August 12th, 2008
How to Choose a Personal Trainer
By Wendy Bumgardner & Paige Waehner
When you decide to improve your fitness, you may wonder whether to just join a gym, sign-up for group classes, or to hire a personal trainer.
Why Hire a Personal Trainer?
A trainer will:
* assess your individual abilities and needs.
* help you set realistic goals.
* personalize your workouts so that they help you achieve your goals.
* ensure you are doing exercises correctly and provide instant feedback on how to adjust your posture, motion, and exertion to get maximum results and prevent injury.
* instantly adjust an exercise if it is proving to be too advanced for you to do correctly. Likewise, the trainer will add a difficulty level to the exercise if it is too easy for you and isn’t giving you the challenge needed.
* keep your workouts fresh and fun, introducing you to using different equipment to work the same muscle groups.
Choosing the Right Personal Trainer
Many times, you will end up being assigned or shuffled off to a trainer at your health club. But you should assert yourself and interview the trainer, as this will be a personal one-on-one relationship. You need to be comfortable with the trainer and able to understand his or her directions. Choosing the gender of your trainer is one way to narrow the field. Many people find it easier to take direction and motivation from a trainer of the opposite sex, while others may only feel comfortable with a trainer of their own gender.
Interview Questions for a Personal Trainer
* What are the trainer’s professional credentials? Is he or she certified by ACSM, ACE, or NSCA?
* Has the trainer worked with other clients with your same starting fitness level and age? If you are training for a specific sport goal, such as walking a marathon, has the trainer worked with others who have that goal?
* Does the trainer keep up with the latest ideas, research, and equipment?
* What hours does the trainer have available, and what flexibility will there be in scheduling your workouts?
* What are the fees? What is the penalty for having to cancel a workout? Do package agreements have an expiration date? Are they transferable to other trainers at the same facility? You will want to research fees of other trainers in your area to see what the going rate is.
* Is a trial session available for free or a low fee? If you like the trainer, book just a couple of sessions as a trial before you buy a package of sessions.
After the Interview/Workout Session
I recommend going through a workout with the trainer before making your decision – how he or she communicates with you throughout the workout is what really counts. After you’ve done this, ask the following:
* Did I understand how the trainer was directing me to do the exercises?
* Did the trainer encourage me to give feedback, or did I feel intimidated and clam up?
* Did the trainer listen to and understand what I was saying and adjust the session so I could do the exercises correctly?
* Did the trainer understand my goals and seem to be gearing the workout in that direction?
* Is this somebody I will feel comfortable working out with? Does he or she motivate me to perform better?
* Will I look forward to coming to workout with this trainer, or am I likely to find excuses to miss workouts?
Like all professions, personal training has its share of losers. But, just because you’re assigned to one trainer doesn’t mean you can’t work with someone else. It may be a personality conflict or you may wonder if you’re getting the best advice. Either way, here are some warning flags that it’s time to switch.
Beware if your trainer does any of the following:
* Ignores or dismisses your questions
* Works you so hard you’re in pain for days. Soreness is normal, but you should still be able to get out of bed
* Neglects any part of a complete program or recommends a level of training that’s too hard for you
* Recommends questionable supplements or herbs. Always talk to your doctor before taking anything!
* Diagnoses injuries or illnesses instead of referring you to a doctor
* Interrupts your session to talk to friends or take phone calls (unless it’s an emergency or can’t be avoided)
* Doesn’t return phone calls or emails
A personal trainer should watch you, correct your alignment, and explain what you’re doing and why.
If you’re having problems, talk to them–they may not be aware there’s a problem. Another option is to talk to the manager or terminate your sessions and look for a different trainer. It’s your money and your body…you have a right to get what you want and a good trainer will understand that.
How to Help Your Trainer
You can help your trainer do a better job by being a good client.
* Save the chit-chat for after your session.
* Be prepared by bringing your own towel and a full water bottle.
* Give at LEAST 24 hour notice if you need to cancel or reschedule
* If you have questions, write them down and bring them to your session–you’ll spend less time talking and more time working out.
* If you have a problem with your trainer, address it immediately.
* Don’t interrupt your trainer when she’s with a client. Wait until she’s finished before approaching her.
* Recognize that your trainer is there to guide you–but YOU still have to do the work!
Find a Personal Trainer in Your Area