HW Personal Training Series, Part I of III: Searching for the right trainer


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You finally have the money, time and motivation to begin working with a personal trainer. What next? How do you go about finding the right fitness professional for your specific needs? This can be especially difficult when you’re new to the world of personal training –there’s no basis for comparison.

According to the 2012 American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends, The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that in 2008 there were approximately 261,100 employed fitness trainers and projects that by 2018, that number will increase to 337,900 (a difference of 76,800 workers, a 29% increase in the work force in just 10 years. Wowee!).

There are more fitness educator programs available in colleges, which mean a more competitive industry for fitness professionals. For us consumers, this can lead to more quality trainers at lower prices (fingers crossed!). The problem is how do you find the right one?

Choosing the right client/personal trainer relationship is like dating; if the chemistry is not right, there is no future. With the help of experienced fitness professionals—Linda Melone, CSCS, fitness professional and freelance writer (LindaMelone.com) and Dwayne Davis, BS, ACSM-HFS, CSCS (Fitnesstogether.com/morristown) and Rachel Strang, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, BS Health Promotion and Athletic Training, BGSU (Fitness Freedom LLC)—HellaWella provides you with some guidelines for finding (and maintaining!) the best trainer for your fitness needs. This is part one of a three-part series.

The search
How should you go about searching for a personal trainer? Melone recommends searching sites like ACEFitness.org, ACSM.org and NSCA-lift.org for qualified trainers who match your needs. You can even ask your local gym — many have personal trainers available in-house.

“If you’re into a particular activity, look for a trainer who’s into the same sports/activities as you, Melone says. “For example, if you enjoy running, find a running trainer. Keep in mind, however, that if the trainer is qualified they do not necessarily have to practice the same sport. For example, I was not into golf, tennis, running and all the other sports my clients practiced, yet I knew enough about the mechanics to help them improve.”

So now you’ve got a list of trainers, how do you whittle down your list? Davis says that when considering hiring a personal trainer, take the following variables into account for the right experience:

Education: “With more education comes a greater likelihood that your training will be carried out both safely yet efficiently. It’s very important to look into the type of education trainers in your particular area possess.  This should include either a degree in the field of exercise science/kinesiology, nationally credited certification, or both. Not to be confused with experience, but it’s important to note that if your trainer of interest is new to the personal training field, the level of education is of even greater value when making this decision.”

Experience: “If a trainer of interest has been working with clients for a long time (10 years+), there is an increased chance he or she will know how to address your fitness needs. A trainer’s personal experience with training or athletics is very important to consider as well. Knowing that your trainer has been in your shoes will help you push harder, plus he or she will also have the empathy for you during a training session to know when to push through or when to back down.”

Personality: “If you can’t get along with your trainer, no matter how good they claim to be, it will not work!” Like any relationship, communication is a must. If you can’t get along and there is not enough information exchanged,  you will not be working at your optimal level, Davis says. This will increase the chance of injury and decrease the intensity of your workout, which only hurts you, the client!

Reputation: “There are many kinds of persona’s that affect reputation from loud to quiet or clown to [even] weird,” Davis explains. “What’s really important to note is whether they have the rep of being effective. What I would like to hear when asking about trainer X is: ‘He or she is good, very attentive, got good results, and never hurt me.’ This would mean you’re on the right track.”

Davis says that the trainer’s style is usually what creates a reputation. Keep in mind what type of style suits you. For example, you have the common “drill sergeant” type who is very loud, in your face and aggressively pushes you to go beyond. On the other side of the spectrum, you have the “quiet-yet-detailed” trainer who is more of a coddler, which is very effective if properly matched with the right client.

Another way to find out if a trainer is for you: “Ask for a freebie, ” says Strang. “Most trainers should offer a free consultation/first session to potential new clients. It allows you time to get to know the trainer and let them know your expectations and the trainer to interview you to see if it will be a good fit.”

During the free session, Strang says, it’s the perfect time to ask yourself: Can I spend several hours a week with this trainer?

Also, look around and make sure their rates are clearly stated!

Stay tuned for Part II next week: Maintaining the personal trainer/client relationship