If your quest to improve your health includes getting in shape, you may want to enlist the help of a personal trainer. But finding one that is knowledgeable about the body and can motivate you can be tricky. Here's a play book to finding a personal trainer that is right for you:
Be a stalker. If you belong to a gym, most have trainers that are contracted to work there. Watch them. Pay attention to how they interact to their clients--are they attentive to their client's physical abilities and work within those limitations; and are they attentive to the client as they're performing each exercise, correcting their form or spotting them when needed? Also, see how they interact with their clients. A chatty, gossiping personal trainer may not be a good fit for you; instead you may want a no-nonsense all business coach.
Talk to their clients. This isn't calling up the trainer-provided references (though you should do that also). I'm talking about the clients you see being trained. If there is a trainer whom you may want to work out with, hop on an exercise bike next to the client (preferably when said trainer is absent) and ask them about him or her. Find out what their goals were and how the trainer helped them reach (and build on) them, their likes and dislikes about the person, and how they started working with him or her.
Set up a meeting with your targeted trainers. If you're not in a gym setting, this may be your first step. If it is, do a Google search on the trainer's name with the words "personal trainer" or "CPT." What is revealed could surprise you or you may find out that they have been featured in media. Hopefully, the trainer will have a bio online that allows you to see his or her credentials. If not, this is the first question you should ask when you meet.
Ask questions. There shouldn't be any exercising happening the first time that you meet with a potential trainer. You are hiring them to provide a service and it is important that you hire the right person with the knowledge and personality that will help you achieve whatever your fitness goals are. To do that, ask these questions:
Do you hold any professional certifications? The answer should be yes and the most reputable certifications come from American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), who also has a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCS) that is one step above a personal trainer certification), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and American Council of Exercise (ACE). They should also be trained in first aid and CPR. Being a bodybuilding, weightlifter or fitness competitor does not make for an experienced trainer alone.
Do you hold a bachelor's degree? If so, in what subject? Many personal trainers may hold college-degrees but the key to this question is whether that diploma is from an accredited university and in the subjects of exercise science, kinesiology, exercise physiology, physical education, or a related health and fitness field, such as nutrition. Why is this important? Having one of these degrees insures that there is a complete understanding of the body and how it responds to exercise.
Do you have liability insurance? There are two reasons why you should ask this question: 1) Exercise is dangerous. God forbid anything should happen but you want to make sure that you are not paying for an injury that occurred while doing something that a trainer asked you to do; and 2) It shows you that the trainer you are interviewing takes his or her business seriously and is a true professional and not a fly-by-night hobbyist.
How long have you been training clients? What are the fitness goals of most of your clients? Make sure that the latter answer lines up to your own aspirations and that former is a timeline you're comfortable with. If they don't, then it isn't a good fit.
Do you work with other health professionals? Your personal trainer should have a network of nutritionists, physical therapists, and doctors that he or she confers with regarding specific questions and are able to refer you to if the need arises.
Ask about their fees. This is a business transaction after all. Be sure to ask them how much they charge per session, how long each session is and what services are included for that price.
Do a gut check. After interviewing potential trainers, ask yourself the following questions to help you make your decision:
Finally, your first session with your new personal trainer, should be an assessment of your abilities. If you don't have an evaluation with the points below, you should call your second choice.
By using this step-by-step guide, you'll find a true partner in your pursuit of a healthier existence.