Choosing the right personal trainer may seem like a daunting task when you first begin your search. No one wants to start working with a trainer—or worse, sign a contract—only to realize that you didn’t make the right decision. Once you know how to make an informed decision, you can make your final choice with confidence. Here are the 5 key things to look for from the person who will be guiding you on your fitness journey :

1. Education and/or Personal Training Certification

The personal trainer you hire should have the right education in order to train you safely and effectively. Often, we see trainers who began out of a passion for fitness, with only a few years of going to the gym as their “experience.” While passion is important, and certainly something that you want to look for in a personal trainer, it can’t overcome bad technique or a misunderstanding of human physiology.

What to look for: At minimum, he or she should have completed a certification program for personal training, such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Other common certifications include:

  • NASM
  • ACE
  • NSCA
  • ACSM
  • NESTA
  • NCCPT
  • NCSF

We also encourage you to ask your personal trainer if they continue to educate themselves, either through additional certification courses, or through independent study.

Red Flags: If you ask a trainer about their credentials, and they respond “I’ve been working out for 10 years,” they probably don’t have the expertise required to train another person.

2. A Fundamental Knowledge of Nutrition

Any trainer worth their salt will tell you that exercise alone won’t get you to meet your goals—whether that be weight loss, strengthening and conditioning, or just a generally healthy lifestyle. A proper diet is critical to reaching these goals, and even if your trainer isn’t providing you with a meal plan, they should be encouraging you to track what you eat, and make general suggestions to improve your diet.

What to look for: A certification in fitness nutrition is a really good indicator that this candidate knows what they are talking about when it comes to your diet, but not every good trainer has one. He or she should at least be able to point to towards reputable sources of information, and be willing to do a little research to help answer questions you may have. Bonus: If the trainer has a certified nutritionist or a registered dietitian that they work with, you have the option to seek additional, specialized help with your diet.

3. Personality

Good personal trainers develop close relationships with their clients. Since your trainer is going to be pushing you through physically and mentally challenging workouts, you want to find someone that you feel comfortable with.

What to look for: Make sure that you feel comfortable right from the initial meeting with your personal trainer.

4. Great Communication Skills

You will likely have a few appointments per week with your fitness trainer. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure that whoever you choose responds to phone messages, emails, and texts quickly. Having a trainer that is easy to reach prevents headaches down the road when a last minute emergency comes up and causes you to cancel or re-schedule.

What to look for: If it takes someone more than 24 hours to get back to you, that’s a pretty big red flag. Look for someone who responds quickly, and is respectful of your time.

5. CPR and First Aid Certification

It goes without saying that you want to do your training in a safe environment. Having a trainer that is certified in both CPR and First Aid affords some peace of mind that if anything were to happen, your trainer would know how to respond in an emergency situation.

What to look for:Make sure their certifications are kept up to date; CPR certifications need to be renewed annually.

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all of the good qualities of a personal trainer, I hope if gives you a good sense of what to look for. Good luck on your search!