Healthy Living Magazine


Personal trainers can provide valuable expertise, accountability and motivation that you could not achieve alone. Here’s what to look for and how to find the “right fit” for your needs.

So, you’ve been thinking about hiring a personal trainer but hesitate to take the next step, because you’re certainly not an athlete preparing for the 2014 Sochi Olympic games nor a Hollywood actor who just landed a role as the next “Wolverine”? You may be surprised to know that today, people of all fitness, age and economic levels are hiring personal trainers to help them make important fitness and lifestyle changes that they couldn’t achieve by themselves. For the average Joe, a personal trainer can provide valuable expertise, accountability and motivation that you could not achieve alone. Let’s look at criteria for what makes a great personal trainer from educational background and current certifications to that certain “right fit” that works to get you motivated and off the couch.

Elisabeth Parsons, pro trainer for the Canfitpro Personal Trainer Specialist Certification says, “You would never try to repair a car if you’re not a mechanic, so why would you not hire a trainer who is an expert in fitness.”

Elisabeth, who is also owner of FIT4YOU and is a Fitness, Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, believes that everyone should hire a trainer at the outset, especially a newcomer to fitness. “Based on financial and health needs, you can decide whether to continue with a trainer or get a program that you can learn to do on your own,” says Parsons.

The benefits of a Personal Trainer

The benefits of hiring a personal trainer are numerous. In fact, a well-documented study at Ball State University in Indiana found that the use of a personal trainer for a group of men doing a 12-week strength-training program resulted in a 32% greater gain in upper body strength and a 47% greater gain in lower body strength versus the group not using a personal trainer.

Lori Ferren, Fitness Director at Club Markham believes that there are many benefits to hiring a personal trainer. “Hiring a trainer is great for first timers to the health club scene, because it helps give them confidence,” says Ferren.  She also says a trainer can help give newcomers motivation, structure and safety in a setting that is notoriously intimidating for coach potatoes.

Ferren also extols the benefits of hiring a trainer for her club’s longer-term members who tend to get in a rut, because they have been doing the same things over time and have stopped achieving results. “If members are just paying for a membership, they are just renting space,” she says. To really maximize their time and achieve their goals, Ferren believes a personal trainer can help existing members achieve so much more.

Are you still not sure if hiring a trainer is right for you? Here are five great reasons to hire a trainer:
1. Accountability. Hiring a trainer provides discipline and routine by having a regularly scheduled appointment. If your workout is scheduled in your agenda or calendar, and you are accountable to someone, you are more likely to keep it.
2. Safe and Effective. Working with a trainer ensures that you are going through your routine safely and using the equipment correctly, maximizing the effectiveness of your program.
3. Goal Achievement. Research supports that you are 80% more likely to reach your goals if you are working with a personal trainer. A personal trainer can help you define specific and realistic goals and work closely with you towards achieving them.
4. Personalized Workout. You will work closely with your trainer to develop a plan based upon your unique goals and they will tailor your program to your needs. If you represent a special population – senior, pre or postnatal, recovering from an injury or training for an event, even more reason to hire a trainer who specializes in one of these areas and who knows how to help meet your specific needs.
5. Motivation. Your trainer is there to make you feel jazzed about getting fit, celebrate your successes and can make your workout fun!

The right credentials

When looking for a trainer, it’s important that you ensure that he or she has the right credentials. In Canada, the two most recognized personal training certifications are Canfitpro Personal Trainer Specialist (PFS) and Canadian Personal Trainers Network (CPTN). Alternatively, your trainer may have completed a two-year fitness leadership program through Seneca College or George Brown College, a more thorough and intensive training program. Your trainer should also maintain a current CPR, first aid and insurance. Don’t be afraid to ask to see their current credentials.

Elisabeth Parsons encourages clients to ask their prospective trainer to show their certificates and ask for references. “One of the things I would stress to people when hiring a personal trainer is to ask if they are certified and to see their certificate and their insurance,” suggests Parsons. She also cautions that if you fall into a special population, such as high blood pressure, pregnant or senior, you should seek out a personal trainer who has additional knowledge and training in this area of expertise. “Look for a trainer who has pursued additional training,” says Parsons. “The weekend Canfitpro certification course is a good starting base, but additional training is important and shows professionalism on the part of the trainer,” she says.

Club Markham has a personal trainer  “wall” that features a photo and bio of each trainer, highlighting their certifications, area of specialty, and their training philosophy, which is helpful for members who are looking for the right trainer to help them achieve their goals.

Finding the “right fit” with your trainer is important, because you’ll be spending a lot of time with them. One of my clients quipped, “I am spending more time with you than my husband!” Since this isn’t too far from the truth, you want to be sure that you are well matched. Your first meeting with your prospective trainer should be like an interview. Lori Ferren suggests going to your first meeting with a clear idea of your fitness goals. “Your trainer should always ask about your goals – make sure they ask this!” she says. In return, you will want to ask how your trainer will help you attain your goals.

Lori suggests you ask your trainer how they are going to motivate you and how they are going to keep you accountable to your goals.  “You need to believe that your trainer cares,” says Ferren. You should also ask your prospective trainer what kind of motivational techniques they would use with you, what kind of workout plan they would design for you, how often they would change your workout, what kind of experience and credentials they have and if they have any current clients you can call for references.

It’s important to “weigh in” on your reasons for hiring a specific trainer. Parsons emphasizes clients ask themselves if they can imagine working with their prospective trainer or did they just hire them because they have a great physique? More importantly, your trainer should be patient, flexible, have good listening skills and be a role model of health and fitness. “Your trainer should get you excited about your program,” says Parsons. “The personality fit is really important,” she adds. “You need to feel that you can connect with them and feel safe working with this person,” she insists.

To find personal trainers in your area, consider asking at your local fitness facility. There are web sites that offer a search in your area for local trainers, such as: You can also look in your local paper, online or in the yellow pages, but word of mouth is probably the most reliable method. If you are interested in having a trainer come to your home to train you, contact Elisabeth Parsons at

The first meeting

Your initial consultation, which should be free, should be about establishing needs and setting goals. Don’t forget to use this opportunity to ask questions such as available times for training, rates, refund policy and cancellation policy. Rates vary among trainers from an average of $50-$90 per session, with discounts offered for purchasing multiple sessions up-front. Training with a friend may also help share the cost.

This first meeting is a fact-finding meeting and does not establish commitment until both parties are in agreement. Know that you can still walk away. If your trainer is not certified, has no experience with your special needs (such as pre and postnatal or injury), is not on-time, not professional or if you’re simply not connecting with them, it’s not too late to continue your search.

Your investment in your personal trainer is an important investment in your health and wellness. If your goal is to have more energy to play with your grandkids, to lose weight, or to live a more healthy life, it’s difficult to put a price tag on the value of that!

Tiffany Moffatt is a certified Personal Trainer Specialist, Fitness Instructor Specialist, Pre and Postnatal Specialist (Canfitpro certified) and freelance writer who has worked in the fitness industry for 25 years.




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