How to choose the coach that’s right for you

Someone likes a coach like this!
Someone likes a coach like this!

Everyone is looking for something unique in their trainer/coach.  I have been a trainer/coach for 36 years. I’ve been mentored by some of the best in the fitness industry.  I’ve also come in contact with some of the most cringe worthy coaches imaginable.

My goal with this post is to give you a few insights on  how to look at your potential coach/trainer and make the best decision.  I’m not covering certifications. I’m giving you a few things that maybe you didn’t think about.
What training experience do you want?

Fun, brutal, competitive?  This is all about YOU.

I watched a training session with a coach  who refused his client any water  until he “allowed” her to have it.  He screamed in her face that she was to “sound off” during her burpees or she would have to keep doing them.   This client  was a deconditioned 40 year old woman who looked miserable in her workout experience.  This trainer might be a good fit for someone but this woman was not motivated in the slightest.  Frustration and defeat on her face, she needed a different style of trainer to feel successful.

Encouragement or browbeating? I can’t stand coaches who tell their clients they are losers to ‘motivate’ them.
We all need successes!  If you want someone who will encourage you, not beat your self your homework.

What do YOU need to be successful?

Accountability. Many clients want accountability.  How is your trainer/coach set for that?   What is required of you? Do you agree with the check in schedule? If you are someone who will blow off your check ins, don’t hire a coach who does it.  It’s not a good match.
If you want accountability, be accountable. Commit to your coach and complete the project!  Many coaches end contracts with clients who don’t check in.  No coach should have to chase you down for a check in if you agreed to the schedule.  Think hard, before you commit then commit! It’s worth it!

What does your coach do for you? If you are an online client or meet your coach for progress check ins, what will you get in return?

Do you want a coach that sends you very little feedback or do you want someone who is involved in your progress?
Do you want someone who will work WITH you to develop the best ways to progress or do you want a guru who knows everything and you just follow blindly. If you are a follower, do your homework and make sure you have some solid trust in this person and they know what they are doing.

Workouts: Is your coach giving everyone the exact same cookie cutter workout every two weeks? Is your coach building your workouts around your progress pics or check ins?  Is your coach old school and gives you the same workout that you will do for 3 full months?   This is where you need to decide what keeps you motivated.

Know it alls.
Throughout my 35 years training  clients, I have come to understand that no two people have exactly the same results from exactly the same workouts food plans.  Yes.. there is a tweaking progress.   I learn something new every single day which makes me better at my job. Working with 1000’s of clients over the years, gives me a lot of understanding!  However, I definitely get new information from my clients all the time!  What I believed two years ago is different and I’m ok with that.  There is room to learn and grow!  I work with amazing mentors because getting better at my job is best practice for my clients!

If you are hiring someone who claims to know everything there is to know and doesn’t need  any continuing education, I might be wary of this.  Voices that resonate give me pause.
If you buy into hype, you may suffer in your training experience.

Practicality! The Basics

Progressions. Your coach isn’t there to hold your hand, but..does your trainer teach you how to modify workouts based on your fitness level? Does he/she expect you to preform at elite level immediately. This happens!

My coach gave me stepmill level 12 double stepping for 40 min. I just started with him. Please tell me this will get easier”. Facebook post

Progressions and Regressions are very important. If you are starting with a new coach they should give you modifications based on you. Your cardio intensity should be based on your own zones.  For safety, and program success , progressions make sense.

Not everyone is a level elite every single day. If you are on cold medicine you should be working at level 1. That is safe and SMART.   Without the ability to have progressions and regressions, you may feel frustrated with your training experience.
What kind of meal plan do you want?
I train, fitness seekers, competitors, and brides! Each of those groups have different physique goals. What they have in common is they  all need a meal plan that works for their goals and they can do consistently.

What I have learned is the My way or the Highway meal plans are  roads to Restrict/ Binge.  I’ve seen it year after year.  Lifestyle meal plans are NOT the same as I need ripped up abs 24/7/365 or competitor prep.

