Contributor Christopher Travers, MS, exercise physiologist
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You’re ready to get serious with your fitness routine and hire a personal trainer. Good for you. You may find, however, that all personal trainers are not created equal. To avoid wasting time and money, be thorough in your research. You should insist on someone who can really help you reach your goals.
Here’s what to look for in a personal trainer:
- Certification and education — Your personal trainer should have a four-year degree in a health and fitness field. Also, he or she should be certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Both require a four-year degree.
- Experience — Ask for references, and find out how long he or she has been a personal trainer. Also, ask about the trainer’s typical clients, including their ages and ability levels. For example, if your goal is to lose weight or stay healthy, you probably don’t need someone who trains professional athletes and who is likely to create an overly demanding workout program.
- Safety and evaluation — Find out whether the personal trainer offers pre-exercise screening to check for any physical limitations and find out if he or she is certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Ask how the trainer will regularly assess your progress. How will you measure success? Always speak up if your personal trainer asks you to do something that is painful or uncomfortable. This is especially important if you are experiencing persistent pain. Your goal is to feel good after a workout. Don’t get pushed into an injury.
- Accessibility – Find a personal trainer who will work with you in the best setting, whether you like to work out in a gym or fitness center, personal studio or your own home.
- Training style — During workouts, make sure you can communicate with your personal trainer. He or she should be willing to answer all of your questions and be open to your comments. If your trainer asks you to try something new, feel free to ask why. Be sure you understand the benefits of each exercise.
- Fees, scheduling and cancellations – Personal trainers charge from $35 to $100 per hour. Before hiring someone or signing any contract, be sure to review: 1.) Session price — find out what is covered 2.) Session length — ask what a session involves; and definitely don’t pay someone to watch you walk or run on the treadmill 3.) Cancellation policy — Be sure to read the fine print.
Hiring a trainer can help you reach your goals and give you the motivation to go to the gym. But make sure you do your homework. Like most things, you get what you pay for, and your health and well-being are priceless.
Use trusted resources
Feel free to consult reputable fitness organizations for lists of certified personal trainers:
The American College of Sports Medicine
The National Strength and Conditioning Association
The American Council of Exercise
The National Athletic Training Association
Cleveland Clinic Sports Health