Choosing a Trainer
By now you should be well on your way to achieving that New Year’s resolution fitness goal. If you are having trouble making progress it may be time to consult a professional. When seeking improvements in health a personal trainer can be a valuable asset. There are many factors that should be taken into consideration before hiring a personal trainer if you want good return on your investment. The fact that the trainer at your local gym may only be slightly more qualified than you are is not initially evident. Here are a few things to think about so you are not wasting your time and money and potentially getting injured in the process. The first thing you are probably going to notice when picking out a personal trainer is the guy or gal’s own physique. After all, “if they can’t keep themselves in shape how are they going to help me get there?” It’s a valid point. However, just because they are in shape does not mean they know how to get you in shape or that they got there in a healthy way. Everyone has differing physiology and what works for one may not work for another. It does show they have discipline, can put in hard work, and are committed to their craft. Not the only selling point but, just as your yoga instructor should smell of patchouli, your prospective trainer should be in shape. Education. There is no regulatory body overseeing who is qualified to be a personal trainer. Repeat after me “I’m a personal trainer.” Congratulations! The whole of the Seven Mile Times readership is now an army of personal trainers! There probably aren’t any gyms that will hire you just for saying that but there is nothing stopping you from opening your own. Even the trainer at your local gym may only have a $99 weekend certification making him or her only slightly more qualified than you! For the most part, highest quality certifications will be approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Make sure your trainer has one of them. Even better, a college degree in exercise physiology or something related would be nice. Has the trainer been keeping up with continuing education and studying current research? There are quite a few things I personally did 15 years ago that were just plain wrong and do not recommend them anymore. It’s important to keep up with research. It’s also important to keep an open mind. So far so good. He/she’s in shape and has an impressive educational background. How’s the track record? Have they ever actually gotten anybody else in shape? Have they helped anyone else achieve their goals? Have they helped anyone bench 500lbs or gotten rid of anyone else’s parade arms? You know, the kind that jiggle underneath as you wave from your parade float? Ask for proof. Ask for testimonials. If you are an athlete, do they have experience training athletes? Do they have a respectable background? Does this trainer have a quality reputation in the community? Ok, you’ve made your decision. This guy/gal is built like an Olympian, has a PhD, and took his last client from Chris Christie to Chris Hemsworth in three months. What should you look for within the actual training program once that begins? A quality assessment should be the first step in any training program. If you go to a personal trainer because you are overweight and you want to lose a few pounds and all the trainer’s assessment shows is that you are overweight and should lose a few pounds that’s not very valuable info. There should be a biomechanical assessment looking for muscle imbalances and biomechanical inefficiencies. If a trainer does not assess for this they cannot program to correct it. This is an injury waiting to happen. There should be a questionnaire detailing your training history, injuries, diet, sleep, digestion, energy levels, etc. A trainer has to figure out where you are health-wise before they can make a plan to get you to where you want to be. If a trainer does no assessment, don’t hire him/her. He/she should have long term programming and should have it in writing. There should be a plan to get you to your goals. Anyone can make you sweat in an hour training session but that is not a measure of progress. You can sweat through your shirt every workout, if you’re not making measurable progress toward your goals what’s the point? Do not mistake fatigue for fitness. There should be data to show progress other than that on the scale. If they cannot produce any of this, do not hire them. You are hiring a trainer because they are the expert. You are hiring them to help you reach your goals. You are paying them good money and spending your precious time with them. You’re putting your health in their hands and expecting it to be a priority. They should be professional and take every session seriously. There are good trainers out there. As long as you do a little research you will get a solid return on your investment. So get out there and improve your fitness. Gosh darn it, your worth it.