Finding a personal trainer seems like it should be an easy task—after all, health clubs have plenty in stock these days. But pairing up with a like-minded fitness leader can be like dialing a dating service. "A good trainer should be able to create a personalized program and adapt it to clients' changing needs," says Tom Marshall, a personal trainer at The Sports Club/LA in Los Angeles. "To do that, you have to know how to motivate your client, no matter what personality you're dealing with."
Vaughn Marxhausen, C.S.C.S. (certified strength and conditioning specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association), of the Houstonian Health Club in Houston, agrees. As director of personal training, he's in charge of "distributing" clients to different trainers—in effect, trying to match or complement personalities. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't; but in the end, we almost always end up with a good match." Here, he explains how he would approach several different personality types. See which category you fall into—and where your current workout program may be falling short.
These personalities would probably work best with someone who isn't overbearing. "I would try to be more empathetic," says Marxhausen. "Maybe they've never worked out before; maybe they're intimidated by it. I'd try to put myself in their shoes." Whatever workout the trainer devises, it shouldn't call a lot of attention to the client. For example, it might be better to put the client through his or her exercises in an empty aerobics room rather than in the middle of the weight room.
This person needs a trainer who will change the workout every time. "I'd do some fun, wacky stuff that the client's probably not doing on his or her own," suggests Marxhausen. Circuit training is an excellent way to keep cardio and weight routines fresh. One of the key reasons people stop working out is boredom, so it's the trainer's responsibility to keep things new and different while still providing tangible results—sooner rather than later.
Type As tend to be rigid, schedule-following, hard-driving individuals, so the most important thing to look for is a reliable, high-energy trainer who's ready to go when you are and won't waste your time, says Marxhausen. "In general, I think Type As like to be seen, so I'd keep them doing new and innovative things that other people might come over and ask about." He also suggests taking Pilates or yoga classes, both of which emphasize breathing, to help de-stress.
"I'd have the client come in for half-hour sessions so they don't have to focus for too long," says Marxhausen. "I'd also ask a lot of questions to figure out what they really like doing." For example, some people go to the gym and say they want to run on the treadmill or ride the bike because they've heard those activities burn the most calories, but they really don't like those exercises. Yoga is another good pursuit for the scattered mind, since it helps with focus.
This personality needs a trainer with a lot of patience who can inform and educate the client. "They may want to lose 10 pounds of fat or gain 10 pounds of muscle, but if they don't get results in a week, they give up," explains Marxhausen. "You have to find someone who can educate the client about the process." The trainer should set shorter-term goals that the client can reach to keep him/her motivated on the way to the ultimate goal. "I'd suggest a periodized schedule, where each week or so you're working on different things, such as muscle endurance, strength, power."
Type A or Type Z, Marshall says there are a few things you should always look for in a trainer:
He or she should have a degree in exercise physiology or something similar, or certification from a recognized governing body (e.g., American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, American College of Exercise). Don't be afraid to ask for a resume; a good trainer will have one.
Accountability, consistency, reliability:
Your trainer should be serious about his or her job. If she shows up late or ignores your concerns, move on. Your trainer should be serious about what he or she does.
Patience, good listening skills:
If your trainer does more talking than you do on your first visit, beware. This approach may be more about what the trainer thinks you should be doing instead of what you would like to accomplish.
Knowledge of other health and fitness disciplines:
Even if a trainer doesn't teach yoga, he or she should know the benefits of it. Anyone who preaches one, and only one, routine isn't seeing the whole picture. Beware the trainer, though, who tries to give you nutritional advice beyond the basics of healthy eating, unless he or she is a registered dietitian.