Castle Personal Training

Castle Personal Training is a Corstorphine, Edinburgh based company who specialise in weightloss/toning and Pre and Post Natal exercise.

Blog 15-1-13; Where have all the good guys gone? How to spot a bad Personal Trainer

Hi guys,

I believe it was Bonnie Tyler who asked herself the above question. Admittedly she was not referring to her quest for a personal trainer in Edinburgh, or anywhere else for that matter, but looking for a personal trainer seems to be almost as difficult as “holding out for a hero till the end of the night” if you believe the stories out there.

So let’s start with some signs that your PT, or the PT you’re thinking of using, is a bad PT.

1; He shows up late. Your session is supposed to be from 17.00 to 17.45. He comes in late saying that “His previous client ran over” or “I had to cover a class at the last minute”. This is a sure-fire way of spotting a bad personal trainer.


He doesn’t allow enough time in between clients, which means that this guy is never going to give you enough time to enjoy your session and talk to him afterwards about the progress you’re making. The “I had to cover a class at the last minute” is usually just an excuse for poor planning. Very rarely does anything happen at the last minute, he just couldn’t be bothered dealing with it earlier. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say the class was scheduled at the last minute. He should ALWAYS be ready for you on-time, or have let you know that he was running late. You are his private client! You pay him good money to be on time and he bloody well should be. It is disrespectful to be late at the best of times, it’s even worse when someone is late but is still taking your money.

2; He always puts you on a treadmill. This one really gets my goat. I’ve written about the treadmill before here so will not go into why I don’t like it as an exercise too much. Personal trainers who always put their clients on a treadmill are lazy! There, I’ve said it. I have seen them in every gym, the PT standing talking to their client whilst the client spends 10 minute on a treadmill and all of those personal trainers were bad PTs. You don’t pay someone a fair whack of money to just stand there talking to you whilst you walk on a treadmill! You want results! You want them fast! and you want a program designed for you! Only a select nr of people should use the treadmill when they are with a Personal Trainer, odds are you’re not one of them.

not preparedHe forgot about you, again.

You usually find that the same personal trainers  always make their clients do a 10 minute jog on the treadmill at the start of the session, they call it the  warm up. Know what they’re REALLY doing? They’re figuring out what to do with you for the next 45 minutes because they haven’t prepared the session and are now, anxiously, making it up as they go along. This does not lead to you getting good results.

3; He spouts generic non-sense or just talks bollocks. “If you want to lose some fat you should cut down on carbs”, “You should have 5-6 meals a day, as that’s best for when you want to lose weight” or the dreaded “This will really burn that tummy fat!“. I have heard that last one. If your personal trainer tells you any of these things but has not done an analysis of your food diary and life-style habits, you should leave him immediately! Someone who can not be bothered to analyse your life-style will NEVER get you the best results. Those who talk about “tummy fat” or any kind of “Spot-reduction” are just telling you what you want to hear. Don’t even bother with them.

4; He tries to sell you stuff. This is a popular one in gyms these days. Personal trainers selling Herbalife, Forever living, alkaline water etc etc. All the supplement companies in the world, some good and some bad, send emails to Personal Trainers regularly telling them that the PT can make loads of extra money by selling supplements.

I was sent an email recently that stated that I could make “£1000 a month from as little as 10 clients!“. That’s an awful lot of money. Herbalife say they pay out 73% of the sales in commision so that means that they don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to sell £1369 in supplements each month to only 10 people. That’s £136 a month per person! I’m not saying that most of these products don’t work but, just so we’re clear, most of these products don’t work. How could you possibly spend that much on supplements each month? As you might expect I work out a fair bit. I work-out enough to justify taking supplements, most people don’t need them. I take the only 2 that work for me; A protein shake and a bit of creatine. My total spend on supplements is approximately £6 a month. 

supplements You’re wasting your money, and he knows it!

You already spend good money on a personal trainer and, unless you’re a professional athlete, have special dietary requirements or are really into bodybuilding you don’t need to spend more than I do. If you have a personal trainer who spends more than £50 a month on supplements himself you should leave him as he has no idea what he’s doing.

5; He has no qualifications. Some gyms, not many thank goodness, have been hiring people as personal trainers and Gym Instructors on the understanding that “within 90 days they have to get their certification”. You should never work with anyone who doesn’t have a qualification. They will not be properly insured and don’t have the knowledge base you’d expect from someone calling themselves a personal trainer. Always ask if they have a personal training certificate. If they don’t, or say they are studying it but don’t have the cert yet, don’t work with them. Odds are you’ll end up getting hurt or just crappy advice..I don’t know which is worse as at least getting hurt would teach you a lesson in the short run, bad advice can stick with you for years..

6: He says; You can only get a decent workout in the gym! Oh Really?? This is something that was said to me recently, by a gym manager obviously. Listen, there are a few things you can not do at home; You can’t bench press massive weights, do big squats or massive dead lifts. But for all those exercises there are alternatives you can do. If you think you can’t train your legs effectively outside a gym, you should workout with me on leg day. 95% of people don’t need to go to a gym to workout. I understand that sometimes it’s difficult to get off the couch when you’re at home but, if you can get yourself to do that, you can work out fantastically well at home.

7; He checks his phone/I-pad whilst you are working out. What can I say? You pay someone good money and they can’t even be bothered giving you their undivided attention. Unless they have a baby on the way and are expecting a call from the hospital there is no excuse for it. One of the most important things a personal trainer does for you is to check your form, making sure you carry exercises out properly and safely. How can he do that if he’s texting or reading emails?

ipad Meanwhile you’re struggling with a big weight.

