’s true; there is a wide variation in the skills and knowledge required to get a personal training certification and the requirements are not regulated by most state governments That means you have to educate yourself to know the difference between all the acronyms. Of all the third-party accredited certifications (that means they meet specific knowledge and testing standards) I recommend ACSM, ACE, NASM or NCSA.  Click HERE and scroll to the chart at the bottom of the page to learn more about each of these personal training certifications.

Do they do any assessments? If a personal trainer starts your workout the minute you meet, say “thanks, but no thanks” and leave. For a personalized program, your coach should take the time to do a consultation first. You should have a conversation first about health history, exercise history and goals. Then they should take the time to see how your body moves before giving you an exercise program. Even online, a coach can take you through various movements to do a self-assessment of how your body is moving so they know where to begin your workouts.

Is their personality a good fit for yours? It’s a personal relationship so it’s important to make sure that fitness philosophy and personalities match. Think about what’s most important to you when talking to potential personal trainers. What result or outcome would make you feel successful? See if that matches how they train. When you have a consultation, think of it as a first date. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!  It’s okay to ask why they became a personal trainer, what lights them up about the job or what was the last book they read. (Please ask me about my reading life!)

You’ve covered the basics. Now you want to find someone who’ll make sure you show up for your date with the weights. Do you do best in a dedicated environment and value personal relationships? Or do you like to do your own thing in the privacy of your home or the gym at the office?  Knowing your personal preferences and your needs before you enter into a personal training relationship will save you time, money and frustration later.

Finding the right fit for in person personal training

If working with a personal trainer in person makes sense for you the first thing you’ll want to discuss is the schedule: theirs and yours. I can’t speak for all personal trainers, but I keep a set schedule of hours. That allows me to give my best to my clients and do the things that I need and want to do for my best life. That means I can’t take every client, no matter how much I want to help them.

You may love someone’s fitness philosophy and their location but don’t try to force the match. You’ll cause yourself more stress and set up a system that makes you feel like a failure if you can’t realistically make your appointment. Before you sign any contract understand the session length and cancellation policy too.

It’s also important to understand if your coach is available outside of session and what other resources they will provide. My clients can email or text me outside of sessions with questions or brags. (Although if you text me after 8:00 pm you probably won’t get an answer till the next morning.) Will they provide you homework or a copy of the workout you did with them to do on your own? I only get to see my clients for an hour or two a week. The work outside of session is often critical to meeting their goals

This brings me to another important question – what does the program include besides exercise? If you just need a workout, then great! But most goals that bring clients to a personal trainer (fat loss, more energy, feel better) are impacted by nutrition and other lifestyle factors like stress and sleep. Ideally, your personal trainer should be able to provide some help, if needed, with nutritional and lifestyle habits. However, not all personal trainers can do this within their scope of practice. If you just need an exercise program, then any of the personal trainer certifications I mentioned above will work. If you need more help with nutrition and behavioral change, I would suggest looking for someone with additional training, like a health coach certification.

How do I choose the right online personal trainer for me?

The truth is your hectic schedule might make it hard to commit to twice-weekly workouts with a fitness professional in person. But you may feel that without someone holding you accountable, you have a hard time sticking to a plan. Thankfully you can get the expertise and accountability you need without being tied to a specific place and time. By letting go of the one-on-one time you gain flexibility and freedom to manage your schedule.

Ask your online personal trainer how and when the workouts and other tools are delivered. If you like to exercise at 5 am, but the emails don’t arrive until 9 am that could be an issue.  Also, ask about equipment needs upfront. If you need extra bands for working out at home, you’ll want to order them sooner rather than later.

A bonus of online personal training is you may also get to connect more. Communication becomes even more key when you don’t see each other in person. You may be able to text your in person trainer with a question, but will they be checking in with you to see how your workouts have gone between sessions? Find out how your online personal trainer will provide the right level accountability and feedback you need.

The biggest downfall of online personal training is that it does require a bit more self-motivation. If you’re a fan of Gretchen Rubin and the Four Tendencies, I find that Upholders do the best with online training, followed by Questioners (but only if they get all their questions answered). If you’re a fan of online learning and take a lot of online courses, you’ll probably find great success with an online personal trainer.

No matter what tendency you are, you still have to create the space to do the work. Choosing the right personal trainer may seem like the easy part if you have a hard time keeping appointments with yourself. Making time is the key to any successful relationship, including the one with yourself. If you still feel that self-care is a little selfish, sign up for my webinar on September 25. We will be talking about the scarcity mindset, beating perfectionism and learning when to drop the ball. This is a FREE event in honor of the 10th anniversary of Thrive Personal Fitness.  Click HERE to get your free Working the Middle Ground Manifesto workbook and your exclusive invitation.

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