Tips On Selecting A Personal Trainer

I am a Professional Fitness Trainer. This title is normally shortened to “Personal Trainer.” Fitness and training are my passions and also how I make a living. Luckily for me, Personal Training has moved from the realm of an extravagance used primarily by the rich and famous to a necessity for mainstream America.

There are quite a few valid reasons for hiring a Personal Trainer. Research shows that people who work with a trainer obtain better results than those working out on their own. This is in part due to the fact that those who hire a Personal Trainer are more likely to be committed to their workouts and fitness goals and is more accountable to their workout sessions. During their sessions with a trainer they obtain a more thorough workout in the same amount of time had they been working on their own. Additionally, the chance of incorrect form and pace and therefore injury are greatly reduced when working with a professional.

That being said, in the Professional Fitness business, as in any other industry, there are trainers who are excellent, through to those who are mediocre, down to those who are outright harmful. I am going to try to give you a few pointers to choose a trainer who is right for you.

Certification. Choose a Personal Trainer who is certified by a nationally recognized certifying body. Some of the big names are: ACSM, NSCA, AFAA, ACE, ISSA, to name a few. There are more than 75 certifying Personal Trainer organizations in the United States, some better than others. Some are “mom and pop” type organizations, some are mail order, and some are hands on in their practical trainer. This is not to suggest that a “mom and pop” certifying body is not up to par, but there can be other problems with this type of certification, as you will see in a moment. My suggestion is to ask your potential trainer where he/she has received his or her certification(s) from, and then check out the institution’s website.

A bit of background on Personal Training. I have observed first hand that many clients enter a gym or training studio completely trusting of the trainer they are about to hand their lives over to, literally, just as someone might walk into a doctors office. This, to me, only intensifies my passion to be the best trainer I can be, although this is not the case with some trainers. Personal Training certification is a strange duck. Let me clue you in on how most certifying bodies work. Although some universities now offer Professional Fitness Training (or some similar title) as a major, most

Personal Trainers do not have a degree in Personal Training. What they have is a “certification,” which, if executed properly, takes years to develop. Rather than enroll in a 2 or 4-year degree and receive the knowledge in one lump sum, a Personal Trainer’s education is spread out over years and years. The majority of Personal Training certifications involve book preparation and then an intensive weekend or week of education followed by an exam. Now, here is the key. This initial certification is simply a foundation. Following this foundation, in order to keep up the certification, Personal Trainers need to go for continuing education, normally a certain amount of credits every two years. This does not mean that a Personal Trainer who is newly certified is not qualified to work with you. A trainer at this level, however, should be working with general fitness needs, as opposed to special needs or special populations and actively pursuing more education.

What to avoid. Back to the “mom and pop” and on-line certifications. The problem with this type of certification is that there is no formal ongoing education. This smaller type of certifying organization is not nationally recognized and therefore two things occur. The certifying body does not or cannot offer continuing education, and, national conventions, seminars and college courses do not recognize the certifying body. A trainer with this type of certification normally takes the foundation course and does not build upon it. Also avoid a “lifetime” certification. This also means the trainer went for one foundation course and is not required to obtain any further education. This is akin to your dentist telling you he took his first semester in dental school and is now ready to drill!

Don’t: hire a Personal Trainer because of how he or she looks. Although a trainer should be disciplined and practice what he/she preaches, having a gorgeous body doesn’t translate to being an educated professional.

Do: ask your Personal Trainer about his/her certification(s) and what type of ongoing education s/he participates in. Additional important aspects are what type of trade journals your trainer subscribes to and who his/her mentors are. Although fitness magazines are fun a professional trainer should be constantly educating himself/herself on the latest developments in health, fitness, disease and injury prevention and injury rehab. Mentors may absolutely be fitness or sports personnel but should also include one or two Exercise Physiologists, with a Masters Degree or a PhD.

Beware: of a trainer giving you an absolute diet or providing/selling supplements. A Personal Trainer is qualified to give general nutritional guidance. Only a doctor or a Registered Dietician is qualified to prescribe a nutrition plan and supplements, particularly when there are health concerns beyond general fitness. In my studio I test metabolism and discuss general caloric requirements. Beyond this I refer my clients to qualified health professionals. They bring the results of their metabolism test and resting heart rate to him or her and we work together as a team.

Buyer Beware: The Professional Training industry, as wonderful as it as and there are many expert wonderful professionals out there, I know quite a few of them, is currently unregulated. Anyone can hang out a shingle and profess that they are a trainer. Some health clubs still do not require trainers to hold a certification or to continue with their ongoing education. Your health, time, money and fitness are priceless. Shop around for your trainer the same way you would for childcare, a new car or insurance. As my last column stated, one body, one life. Make yours the best it can be!