10 things to look for in a personal trainer

According to Toronto personal trainer Barb Gormley the best trainers have a few things in common.
By Barb Gormley
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Hiring a personal trainer is an excellent way to jump-start your motivation and to get moving toward your goals. Start your search by observing the trainers at your club and asking for recommendations. Of course check out their education qualifications (a personal training certification and ideally an exercise science degree or diploma), but don’t stop there. I’ve taught college-level personal training courses and owned my personal training business for 14 years. Along the way I’ve discovered that each of my top-notch colleagues has the following 10 important skills and abilities:

1. Gives you value for your time There’s no standing and watching the clock for one-minute recovery periods between sets. Instead she uses this time to squeeze in a stretch, provide feedback on your technique or perform another exercise with a different muscle group. You won’t feel rushed, just that you’re making good use of your time.

2. Has a laser focus Her eyes never leave you. (Beware of the unengaged trainer whose eyes wander around the gym as she stands silently watching you sweat.)

3. Teaches technique and educates She’s a stickler for top-notch posture and technique, and consistently teaches and cues you during each exercise.

4. Knows your aches and pains She remembers you’re prone to shin splints, have a sore shoulder or loathe the treadmill, and designs your program around the issue — helping to resolve it, if possible.

5. Shares her network When you need a massage therapist, chiropractor, dietitian, bike shop or workout bra, she knows just the right person.


6. Gets creative She doesn’t just stick to machines (they’re easy to learn on your own) and the basics. Instead, she includes interesting combinations of moves, gradually building their complexity and difficulty.

7. Pushes you She encourages you to do more than you would on your own. When you’re finished, you feel strong and exhilarated, not wobbly and exhausted.

8. Keeps it interesting Your program never gets ho-hum because she’s regularly revising, adjusting and refreshing it.

9. Creates a game plan There’s a strategy for getting you to your goal. Along the way she tells you the purpose of each exercise and how it’s moving you forward. She charts your improvement and regularly discusses this with you.

10. Makes you actually look forward to exercising An excellent personal trainer pushes all the right buttons by oozing positive feedback and highlighting your improvements. Or she often comes up with a killer abs sequence or finishes with a stress-reducing stretch, just to name a few. Everything she says and does makes you feel good about yourself and your accomplishments.


Barb Gormley is a certified personal trainer and a freelance health and fitness writer. You can contact her at


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