You’re thinking about hiring a personal trainer? Great–a trainer can help you lose weight, get fitter, and break through a fitness plateau–as long as you hire the right person for you.
Personal training isn’t a regulated industry in the United States, which means that anyone can call himself or herself a personal trainer. That’s good news for would-be trainers but may not be good news for you when you’re trying to figure out who’s qualified–and who’s not.
Consider Your Options
Maybe you already have a trainer that’s been recommended to you. If not, ask friends, family, and coworkers if they have suggestions, and check at local gyms and health clubs. (Some gyms have trainers that work only onsite; others may give you the names of those who train clients off-site as well.) You can also visit directories like http://www.ideafit.com/fitnessconnect, which will help you find a local trainer. Consider whether you plan to work out at a gym, or if you’d rather have someone train you at home (or another location).
You may already have an idea of the “type” of trainer you want to work with. Some women prefer to work with a female trainer; others don’t care about the trainer’s gender as long as the person is smart and motivating. Age is another factor–do you care whether the person is older (or younger) than you?
Questions to Ask
You may be able to gather some basic information from a trainer’s website or through email, but it’s smart to meet a trainer in person before you decide whether to hire him or her. After all, some people can sound great on paper, but it’s hard to tell if you’ll “click” with someone from a webpage! When you meet the trainer, ask questions like the following:
- How long have you worked in the fitness industry? Sometimes more experience makes for a better trainer, but a relatively new trainer who’s recently certified can be a great choice, as well.
- What made you decide to get into training?
- Do you hold any fitness certifications? Which ones? Remember that you needn’t be certified to hang out your trainer shingle, but a certified trainer has had to pass a certification exam that requires a knowledge of fitness. Some of the most respected certifying organizations include: the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Another bonus of being certified is that trainers must take continuing education classes to maintain their certs, which encourages them to stay up on fitness research.
- Do you have a particular “type” of client you like to work with? Have you worked with someone with my goals before? Some trainers specialize in certain populations, like new moms or high-school athletes or people with diabetes.
- What type of training sessions do you offer? Some trainers only offer hour-long sessions; others may offer 30-minute sessions or other amounts of time.
- Where do you train your clients? If you want a trainer to come to your home, make sure that he’s able to do so.
- How much does the training cost? Rates for personal training vary; you may spend $25-$100+/hour, depending on your location. Ask whether you get a discount if you buy multiple sessions.
- What would you like to know about me? The trainer should ask you questions about your health history, fitness goals, possible obstacles, and your exercise history. She should also ask if you have any current or prior injuries or health conditions that may affect your ability to train.
- Can you give me examples of clients like me who you’ve helped meet their goals? A good trainer will be happy to give you testimonials or references.
Listen carefully to the answers the trainer gives you, and also consider how the two of your relate. Do you like her? Does she feel like a good fit? Is she experienced? Is she available when you are? If you’re still on the fence, ask whether she’ll consider a trial session before you sign up–again, most good trainers are happy to do so.