By Chris Valuck

One of the first questions I’m asked when a person finds out I’m a personal trainer is: “Why do I need a personal trainer, if I’m not ‘training’ for anything?” That’s a logical question, but it may help to know that trainers work with many different populations, from post-rehab to professional athletes and everything in between. However, not all trainers are created equal. Below are some questions that you may consider asking a trainer to help evaluate whether or not  that particular trainer is qualified to work with you based on your needs.

Before You Call a Personal Trainer.

Think about the following questions before you call a trainer:  What are your goals? What are your expectations of a personal trainer? How frequently would you like to work with a trainer, and what is your budget?

Interviewing The Trainer.

A thorough evaluation of a trainer’s credentials is critical to determine if their skills and abilities are appropriate for your needs.

Unfortunately, the fitness industry (i.e. personal trainers, group fitness instructors, etc.) is not a licensed field, nor is a trainer required to have a degree — or even a certification.  However, a trainer qualified to work with a special population, such as seniors,  should have all, or a combination, of the following: years of experience in the fitness industry working with a senior population, academic achievement in a health-related field (exercise science), and a nationally-respected certification.


There are over 300 fitness certifications, but only three to four that are respected in the industry (ACSM and NSCA being the gold standard). Be sure to ask about certification and ask to see their card. If they worked hard for it, they’ll be proud to show you.

Academic Achievement.

Ideally, look for a trainer with a degree in Exercise Science.  A degree shows commitment to the field, and a trainer with a degree is likely to have a more solid understanding of not only anatomy and physiology, but chronic diseases and disabilities.

Years of Experience in the Industry.

Years of experience is a plus, but sadly, not a guarantee that the trainer is qualified to work any special needs that you may have. So, be specific when you question them about their experience working with a senior population and discuss your specific conditions.

Ask to see it!

A professional trainer should be able to provide proof of a current fitness certification, liability insurance, and CPR certification. Also ask for a copy of their session rate, billing procedure, cancellation policy, and hours of availability.  Lastly, ask for client references (and then actually call them).  Calling a reference will help to determine whether the trainer has the experience you require for your special needs. If they can’t produce these documents or provide references, walk away. It’s a red flag.


So, you’ve interviewed them and they seem qualified, but now ask yourself: do you like them? Can you see yourself working closely with them? What is their communication style? If the trainer is super-high energy and you want someone who is low key and clam, move on, because you won’t be compatible.

The First Session.

Before your first session, your trainer should request your permission to send a medical clearance to your doctor(s). Once they have this, it’s their turn to interview and evaluate you! You should expect that your trainer will request that you first sign a consent/waiver prior to the evaluation, and that you complete a thorough medical and exercise history.  At a minimum, your evaluation will consist of a strength, flexibility, and balance assessment. The results of these tests will help the trainer develop an appropriate program for you.

The Bottom Line.

Whether you hire a trainer to improve balance, muscular strength, or cardiovascular endurance, your trainer should provide ongoing motivation, education, and regular

re-evaluations to assess progress and monitor health conditions. In turn, you will be asked for compliance, and to provide regular feedback to help your trainer tailor each session to your needs. Whether you work with a trainer short or long-term , another considerable benefit is the improved self-efficacy that results in working with a trainer to enhance your well-being.