Personal Trainer Red Flags

February 13, 2014
Kelly Coffey

Warning signs to watch for when working with personal trainers.

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the leap and snag yourself a personal trainer. Before you invest time and money, remember: not all trainers are created equal. Here are some red flags to watch out for when you’re shopping for the right one:

1- It’s YOUR workout.

Does your therapist tell you all about her tragic childhood? Does your doctor listen to her heart after she listens to yours? Is your trainer working out with you so hard that she’s sweating and out of breath?  A good trainer only exercises during a session in order to teach you proper form or to be supportive. This gal is letting you pay her to get her own workout in.

2- Professionals should be professional.

Just because your trainer goes to work in a t-shirt doesn’t exempt her from being professional. Is your trainer unclear about her pricing, policies, or credentials? Does she show up 5 minutes late, having clearly just worked out herself? A good trainer is upfront about costs and policies, respects your time, and is presentable upon arrival. This gal is an opportunistic flake, shoe-horning in some training work ‘cause she happens to be at the gym anyway.

3- Wait, what?

Maybe he’s glancing at his cell phone, looking in the mirror at himself, or checking out the chick on the treadmill. Whatever he’s doing, you can bet he’s not paying attention to what you’re doing. A good trainer has his eyes on you every minute you’re exercising. This guy is a self-obsessed jerk.

4- One size fits some.

Sadly, there’s a good chance your trainer puts you on a machine, counts to twelve, and repeats. If that’s your usual workout, assume she’s on autopilot, taking you through the same script she uses with all her clients. A good trainer asks you what you want to accomplish and then crafts a workout specifically to help get you there. This gal is bored, lazy, or worse – she just doesn’t care.

5- Your body is UH-MAZ-ING.

Well, it is. Has your trainer never told you that? Does he focus on what you can’t do yet, instead of pointing out how strong and capable your body is right now?  A good trainer respects your body, is excited about everything it can do, and helps you feel that same respect and excitement. If you’re not sure how your trainer feels about you and your body, walk away – he’s a jerk who’s likely to do you more harm than good.

A good personal trainer can work wonders, and your time with her can profoundly increase the quality of the life you live outside of the gym. Don’t settle. There’s too many of us out there – you owe it to yourself and your beautiful body to find the right one.


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Showing 8 comments
  • Laura

    This is a great list. I had trainers for 3 years, and oh the drama they put me through for not adhering to these rules or me for not knowing them! It turned me off to trainers for a time, as a result….

    • Coffey

      I’m sorry you had that experience, Laura. Trainers, just like any professionals, can be an incredible resource or an unmitigated pain in the ass – sad you wound up with the latter. We’re not all dolts, I assure you.

  • Abe

    Ms. Coffey, do you do personal training sessions over Google Hangout?

    • Coffey

      Not yet, but when I do, you’ll hear about it if you’re getting updates on FB!

  • Sandra

    I thought hiring a personal trainer was going to be my “ultimate” way to get motivated to get in shape and lose weight. In the beginning she was ok, then it all went downhill. Pushing me to do things that hurt, hurting my back (I have scholiasts), showing up late, checking her phone and saying it was “an important client that had hurt himself”. looking at the tv, etc. I fired her and also complained to the membership lady at the gym her recommended her! I eventually left the fitness center out of disgust. I need to start over at some point. Thanks for listening!

  • Chantel

    I loved this post. I was actually wondering what are some qualities I can look for in my personal trainer to see if they are a good match for me (never had a personal trainer before and just started 2 weeks ago.) My trainer has mapped out a fitness routine just for me and she isn’t a robot, I’ve seen her with other clients and she is always doing something different. She always seems to compliment me as well and always asks about how my diet is going and how my day was (if i am stressed or happy) .. I guess you could say i got luck! The only thing that really irks me is that she is way to busy. She has cancelled two sessions already and we only get to meet once a week. Is this something I should be concerned about?

    • Coffey

      Hard to say. But if she feels like a good fit, and you’re feeling good about your work with her, I’d probably stick it out. Also, it never hurts to talk these things out – just try to be kind and understanding, to tell her how you feel, and to see how she responds. Good for you for putting yourself out there and moving.

  • Irene Robertson

    As a trainer, I have to say this is a great list. I hate when trainers all talk about themselves. What about the client’s needs? Ugh!

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