8; He can’t relate to your situation. I don’t mean this in an Oprah “relate” kind-off way. I am talking about the following; You are a 45 year old woman, with a husband, a job and 2 kids. You have grown-up responsibilities. How is an 18 year old kid, in their first job, who still stays with their parents going to be able to relate to you? The answer is that they can’t. I am not saying you should find yourself a 45 year old female personal trainer who also has 2 kids but there is something to be said for finding someone who can relate to the life you have. Someone who can recommend things that will fit in with your life-style. It’s one thing for a single person with no kids to go on a diet but for a mother of two is slightly trickier. If you have a life-style that only allows 45 minutes of exercise a few times a week, make sure your PT can relate to this and come up with the correct program for you.

9; They don’t do what they said they’d do. This goes for professionals in all walks of life really. Imagine this situation; You pick up an injury, just a minor one, but can still work out. You email your personal trainer a few days before your session to inform him of your injury so he can amend the program/exercises. He comes back saying “No problem”. This makes perfect sense, your PT should now have a new session plan when he shows up and you should be able to batter through it and have a productive session.

But no, he “forgot” to amend the plan and is clearly sorting things out, fidgeting about, at the last minute. This is just wasting everybody’s time and not something you should put up with. We’ve been there, it ruins the entire session for you…but you’re still out of pocket.  It’s worse than waiting in for a package which never shows.

10; They don’t deliver value. Sometimes something very cheap isn’t great value. I know people who call themselves personal trainers who only charge £12.50 a session, which is very cheap, but they only stick you on a treadmill or go for a jog with you for an hour. I also know these guys don’t have the qualifications. I know Puregym do program cards for their members for £15. You could argue that this should be free for members but a good program takes a long time to put together and they are a budget gym. I can take a whole afternoon to put a 2 month program together, not including nutrition obviously as that takes A LOT longer. But the PTs there will usually just give you a generic “This works for everybody” kind of program which takes about 20/30 minutes to throw together. They don’t take your entire situation, work/family/diet etc into account when they write the program so it’s pretty poor value considering that you can download a generic program for free from quite a few forums.

Other personal trainers charge over the odds but make it sound like they are giving you value. There is one personal trainer I see advertising a lot who charges well over the market rate on the bases that, for that session, you get access to the spa he works out of. “Wow, you get access to all these fantastic facilities for a bit after your session”. Yes, it’s nice to get access to a sauna but should you really be paying £15-£20 for it? Think about seeing that guy 3x a week. Now you’re paying £60 a week to potentially use a sauna. And most of the time you probably won’t even use it. That’s the cost of 2 sessions you just spent on something you’re not going to use! Personally, whenever I was done in the gym I usually had to go home as I had no time to hang out in the sauna for an hour. And even if I did, I can go to a gym with a pool, sauna, tennis courts, squash courts and bar for £60’ish a month so I’m sure as hell not paying that a week!

Some personal trainers have additional qualifications, as I do, and they charge accordingly, as I don’t . If those qualifications don’t apply specifically to you why should you pay a higher rate? Say you’re a 45 year old man, should you pay someone more just because they are also trained to deal with pre- and post-natal women? Of course you shouldn’t.

11; He’s Misstra Know-it-all. Like Stevie Wonder said; “He’s the man, with a plan.”

This is the PT that has worked out a plan for you and is making you stick to it at all costs as “this is the way to get fit” and he won’t take no for an answer. You might not be enjoying the sessions, some exercises might hurt a bit of give you little niggles, he’s not having any of it; “My plan works!”. There are many ways to get fit, there are many many many exercises for getting lean or putting muscle on. A personal trainer should always encourage feedback at the end of every session. If something doesn’t feel comfortable, or you can’t perform an exercise properly, that beautiful plan of his will have to be amended. This doesn’t take that long but they don’t like to do it. It’s usually the trainers that come up with the most elaborate plans who dislike changing them the most. Most plans should be fairly straightforward; you don’t have to do squats on a medicine ball.

When you are looking to buy a kitchen you wouldn’t accept a sales-person telling you which kitchen to buy, you shouldn’t accept it from a personal trainer either. It’s that simple really.

So how do you find yourself a good personal trainer?

1; Look at the personal trainers around you.  If you work out at a gym check to see if their personal trainers are guilty of doing any of the above. If they are, don’t use them.

2; Check out their website and their blog/facebook page. Every personal trainer should have one these days and that should tell you quite a lot about them as a person. Find out if you are compatible.

3; Compare the market. I just had a long discussion with some trainer friends in the US who state that they never mention their prices on their websites as they want you to ask for a quote so they can get your email address and market to you. This is fine but most PTs I know in the UK list their prices. Compare them but be fair; If someone charges £15 where everybody else charges £30, there will be a reason for that.

Always compare like for like. You can’t compare the price of a single session with one PT to a package with another one. Package-deals are bound to be cheaper as most personal trainers prefer to work towards goals with clients and packages are much more likely to help clients do this, and therefore help the trainer’s retention %.

4; Speak to them before you sign up with them. I am not talking about getting a Free Consultation, my thoughts on that are pretty clear. If you’re in the gym go up to them and speak to them. If you’re looking at working-out outside a gym, or even if they seemed busy in the gym, pick up the phone or send them an email. Ask all the questions you want an answer to. If you are training for a specific sport make sure they understand what you need to focus on. See if they are familiar with your situation. 

I reckon that’s about it, if anyone else has any do’s and don’ts for PTs, please let me know.

Take care.

Your friend,


P.S. Just because I said “He” when referring to personal Trainers that doesn’t mean that I didn’t include female personal trainers in the above. It’s the non-sexual “he” I am using.

Credit where it’s due; Picture of trainer with empty board by photostock, supplements pic by YaiSirichai, girl holdnig tablet by David Castillo Dominici (Whose work I’ve used before) all available at
Obv Stevie’s work is by Stevie

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