Investing in your health can be a daunting process. Should you join a gym? Do online workouts? Simply eat better? It’s hard to know where to start when you make the decision to take control of your health.
Personal trainers are a valuable resource when it comes to fitness. Not only are they trained in proper form and technique, they are also a wealth of knowledge about what routine will work best for your individual goals. The two most common options for personal training are trainers who work for themselves and trainers who work at a gym facility.
Commercial gyms such as Gold’s Gym or Fitness Formula Clubs usually offer introductory personal training sessions as part of signing up for a monthly membership. Whether you take advantage of this offer or you decide you want to work with an independent trainer, there are some questions you should ask before signing on the dotted line. Remember that this is your health and that you deserve the best fit for you.
Before you start working with a personal trainer, do some digging to learn about what their qualifications are. Trainers must go through a certification process before they can legally train you. There are several different training programs, with two of the most popular offered by the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which are both accredited by the National Committee for Certifying Agencies (or NCCA). This third-party organization also sets learning and practitioner standards for other health professionals like nurse practitioners, registered dietitians and more.
According to ACE, “Holding a certification that has earned NCCA accreditation can ensure the professionals who work in all settings [such as workplaces, schools, churches, community centers and more] have the knowledge, skills and competence to lead people safely and effectively.
Additionally, make sure that your trainer is specifically certified as a personal trainer, since there are also certifications in group exercise instruction. This would be someone who teaches group classes in a gym like Zumba or Mat Pilates, for example. It is good to note that personal trainers can also be group exercise instructors, but that group exercise instructors cannot be personal trainers without a specific personal training certification.
How long has he or she been training? Make sure to ask your potential trainer this question as well as how many clients he or she has trained. In general, the longer a trainer has worked in the field, the more experience he or she has to offer. Personal trainers are also required to renew their certification every 2 years, which means that there are continuing education credits that need to be accrued.
Beginner trainers are usually less expensive than more seasoned ones. Since most introductory sessions are free with a trainer, use your knowledge of how long they have been training and how you feel they approach the workout (are they giving you cues you feel are appropriate, paying attention to you, correcting your form?) to decide whether you think they are a good fit for you.
Experience is always a good thing, but keep in mind that there can be excellent trainers who have only practiced a short time and mediocre trainers who have been working for many years. Use the answer to this question in conjunction with all the other answers to have a more thorough basis for your decision.
3. FITNESS PHILOSOPHY
Even though personal trainers will hold the same certification, that doesn’t mean that they all share the same fitness philosophy. Find out why he or she became a trainer and how the concept of fitness is approached.
Some trainers believe in treating the whole person, that is, developing a rapport with clients and digging deeper to find out what motivates them or what holds them back from a healthy lifestyle. Some trainers are all about providing a workout and don’t feel the need to develop that deep of a relationship with you. Think about what kind of personality works well with you to determine if a trainer is the right fit.
4. CPR/AED CERTIFICATIONS
If your trainer is properly certified through a nationally accredited program, the answer should be yes. Applicants are required to take a CPR/AED class prior to sitting for the exam. If your trainer is not certified in these, chances are that they are not certified as a personal trainer.
5. CANCELLATION POLICY
Make sure you know your trainer’s cancellation policy before you sign up. Every trainer and facility is different, so check to see how long you have before a session to cancel. A late cancellation may lead to a forfeiture of your session, so make sure that your schedule allows you to work within the confines of the policy.
For example, if you work an unpredictable job that may require you to cancel last minute, see if you are able to schedule closer to the actual time rather than planning out a weekly schedule that you may not be able to adhere to.
On top of a general personal training certification, there are many different specialization certifications that trainers can complete. They can range anywhere from nutrition to working with specialized groups such as women or the elderly. By asking your trainer for a complete list of his or her certifications, you will have a more complete picture of the type of regimen that may be offered.
For example, If you are having a tough time maintaining a workout plan or you feel like there are aspects in your life which are impacting your dedication to your health, a trainer with a behavior change specialization may be able to help you overcome those obstacles.
Make sure you have a thorough discussion with a potential trainer to determine how often they think you should exercise and for how long. Inform them of your goals and based on that information, they should be able to tell you how many times a week they foresee working with you and an overall time period.
Some people only work with trainers for a short period of time, while others need continued motivation from another person to stay committed. If you are a beginner to exercise, a goal of two times a week is a good starting point. If you have more specific goals for strength improvement, for example, you may utilize a trainer 3 or more times a week.
BONUS: BE CAREFUL WITH NUTRITION QUESTIONS
Diet is an extremely important part of a healthy lifestyle. A common question to ask your trainer once you start working with him or her is what to eat before and after you work out and also how you should be eating on a regular basis.
Personal trainers have some training in nutrition as part of their certification, but make sure you understand that detailed nutritional information isn’t typically their expertise. A registered dietitian is formally trained in this area and should be your resource for specific meal plans and nutrition monitoring. Personal trainers can give you general guidelines, however legally they aren’t allowed to get into the nitty gritty of nutrition with you.