If you want expert help to get fit, a personal trainer can be invaluable. Here’s how to find the best one for you.

It’s that time of year where we start to consider our health more than ever. And if you’ve got a specific fitness goal in mind for 2020 you might be tempted to enlist the help of a personal trainer.

They can be a fantastic resource to help you perfect your technique, avoid injuries and stay motivated. But the clue is in the name. ‘Personal trainers should be exactly that: personal,’says PT and wellbeing coach Nolan Sunnassee (onlinepersonaltraining.tv)

‘It’s important to find one who works well with you and doesn’t follow a generic template.’

So how can you find the individual who’s best for you? Draw up a list of likely candidates and arrange to see them to find out more. This list of questions is a good place to start.

Do they need certain qualifications?

Yes – there are four levels of qualification in areas such as Fitness Instructing and Personal Training in the UK.

As you’d imagine, the higher the level, the more experienced that person is. Some form of qualification should be the baseline, but you must still reserve judgement.

‘These qualifications are available from a wide range of providers, and not all are created equal,’ says Nolan. ‘Lots of trainers are fit, but lack real skills in coaching – just like a football player wouldn’t necessarily make a good manager. I’d also be keen to look for someone with corrective exercise qualifications, which should help prevent injuries.’

What sort of research should I do?

Doing your homework is important when it comes to picking a PT. ‘Have a look at their website,’ says Nolan. ‘It’s worth reading testimonials, and if they train people at your gym, see if you can actually speak to some of their clients.

‘Look for someone who trains a wide range of clients, too – it’s important to get on with different people as well as being able to tailor sessions to different people’s needs.’

What should I expect from a consultation?

Initial consultations are a crucial step in deciding whether a potential trainer is a good fit. ‘The most important thing they should do in the first meeting is look at how you move,’ says Nolan.

‘It’s good for assessing potential injuries. Not every exercise is suitable for everybody, and you want someone who’s thinking about what you need rather than following ego-led workouts. All of this should then feed into the programme they write for you – everything on there should relate directly to you and your body. You should be able to ask ‘why is this relevant to me?’ and they should have an answer for every single move.’

What should they ask me?

Brace yourself – a good consultation digs deep into your personal life! ‘They should be trying to find out as much as possible about you and your lifestyle: any medical issues; how well you sleep; your nutrition; and your goals,’ says Nolan.

‘Good trainers look to improve your life outside of the gym as well, as it all feeds back into how well you’re able to move and recover. They should also take an interest in what exercise you’ve done previously, as this will have formed habits in how you move.’

Should I have a goal in mind?

Think about why you’re tempted by a PT and make sure you let them know what you’re aiming towards.

‘It can certainly help to direct training if you have a tangible goal.  That could be a sporting event or a certain weight-loss target,’ says Nolan. ‘That said, some people just want to feel better, or are simply concerned about mobility.

‘Either way, you should be able to talk candidly with a trainer and together come up with a target that’s right for you.’

What do I need to avoid?

‘Beware any trainer who gives all their clients the same workout, or trains clients exactly the same way that they themselves work out,’ says Nolan. This will mean the workout isn’t tailored to you.

A PT is ultimately someone you’re set to have an intimate relationship with – as well as spend a lot of money on. So the most important thing is finding one whose company you enjoy and who shares and respects your specific ambitions.

If your new year fitness plans have resulted in injury, take a look at our tips on dealing with this common fitness snag.