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How to Find the Ideal Trainer

01/01/2007 12:23PM ● By Brandi Barnett

The Right Fit

January 2007
By Joe Adamson

The holiday rush is over, Christmas decorations are boxed and stored away, and life has returned to some sense of normalcy.Hesitantly you glance into the bathroom mirror for a damage assessment. Oops! One look reveals that the last several weeks of gluttony, staying out late, and complete abandonment of all physical activity, has quickly resulted in the deposit of an additional layer of girth to your waistline.

Rats! Secretly you had hoped that all the excessive calories that you consumed had been miraculously incinerated as you shopped. After all, Christmas shopping is hard work! Now you’re left with the horrifying realization that you’re going to have to do what we all have to do—eat right, and exercise.

Once you decide to return to more sane eating habits and regular exercising, you would be wise to come up with a plan. Remember that “failing to plan is planning to fail.”More and more people are now turning to the help of fitness professionals, known as personal trainers, to not only help them to develop a fitness plan, but to guide them through some or all of the individual workouts within the exercise plan.

Some folks will certainly question the need to find and hire a personal trainer simply to help them get in shape. After all, fitness information is everywhere—books, magazines, television programs, internet sites, news reports, local gyms, and even in the phone book. Those of this opinion, who don’t mind spending time sifting through volumes of often-conflicting information, are certainly welcome to go it on their own.However, for those who dare to try something new, for those frustrated by limited exercise success, and for those with absolutely no idea where to start, there are plenty of great reasons to utilize a personal trainer!

The first, and by far the most valuable benefit a personal trainer offers is accountability.Most people who start an exercise program drop out within the first two to three months.Having a trainer pushing, encouraging, motivating, teaching, and telephoning week after week will keep the average person training, striving, and achieving long after he or she would have thrown in the towel.

Do you need a few more reasons to consider working with a trainer?Well, there’s fitness assessment, goal setting, fitness education, technique analysis, motivation, encouragement, time efficiency, injury prevention, enhanced workout enjoyment, and professional program design.What’s the result of all these wonderful benefits? Put simply, those who employ the help of a personal trainer will get results faster.

According to a study published in the journal,Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, subjects given one-onone instruction got fit approximately 30 percent faster, and made greater gains in muscle mass than those who trained alone.

Unless you’ve previously worked with a personal trainer, you may find it confusing to fully understand the role of a trainer in assisting you on your fitness quest. think of a trainer as a personal coach. Depending upon your budget, a trainer may meet with you for each workout, or as seldom as once every six to eight weeks. A trainer’s role is to listen to your concerns, assess your strengths and weaknesses, design a personalized workout program, teach you how to perform each component of the program, offer plenty of encouragement, and periodically reassess your fitness in order to insure that you’re progressing toward your fitness goals.

Once you’ve decided to use a personal trainer as part of your exercise strategy, your next step is to find the ideal trainer. Trainers work in a variety of settings. Some work in fitness centers, some will travel to your home or workplace, some work in training studios, which specialize in personal training, and some even coach by phone or over the internet. You’ll want to hire a trainer that is available to work with you in the setting of your choice. If you already belong to a gym, ask the front desk person if there are any personal trainers. The desk person may have rate sheets and trainer biographies readily available. Other avenues of finding a trainer include asking friends which trainers they are using and whether they are getting great results, looking in the phone book under health clubs or personal training, and doing an internet search. Most people find trainers through word of mouth via friends, family, or co-workers.

Once you’ve come up with the names of two or three personal trainers contact them in order to find out more about their fees and services. Most trainers offer a complimentary orientation session at which time you can interview the trainer, discuss your fitness goals, and preview the various training options. Some trainers will even give one complimentary session before you commit. This could be particularly helpful if you’ve never experienced a personal training session.

After speaking with a few trainers, you’ll find that their profiles vary widely in the areas of education, years of experience, special interests, empirical knowledge, training philosophies, rates, policies, and personalities.Don’t let this panic you.When you meet or speak with the right trainer, your thought process will probably be something like this: “Wow, I really like this trainer and I know he could help me reach my fitness goals! When can we start?”

In regard to education, there is no degree, license, or specific certification required in order for a person to work as a personal trainer. In my opinion, the minimum credentials a trainer should hold include a personal training certification through one of the major certification agencies such as the NSCA, ACSM, ACE or NASM, and a CPR certification. A bachelor’s degree in exercise science, or kinesiology is a definite plus, particularly if you have medical issues which need to be considered in the exercise prescription.

Some personal trainers have areas of particular interest and specialization. For example if you just had a baby, you may want to look for a trainer who particularly likes to work in the area of post partum fitness. It would also be a good idea to discuss which methods of training that the trainer intends to use. If, for example, he uses only machines and body weight exercises while you prefer doing free weight exercises with heavy barbells, you may become frustrated and unhappy with the exercise program.

Other items for discussion before committing to a trainer include the rates that he charges, the length of each session, the availability of the trainer during the hours that you will need to train, the late cancellation policy, and the extent to which the trainer will oversee the entire exercise program.Of greater importance, however, is the actual character and personality of the trainer. Is hemotivating, respectful, firm, sympathetic, focused, caring, kind, and passionate about what he is doing? Is she attentive to details and intent on making every repetition and each minute productive? These are the qualities that make the star trainers shine. These are the qualities that will compel you to go the extra mile, to dig a little deeper than you thought you could, and to reach levels of fitness you didn’t know were possible. An outstanding trainer has a way of stretching your limits, challenging your comfort zone, and in the process making an ordinary workout feel extraordinary.

The key ingredient, however, is you. You must take ultimate responsibility for your success or failure. You must be committed to giving it your best effort, realizing that anything worth achieving is worth working for. You must be committed to persistently following the game plan on an ongoing, long-term, consistent basis because reaching your fitness goals and the gratification that comes with reaching them, will take time. Lastly, you must believe that you can and will achieve your health and fitness goals.Health and fitness is a journey, not a destination. They are a lifestyle, not a quick fix. Establish your fitness plan, and then plan to succeed.