5 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Fitness Coach
1) Why are you looking to hire a fitness coach in the first place?
Is it to tell you what you want to hear?
Is it to scream at you while you exercise and smack pizza out of your hands?
Is it because you think the simple act of paying somebody to tell you what to do is going to get you results?
Or is it because you're at wits-end trying to get yourself from "A" to "B," or at least "not A;" haven't been able to do it yourself, and are starting to realize that you might need some help?
Start with why.
2) What is their philosophy of training?
A coach's job--first and foremost--is to get you to your goals, not their goals for you.
Watch out for coaches who take it upon themselves to tell you what your goals should be, rather than helping you formulate them yourself.
But even that isn't deep enough. When you ask them about their training philosophy, make sure that it's something deeper than "to get you to your goals."
Of course a good coach's goal is to get you to your goals...at least it had better be.
But if that's all they're willing to say, they probably haven't even developed a training philosophy.
That likely means that they aren't on the path to mastery of their craft.
They probably aren't very passionate about the profession.
They may just be somebody who enjoys fitness and thinks that training others on the side is a good way to make some extra cash.
Find yourself someone who cares enough to have developed their own philosophy of fitness.
3) What are their qualifications?
This doesn't necessarily mean that they have to have certifications up the wazoo.
There are plenty of shitty "coaches" who compensate for their lack of skill and genuine caring by trying to dazzle you with all of the certifications that they hold.
...But do they have experience working with people like you? And if not...will they admit to it?
More importantly--have they gotten results for people like you? And if not...will they admit to it?
I've known coaches with no degrees and minimal (if any) certifications who are considered world-class at what they do.
I've also known coaches who flaunt their 30-different certifications but don't know how to apply any of it except for the "way they've been doing it for years."
Generally, the more somebody flaunts their education and certifications, the more skeptical of them I am. Most fitness certifications are a joke, anyway. A few hundred (or thousand) dollars and a weekend, and BOOM--you're certified in (insert fitness thing here).
I'm not knocking continued education here. Continuous learning and development are core values of any good coach...but let's not mistake "more" for "better."
Just because somebody has taken in a metric butt-ton of information doesn't mean that they know how to apply it. And if they can't apply it--you can bet that they've forgotten most of it, anyway.
Those certification courses may as well have happened in a drunken stupor in their early twenties--perhaps there's some vague recollection of what happened, but all they really remember is the hand they broke from punching a wall.
4) Does the way they communicate work for you?
Communication is an essential component of any effective coaching relationship.
Without effective communication, we can't build a solid coaching relationship.
Without a solid coaching relationship, you're not going to do what your coach asks you to do.
You might even do things they tell you that you shouldn't do. And then you might even lie to them about it, because you don't trust them enough to open up.
This leads them trying to make adjustments that may or may not be helpful (because they're based on a lack of truthful communication), you not getting the results you're paying for, and both of you becoming frustrated with and possibly even resenting the whole experience.
Make sure that you get "good vibes" from whoever you choose to be your coach. If you can't buy in to their philosophy and methodology, there's no point in working together.
5) What is your budget?
"You get what you pay for" hasn't become a universally-understood phrase for no reason. And it's just as true in the realm of fitness coaching as it is anywhere else. Good coaching isn't cheap. Great coaching even less-so.
Bargains are great when you're shopping for wine to bring to a get-together and you get a discount for purchasing more than one bottle. The quality of the wine is the same either way.
I'd be wary of bargain hunting for fitness coaching. Any coach worth their salt isn't going to be so desperate for clientele that they're willing to charge less than they're worth.
Good coaches cost more than most of us are willing (or able) to pay. And unfortunately, so do the bad ones.
The good news is that you don't need a coach to help you make improvements to your health, fitness, and life in general. Sure--we can help by significantly shortcutting the process for you--but at the end of the day, you're the one who has to put in the work.
Don't underestimate what you can accomplish with a strong purpose and the readiness, willingness, and ability to make yourself better.
Personal Training Not In Your Budget?
No worries! Like I mentioned earlier, hiring a fitness coach isn't absolutely essential to getting you to your goals. And while working with an experienced professional can drastically shortcut the process for you, it isn't the only way to avoid costly mistakes.
I'm currently working on putting a guide together to help folks who are just getting started with fitness (or have been at it for a while, but aren't getting the results they want) build up their foundation of healthy habits so they can not only make the changes they want to see in their body, but keep them once the changes have been made.
It'll include daily practices for you to incorporate into your life so that you can build the skills and habits you need to maintain your fitness for a lifetime.
I'm creating this specifically for people who are looking for the guidance of working with a passionate, experienced fitness coach but can't make it work due to financial concerns, timing issues, etc.
If you want to get updates on how it's coming along and when it will be available, sign up here:
Here's a preview from the introductory section:
Why Start Strong
When I was training and competing in powerlifting with Team Super Training, one of the first things they taught me was the lesson about finishing a lift.
I was a young lifter—both in age and in experience. Y’know the Socratic paradox, “the only thing I know is that I know nothing?”
At 19, that wasn’t me. I was invincible and I was going to claim all of the world records in the 165 pound weight class…or so I thought.
I thought I knew a lot back then, but in reality, I just didn’t realize how much I didn’t know. The more I reflect on that time, the more clearly I can see how true that was.
