Your health and well-being are important. Placing them in the hands of someone else can be quite a risk. However, you can reduce the risk by taking necessary precautions. The best personal trainers will answer a few specific questions about you and your exercise program. Are you willing to let someone gamble with your body?
I’ve been a personal trainer for nearly a decade, certified by ACE, NASM and WITS. Helping people reach their fitness goals and potentially live longer is a true honor. I have over 1,000 hours of coaching experience with seniors, youth athletes and individuals with disabilities.
I can help you feel better, and live longer. Even though I share workouts on this site, you are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed here. Let’s move better, live longer and wander more often.
1) How are you qualified to help me?
Many people hire a personal trainer because they need help reaching their goals. Most people ask for help because they don’t know what to do. The general population knows exercise is important, but may be unfamiliar with the specifics. Personal trainers should know as much about exercise, and you, as possible. How educated is your personal trainer? You should know.
We currently have several certifying bodies in the U.S. Fitness certifications seek to reduce potential harm by providing education. Are they perfect? Sadly, no. However, the best personal trainers are more educated. They are also less likely to put someone through an exercise program leading to injuries, or worse.
What’s the difference between athletic trainers and personal trainers? Athletic trainers work with an individual after sustaining an injury. Personal trainers (should) seek to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. Athletic trainers can diagnose and treat injuries. Personal trainers cannot. Injury prevention should be the unspoken goal of every program. It SHOULD be, but is it?
Personal Trainer Certifications
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT)
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
Many gyms will not allow a personal trainer to work with their members without a certification, or college degree. Furthermore, these certifying bodies provide mandatory continuing education to keep us up-to-date. Beware of certifications which are not nationally recognized. It is possible to buy a cheaper “certification” from various websites after passing a simple test.
Before you hire a personal trainer, find out if he is qualified and experienced. Education does not make us perfect, but it does make us much less likely to harm you inadvertently. It also prepares us to answer the other questions in this article.
2) What type of exercise program do I need?
When you hire a personal trainer, you aren’t simply getting a coach, or a role model. You are (hopefully) getting a personalized exercise program. When your personal trainer is designing your exercise program she should take specific data into account. This data includes exercise history, health history, goals, limitations, injuries and diet. It may also include things like motivation, self-confidence, and body composition. Furthermore, it will address how comfortable you are with exercises, positions, or various locations.
There are several types of exercise. An exercise program, more often than not, contains multiple types. The best personal trainers know where, and when to use them, in your program. You may see some of the following exercise types in your program, depending on the data you provide:
- Muscular endurance
An exercise program which is beneficial to you may be harmful to someone else. There is no generic program that is “right” for everyone – even if it’s a program used by a trainer. Be cautious of trainers who believe you should workout just like them. Don’t be afraid to ask the question “why”. The best personal trainers will be able to answer “why” it pertains to your exercise program.
An educated personal trainer will understand who, what, where, when, why and how. Even if you do not care about the answers, you can take comfort – the best personal trainers have well thought-out reasons. If neither of you know why, you might as well be doing a home workout video.
3) How will a pre-existing condition affect my exercise program?
Prior to beginning an exercise program you should be asked to divulge information about your health. Be honest because your health history and limitations will have a direct impact on your exercise program. Your information should be kept confidential because we are not allowed to share it under HIPAA rules. Some of the things personal trainers need to know include:
- Heart issues
- High blood pressure
- Joint pain
- Breathing problems
Before hiring a personal trainer, make sure your exercise program will work with your pre-existing conditions. Certain conditions will limit what you are able to do in the gym. Are you dealing with a specific injury? Ask your trainer if he is familiar with that injury, and how it will impact the program. If he has not had experience with that injury, the relationship may not be a good fit.
Beware personal trainers who do not ask about your health history, or past injuries (throw the red flag). Simply assuming a client is perfectly healthy and capable of performing an exercise program is dangerous. Furthermore, it is not professional and can cause harm. Again, this goes back to the section about qualifications. An educated person will understand that a previous injury is a good predictor of future injury. We NEED to know about it.
Low Back Pain Example
Have you ever hurt your back?
4) How long will it take to reach my goals?
Workout programs are all about reaching goals. We all have them. Before you hire a personal trainer, make sure she is capable of designing a program that can meet your goals under time constraints. Unspecific goals are very common:
- I want to lose weight
- I want to get swole
- My doctor said I need more exercise
Getting regular exercise is great. Adding muscle mass and reducing body fat is fantastic. However, these goals need to be specific, or else it is too difficult to measure success.
Specific and Measurable Goal Example
A lot of numbers come into play during personal training sessions. Counting sets, reps and weight happens daily, but there is much more to goal achievement. Most goals are long term goals because they take time to reach. Has your personal trainer helped others reach similar goals to your own? Does he know how long it will take you to reach your goals? The best personal trainers do, and they will explain it to you on day one. Establishing this timeframe sets clear expectations which can be measured by you both.
5) Can you provide similar client references?
This one may ruffle some feathers, but it is purposeful. Hiring a personal trainer is a big step. You are putting your body, your health and wellness in the hands of another person. The best personal trainers have helped others achieve their goals and are able to supply references. In fact, they may have developed life-long relationships with many clients.
A client reference is similar to a testimonial, but slightly different. Testimonials might affirm someone’s character, education, or achievements. It can be difficult to tell the real ones apart from the invented. Whereas a personal phone call is more likely to be genuine. Reach out to someone who has been through a personal training program and has goals similar to your own. This is a great way to determine whether or not a personal trainer may be a good fit.
This is a very common situation in the realm of home construction. Before hiring someone to do work on your home, chances are, you ask for references. You are asking a former customer – How satisfied are you with the work this company did inside your house? Our bodies are more important than houses, aren’t they? Ask for a client reference prior to beginning a personal training program. If your personal trainer is good at building relationships and helping people reach their goals, he will have references.
A Note About Experience
What about new trainers who don’t have much experience? We all have to start somewhere. I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for many years, but I was once inexperienced. A percentage of the population will end up working with a less experienced personal trainer. Experience can be more appealing, but does not always imply a good working relationship, or successful outcome.
The average person may not need to hire a personal trainer with 10 years of experience, and several client references. Whereas, an athlete training for a competition, or rehabbing from a serious injury, may be better served with experience. Many people work with inexperienced personal trainers because they are affordable, and available. What YOU need will depend on your situation and your goals.
Why Hire a Personal Trainer?
That’s a great question, and there are more than a few good answers. Here are some reasons why people hire a personal trainer:
- Unable to reach a specific goal on their own
- Motivation, or feedback is needed on a regular basis
- Injury prevention
- Improve health to potentially live longer
- A personalized program is desired
- Professional instruction is needed
Of course, this list is not all inclusive, and everyone has their own reasons. What’s yours? More often than not, people want to look better, or live longer. Younger individuals are typically concerned about outer appearances, while older individuals seek to make changes to the unseen.
Hiring a personal trainer is a great way to achieve either goal. However, you must be responsible for your health by choosing the right person. We only get one body. Be careful what you do with yours. Before you take off, let me know if this article was helpful by commenting below. Afterwards, please share it with your friends and family members.