How To Choose A Personal Trainer – Easy Guide

What should you look for when searching for a personal trainer? A group of us from team AHF got together to discuss.

Written by Hyde Phillips

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So you’ve decided you could use some help getting fit, shaping up and taking control of your health…but you’re not quite sure which personal trainer to choose, and the idea of joining a gym fills you with dread?

You’re not on your own!

Browsing the internet for personal trainers can be like searching for a good film on Netflix – there are WAY too many options, most of them look average, and before know it you’ve got choice fatigue from excessive browsing and it’s time for bed.

For something as personal as one-to-one training, it’s right to do your research. But how do you choose the right personal trainer, who’s the perfect fit for you and your goals, and then follow through with it?

And what if you don’t want to join a gym, or are a bit too self-conscious about busy fitness classes?

Our At Home Fitness team of personal trainers put their heads together this week to discuss this dilemma of finding the right fitness coach. With their collective experience of working with countless clients nationwide, they share some of their insights to help you make the right choices…and help you take the right step in the direction of your fitness goals.

This month’s contributors are Rob Hunt (covering Lichfield, Sutton Coldfield and online), Tom Ephgrave (Hitchin & online) and Sophie Kennedy (Coventry).

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • The ‘essentials’ every personal trainer should have before you hire them
  • What makes a good personal trainer
  • The 6 character traits of a top-class personal trainer
  • Red flags to be wary of with personal training
  • How to make sure you select the right trainer for your needs and aspirations

What Are The Essentials Every Personal Trainer Should Have?

What boxes should you expect to be ticked when it comes to partnering up with a personal trainer?

Firstly, they need to have the right qualifications. “Level 3 Personal Training” is the recognised minimum qualification to look out for, and ensures your trainer is equipped with the right knowledge and skills to develop safe and effective programmes, as well having an essential knowledge of nutrition – which is vital for any fitness, strength, health or weight loss goal.

Once you’ve ticked off the qualification box, the next key factor to consider is the trainer’s personality and approach.

This is partly to do with personal connection, but also has a lot to do with your trainer’s level of investment: are they getting to know you, listening to you and investing in your success, or are they feigning interest, playing with their phone but only really there to get paid? 

On top of this, your trainer needs to know that exercise isn’t a chore – there should be a lightness, making exercise fun so you look forward to the sessions.

Whatever trainer you're going to work with, it's got to be somebody that you get along well with, because you’ve got to enjoy what you're doing. You’ve got to enjoy exercise to be consistent at it – and you’ve got to be consistent to get results.

Rob Hunt, At Home Fitness Lichfield & Online

Rob shows his client woodchops in this outdoor workout

Rob Hunt, At Home Fitness Lichfield & Online

What Makes A Good Personal Trainer?

Another sign of a good personal trainer is someone whose sessions leave you feeling energised – not wiped out and lying on the floor like a sweaty mess.

Psychologically, this is where a lot of trainers go wrong – long term results come from consistent habits, and habits are reinforced by positive feedback. Workouts won’t always be easy, but they should always make you feel good afterwards, because this is what builds confidence and inspiration to come back and do it again.

A professional personal trainer knows the level of exercise that’s right for you, whatever stage you’re at, and adjusts as you become fitter and stronger.

“Clients should leave a workout feeling more energised, rather than depleted. It’s about having the ability to know the right dosage of exercise for the client – and then increasing that as they start to progress.”

Tom Ephgrave, At Home Fitness Hitchin & Online

And you know you’re with the right trainer if the sessions make you feel motivated – and you actually look forward to the next workout. It’s not all about tears, sweat and pain!

Another important factor to consider is what the fitness professional asks you in your initial meeting. Whether your goal is for fitness, aesthetics or wellbeing – considering exercise alongside sleep, stress and nutrition is the key to getting great results that stick.

If your trainer just gives you a great workout, but doesn’t ask questions about your lifestyle, it might feel like “getting straight into the action”, but it will ultimately slow down and frustrate your results and what you could potentially achieve.

Secondly, does your trainer actually listen to your answers, and try to understand what life feels like in your context? Talking too much is a tell-tale sign that your trainer is more interested in themselves – listening more than speaking is a rare, precious quality in a personal trainer, but it’s a secret to unlocking the potential we have to get amazing results.

And thirdly, do they keep their guidance simple and straightforward? Using long, clever words might make them sound like an expert, but the real skill lies in communicating ideas in a way that makes sense and inspires action, and will help you get to where you want via the easiest route.

When you’ve invested in yourself and a personal trainer to improve your health and fitness, your fitness sessions should be “100% yours”, insists Sophie Kennedy, who covers Coventry for At Home Fitness, as well as offering online sessions. 

