I lucked out because I found a personal trainer I enjoy working with and who has helped me become stronger, more physically fit, and more confident.

I’ve been going to Andy Wight at AW Strength & Conditioning on average twice a week for the past eight months. It’s not a gym filled with lots of machines — the only hard working machine when I’m there is me!

There were days, in the beginning, when I confess I had to coax myself to go. I quickly discovered the rewards that came with sticking with my new routine. I always leave in a good mood and with renewed energy.

Now, it would never occur to me to skip without a darn good reason. Like when I spent two lazy weeks upta camp. The main thing I looked forward to when we got home was my Monday morning appointment with Andy.

How to choose the right personal trainer

Working with a personal trainer has been a fitness trend for years. These days, however, there are more trainers out there in general, and more trainers who have a formal education.

According to the Department of Labor, almost all fitness trainers and instructors have at least a high school diploma. More and more people in the field, especially personal trainers, also have a college degree related to the health or fitness field. In many cases, to work in a gym or fitness facility, they also need additional certification.

Here’s what Andy told me about his education: “I have a four-year sports medicine degree with a concentration in exercise science from Merrimack College. I carry multiple certifications and I do a lot of continuing education — going to seminars and learning from people who are at the top of the field.”

When you’re looking for a personal trainer, education and background are important things to ask about, so I’ll put that at the top of the list. But there are other, equally important things to know.

  • Ask for credentials — such as education, certifications.
  • Figure out what you want to accomplish. I wanted to be stronger and feel more confident. You may want to train for a marathon.
  • Find out what’s available in your area. Ask friends for recommendations; do an online search; check out reviews; visit facilities; talk to the personal trainers.
  • Make sure you understand what you’ll get and for how much.

How do you know you’ve made the right choice?

“A lot of personal training is the connection between you and the trainer,” says Andy. “Having a good working relationship is always key.”

Here are some other things to consider:

  • You feel comfortable and safe
  • You feel listened to and supported
  • You feel challenged
  • You’re making progress
  • You look forward to each session
  • You’re happy

How do you know if you’ve made the wrong choice?

“If you feel like your workouts are stale, you’re not seeing any improvement, that’s the big one,” says Andy. “Your goal is to get better every time you work out and you want to see changes. It may take a while, but if you’ve been staying at the same level and not improving at all, then you should reevaluate. It’s always good to question what you’re doing and why.”

Here are some other things that might mean you’ve made the wrong choice:

  • You feel embarrassed, ashamed or judged
  • You don’t feel at all motivated
  • You’re in pain but your trainer urges you to move through it
  • He/she is often talking to other people instead of you or on the phone
  • You hardly ever understand what you’re supposed to do
  • The trainer gets too personal or invades your space
  • You’re not learning anything new
  • There doesn’t seem to be any thought or planning to your sessions
  • There’s no flexibility — their way or the highway
  • Your gut tells you it’s not a good fit

The most important thing I’ve learned is that it’s a partnership. A good trainer will guide you, but you have to be willing to follow and to give it your all. Not everyone is interested in having a personal trainer, but for right now, it works for me and it works well.

Do you work with a personal trainer? It’s a commitment — of time and money. Nobody wants to waste either. Do you have any tips or pros and cons to share?