Despite an incredibly strong avoidance instinct for family board games following a rather traumatic Christmas game of Pictionary, I recently found myself involved in a game of Trivial Pursuit. Now I've always considered myself a fairly well read, well educated, well-travelled kind of guy, and I nailed the Science & Nature and Sport & Leisure categories and my wife absolutely slaughtered Entertainment. However, my wife’s family, possessing less knowledge in one specific area, but a better spread of information, managed to beat us, (although it was a close finish).
So my comparison is this: when choosing a personal trainer, assess the following six ‘Trivial Pursuit’ areas:
Geography: Where have they worked? A trainer who has only worked in a commercial health club is unlikely to have any significant skill in strength and conditioning. Equally, a trainer who’s experience is in bodybuilding gyms is normally less geared towards improving cardiovascular performance. The greater the breadth of exposure (or travel), without ‘job-hopping’, the more likely they are to help you.
History: How much experience have they got? This one’s a little tricky sometimes, because it doesn’t always equate to time in the industry. As Dave Tate once said, you can have 20 years’ experience, but it’s the same year, 20 times over. Alternatively, as my friend Zack Cahill found when he moved to a dedicated personal training studio, he got the equivalent of a years’ experience in his first 4 weeks, because he was surrounded by highly experienced trainers only too willing to share the lessons they’d learnt.
Art and Literature: How well educated are they? Again another tricky one. I know lots of trainers, very certified but supremely unqualified and many trainers incredibly qualified, with very few formal certifications. A good way of assessing this one is to ask them what they’re studying or reading at the moment and how it’s changed or affected what they do. Then go and have a look at what they’re reading/studying and get a feel for how that author or subject has benefit for you.
Entertainment: Do they have a personality you’ll work well with? This is probably the easiest one to assess on a personal level. If you’re a social person, a drill sergeant type trainer may not be a best fit. You should enjoy the time you spend with your trainer as well as benefit from it.
Science and Nature: How technically aware are they? Now this one isn’t necessarily about how many big words they use, in fact it’s likely to be the opposite. The real experts are able to take really complicated concepts and principles and explain them very simply. You may not have enough technical knowledge yourself to assess the accuracy of the information, but you can gauge the confidence and clarity with which it’s delivered.
Sport & Leisure: Do they work out? And if so, can you tell? Now, this doesn’t mean they should look like a fitness model or a bodybuilder, but they should have better body composition than the average Joe/Jane and role model good health. After all, would you want your hair cut by someone who looked like they’d been dragged through a hedge backwards?
So unless you need someone who specialises in a particular area, (or you're just playing using the Science and Nature questions), you need all the cheeses (that’s what I call them anyway),to win the game and to get the best out of your personal trainer.