[Workouts] should be completely focused on you, holding you to account, giving you a good workout, and helping you to feel good and enjoy yourself.

Sophie Kennedy, At Home Fitness Coventry & Online

The 6 Character Traits Of A Top Personal Trainer

Signs of a good personal trainer are often apparent, along with key character traits that’ll ensure you get the most from your training sessions and progress towards your goals.

This is subjective, but there are six ‘absolute musts’ the At Home Fitness team all agree on – this is what we look for in a personal trainer interested in joining our team, and standards we hold ourselves to:

Six essential character traits of a top personal trainer

  • Patience – trainers work with men and women of all ages, fitness levels, and abilities, therefore they should always be patient with you no matter where you are on your fitness journey.
  • Understanding – you could be looking to turn to personal training to get in shape, to improve your physical health - or to de-stress and feel better. A pro PT understands that there are numerous drivers to working on your fitness, and will be there to support you no matter what.
  • Empathy – many men and women just don’t feel comfortable or motivated in the gym. An experienced trainer gets to know and understand you - and designs a workout routine that will help you build confidence and achieve your goals without worrying about anyone else.
  • Approachability – don’t be put off by the myth that personal trainers are ‘jacked’, super elite athletes. That gives the false impression that they’re not relatable or approachable. They’ve most likely faced health and fitness challenges of their own that you’re currently going through and can provide good advice.
  • Flexibility – being responsive to how things change is essential. You might have to work away for a few days, maybe you picked up a little niggle between sessions, or you might just feel stressed and worn out after a long day. A good trainer flexes to your needs to help you get the most out of every workout.
  • Humility – regardless of how experienced and knowledgeable the trainer is in all things exercise and nutrition, the best PTs are always striving to improve and open to new ideas.
Overhead kettlebell press - outdoor personal training

Tom Ephgrave, At Home Fitness Hitchin & Online

Red Flags To Look Out For When Searching For The Right Personal Trainer

It’s important not to buy into the hype or have unrealistic expectations when searching for the right personal trainer. 

There are a lot of fitness myths and shady, click-bait tactics online trying to sell people onto impossible dreams.

“Lose four stones in four weeks!” You know how it goes.

And with the global fitness app market growing and valued at $1.1 billion in 2021, some tech brands are capitalising on the perception that apps have superpowers to help you reach your fitness goals.

There are so many companies trying to flog you certain apps that they claim are going to revolutionise your life. Some tech can be powerful aide alongside your training, but the essential thing is building and practising good habits – not the tech itself.

Be wary also if a personal trainer tries to sell you onto health and fitness supplements, or other performance-enhancing products, along with their services. That’s a definite red flag.

Recommending a tasty protein powder, or multivitamins and minerals that are on offer online is one thing, but hard-selling you onto products they personally want to profit from is should be enough for you to run.

How To Choose A Personal Trainer: Making Sure They’re The Right Fit For You

A good connection and relationship is essential in order for you to enjoy the workouts and maintain them.

In order to make sure the personal trainer is the right fit for you, we’ve created three easy steps to help you find out more:

  • Pay attention to what questions the trainer asks you – are they trying to understand you and your specific goals first before jumping ahead to share a solution?
  • Hop on a call – a chat on the phone will help you get to know the personal trainer a little better. You’ll also have the opportunity to quiz them more about how they can help you achieve fitness success.
  • Book a discovery session – this is the first key step in the journey if you’re serious about transforming your health and fitness. A discovery session, either at your home or via video call, enables the personal trainer to learn about you, your goals and what you need, and can offer valuable insights into how best to move forward.

At Home Fitness personal trainers offer a FREE Discovery session if you want to get fit, feel great, and improve your health via home workouts. 

It doesn’t matter where you live, because the fitness sessions can be led in-person or via online sessions, by our expert personal trainers.

This Discovery session can help you establish your goals and starting point in your fitness journey, and also share some valuable ideas about training and nutrition that’ll undoubtedly get you fired up to get started.

To find out more and get started, click here.

Download the At Home Fitness guide

Learn and apply the 5-step journey we use to help clients transform their health and firnes from home

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Meet the authors

Rob - lunging photo

Rob Hunt

Lichfield, Sutton Coldfield and online

Personal trainer at your home in Lichfield, Sutton Coldfield and surrounding areas - and online sessions, available everywhere.

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Sophie - A frame profile photo

Sophie Kennedy


Personal trainer at your home in Coventry and surrounding areas.

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At Home Fitness personal trainer Hitchin - Tom Ephgrave

Tom Ephgrave


Personal trainer at your home in Hitchin, Letchworth Garden City and surrounding areas - and online wherever you are.

See more