Should You Hire A Coach or Personal Trainer Who is Similar to You?

Should you hire a coach or trainer based on their gender, their age, the fact they have kids, or had similar struggles as you, or other variables that you wouldn’t think have much to do with their expertise? This post can help you weight the pros and cons of looking for a coach or trainer that has a similar background to you. So read this before you make an appointment with a coach or trainer based off your mutual love for Pumpkin Spice Lattes, the number of kids they have, or if they live for doing push-ups.

Photo credit: R Khalil from Pexels via Canva

A coach or trainer similar to you will likely understand you right off the bat.
If you have three kids, and your coach has four kids, she will immediately understand how divided your attention can be, how many battles you face with simple tasks/requests, and how there never seems to be enough time to get everything done or time to devote 30 consecutive minutes to herself while the kids are awake. There is a lot to be said for experience working with a certain population. For example, someone with a goal to compete in figure competitions or triathlons or fitness competitions. After a certain point, my skill set would no longer meet their needs. I would have to work really hard to understand their drive, commitment, and discipline needed to compete – that person may be better off working with someone that was a former competitor or competes in triathlons regularly or has a competitive nature.

A coach similar to you will be easier to confide in, especially at first.  
You will feel you are able to open up with person more quickly or open up in a way that might be harder with a coach or trainer that you don’t know well enough or does not share at least some of your background. A coach or trainer without kids cannot fully understand the experience of having kids and how it impacts your body, your sleep, your energy, spending habits, time, and more. This statement may not sit well with you, but this has been my experience. For example, if you work with a coach who never experienced sleep deprivation with one or more of their children, he or she may not understand how hard it is to anything other than what needs to be done to survive the day or that it’s not always possible to sleep when the baby sleeps.

If you have struggled with exercising regularly, experienced lack of support in reaching your goals, or you find you keep hitting roadblock after roadblock, and your coach or trainer was a top athlete in college, your coach truly does not eat sugar anything, or they let nothing get in their way, it will be harder for them to understand you fully, unless they are very empathetic and work to understand your situation (by asking you to tell them more and by listening without offering advice – or have completed the Girls Gone Strong fitness certifications or Precision Nutrition’s Level 1 coaching certification). 

A coach’s level of experience may compensate for not having similar life experiences.
Does this coach work with a population of people that are mothers? If this coach has worked with this population for many years and former or current clients continue to recommend this person, chances are, this person has helped clients find ways to be successful and supportive of their challenges.

If you’ve been hurt by one gender or their mannerisms remind you of someone that was critical of you.
Then again, if that person is super caring and very empathetic, or they are trained therapists, it can be a healing experience. Your gut will tell you if you are ready for that.

Non specialist may unintentionally give bad or unrealistic advice.
If you are pregnant, postpartum, have past injuries, looking for nutritional guidance, or want to end the cycle of dieting and infrequent exercising it may be better to work with someone that specializes in those areas. If you are working with someone that has no idea how pregnancy and childbirth affect the pelvic floor, then that person may not recognize the symptoms of a pelvic floor dysfunction and may make the condition worse. If you are working with a coach that doesn’t focus on lifestyle changes, you may waste your time and dollars and increase your frustration by not focusing on the bigger issue. Remember, coaches and trainers are people and people make mistakes. And there’s also this quote, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” If you are working with an UNspecialized trainer, they will gave gaps in their knowledge or may over-simplify solutions to your struggles.

The style of coaching or training plays a huge role in how well you will work together – which may translate into how quickly you will achieve results.
If you want someone you can easily talk to, hire someone that will talk with you and will redirect you when you get too far off topic. If you want someone to help you change, hire someone that understands what it takes to change. If you want someone to really push you, maybe you need a no-nonsense type trainer. If your life is already full of listening and doing things for others, you may find it refreshing to work with someone that follows your lead.

These rules are meant to be broken. There are always exceptions to these rules, and if you find a coach or trainer that you just “click” with, then go for it. If, over time, working with this person makes you feel worse about yourself or your challenges, it may be time to seek a different professional. Until next time, I remain the Mom that says, I became the fitness professional that I wish I had.

This blog is not intended as medical advice or diagnosis and should not replace consultation with a medical professional. If you tried this advice and it does not work for you, you cannot sue me. This is only my opinion, based on my background, training, and experience as a coach, personal trainer, mother, and woman.