The secret is…

For lifestyle/off season

The meal plan you should be on is the one you see yourself on in a year.  It should be livable.

Yep.. I get you Biebs.
Yep.. I get you Biebs.

Are you interested in living only on TCF  (Turkey, chicken Fish) and NO options for eating out?  You will easily find a Bro-science coach that will accommodate you.. I bought into that for a very long time, but found my clients really suffered the same as I did. It’s not fun. I hate clean eating and binges are bad for your physique. But if you are prepared to stick to  zero flexibility.. go with God. Go Bro.

This is me.. This doesn't work for me anymore.
This is me.. This doesn’t work for me anymore.

Your responsibility. If you ask about your meal plan and it’s the same for everyone, that’s not right. If they won’t tell you, that’s not right. Also, if you hire a Bro coach, don’t post their meal plans asking if it’s “ok”   Hire someone you trust. If you aren’t willing to follow the plan he hands you, then why did you hire this person? Asking Facebook if it’s ok will get  50 different answers. If you  have issues with your meal plan, ask your coach. You pay them! I’m just saying, you signed up for that plan.
Remember, many coaches will void your contract/plan if you post their plans. I agree with this!  Get all the information before you hire them.

Flexible dieting
Are you interested in Flexible dieting?  You can find the right coach to help you transition into macro counting. Macro counting offers you no limit on options, yet you must hit your own macros (protein, carbs, fats and fiber) within 5 grams each day. It’s my diet of choice but some clients struggle with too many choices. There is a learning curve but over all, you can live in a lifestyle that suits you and your tastes.


The others: Some trainers/coaches don’t do food for you so you may be a lifetime Weight Watchers person. Or maybe you have found your own way with Myfitnesspal’s guided meal plan.  Be sure your trainer is aware of your nutrition so you can fuel according to your workouts.

If your plan includes “meal plan, workouts” and it’s super cheap, it’s most likely a cookie cutter plan.  We aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but when your entire team of athletes have exactly the same week by week plans, be wary.  You aren’t getting the personal attention you need.  Cheaper isn’t better!  Facebook has horror stories of people who don’t get help from their coaches after they pay in full for prep programs. Do your homework.

Response time: My first coach on the LV bikini team allowed 1 question per week through email. They would respond in 3-5 days and you must put “question” in the subject. You would not receive anymore information than the answer to that exact question because the plan was handed to you exactly as you were to follow it.

This is common for coaches. Sorry.. it’s true. 
If you prefer a coach who is helpful and answers questions, ask your potential coach their policy for questions!   I had another coach who’s response was always 1 word or 1 sentence.
Explanations were not a ‘thing’.

You need to know where your resources for questions are going to be answered.
I give my clients a message system in our app. They also have 3 different facebook groups to offer support and information.  We have an ebook for our clients and my blog of course. Our clients will use their resources because we want them to commit to learning how to do this.  If you want hand holding, this is tough to find in competitive body building. If you want to “not think” then you will find plenty of coaches to hand you  cookie cutter plans.

If your coach asks you for check in pictures that feel inappropriate, you do NOT need to comply.  Coaches do not need bent over explicit back shots to see glute development.  They do NOT need topless images either. Competitors will need to wear a bikini at check in but if you feel your coach is inappropriate, fire them.  This goes for coaches/trainers who touch inappropriately.   Your trainer doesn’t need to put your leg over their head so their face is in your lap.  Ask yourself, if someone asked your child or someone you care about, to do these things, would you think it was ok. We don’t have to surrender our sensibilities to people who write our workouts and meal plans.  I’m sad I have to mention this.
Team OMG
Some women are enamored with the idea of being on a famous bikini team. Well. there are many to choose from. If that is your goal, then you are going to have to research heavy before you commit. It is common to see posts in social media from team members who ‘didn’t know’ they would have to starve to compete.   I’m not saying they all starve their girls but many do. The information is out there. Many of those teams are about the trophies. I’ve seen these women backstage, barely able to walk, while coaches collect wins. Some teams will not allow you to say you are working with them until AFTER you place in a show.   There are also many stories of certain teams who required the athletes to take Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) at various stages in their plan.  Be sure of what you are asked to take.  We have had ladies come to us from other teams who cannot compete natural because they didn’t know they were taking banned substances for their past shows.

