10 Questions People Ask Personal Trainers

I work in a gym that employs approximately a dozen personal trainers. (Do you recognize the facility? Have you trained here yourself? Beautiful, isn’t it?)

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Because we frequently have some ‘down time’ in our day (yes, when a client cancels a session at the last minute, the trainer ends up with an hour to kill; an hour that he or she doesn’t get paid for), we often get to chatting about questions our clients have asked us.

Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of repetition. Trainers get asked the same questions over and over again. I’ve addressed many of these questions on my blog before, but since I’m still getting asked them, I thought I’d place the answers all together, in one easy to find post!

The ten common questions people ask personal trainers (and my go-to answers)

1. How many days per week do I need to work out?

Depending on your health and fitness goals, you’ll need to commit to a minimum of 3 days of exercise each week to see results. Any fewer than that and each workout will feel like you’re starting all over again each and every time.

The ACSM recommends that healthy adults all need to be performing a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity exercise per week. Resistance training and flexibility training should be practiced at least twice per week.

Don’t forget that you can break these recommended workout times into smaller chunks if necessary. Not having enough time to exercise is no longer an acceptable excuse 😉

2. What should I eat before a workout?

Ideally, you should have some form of fuel in your system before you work out. Eating an easily digested carbohydrate an hour or so before you hit the gym ensures that you’ll have enough energy in the tank to get through your program. Try fruit and yogurt or toast and peanut butter; not too much or you’ll feel sluggish and heavy.

If, however, you exercise first thing in the morning, eating before  your workout may not be an option. Many people find that they can tolerate cardio on an empty stomach, but need fuel to get through a strength training session. Experiment with the types of food and the timing of your pre-workout meal to discover what works best for you.

3. What should I eat after a workout?

Eating after a workout is important. You need to replenish your glycogen stores and ‘feed’ the muscles that you’ve just trained. Sports nutritionists suggest that you eat a small snack consisting of protein and easily digested carbohydrates within about an hour of training and then your next meal an hour or two later.

Common post-workout nutrition ‘mistakes’ include eating too much (if you burn 300 calories during your workout, you don’t want to be consuming a 500 calorie protein shake) and choosing less than healthy options (perhaps as a reward for working out…).

4. What are the best exercises for getting rid of muffin tops/bat wings/inner thigh bulge?

Excess fat on the belly, upper arms and inner thighs doesn’t typically occur in isolation. If you’ve got it there, chances are you’ve got it everywhere. You can’t spot reduce. No exercise will target fat cells in just one part of the body. You need to target them all via exercise and proper nutrition.

And if you really want to see muscle definition once the layer of subcutaneous fat is shed, make sure you’re following a strength training program designed for muscular hypertrophy (here’s where having a personal trainer comes in handy).

5. Why can’t I just do cardio?

While cardiovascular training is great for building strong hearts and lungs, it doesn’t provide the stimulus your body needs to build bigger, stronger muscles and bones. Why? Our bodies adapt fairly quickly to the load we ask them to move; unless you’re gaining weight, your legs will always be subject to the same load and moving that load through the same, limited range of motion.

Adding strength training to your program allows you to (1) increase the load on your legs, (2) change the range of motion you move your joints through and (3) target muscles that you don’t typically use during cardiovascular training.

6. How frequently should I see a trainer?

The ideal frequency of personal training sessions varies from person to person. Just getting started with exercise and healthy eating? Need regular motivation and support to get to the gym? Have an injury that you’re working through? You’ll probably need to see a trainer once or twice each week. Many of my weekly clients reduce their frequency of personal training sessions to bi-weekly or even monthly once they’ve demonstrated the ability to consistently get to the gym and progress their exercises as recommended.

Although I miss seeing their smiling faces, I’m always pleased when clients reduce their need to see me because they’ve become self-directed exercisers.

7. How quickly will I see the results of my training?

Expect to FEEL the results of your training sooner than you SEE them. People who start a new exercise program and are consistent in getting their workouts done typically report improvements in sleep, mood and energy levels within two to three weeks. Changes in body composition often take longer to notice; the more consistent you are with your workouts and the closer you adhere to your nutrition plan, the sooner the results will become noticeable (to you and to others too!).

Try focusing on non-scale victories like how many more pushups you can now perform and how your favourite jeans fit.

8. Why don’t my workouts ever get easier?

You’d think that as your body becomes stronger and more familiar with the exercises your workouts would start to feel easier. Indeed, many people who ‘go it alone’ in the gym report exactly this. When exercises are progressed frequently and consistently, the body never truly adapts to the workout, making each feel just as challenging as the one before.

A qualified personal trainer knows how to progress your training plan to keep your body guessing and moving forward at a reasonable pace. When my clients lament that their workouts seem to be just as challenging as they were in the beginning, I know that I’m doing my job well!

9. Which should I do first; cardio or weights?

Once again, it depends.

While there’s some evidence suggesting that if you’re doing both in a single session “weights before cardio”  leads to faster fat loss, for most people the outcome will be the same regardless of which they do first. If you have a strong preference for one over the other (perhaps you find weights too taxing after cardio? or getting on a cardio machine too boring after you’ve done your strength workout), go with it. Whatever it takes to get your workout done.

Even better? Make your strength workout metabolic. Add short bursts of cardio-like movement between sets or super-sets. Keeping your heart rate elevated while lifting weights is not only more efficient, it may result in a higher calorie burn for the rest of the day.

