If you're not sure about hiring a trainer, check out Do I Need A Personal Trainer.
Starting your search
Personal trainers can be found almost anywhere, which is good and bad. The most common and convenient are usually at your local gym. Most gyms have a huge staff of personal trainers ready to help, especially right before summer time or when they're having promotions.
If you prefer working out at home, hire a private personal trainer. A quick and simple internet search for private/freelance trainers in your area will usually turn up some promising nearby candidates. Of course hiring a private trainer is usually more expensive because they have to drive to you, but it's often more convenient; especially if you're a stay at home parent. If you do go this way, be sure to ask if equipment will be provided.
Once you have a candidate in mind, use these following rules to determine if they're really the right fit for you.
Obviously the most important aspect is their certification, are they actually qualified to do the job? It's too easy for people to call themselves "trainers" when they really have little to no expertise or proper training.
Some of the most widely recognized associations and their certifications are the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) - you'll want someone with this if you're an athlete. National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA, which confers both CPT certifications and CSCS). The American Counil on Exercise (ACE). And finally the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).
However, it's important to keep in mind that a true passion for personal training as well as real world experience is just as important - if not more.
What Motivates You?
Choose a trainer that will cater to your personal needs and learning preferences. While some people want to be pushed to their limits by a drill sergeant type, others work better with positive reinforcement that offer gentle encouragement. Your trainer should fit your personality and motivation style.
You'll be spending a lot of important hours with this person and you'll be giving them money, so your comfort and ease of communication is important. Don't be afraid to directly ask questions about coaching style and motivation techniques. It's better to decline a trainer than feel miserable and have to fire them later.
A trainer's competence is only as strong as the results they've been able to attain with their clients and even the results they've attained personally. Ask to see success stories or client referrals. You want a trainer that seems to be doing a good job in the area you want to focus; losing fat, building muscle, training for athletic events.
Every trainer has to start somewhere, and it's great to support those who are just getting out of school and training (they're actually cheaper in most cases). However, most people feel a little more at ease when they can see a list of names, results, etc. If you talk to their client referrals, you'll probably instantly know if you want them or not - sometimes there are also online reviews you can search.
If you have special needs, it's critical that you inform your trainer before you hire them and ask if they have any experience working with them. Exercise can help with many medical conditions, but if done wrong it can worsen a preexisting problem.
You're choice of a personal trainer can mean the difference between achieving your goals or ending up in pain with an injury - and feeling incredibly disappointed.
Remember that it's always recommended that you check with your doctor before starting a training program, especially if you have chronic pain, connective tissue diseases, etc. If you're clear with both your doctor and mention every medical condition (that seems important) to your trainer, you give yourself the best chance at success.
Slightly sore muscles are to be expected, but so do nagging aches and pains as well as recurring injuries. Like mentioned in the special care conditions, you need to find a trainer that is capable of adjusting your training to work around problematic or painful areas. Of course for new injuries they'll recommend a doctor, but they should also know how to wrap an injury if needed.
Patience is key on both ends, it creates a healthy client-trainer relationship. The trainer you pick should have a clear understanding that what works for one client may not work for another. You don't need a plan that's not tailored to you, that defeats the purpose of hiring a trainer in the first place. He or she should do an assessment of your body when you first meet to familiarize themselves with your needs.
Trainers should also find a comfortable pace for their clients. Some clients may progress at a faster rate, while others may require more coaching and assistance. They need to be understanding, compassionate and excited to help. No matter what the pace.
But remember, you must be patient too. Just because you don't immediately see drastic results in two weeks does not mean you need to fire your trainer. It takes time to reach fitness goals, like any other goal. Make sure you're putting effort into the workout when your trainer is with you, and when you're home - like keeping up nutrition.
It's important for clients to maintain a close relationship with the trainer, but there also needs to be a level of professionalism. They should be considerate and helpful in all aspects. For example, something that speaks for professionalism is if your trainer carries your water if needed or if they get you a towel when you need one.
Clothing can also speak for professionalism. Most gym hired trainers have a dress code, but some don't. They don't need to be just wearing a sports bra and tiny tiny shorts or a super tight t-shirt that outlines every ab. They're there to help you, the focus should be on you. Make sure you feel comfortable with their attire.
Availability and Fine Print
A great trainer is worth his or her weight in gold. But for many people, skilled trainers are more than the amount of gold we're willing to spend. Do some caparison shopping to find out average rates in your city. In 2013 personal trainers made an average of $35 an hour, but prices vary on location. What it costs for a session in New York City or Seattle will differ from what it costs in Kansas or Texas.
If a personal trainer seems out of your budget, you have a couple of options. Some trainers offer lower rates for semi-private workouts, which are something between one-on-one training and a group class. You can also inquire about discounts for buying sessions in bulk, like buying 6 months worth of training instead of monthly payments. Alternatively, consider looking at working with a trainer as an added bonus to your workout routine - as opposed to the only tim you exercise. For example, ask your prospective trainer about possible arrangements where you might meet in-person less frequently but follow their program between sessions.
It's also a good idea to inquire about their schedule; if they tend to meet clients at the same time each week, how far in advance they book appointments, their cancellation policy, and whether it's possible to make up any missed sessions. These are important because it's easy to lose money if you can't make up a session because you were sick or out of town, etc.
Do They Stay Up With Trends & Research
Last, but certainly not least, does your trainer keep up with the times? Extensive fitness knowledge and expertise is usually the main reason people want to work with personal trainers (other than weight loss that is). Your trainer should be able to speak about a variety of training styles and the advantages and drawbacks of each. Most trainers have their own personal opinions about what gets results, sometimes disregarding research because of what they've seen work. The best personal trainers will be flexible and open minded about changing their methods.
Often personal trainers attend several yearly conventions to keep up with research, new trends, make connections, and overall refresh their knowledge. If you catch your trainer using the same exercises and routines with other clients, it could be that he or she might not understand the "why" behind your workout and how specific exercises and methods will help you to reach your goals. The best trainers are the ones who love what they do, the same for any true profession.
Loving what you do often translates into always wanting to improve and expand your knowledge so you can keep getting better and more efficient at your job. If your prospective trainer seems less than passionate about continuing his or her education, or thinks that they already know all there is to know about fitness, you should consider working with someone else.
How have you picked your personal trainers?
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