Personal trainers seem to be everywhere these days. I flicked on the TV last week to a sitcom where a buzz-cut trainer barked orders to one of the show’s mainstays, working him to the point of collapse. The trainer was portrayed as sadistic and unbalanced, and when refusing to take no for an answer, he was fired. Fortunately, we’re not all like that. The profession has exploded from the time when only Madonna could afford our help. The down side to this is that there are a lot of trainers out there who are either uncertified, uninsured, or practice potentially dangerous techniques that can do more harm than good. I recommend that people interview at least two or three trainers before hiring someone. Here are some important things to ask:
1. Are you certified?
You should only work with someone who has been certified by a nationally recognized organization, such as ACE, ACSM, or ISSA. Ask when they achieved their certification, and if they have kept it current (most expire in two years.) These groups require that their members gain a certain amount of continuing education credits, and have valid CPR certification.
2. Are you insured?
Always better to be safe than sorry, and a trainer who doesn’t have liability insurance is creating risk for both of you. It is a sign that he or she takes the job seriously and understands what is involved.
3. Could you describe a typical workout?
I have clients that have worked with me for over two years, and in all that time we have never done the same workout twice. It is a matter of personal preference, but if your trainer intends to spend an hour walking you from machine to machine, recording numbers on a sheet, I can guarantee you will be bored. Working out should be fun- it should be your escape from the rigors of everyday life, your own personal play time. Try to find someone who displays enthusiasm and can show you a wide variety of exercises.
4.Do you work for the gym, or do you have your own business?
This relates to the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” If you sign up with a trainer who works for the gym, they usually only receive a small portion of the money you pay, sometimes as low as 10%. A trainer who works independently receives all the money, so if you pay $40 per session, you get someone who is worth every penny.
A good trainer will also know what to ask you. They should inquire about your previous workout experiences, past or present injuries and ailments, and what you want to get out of your training. Your personalities should mesh well. If you can’t imagine enjoying two hours a week with this person, you definitely shouldn’t hire them.
How often you train depends on several factors, including what you can afford, how much free time you have, and what your goals are. I usually recommend twice a week lifting weights with the trainer, and at least two other sessions a week where the client does some form of cardiovascular exercise that they enjoy.
I have some people who train with me five days a week, and people who see me once a month for a kind of “tune-up” where I check their form, evaluate their progress, and give them some new exercises to incorporate into their own programs. How often you need to see your trainer depends on your level of personal motivation.
A final note- unless you have hired the trainer as a walking companion, they should not be working out with you. They are there to carefully observe your form and to spot you during more difficult exercises. For them to be doing sets next to you is wildly unprofessional and inappropriate.
Hiring a trainer can seem expensive, but most of my clients swear it is one of the best decisions they ever made. They feel better, look better, and enjoy life more than they used to. I always look at it as adding years to your life, and who could ever put a price on that?
By following these guidelines, you can find the right trainer for you.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) can help you to find an ACE certified trainer in your area. They can be contacted at either www.acefitness.org, or by calling 1.800.825.3636.