By Koren, Pure Matters

As a certified personal trainer, one of the hardest things to witness is gym-goers lifting weights with poor form. The other day I watched a middle-aged woman doing lunges and I just knew her knees would be singing the next day. The worst part was that she was working with a personal trainer and he didn’t even correct her form. This poor woman was paying her trainer to ensure that she exercised safely and effectively, and he was totally dropping the ball.

There are some really great personal trainers out there, but there are also some doozies. How can you tell which is which, especially if you are a gym newbie? Here are some tips.

  • Check out their physique. Are they fit?  If not, move on. My old gym had this male trainer who was obese … that is a lot like a doctor who smokes.
  • Watch them, both while they are training a client and during their own workout. Do you like the moves and exercises they use? Do they push their clients? Do they seem upbeat?
  • Some experts might say to check their personal training certification, but that isn’t always a sure-fire bet. There are many certified trainers who I wouldn’t work with.

Once you pick a trainer and start working with them, here are some additional points to keep in mind:

  • What is the initial meeting like? Did they ask questions? Is there a questionnaire? Did they take stats? Measurements? Or did they just jump into a workout without any background?
  • Did they help you set clear goals with time lines?
  • Are you required to sign a long-term contract? If so, don’t do it.
  • How do they prepare for your sessions? Do they come to the workout with a plan? If you hear “what do you want to do today?,” walk away and find another trainer.
  • Do they talk about nutrition and diet? Although personal trainers are not typically nutrition experts, they should at the very least discuss your diet and how it will impact your goals. Most of us cannot achieve our fitness goals without altering our diets.
  • Do they focus on you? Or are they looking around, chatting with others during your workout?

And finally, how you feel after a workout matters, to. Consider the following:

  • Are you sore, but not too sore?
  • Is your trainer accessible outside the gym? Cell phone, e-mail?
  • Are you seeing results?

The bottom line is that you want someone who motivates you to push yourself. The best way to find out? Schedule at least one and preferably two free, sample sessions with that trainer. If the gym doesn’t offer free sample sessions, I’d switch to a new gym. But if that isn’t an option, pay for just one session before buying a whole pack.