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How to Find the Best Personal Trainer for You

Step 1. Know Your Goal

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Regardless of what's led you to take the plunge and start personal training, knowing WHY you want to work with a personal trainer will help make the process of finding the right one easier. (On the fence? Here are 10 reasons you should work out with a personal trainer.)

Before you walk up to the counter at the gym to sign up for a training session (many big-box gyms offer a complimentary trial session), know what you are looking for out of the experience. "An excellent membership advisor will hear out your concerns, interests, and normally gauge your personality and match you with a trainer they think would be a good match," says Anne Reuss, a trainer at Equinox in Chicago.

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Step 2. Decide Where You Want to Train

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A big box gym can typically offer more equipment, class options, the opportunity to work out solo, and one membership with multiple locations. This might be the simplest option if you're already a member to one of these gyms. While these perks coupled with promotions or deals on introductory memberships are appealing, larger gyms can also tend to be overcrowded during peak hours, says Jade McClure, a fitness and nutrition coach in Vancouver, Canada. On the other hand, smaller studios or privately owned local gyms may be able to offer you a more flexible schedule or availability to train, but some may not allow you to come in to work out on your own.

Training at smaller studios offers an opportunity to get to know staff and other members more closely and build a sense of a community, says Kris Briganti, co-owner of Inspiration Fitness in Golden, Colorado. Ultimately "you need to find a studio or gym where you feel comfortable, welcome, and where you feel your needs are met," she adds.

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Step 3. Research Potential Trainers

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Now that you know why and where you want to train with someone one-on-one, you can dig a little deeper into who you think you'd mesh well with. Most gyms and studios offer personal trainer bios on their websites so check them out and find one with experience and credentials that align with your goals. "I often see clients getting stuck with trainers that don't fit their needs," says McClure, "For example, there could be a client who wants to focus on core training yet the trainer loves CrossFit so all their clients get intense CrossFit workouts."

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Step 4. Look for Common Ground

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If you want your personal trainer to understand your goals on a deeper level—say if you're a new mom and want to get back to your pre-baby weight—ask the manager or client services rep if there's someone on staff who has gone through a similar transformation or met a similar goal. (Pst. Learn how one mom regained her abs after having a C-section.) Briganti says that a trainer doesn't need to have gone through the same exact thing as you to be successful, but they should be able to point you in the right direction for other advice when necessary.

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Step 5. Test the Waters

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No amount of impressive credentials can make up for a personality clash. "Book a consultation with a coach you're interested in and ask them a bunch of questions about how they would train you for your current goals," says McClure. Most consultations should be free and last around 15-20 minutes, and you should be upfront about shopping around, he says. Not only will you learn more about a trainer's coaching style, you'll learn more about whether or not you want to spend your time (and money) with this person.

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Step 6. Give Feedback and Communicate

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So you've found a trainer—great!—but your work has really just begun, and not just the physical demands of training. You and your trainer should work together to set realistic, measurable goals in the beginning so you are able to evaluate if it's working, says Briganti. There will be good and bad days during your journey, but "if you aren't enjoying the sessions or you feel it isn't in line with the goals you asked for, speak up and let us know," says Reuss. The secret to any relationship? Communication. "Talk openly with your trainer," reminds Briganti. Just remember that it takes two to tango. Before you ask your trainer to change something, make sure you're doing your part and giving the sessions your best effort, says Julie Uhlen, a NASM certified personal trainer at Inspiration Fitness. Which bring you to an important next step...

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Step 7. Do Your Part

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You can hire the most popular celebrity trainer on earth and that won't guarantee success unless you do your part. "This is one of the most exciting and valuable investments you can make in yourself," says Reuss. "Show up well rested so you can have a productive session." To ensure a great training experience, show up on time and avoid complaining (even if your trainer asks for 10 more burpees), says McClure. "When a client comes to me with a great attitude, shows up on time and lets me push them, they get the best coach I can possibly be—and the best results," he says.

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Step 8. Know When to Walk Away

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If you aren't getting the results you hoped for—and you've communicated this to your trainer, you've changed your workouts, and you're confident you're meeting your end of the bargain— it might be time to end your personal training relationship. There should be no hard feelings because, like in dating, everyone isn't the right match every time, says Reuss. Honesty is the best policy when you decide to cut ties. "The reality is, you are the customer. You are the one paying and looking for results so your needs are more important than a coach you don't gel with," says McClure.

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Step 9. Decide What's Next

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If things don't work out with one trainer, that doesn't mean you should give up on personal training altogether. "Through all of this you'll have learned what you want and don't want in your next coach," says McClure. A professional trainer should be willing to recommend a colleague or suggest some new ways to motivate you to reach your goals on your own. Ultimately, personal training isn't for everyone, but if it's something you want to explore, you should expect to gain a lot (knowledge and muscle) from the experience.

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