If you don’t mind any of that, be prepared. Interview them!! Get all the information and research the supplements they ask you to take.

Things like Creatine and Whey are common in body building but you can research supplements on and their use to find out if they are banned in natural federations.
Oh this is worth mentioning..
don’t be a naive young lady who believes everything a big buff coach tells you. I’ve seen with my own eyes , unscrupulous coaches who prey on competitors backstage at shows or at the gym promising wins and pro-cards. No one can guarantee this.  Poaching clients is bad practice and it’s unethical. If your coach is a poacher, he’s unethical. Period.  Lifestyle and competition.. doesn’t matter. It’s unethical.

Prep coach Red flags:
Does your prep coach not answer questions about your program?
Does your prep coach not send changes or workout plan updates based on your pics?
Are you on 1200 calories at 15 weeks out?
Do you know how to do macros and swaps accurately?
Do you understand your sups and what they do?
Do you have a timeline and posing goals set?
Do you have information on your show and what you need to do at what timeframe?
Are you just flying blind and asking facebook what to do?

Prep coaches typically are handling your macros, your workouts and helping you get your show in order.  They may or may not pose you but you can feel ok if they recommend posing coaches for you.

Posing coaches are a thing now.  Pay them!!  Let them help you present your best package. Don’t scrimp!  Don’t use Youtube. HIRE THEM.

Prep coaches who don’t update or give feedback and guidance are leaving you hanging!! This happens!!  It’s not ok!!

Edit: Contracts and pushy sales pitches.
Bear with me here as I give you some insight to how many box gyms sell training. You need to know this. This is going to make some industry people upset!

In many box gyms the staff trainers are required to meet a sales quota.  I peeked into the break room of a local St. Louis gym and saw written on a white board

“Any trainer who does not make their sales quota for this month will do 200 burpees.”

I have also eavesdropped on many “first workouts” in gyms and heard the sales pitches.
Listen, I come from the  fitness industry in the 80’s. I know how to sell gym memberships and put the pressure on clients to buy big packages.  You could not survive as a trainer unless you could sell big contracts.

Ok.. now you know this.
Most gyms have a low barrier entry offer like 3 sessions for $99.
The next step is to have the client purchase a big contract of either 6 months or 1 year. Many times, these are contracts and cannot be canceled.  Many will not make up sessions.  As a trainer, you only get paid for the sessions redeemed.  When a client misses the workout, the gym makes the money not the trainer.

I am a gym owner and I do not sell contracts.
Auto billing is not the same as a contract if you can cancel your auto billed payments with notice. A contract means you must pay for all the months until the contract ends.

As a business owner, I understand why contracts make sense .You should understand that too. However I have also hired my own coaches.   If you are comfortable with a contract and that motivates you to stay on plan, that is great.  If you really like your first three sessions and are a good fit with your trainer, that’s even better. You will probably be successful. Overall it’s not a bad thing, just don’t feel pressured to commit if you aren’t 100 percent sure.

Read your contract!!
What are the contract cancellation policies?
What about missed workouts? Can you make them up?
Is there a 24 hour cancellation policy for your session?
If you are injured can you freeze your package? You will probably have to continue to pay monthly and make up sessions after you finish paying.
What if your trainer stops working at your gym?

Every client should ask their potential coach their policy on session cancellation?


There are many great coaches who care about the health of their clients as well as helping them create a winning physique. You don’t have to have one without the other. You can find out a lot about your potential coach by talking to them before you commit.

2 thoughts on “How to choose the coach that’s right for you

  1. This is great and so incredibly true. I had a coach who gave the same workout and meal plan to every single one of his clients and charged overcharged us all. You live and learn! So insightful, hopefully competitors and people who want to compete see this!

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