When to Fire Your Personal Trainer: 4 Red Flags

Look for these four signs that your trainer isn't worth your time or money. Credit: Matthew Leete / Getty Images

Personal training doesn't just cost money, there's also the valuable time you're investing in each session. Life is busy. The hour we can spare focusing on our health and fitness has to count. So if you’re wondering if your personal trainer is worth the investment, look for these four red flags. If your trainer is guilty of one of these, it's time to start looking for a new fitness coach.

Missing Credentials
You’d make sure your dentist or lawyer was licensed, so why not your trainer? With the fitness market so saturated, making sure your trainer is certified is a good way to start to separate the good from the bad. Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) is the best certification, but there are also a lot of great trainers that go through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and American Council on Exercise. Also be cautious of a trainer who gives advice outside of their scope of practice. If your trainer tries to give you nutritional or medical advice without the credentials, steer clear.

Starting Cold
Does your trainer have you jump into your sets or do you go through a warm-up to get your body prepped for your session? An effective warm-up is an important prerequisite to a successful work out. For me, this would include some self-releases and a series of activation exercises like lunges, squats, and calf raises. It would not include stretching. Studies have shown it to actually decrease functional performance. Your trainer should direct you to save the stretching until after your workout. If you’re not warming up or only stretching before your workouts, start looking for a new trainer.

The Wrong Pain
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is up. And there is a difference between normal soreness and injury-related pain. Sharp pain is not something you should feel during a workout. You also shouldn’t feel pain or soreness in your joints. These are signs your body is compensating, possibly performing an exercise incorrectly, or that your body simply isn’t ready for that exercise yet. Pushing through bad pain can lead to injury. A skilled trainer should be able to recognize the difference and give you modifications for your workout.

Feeling Exercises in the Wrong Places
If you are doing a glute exercise then you should feel you glutes and not your quads. If you are doing an ab exercise you should feel it in your abs, not in your back. This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many trainers don’t ask their clients this question during a workout. If you are not feeling an exercise in the right place then this can be another indication of compensation or performing an exercise incorrectly. You can end up with results you weren’t going for, like overdeveloped quads and no glutes, or even hurting yourself.

David Reavy, founder of Chicago-based React Physical Therapy, is the creator of the Reavy Method, a whole-body approach to physical therapy and exercise. Reavy works with numerous pro athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLS, and the WNBA.