Castle Personal Training is a Corstorphine, Edinburgh based company who specialise in weightloss/toning and Pre and Post Natal exercise.
One of my clients asked me last week whether I’d heard of the “Bulletproof diet” as a lot of people at her spin-class were talking about it. To be honest, I thought I knew most of the fad-diets but hadn’t come across this one yet. When she explained about “Bulletproof coffee”, coffee with a massive stick of butter in it, I thought it might be a pre-workout coffee. After all, a massive shot of caffeine and calories would give you a big boost of energy and Io can see how this would be popular with people taking spin-classes and all that.
Imagine my surprise when I came home and looked into this bulletproof thing. It’s an astonishingly bad diet. Other than Meal replacement shakes (Herbalife, Shakeology and that horrible stuff) this is right up there with stupid advice. I was going to write a little blog about it but then came across this piece in the Daily Telegraph. The headline sums it up very accurately; “The Bulletproof Diet; simplistic, invalid and unscientific.” I don’t see the point in writing my own little blog which, essentially, would just be a carbon copy of this fine piece of journalism. It’s a horrible diet and none of my clients will ever be on it.
So that was my Monday blog scuppered. Then I remembered reading this article on the PTDC and I thought I’d do everyone a favour and link to that. It’s truly excellent advice for anyone looking to hire a PT. I obviously know noone has ever clicked a link to an article so I’ll copy and paste some stuff below and add some of my thoughts on the points he raises.
The industry is unregulated and service is arbitrary.
Trainers don’t have a prescribed scope. There are very good trainers and very bad trainers. What you may not know is that anybody can create educational platforms and designate trainers as “certified” but, as you’ll soon see, certification ≠ qualification.
When you decide to invest in a trainer you’re making a decision that has the potential to change your life. Yet, most who hire trainers put little-to-no thought into it. Would you walk into a car dealership on a whim and buy a car? Likely not, you’d do your research and make an informed decision.
It’s not enough to rely on the reviews online or posted in a gym. Ask any potential trainer for two previous or current clients that you can call. There have been too many examples of unscrupulous “professionals” who fabricate or steal before-and-after pictures and testimonials.
Aside from making sure that the testimonial is real, you should attempt to learn how the trainer really is in his day-to-day practice. When on the phone with a reference ask about the temperament of the trainer; get a feel for their desire to continually improve; and ask if they are honest and dependable.
Peter’s note; This is why, at Castle, we don’t do before and after picture on our website and we don’t even do the client quotes thing anymore. Most Before and After pics you see online are bogus as this video helpfully demonstrates
And as you have no way of telling whether a quote is actually from a real client or not they are useless as well..I have even seen Facebook reviews on Personal Trainers I know from people who have never trained with that PT or have never even visited their facilities. If you’d like to speak to some of our clients before deciding to train with us I’d be more than happy to give you their nr or arrange for you to come in to the studio at a time that someone is training there, obviously after their session is finished 🙂
Not having a credit card on hand ensures that you don’t make any rash, emotional decisions that you may regret. Gyms have become really good at convincing people to sign up right away after a tour and short sales meeting.
Don’t take this decision lightly. When you hire a personal trainer it has the potential to change your life but also it could also leave a bitter taste in your mouth and hole in your wallet.
The turnover in the fitness industry is high. If you blindly walk into a club, do a tour, and sign up for sessions then there’s a good chance that you’ll end up with the least busy and/or brand new trainer. The odds that she is right for you are low. In addition, because turnover is so high for inexperienced trainers, there’s a good chance that your new coach won’t stick around and you’ll be bounced around different trainers.
Spend two weeks walking on a treadmill watching trainers work with their clients. Get a feel for the types of clientele each trainer works with, their differing training styles (drill sergeant, passive-aggressive, laissez faire, etc.), and pay special attention to your intuition.
Finding a personal trainer can be done by checking out your local gyms, through word of mouth, or by getting in touch with bloggers and fitness professionals that you trust that don’t live in your area and asking if they have any recommendations.
