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Is a Personal Trainer Right for Me? (part 1)

Is a Personal Trainer Right for Me & What to Ask (Part 1)

Working with a personal trainer can have tremendous benefits to reaching your health and fitness goals.  What often happens, however, is that the client feels they don’t get what they need and the trainer feels frustration because they couldn’t help them, leaving everyone with a less than happy experience.  Before working with a personal trainer, or not, first consider why you should or shouldn’t’ use one, and if you do, what you need to know.

When you should work with a personal trainer

You should work with a personal trainer if you have a specific goal in mind.  In that way, the trainer can help set up a program specifically designed to get the results you want.  For instance, say you want to run a half-marathon.  The trainer can put together an exercise program that includes specific running drills to help improve the efficiency of your running gait, as well as build your cardiovascular endurance, and strength and power through resistance and plyometric exercises.  This program would be geared towards getting you in shape and building the endurance and power needed to sustain the run.

If you are looking to lose 20 pounds, then the trainer can build a program designed to increase your cardiovascular function, and strengthen and build muscle mass in order to help you burn fat and carbs at a higher rate.  In our customized workout plans, for example, we conduct an assessment and goal list with clients like you so the workouts help you achieve your specific goal AND so they work for where you presently are.

When you shouldn’t work with a trainer 

At the risk of sounding rather harsh, avoid working with a personal trainer if you don’t plan on:

  • doing what they ask you to do,
  • following up with exercising on your own,
  • keeping session appointments, or
  • arriving on time for session appointments.

At the same time, avoid working with a personal trainer who doesn’t:

  • show up for your session appointments,
  • show up on time for your session appointments,
  • always seems ill-prepared for your sessions, or
  • shows more interest in what is happening in the gym or on their phone than with you.

Why spend all that time and money on a personal trainer if you are not committed to take their advice and do what is expected, or if they are not committed to helping you reach your goals?  Lastly, a good personal trainer will plan for your session ahead of time and will help you work out a good routine for the days you don’t see her/him.

Can a personal trainer help with nutrition?

 While a trainer can make some general nutrition recommendations, they cannot, and should not, design specific diets and meal planning unique to your needs.  This type of expertise is done by registered dieticians, which are licensed individuals in every state, have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, have residency/internship requirements and testing, plus continuing education requirements.  Therefore, if you are looking for a nutrition program designed specifically for you and your goals, you need to seek the advice of a registered dietician, ideally one that works with what your goals are (i.e., sports performance, weight loss, etc.)

In Part 2, we’ll take a look at the questions to ask before deciding to work with a personal trainer.  In this way, you can choose one that best fits your fitness needs and goals. Click here for Part 2.

Is a Personal Trainer Right for Me? (part 2)

Is a Personal Trainer Right for Me & What to Ask (Part 2)

For Part 1, Click Here

When considering using a personal trainer, approach it as if you were interviewing someone for a position in your company or business.  You are, after all, entrusting them to help you improve your overall health and fitness level.  So, if you’ve decided to work with a fitness professional, and are armed with your goals in mind, there are 7 important questions you should ask before choosing one.

1. Are they certified through a nationally recognized organization?

This is the most important question to ask.  Sadly, since the fitness profession is unregulated, there are people giving fitness advice and training with no credentials to do so.  You want a trainer who has undergone an extensive certification process.  The most reputable ones take months to study for and require a comprehensive exam process.

Some of the best certifying bodies include the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and American Council on Exercise (ACE).  While there are other organizations that certify, these are the most recognized and preferred certifications you should be looking for.  ACSM and NASM follow a more scientific approach and typically have better results.

 2. Do they have a higher education degree in a related field?

While this may not be a deciding factor on choosing the trainer to work with, individuals with college degrees in the related fields of exercise science, exercise physiology, human anatomy and physiology, rehabilitation, etc., have underwent years of study.  They typically will have a better and more complete understanding of the human body, how the body reacts and adapts to exercise, and in determining the exercises that best meets your fitness needs and goals.

Whether many want to admit it or not, exercise is a science and there is a wealth of quality scientific research in the field.  Therefore, it is worth considering a trainer with an undergraduate or graduate degree in an exercise science or related field.

3. What type of people do/have they worked with?

This helps you identify if the trainer will be a good fit for you.  For example, if the trainer mainly works with body builders and you are a mom with 2 kids wanting to lose 20 pounds, they may not be the best choice.  However, if they’ve worked with people like you, then they may be a good choice.

The important thing is that you need to be clear about what you are trying to achieve.  Then, look for a trainer who either specializes in that, or has extensive experience working with others with similar goals as yours.

4. What type of success have they had with their clients?

 In addition to the type of people they have worked with, it is a good idea to ask about their client success stories.  In other words, ask them to tell you what their clients have achieved while working with them.  A good trainer will have several success stories.

The reason this is a good question, is that it will provide insight into what is possible for you.  Just be sure the successes they mention are pertinent to what you are trying to achieve.

5. What type of program will they design based upon your specific goals?

This helps give you a general sense of how they will approach your training.  You are looking to see if they will be working with you on a comprehensive program, one that includes cardio, resistance, flexibility, balance, speed and agility and flexibility training, or any combination of these.

Your program does not have to include all of these types of training, but it does need to include the parts that are most important to reaching your goals.  The trainer needs to be able to tell you what that encompasses.

6. What is their philosophy on training?

This question is geared towards determining if they will be a good fit for you on a more personal level.  And while this can illicit many different answers, your goal is to determine if how they train fits into your goals, desires, capabilities, and how you like to be approached.  For example, you might want to have fun exercising, yet expect to work hard.  Or, you might enjoy a more disciplined approach, such that a trainer is more like a drill sergeant.

There are no right or wrong answers to this question.  However, you are matching up their training philosophy with what best matches how you like to be approached and the personality you work best with.  Thus, it is worth taking the time to find this out before deciding on a fitness trainer.

7. What are their expectations of you?

This is a very important question because it is about your personal responsibility.  You need to know what the trainer expects from you, and determine if you can meet those expectations.  It also establishes an understanding between you and the trainer.  In this way, there are no surprises.  The trainer knows what they are holding you accountable to, and more importantly, you know what you are holding yourself accountable to.

Not only does the trainer have to be good for you, you also need to be willing to do the work necessary to reach the goals you desire.  What you do is 90% of the results you will achieve.

Lastly, you need to evaluate if you like the trainer’s personality, and whether you can work with and get along with them.  It’s a bit like a relationship you want to take seriously.  After all, it is about you and your health!