Not every trainer is born a personal trainer

Working with a personal trainer is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people are struggling with their health and fitness. Finding a personal trainer, however, can be quite tricky. Someone who is looking for a personal trainer usually has very specific fitness goals and reasons why they can’t reach those goals by themselves. Taking the decision to reach out to trainers can be a tough one because it involves speaking about weaknesses and issues. It can be the starting point of a long fitness journey with all its ups and downs, successes and drawbacks, victory and frustration.

Of course, you would like to spend your money wisely! Personal training is an investment in yourself and it doesn’t come cheap if you want quality. However, the quality amongst trainers varies greatly! So, how to find a personal trainer?

In this blog post I am shedding some light on the different types of trainers out there, their different prices and how you can figure out if a trainer is the right one for you.

Different types of trainers

Group fitness instructors

You do not need to speak to a group fitness instructor about your personal fitness goals. As easy as that. Unless you they also work as a trainer with individuals. The group fitness instructor license does cover some basics of training methodologies but is focused on motivational aspects, communication, how to use music in classes and how to build choreographies. Someone who has a group fitness instructor license only is not qualified to build training progressions for your very specific goals. Unfortunately, many group fitness trainers are not even qualified enough to work with a group of people, but that’s a different topic. If you actually want to reach your goals, you need to train specifically.

Floor trainers at the gym

Trainers who work at the gym and help people out on the floor are (in theory) more qualified to work with individuals than group fitness instructors. At least most gyms in Germany require their floor trainers to hold the basic trainer certificate “Fitness trainer B”. This license covers a lot more relevant topics for training with individuals such as anatomy of the human body, basics of biomechanics and sports psychology, nutrition and how to build workout plans for individual fitness goals.

At the same time, floor trainers very rarely get the chance to actually put together workout plans for individuals. Most gyms don’t even offer this service or if they do, it’s the same basic workout for everyone which includes the most popular machines. This means that even though they have undergone training they lack the experience to progress individuals towards their specific fitness goal. 

If all you want is to get started at the gym and your gym offers basic workout plans, you can certainly make use of that service. If you have very specific goals or even issues with your body, I would suggest you contact a personal trainer.

Employed personal trainers at the gym

Even though this model is not widely common in Germany, it exists. Gyms can decide to employ personal trainers part-time or full-time to be available for their clients. In that case, you would pay the gym for your sessions with a personal trainer. The personal trainer themselves receives a monthly salary from the gym. This way, the sessions can be more affordable because the price mainly depends on the margin the gym wants to make. 

Personal trainers employed at a gym will have a higher degree certificate than floor trainers if the gym works properly. This will usually be the Fitness Level A certificate and another certificate that covers potential medical conditions a client might have.

Coming back a personal trainer being employed by the gym: The employed personal trainer available at this gym might not necessarily be the one best suited to help you achieve your goal but you might have to work with them due to a lack of choice. Every personal trainer has a different style of training, oftentimes a specification and yes, they are human and you might just not get along with this specific human.

If you would like to work with someone else, you will have to contact a self-employed personal trainer. 

Self-employed personal trainers

Self-employed personal trainers have different options where to train their clients such as at home, outdoors, at the gym or at specific personal training lounges.

People who are self-employed have to cover a bunch of costs by themselves, such as:

  • Health insurance
  • A pension scheme
  • Business insurance
  • Sometimes VAT
  • Tax or scheduling software
  • A tax accountant
  • Savings for sick times, etc.

This already makes their pricing a lot higher. Some also pay for further education. On top, personal training often involves idle time when going to the client session and most personal trainers are available for their clients outside the sessions for advice. All of this raises the price which you need to take into consideration. If one self-employed personal trainer offers a much smaller price than most others, please ask the question why that is and don’t count on just getting lucky. You don’t want to put your body and health into the hands of an amateur.

Trainer licenses

You already learned about a few different licenses that trainers can obtain. Those should be the basic stack of licenses a personal trainer in Germany should hold. Some trainers are interested in specific topics and choose to obtain further licenses, such as functional training license, athletic trainer license or something even more specific like kettlebell trainer license. Those are nice to have and certainly good for marketing purposes. You do need to keep in mind though that whichever licenses a trainer is holding, they might not even tell anything about their quality of training. These days, many licenses can be purchased online for very cheap and all you need to do in order to obtain them is read a long’ish PDF file. I for example obtained my certificates from “Akademie für Sport und Gesundheit” where attending the classes was obligatory, there were theoretical as well as practical parts and proper exams.

Happy clients and client success stories as well as referrals are worth a lot more than shiny certificates. Eventually, the most knowledge comes with experience anyways.

And the other things that no class can teach a trainer are social skills such as patience, empathy and the art of teaching. You got it or you don’t. Make sure to book that trial session to see if you are in good hands.

one woman training another woman

Not every trainer can help you with every goal

Most trainers are specialised in certain types of training (approaches). If you talk to a trainer and it seems like they can help you with any fitness goal, from weight loss, to bodybuilding, to marathon prep, then you can be 99% sure you won’t get the highest quality. Think about a restaurant that prides itself with serving the best food from 10 different nations.

Before you even start looking for a trainer, you need to be absolutely clear about what it is that you would like to achieve, both short-term and long-term. Once you got that down, your search will be way more specific and efficient.

For example, when I get personal training request from people who would like to prepare for a marathon or for a bodybuilding competition, I tell them that someone else can help them better because I am specialised in functional training and strength training.

The actual process of finding a personal trainer

Now that you have learned about different types or trainers and certificates, here comes the practical part of how to find a personal trainer. If you have a gym membership already, start by asking around for recommendations. There might be established personal trainers working at your gym that other people have had good experiences with. If that doesn’t bring any results, you will have to go online. Just put “personal training in [YOUR AREA]” into your favourite search engine and you will get some first results. The next thing you should be looking for is whether the trainer offers training at your gym or other preferred location or if you would be willing to go to theirs.

When you have put together a short-list of trainers you would like to contact, message them stating your specific fitness goal and ask for a trial session. Do not just book a package of, let’s say, 10 sessions because you liked someone’s website. Check them out in person and see if you get along and if you feel good with them at the gym (or any other location). Some trainers offer free trial sessions, other charge for it. I for example offer a first session with a 50% discount.

These days, you can of course check if they are present on social media. You might get some insights into their training there. Of course, not every good trainer needs a social media profile and many really bad trainers are hiding behind a shiny profile. Bear in mind that only because someone is in great shape, that doesn’t make them a good trainer. Being in good shape certainly helps selling this service and being authentic. But it is by no means an indicator for quality of training.

Hopefully I was able to shed some light on the question how to find a personal trainer.