Peter’s note; A lot of this point relates to gyms and how they sell PT but we could not agree more. Gyms are all about the sale, they don’t care who you train with or whether you get results. They just want your money (or they’d be contacting all the members who never use their membership to tell them they’d be better off cancelling and saving their money)
We don’t expect you to pay anything upon signing up. After the first meeting we agree a price and you agree, in priciple, to sign up to X nr of sessions a week/ in total. Then you have your first session and you pay after that first session either by bank transfer or paypal. And we obviously don’t follow you home to watch you do that. If you don’t enjoy that first session you don’t pay anything and are free to go train with someone else.
A great trainer is worth traveling for but you’ve got to be honest and determine what’s important for you. New exercisers should spend at least a month seeing a coach 2-3x/wk to get a strong baseline and establish good habits. In this case having somebody close to where you work or live might be warranted.
For more experienced trainees who don’t want to see a trainer multiple times a week, location becomes less of a factor. I used to have clients come in once every 2-4 weeks for form checks. I managed their programs and provided online personal training services at a monthly rate. My clients lived anywhere from 30 minutes to 3hrs away and trained in a gym close to them.
Peter’s note; I would go further than this. Convenience is not just about locations, it’s about facilities such as broadband, changing rooms and parking. Take these things into account when deciding whether you want to train somewhere.
If your trainer tries to sell you supplements or advertises that they are a “rep” for a company, become an immediate skeptic. While not bad 100% of the time, the trainer is legally responsible for disclosing anything that might affect a recommendation.
Multi-tier marketing schemes are rampant in gyms. In almost all cases the supplement is lackluster quality, overpriced, or both.
If the trainer doesn’t take the time to help you attain strong diet and work with you on establishing healthy lifestyle and eating habits with real foods before trying to sell you some type of powder, run. Fast.
Peter’s note; I think my opinions are clear on this. Trainers selling supplements are usually not to be trusted. A trainer who “doesn’t do diet” is a useless trainer for 99.9% of clients.
I’m biased, but I believe that a good personal trainer’s value is priceless. In an attempt to become more realistic I’ll provide you with some thoughts on pricing.
First – there is no precedent or regulation on pricing. It’s not like buying chicken where you know how much a pound costs and any variation from the mean is immediately noticeable. Price ranges wildly – from $25/hr to $300+/hr.
Location will determine price. A trainer in Manhattan will cost exponentially more than a trainer in small town Michigan.
A trainer who specializes will likely be in-demand amongst that population and therefore charge more for their services. If you have a special need, say you’ve just had a baby and you want a post-natal fitness specialist because you have diastasis recti, then you can expect to pay a little more. It’s the same idea as hiring a general mechanic vs. a dude who specializes in Harley Davidson bikes to fix your motorcycle.
Finally, price will be dependent on experience. Hiring a cheaper, less experienced trainer might be fine if you have adequate resolve and prior weightlifting experience.
Peter’s note; This is mainly an American thing and London to be honest. I don’t know any Edinburgh PT that charges £200 an hour. I would go so far as to say that someone who charges very little an hour is probably not a very good PT and is unlikely to give you the service you should expect from a Personal Trainer.
Before hiring a personal trainer you should be 100% confident that he can effectively manage all aspects of your program.
If you mention a chronic problem a great trainer should show that she’s experienced, knowledgeable, and able to work with it or around it (whatever is most appropriate). In addition, a trainer should be willing to work with your primary care physician or other health providers (physios, chiros, osteos etc.) if necessary.
Peter’s note; You would think this goes without saying but it really doesn’t. The same goes the other way. If your physio isn’t willing to talk with your Personal Trainer you should find another physio.
Notice I didn’t say “what certifications to look for.” Education for trainers almost everywhere in the World is un-regulated. While good resources exist for trainers, the overall picture is not bright. Anybody can call himself or herself a personal trainer, even without a certification and anybody can create a course and “certify” trainers. (Trunc)
Peter’s note; I truncated the above as he spends a lot of time, rightly, explaining stuff about qualifications. I know some awesome PTs without a Uni degree and I know some terrible ones with one. It’s about time spent learning on the job. Noone I have come across has ever been a good PT straight after they qualified as a PT. This is one of the questions you should ask any existing clients you speak to.