10. What’s the best diet for weight loss?

The short answer? Any diet you can stick with for as long as it’s going to take. Studies have shown that regardless of the diet followed, adherence is the only thing that predicts success.

Beware of any diet that promises rapid weight loss (and expects you to consume fewer than 1000 calories per day); although you may lose a few pounds in the beginning, chances are you’ll be unable to stick to it long term. When it comes to weight loss, slow, steady and sustainable are key.

Have you ever worked with a personal trainer before?

Personal trainers, do you have any other commonly asked questions to add to my list?




  1. I like this. I appreciate this, and your replies to all are spot on. I have to say though, I am so sick of these questions. I just can’t take it anymore. I cringe when I hear any of them. My standard response to all them these days is this:

    What does your Facebook focus group say..?

    Contemplative Fitness recently posted…22 is no age to start working…My Profile

    • Hmm, while I do understand getting tired of the repetition, one of my favourite parts of the job is educating those who are relatively new to fitness. No stupid questions, right?

  2. LOVE!!!!!!!! I love that you answered these so truthfully whether people like it or not! 🙂 There really is not perfect one program & finding what works for us with the help of a trainer or on our won is so key. I do so many things that people post & say not to do so I LOVE THIS!!!!! I do cardio – longer sessions first & then weights because I want to get cardio over with, 🙂 & it works for me – others not so much.. plus I rather work out on an emptier stomach due to what you wrote & all the rest! 🙂

    PLUS strength training to prevent osteoporosis & keep us aging strong! 🙂

    My workouts have never gotten easier because I continue to challenge myself all the time. 🙂

    Tell it Tamara! 🙂
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted…Gratitude Monday & This is AllMy Profile

    • Thanks Jody for sharing! And for those people who aren’t constantly challenging themselves, I want to know why not? That’s the only way change happens!

  3. Love this, Tamara. I think I’ll print it and hand it out 🙂
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted…Skora Base Running Shoes: A Review. Plus a Treadmill Interval Workout!My Profile

  4. This is a great list, and some of the most common questions I have had as well! I actually have people who meet with me two days a week ask me if meeting three days a week would help.. really? haha
    Heather Murphy recently posted…How to NOT feel like a stiff- legged robot after an intense workoutMy Profile

    • Oooh, I’ve heard that one too. And what about ‘how about I pay you to work out for me’. If only that worked, we’d be rich! Thanks for stopping by Heather!

  5. You have a great list here. We’ve been asked every single one of these too. Very concise, clear replies!
    AlexandraFunFit recently posted…Boulder, FitSocial, and Going Back HomeMy Profile

  6. This is such a great post! Your answers are great, Tamara! I think that while everyone thinks these questions, I don’t get asked them too much… Maybe it’s our gym’s clientele – downtown, corporate Calgary. I don’t know! But it’s in our consultation that I find the most repetition in people’s goals: “Lose weight, tone up…” etc. I end up offering the same advice during sessions but I don’t find people coming up to me in my off hours (YES! those happen) to ask me these questions specifically. We’re a smaller, tight-knit gym and they either come to drop sandwiches or popcorn off (true!) or just to chat about life. Your gym looks BEAUTIFUL, by the way!
    Bonnie recently posted…To Watch, Read, See & ConsiderMy Profile

  7. Thanks! Really informative post!

  8. So it would also be better to cut down the fruits in your diet.
    An increased metabolic rate enables you to burn fat easily and quickly.
    2nd only to the extreme back again ache affiliated with sciatica is the hip and
    leg suffering that generally is a 2nd symptom.
    how to get skinny thighs recently posted…how to get skinny thighsMy Profile

  9. Nice post about personal training which I am finding since long time .I have found same helpful info from personal trainer gold coast blog that’s really nice .But you have posted fine Please keep it up .

  10. This is good..like it..but i do have 1 question..im just starting goin to the gym like 3 times a week..today is my 1 day of my 2nd week..do you think i need to talk to someone in the gym a trainer to change the routine that they gave me once i first to my workout to them?..should i adopt already the routine that they gave it to me…do i really need to talk to 1 of them to change my routine?…good answer wil help a lot..ty

    • Alvin, if you’re only on the 1st day of your 2nd week, you shouldn’t need a program change, other than upping weights slightly on any exercise that isn’t challenging you enough. Typically, major program changes shouldn’t be required for about a month. Good luck!

  11. I get asked protein powder a lot! I wish companies made more sample sizes for me to hand out. They are afraid to buy a big box without trying it first. I don’t blame them because some of them are disgusting. 🙂
    Pamela Hernandez recently posted…The Fine Line Between Inspiration and FrustrationMy Profile

  12. I just googled and appreciate all your answers, its too bad you get tired of answering those questions because we are not all knowledgeable. Yes they get repetitive but so do questions in all jobs when you are the expert at something, that is what we are here for as a source to help others learn. So, I will try not to annoy my PT during interviewing her but hope that she realizes I am not nearly as educated as she is in the field of how to get to my goal.

    • Rebecca, my intention with this post was not to come across as complaining about my job, but to share a list of FAQ’s with my readers! I’m sorry if you felt like I was complaining and feeling annoyed about repeating myself; I wasn’t!

      If you poke around on my site, you’ll find that my mission is to help and educate; that’s why I give so much away for free!


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