Vail Daily column: Qualities of a good trainer |

Vail Daily column: Qualities of a good trainer

Last week I discussed the importance of receiving the blessing of a medical care provider before engaging in a structured exercise program. Especially if you’re experiencing pain, it’s essential to have an understanding of the source of dysfunction, and have a good clinician guide the rehabilitation process. Even though diagnosis and rehabilitation are the first priorities with injury management, long term movement coaching and fitness acquisition is where the rubber meets the road. Today, I will highlight some qualities of a good fitness professional. Are you in good hands with your trainer? Let’s find out.


Assessment: The first sign that you’re in good hands is that your trainer will assess, measure, and test your current physical state. Does your trainer deeply investigate your movement health, body composition, sleep, stress, diet and emotional preparedness? Does your trainer establish realistic short- and long-term goals? If your trainer doesn’t spend at least an hour going over these details, and re-evaluate every four to six weeks, look elsewhere.


Philosophy: The second attribute of a great trainer is that they have a philosophy statement. A philosophy statement keeps a great coach honest and on track. A strong philosophy demonstrates a level of conviction toward specific training methodologies that keeps them, and ultimately you toward moving forward; without a fitness philosophy, a coach can become wishy-washy which will affect the outcome. A philosophy statement may evolve over time, but there needs to be at least a few points within the statement that aren’t negotiable and are time tested.


Integrity: Does the trainer practice her philosophy statement? It’s great if she thinks that running is the fountain of youth, but if she doesn’t run much, please consider the grounds by which she makes her fitness decisions. By the way, a good trainer doesn’t need to be perfect in their own fitness, or look like they eat, sleep and breathe iron and spinach, but they need to maintain a reasonable level of health and it should look like it.

Minimum Standards

Minimum standards: It’s ever so popular in today’s fitness landscape to randomize fitness and perpetuate variety to create fun and stimulating workouts. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. A good trainer will offer variety if needed, but will always maintain a baseline of exercises and minimum performance standards that are used strictly because the exercises improve your movement quality. Some trainees need more attention to mobility while other need more strength development. There is no such thing as a program that works well for all, despite the current fitness dogma that markets cookie cutter programs. Make sure your trainer always asks the question, “Will adding this exercise to the program solve a burning fitness problem that you currently have?” If your trainer randomly selects exercises only for the sake of shocking the muscles regardless of what you truly need, then look elsewhere.

Goal Direction

Goal direction: The best trainers will always seek to develop the best programs that drive goal accomplishment. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, and your trainer has done nothing to alter your diet, it’s a red flag. If you plan to run a marathon on your 50th birthday, and you’re asked to do nothing but spin class and restricting your calories? You get the point. It’s always about goal setting and execution.


Passion: This is a no-brainer regardless of profession. You can’t fake passion, and if your trainer isn’t enthusiastic about all aspects of fitness, you’re not likely getting the best return on your investment. A lack of passion will directly conflict with your best interests at heart. If your fitness cheerleader isn’t excited about their life’s work, then what makes you think they care about your results? Even if your trainer falls short on some criteria, if they have passion, then they will rise above at the end of the day and deliver the results.

The above criteria are based exclusively on my own personal experiences working with the good, bad, and ugly over the years. Furthermore, this isn’t an exhaustive list, merely a few highlights and clues to look for. If your trainer doesn’t meet these criteria, then it doesn’t mean they aren’t a good trainer, it means there are better alternatives. Considering how expensive wellness promotion is, why not get the best bang for your buck?

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User