You’re hiring a personal trainer because she presumably knows more than you. You need somebody who educates herself with books, text, books, and research studies and that thinks for herself.
Ask her to tell you about things like muscle confusion and whether you need to be sore each workout? If she isn’t able to explain something similar to the following, it’s a pretty good sign that she’s a YouTube trainer.
Peter’s note; This ties in with the above. I mainly think he’s trying to get to reach that magic “10” marker with this but he is of course right. I would note however that Youtube can be a very valuable tool if used correctly in the same way that the internet is a valuable tool if you don’t just click on the first link you come across and treat it as gospel.
You may not have the wealth of experience to know all of the questions to ask a potential personal trainer so shortcuts are necessary. The easiest way to figure out whether or not a trainer is unconfident, inexperienced, and unqualified is by analyzing not what he says, but how he says it.
As a general rule, people boast about stuff that they lack confidence in. When interviewing a trainer, pay attention to what he’s boasting about – the easiest way to do this is to pay attention to whether or not he uses needless jargon. An unconfident trainer will overcome his lack of confidence by throwing in a bunch of scientificy-sounding words. A confident trainer will explain a concept clearly, succinctly, and in a way that you can understand using appropriate metaphors. This seems like a small difference, but it says a lot.
Next, when you meet with a trainer he should keep the conversation focused on you and only speak about himself as it pertains to helping you. It doesn’t matter if he’s trained Olympic athletes if you’re brand new to training and have some lower back pain, for example. A sign of a trainer who lacks focus and confidence will feel that he needs to impress you with everything that he knows. A great trainer will ask questions about you and then, and only then, speak about how specific aspects of his education and experience make her perfectly suited to help you.
Finally, in the words of Tim Arndt, “fitness is simple, it’s just not easy”. Great coaches know that programs need to be as simple as possible, and as complicated as necessary. For most clients this means that programming is basic. No fancy loading schemes or periodization is often necessary. And bouncy, wobbly, uneven widgets and “whathaveits” are almost never needed. If the program sounds too simple, it’s a good sign. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
The first thing that you’ll do is unconsciously judge a potential trainer based on his or her appearance.
In a 1967 study a researcher named Alfred Yarbus put eye trackers on participants. He first asked them to look at a painting and observed their eyes darting haphazardly. He then asked how old the people in the painting were, and the eyes darted back and forth from face to face. He then asked how much money the people in the painting had, and their eyes darted up and down the clothing.
Our brains cannot possible process the breadth of information that it encounters at any given moment. It takes shortcuts based on preconceived truisms.
I tell you this to make you aware of the conclusions that you might inadvertently jump to. Does a trainer need to be in great shape? Maybe.
Judging a personal trainer solely on appearance is not the way to choose a personal training coach. First off, if she is ripped then whatever she did to attain her physique probably took years of trial and error or protocols that you likely don’t want to follow. Getting and staying shredded is a lifestyle choice. This means ardent focus on diet and exercise. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying that you need to be cognizant of what it actually takes to achieve and maintain it.
Next, just because a trainer is in good shape doesn’t mean she knows how to help you. You’re different in everything from your daily commitments to body type. Even genetics has been shown to have a large effect on adaptation to exercise. In one study, subjects followed the same protocol. Some subjects gained as much as 10cm in their biceps and doubled their strength, while others showed little to no gain.
If you have very specific physique goals than training with somebody who has achieved what you want to achieve may be warranted. What matters is that the coach has experience in helping people with whatever it is that you want to achieve. She doesn’t necessarily need to be better than you in that one specific thing (Tiger Woods has a golf coach who I feel confident in assuming is a worse golfer than Tiger), but she should be able to tell you what you need to do in order to achieve and what it takes to get through each step.
Peter’s note; I don’t have anything to add to the above two points, both great points well made.
An investment to hire the best personal trainer for you can change your life but navigating the murky waters to find the right one can be rife with challenges. If you’re serious that now is the time to make a change, take your time. There are great trainers out there, you’ve just got to find us.
Thanks very much to Jon Goodman from the PTDC for a great article.