Back then, my favorite of the powerlifts was the deadlift.
I loved the simplicity of it—pick it up, put it down.
I loved how it felt—like EVERYTHING in my entire body was firing at full capacity and my face was going to explode.
And, most of all, I loved that it allowed me to move the most amount of weight possible. At 19 years old, 5’5” and 165lbs…there is an enormous room for ego; perhaps even more-so than for average and above-averaged sized folks.
I had “developed” a certain “technique” for picking heavy weights up off of the ground. If you can’t read the sarcasm yet, imagine “developed” and “technique” in air quotes and you’ll start to see where this is going.
If by “developed” and “technique” I mean that I allowed my body to compensate for my extreme lack of body awareness and strength in the right areas and instead took the path of least resistance, then yes—I “developed” something.
I don’t know how familiar you are with the “millennial mindset,” but imagine getting the internet around the age of 8. Where once you had to go to the library and use the Dewey decimal system to do research for your book reports, you now had access to the World Wide Web where you could access whatever information you wanted in a fraction of the time.
Pair that with our survival instincts to pursue pleasure (in my case—more weight on the bar); avoid pain (less weight on the bar); a dash of nihilism (I had a religious upbringing, but denounced theology around age 5 and never replaced it with anything meaningful); and maybe just a splash of ADHD.
One of the results of all of that is a kid who wants to lift ALL OF THE WEIGHT, yesterday. No patience, no attention to the long-term process…all I could see was what I wanted to see.
I don’t know how familiar you are with heavy barbell deadlifts, but there’s a lot more too them than “pick it up, put it down.” There’s a whole set-up process that the lifter must go through—a mental and physical checklist of cues, muscles to engage, and “extra” noise to quiet down before actually picking it up.
Wait…did I say a process that the lifter must go through? I meant that there’s a process you must go through…if you want to be good.
“How you start is how you finish,” my teammates/coaches would tell me, in some form or another, on more occasions than I can recount. They told me often because I was either too stupid or too stubborn to really get what they meant.
Back then, I would literally just pick it up and put it down. No attention to the set-up, no attention to the process, no attention to anything except my hype game and whether I made the lift.
My first 500 pound deadlift happened with a rounded back. It FLEW off of the ground with such speed that I knew, as long as I could hold on to the bar, I could lock it out. Once the bar got to my knees, it felt like I was pulling through quicksand. Stubborn as I was (and with all of my teammates and coaches watching me take my first crack at 500), I held on and kept pulling. Eventually I locked it out and put it back down.
In that moment, I was proud of myself. I had accomplished something that not long before, I didn’t dream was possible. This was a major milestone on my way to pulling world record weights…or so I thought.
For the rest of my time at Super Training, I don’t think I ever pulled 500lbs off of the ground in competition (which is ultimately what a powerlifter trains for). I came close…479, 481, 484…but never 500 again. I hit a wall. I found my limit. I’d gone about as far as the “technique” that I “developed” would allow me to get.
Our bodies will only tolerate so much of our shenanigans before it starts to put us in check for the sake of self preservation. If I had kept hammering away at the heavy weights without ever realizing that I needed to start from scratch and build up my foundation, I’m sure that I would have screwed my back and body up a lot more than I actually ended up doing.
I’ve still had my share of injuries—from partially dislocating my shoulder while benching without a spotter and continuing the training session anyway, to throwing out my back while squatting and using muscle relaxers and a cane to get out of bed for a week—all stemming in some form from my stubborn pig-headedness and desire to continue training beyond my body’s ability to keep pace with what I was asking of it.
It wasn’t until I matured as a lifter and as a person that I started developing the body awareness and the “foundations of fitness” that I have now.
I’ve come to realize that the quicker progress is made, the faster it fades—so I take my time with building new habits and training for new skills.
Rather than freaking out about how much progress I’m not making, I focus on the small daily practices that become the habits that enhance my life.
I’ve learned that how we do some things is how we do everything, and that every area of our lives spill over into every other area of our lives.
What we do matters. What we do now matters. We can make the time to set up our foundation—slow and meticulous as it may be—or we can cut corners, skip steps, and rush the process like a 19-year old millennial with an ego complex and ADHD.
One of these paths will yield incredible results over a lifetime and the accomplishment of feats that you never dreamed were possible for you.
The other, while far more tempting, leads to short-term gain and long-term pain.
Take it from someone who has been there, and who wishes he would have taken it from many other folks who have been there as well—there is no need to rush this process. Treat your fitness as if it were something that you were going to be doing for a lifetime. That’s how long you’re here for.
Perhaps the most dramatic (and important) realization for me has been this: it doesn’t have to suck.
Fitness, whatever stage of it you’re in, can actually be enjoyable. I’d actually argue that it should be enjoyable. Because if it’s enjoyable and personally fulfilling, we’re more likely to stick with it. We can engrain the habit of consistency simply by enjoying what the heck we’re doing, and as you’ll see in the following chapters, there are plenty of ways to improve your overall fitness without hating it.
As you practice, if you find yourself wanting to skip ahead and just “get to the meal plans and advanced burpee variations already,” remember—how you start is how you finish. Make the time to build your foundation deep and strong. If you do it well, everything that follows will come easier and last longer.
Give yourself the gift.