These days, there are a lot of people claiming to be the best personal trainer. It doesn’t take a genius to know that not all of these great looking ladies and gentlemen are telling the truth. Some are certainly bound to be worth their salt; but many more are not, leading the smart consumer to need better ways to determine who constitutes a quality professional fitness trainer that provides great service and who does not.

Below, we’ll discuss some of the most important characteristics personal trainers must possess if they’re really to help their clients achieve goals and get where they want to go. If you’re an aspiring fitness junkie who needs someone to oversee your progress and help you with your goals, then this article is for you. If you’re a personal trainer looking for inspiration and wondering what your clients are looking for, take note as well.

Enthusiasm, expertise, patience, intensity and ability to connect are all Crucial Traits of Personal Trainers. Let’s take a look at each of these traits, as well as some questions to help you determine whether your personal trainer is going to get the job done.

1. Enthusiasm: Is the Personal Trainer Inspiring and Motivating?

Let’s face it: Getting fit isn’t always a cakewalk. Often, it’s downright sweaty, dirty, grueling, backbreaking and even dispiriting. Knowing that, it’s crucial you find a personal trainer who knows how to keep your workouts fun and exciting.

Luckily, the best personal trainers love the sweet spot between ability and stretch, where you’re a little uncomfortable but not so far out of your comfort zone you can’t handle it any more. This is where a great personal trainer comes in, offering inspiration and motivation to get you to the next level.

A Personal Relationship

Does your Trainer Put The Personal in Personal Trainer? Of course, in order to inspire and motivate you, your trainer has to know what already makes you tick. Maybe you want to get fit for a trip to Mexico with your significant other or spouse. Possibly you want a new body for your kid’s sake, so they’ll have a great role model to look up to. Or perhaps you just want to look and feel your best, and you know you need the help of an expert in both fitness and diet to get there.

Whatever lights a fire under you, you need a trainer who can learn this information and put it to use in the best way possible: not to bring you down when you haven’t hit your goals, but to prop you up by reminding you why you’re here in the first place. This might require you and the trainer to have somewhat similar personalities. After all, what looks like high-power enthusiasm to one person might look like nagging to another; what looks like gentle prompting to someone else might look like wishy-washiness to you. And so on.

The best way to get around such issues is to meet with your new trainer before you start working together, and then give it several trial runs before deciding whether or not you fit. Doing so will help both of you get closer to a good working relationship, or can point out a personality disconnect that will point you in the direction of seeking a different trainer.

2. Expertise: Does the Trainer Know What They’re Talking About and Apply It to Their Own Life?

This may just be the most important aspect of an effective personal trainer. Unfortunately, all too many people who promise you great results aren’t getting them themselves. Maybe they have a small beer gut on top of their supposed six pack, or lack muscle definition in their arms. These flaws, while perfectly human, don’t highlight the trainer as someone who a) knows how to get results, or worse, b) knows what they’re talking about at all. Let’s look at these potential problems one by one, and talk about what a real personal trainer should offer you.

Knowledge Is Power … And Fitness

First and foremost, if your personal trainer doesn’t have the type of body you associate with someone who is fit and healthy, this might cause you to question whether or not they actually know how to get results, and rightly so. Effective personal training is a combination of advice regarding diet and exercise, willpower and its conservation (yes, it is a finite resource!), and the most effective workout tips and strategies. If they have the know-how but aren’t applying it, then something is wrong.

Of course, it’s always possible that someone might call himself or herself a trainer but actually lack the necessary knowledge altogether. Although people frequently treat the term loosely, personal training is actually a title, which requires education and a real certificate. Those who simply book a spot at a gym and start taking clients are robbing those clients of the expertise, knowledge and safety tips gained from months of study and work.

Ask the Right Questions

So before you choose a personal trainer to help you reach your fitness goals, ask them two things. Firstly, find out where they studied to get their certificates. Many online programs provide great results, so there’s no need to discount this. More important is that they studied at all, and earned their certification. Next, assess the personal trainer’s physique: do they have the type of body you would like to have one day? Do you see them working out when you’re in the gym sometimes? Have you seen them with other clients? Affirmative answers to these questions indicate that your potential trainer is a good one to work with.

3. Patience: Can the Trainer Make You Progress at a Good Amount of Time Without Injury?

Personal training is about much more than simply telling a person to do a certain set of exercises and then standing back with folded arms. If that was all you needed, you could pick up any of a thousand DVDs and have six-pack abs in a matter of months. Most likely, if you’re reading this article about how to find the best personal trainer, that hasn’t happened yet.

Because here’s the thing: Everyday life gets in the way all the time. Too often, we’ll think we’re nearing a breakthrough, only to find that we’re injured, we’re tired, we have a family crisis, we have to stay late at work, we miss a night’s sleep, and so on and so on. We shouldn’t use such occurrences as excuses not to do our best, that’s true; but if a personal trainer simply yells at you about your laziness, what are you going to do? Give up or move on, most likely.

Experience and The Right Attitude

Instead, you need someone who approaches fitness with the healthiest possible attitude. Someone who realizes that such things do happen, and they genuinely do interrupt our plans and set us back, but who refuses to judge. On the other hand, a good personal trainer will never undersign the declaration that one mistake or misfortune should define an entire week, or month. They’ll tell you gently but firmly that the only response to falling off the horse is to get right back on it.

