How to find a Quality Personal Trainer

I was listening to the RDella Podcast the other day, and the question came up:  What is quality coaching and are people are beginning to recognize/seek it out? The question stopped me in my tracks... "Am I providing quality training?" Scott's guest went on, and my shoulders relaxed. 

Is the trainer performing a detailed movement assessment and asking about every stinkin' detail of that client's life?


Does the coach require movement patterns so perfect "there's a tear in my eye" before loading that pattern? 


Sometimes I wonder: Do I annoy people by asking exactly how much water are you drinking? Which *WAY* did you sprain your ankle in 10th grade? How long have you had those shoes? All the silly questions that seem inane until you realize that a 20 year old ankle sprain and 2 year old running shoes have caused your low back pain, and those headaches are caused by 8 oz of water and 6 cups of coffee/day (hydrate, people!)

I wonder, too, whether my demands for quality are unreasonable. I had a boss tell me once "You can't expect your clients to have RKC-quality movements." and I SO VERY MUCH disagree! There is no f@#%# reason my clients can't perform movements as well as or better than I can. THEY SHOULD.

I came to the conclusion at the end of this thought process that I'm in the ranks of quality coaches (ego, bitches! get some.) and that I'm far from elite and have lots of work to do.

But here's the thing: a scary number of people have spent so long in boot camps and spin classes and Biggest Loser at Work programs that they don't want quality coaching. America has adopted a McDonald's Fitness Approach.

MORE FOR LESS!! we cry, despite our overall panic to become smaller and smaller.  

Somewhere along the line, the fitness industry has sold our population on the idea that misery is worth $50 by the month, the hour or the supplement and people want their money's worth! They (think they) need to leave sweaty and miserable, slightly food deprived and absurdly sore the next day to have accomplished something. Me? I don't buy it.

"Lift heavier. Eat more. Spend money on your trainer." is the hardest thing I have ever had to sell in my LIFE (and I worked at Northern Arizona University calling alumni and asking for money.)


I guess the question remaining is: How to find a good personal trainer?

1. Do some research. Search for trainers that specialize in what you want, have a philosophy and mission similar to your own views of wellness and read reviews and testimonials. For the love of PETE don't go hire the first trainer you meet at your local GloboGym because he/she is convenient.

2. Set up a consultation. A quality personal trainer or coach will perform movement screens, a detailed health history, an overall assessment and provide you with some sort of knowledge or takeaway that will help you change your life right there.

Note: If you are on the receiving end of a hard sell? WALK AWAY. This is a consultation designed to give both you and your trainer a feel for if it is a good relationship, and no good relationships are built on guilt-purchases. I've had clients hand me their credit card before I even tell them my pricing. I've had others go interview three other trainers and get a week of good sleep before coming back. At the end of the day? I know that the clients who work with me are there because they want to be, not because I did Zig Ziglar VooDoo on them.

3. Find out who coaches them. Every good trainer can name his lineage. Some coaches and trainers (like me) live in a  little bit of a vacuum when it comes to coaching that fits their needs. But they should be actively seeking out Skype coaching, workshops and immersions, accredited online courses and have a relationship with people that inspire them. 

If it turns out that your friendly neighborhood drill sergeant has a personal training certification from Trainers of America and watches YouTube for his kettlebell movements? WALK AWAY. 

4. Ask a hell of a lot of questions. Like... a lot. What does this professional believe in? What is his definition of fitness? What is her certification and education background? How long has she been training? How many clients does she have? How does he live HIS life? Look for someone who is interested in living health and spreading the message of bodies that move and live to their fullest. 

If the answer is "puke or die! fitness is life! I do whatever fitness fad because muscle confusion!" BAIL. BAIL RIGHT THERE. 

5.  < take a deep breath here >

Be willing to pay for it.'s not about the money for most of us. I would do this s!@# for free if I could. But good coaches are constantly learning, adapting, readjusting what they do in order to be the best they can possibly be, and that's worth something.

Working with someone who isn't taking 10 hours of clients/day to pay the bills means you're getting someone who has the energy and attention span to be with you 100% during your session. (TRUTH BOMB: 8 hours/clients day 5-6 days/week at a high quality coaching level is borderline impossible. Feel free to correct me.)  

When you pay for a personal training, you're not just paying for 1 hour of time. Along with that you'll receive emails and phone calls and endless amounts of care and love and fiery passion for your wellbeing, homework and follow up and probably at least one or two sleepless midnight hours thinking about your programming or goals.

Is your trainer on his/her phone during sessions? Confront them. Are they impossible to get a hold of or constantly changing/canceling sessions? Confront them. Are you miserable after every session and wondering why on earth you're doing this? CONFRONT THEM (and possibly fire them.)


At PULSE in Madison, WI, and wherever I take my coaching practice, it is such a blessing to work with clients and students who value the impact of the little things, from creating an arch in both feet to developing the ability to perfect an overhead lockout. 

We use kettlebells, barbells, bodyweight for those things, although other tools can also get the job done. All the trainers here are carried on the shoulders of amazing coaches. I have eternal gratitude to John Wolf, Joe Sansalone, Jen Meehan, Jeff Sokol.... and so many more coaches who have reached out and offered me a bit of their knowledge wealth. Because in them, I have learned how a quality trainer operates. These men and women operate in the details and live in the tiny things that make up a body's history.