This is where a personal trainer’s expertise can also be enormously helpful. Most people are understandably upset when they kill a great workout streak, or ruin a diet with an ill-timed cake session, or blow their whole plan while on vacation. This leads many to collapse, sinking back into inertia and sapping motivation. That’s no good.

A personal trainer will share the secrets of bouncing back from a serious binge, or getting back onto the treadmill or the track after two weeks away. They can offer tried-and-true strategies about how to overcome the hump that quickly forms with a few days’ inattention to your goals, in a productive and kind way. If you’re concerned about finding a personal trainer who can do this, simply ask before you start working together. Possible questions include:

What is your approach to breaks in routine, binges or other mistakes?
How will you help motivate me after I slip up?
What will your role be when I don’t meet my goals?
Obviously a personal trainer cannot take responsibility for your actions or choices. Only you can. But they can help you respond to those mistakes or unplanned occurrences by being as supportive and helpful as possible.

4. Intensity: Does the Trainer Posses the Ability to Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone To Achieve a Level of Intensity That Will Overall Dictate Your Succcess? ?

Remember above, when we were talking about that sweet spot between “I’ve totally got this” and “holy cow, I’m not sure if I can pull this off”? Yeah, that spot. Well, that’s kind of a tough spot to get to, especially when you train on your own. In that case, it’s likely that you’ll find a rhythm and stick to it. If you run, for instance, you might develop a route that you like and take it every time you train. If you lift, you might do the same sets and number of reps and intensity every time you hit the weight room. While these are active and heart-healthy pastimes, they won’t necessarily help you break plateaus or hit your peak fitness goals.

Red Lining Past the Comfort Zone

That’s why you need a personal trainer who can help you operate just on the cusp of your comfort zone. This is where major gains are made in fitness. Pushing just a little past your point of familiarity can result in major gains. This might look like:

A runner tacking an extra mile onto their normal routine or upping their speed to practice handling discomfort
A weightlifter trying a new exercise, rather than simply adding a bit of weight to a familiar one
A fad dieter ditching the crazy diet plans and simply cutting out dairy, or sweets or another group for a time
A walker adding a big hill to their daily rounds
A solo exerciser trying team sports as a motivator
A Safe Break in Routine

Of course, these are just a few ways you can break out of your comfort zone. The thing is, if you and only you are designing your workouts, chances are you might break out once in a while, but soon enough you’ll fall into a new comfortable routine which dulls the effects that novelty bring.

That’s where a personal trainer comes in. They can design new plans for you all the time, without having to perform a lot of extra research (although the good ones often do). Each time you begin to master a certain activity or hit a plateau, your personal trainer can step in with a new way for you to bust past this point and achieve new heights.

Plus, they can do it safely, which is a point not to be underestimated. Exercisers often find that if they up their weight set themselves, or jump into a new running routine without planning, or go all out on the yoga mat, that the result is more often injury than success. Personal trainers know how to get you where you need to go without risking your long-term health or comfort.

5. Connection: Can the Trainer Relate to and Empathize With Others?

A great personal trainer, as discussed above, should be upbeat and fit. Their personal motivation and sculpted body speaks volumes for their ability to transfer their knowledge and enthusiasm to you, their protégé and aspiring health nut.

However, if not played correctly, this can create a problem. Because personal trainers value fitness so much, and because the successful ones obviously have the required determination and willpower to accomplish their goals, some trainers may look down on people of more average body types or habits. If you’re one of those people, this could definitely result in a personality clash, not to mention hurt feelings and a train on motivation that may sometimes seem tenuous enough as it is.

Empathy Is Key

When it comes right down to it, hiring a personal trainer is about bringing someone into your life who can be the angel on your shoulder when you can’t. Sure, you’re paying them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll automatically be a perfect fit with your personality and preferences.

Instead of assuming they will be, and suffering the consequences when you discover your trainer lacks the kind of empathy or kindness you need to succeed, simply be honest. Tell your potential trainer what you’re looking for and what your end goals are (which may not always involve a perfect body, but rather more strength or healthier bones or a better diet). Share what motivates you and what does not. Be upfront about the kinds of behaviors you find off-putting, and stand your ground. There are plenty of personal trainers in the world, and you don’t need to work with someone who won’t respect you or your style of getting fit.

Of course, you don’t want someone who will just pad your ego. Rather, you’re looking for a partnership that will get results, encourage you to do your best, and fill you with the necessary incentive to keep going, day after day.

The Bottom Line

Finding a personal trainer (or becoming one) isn’t easy, but these qualities are crucial to keep in mind. A good trainer will possess the enthusiasm to motivate you in tough times, the expertise to help you become fit and to do so themselves, the patience to handle obstacles and setbacks without falling apart, the intensity to push you beyond your normal comfort zone, and an ability to connect that forges a relationship between the two of you that is based on compassion and mutual respect.

If you can find a trainer with these qualities, stick with them. That’s not to say that doing so will be difficult. To the contrary, there are many excellent trainers in the world and you should be able to find one with just a little research. But honor yourself enough to know that if you aren’t getting what you need from your trainer, it’s okay to move on and find someone who does provide what you’re looking for.

This journey is all about you, baby. Don’t forget it.